The sacred mountain Koyasan has 117 temples and at least half of them offer the experience of staying overnight. In this article I will tell you about my first experience in staying in a monastery and eating the vegetarian Buddhist monk food for breakfast. I stayed in Tentokuin Monastery, known for its long history.
Tentokuin Monastery has connections with the Tokugawa clanTentokuin Monastery is located just across Koyasan’s main temple Kongobuji. It became a family temple of the Tokugawa clan, after the death of Tokugawa Hidetada’s second daughter Tama-hime. In this monastery Keishoin, the mother of shogun Tsunayoshi, enshrined the mortuary tablets of the famous 47 ronin warriors. You can sense the historicity of this place even from outside.
From inside the monastery you can see the green gardenAt the entrance you’ll be welcomed by the mascot character “Koya-kun”. Then you continue along a long and pretty corridor. On the right side is the study room, while on the left side is the garden around the main temple. At the end of the corridor is another garden.
Staying overnight in this monastery guarantees that you will relax completely. The monks will take you to your room where you’ll find the futon neatly prepared. There is no lock, but there is a TV and a tea with sweets waiting for you on the table. You’ll feel like in a traditional Japanese ryokan inn.
Staying in this monastery is surprisingly comfortableMany female travelers are concerned about the toilets and the bath in accommodation facilities. I expected a typical Japanese style toilet, but it was Western style, complete with the bidet seat. There are 3 different and very clean baths. The available amenities are shampoo, yukata (light kimono), a toothbrush set and face towels. You can buy a bath towel for 150 JPY.
The vegetarian Buddhist monk food is quite healthyThis meal has plenty of little items. It includes a variety of seasonal vegetables, grains, pulse seeds, dried food and seaweed. There’s no meat or fish. In fact, cooking this vegetarian menu is also part of the Buddhist monks’ practice. Everything is served just the way monks eat it, and includes also local specialties such as tofu with sesame seasoning, black beans and fried food. You’ll be surprised by how delicious the food is.
The splendid garden of Tentokuin MonasteryThis beautiful garden spreading over 1660 square meters was originally created as a place to enshrine Tama-hime’s grave. Now it’s the only garden in Koyasan designated as an important cultural property. Therefore walking in the garden is unfortunately not allowed, but you can see it from many of the rooms and the study.
The day in the monastery begins very early in the morning
As the start begin chirping in the peaceful morning the monks begin their religious rituals in which the guests are free to participate. You can read sutras for about 30 minutes and pray for your deceased ancestors. The monastery is a spiritual place where you can be closer to the gods. If you stay overnight in this monastery you will feel completely refreshed in your heart.
Koyasan Tentokuin Monastery Address: Wakayama prefecture, Ito-gun Koya-cho, Koyasan 370 Telephone: 0736-56-2714
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