If you’re making the journey down to Koyasan, it only makes sense to spend the night in the area. Specifically, you should stay in a Shukubo (or temple). Of the 117 temples in Koyasan, 52 of them have lodging. All of the temples more or less offer a similar experience. We decided to stay at Muryokoin Temple.
Believe it or not, Muryokoin dates back more than 1,000 years! After a slew of relocations, it settled in Koyasan in 1888. “Muryokoin,” means “temple of immeasurable light.”
This refers to the Buddha of infinite light and life.
Shukubos were initially developed to host pilgrims, since Koyasan is the endpoint for many pilgrimages. After their long journey, the pilgrims needed a place to stay, so the temples began opening their doors. Today, however, anyone can stay overnight.
If you’re looking for a peaceful, tranquil environment. Muryokoin is the place to go. Incredibly silent at all times, we found it a beautiful haven from the busyness of everyday life. With simple, traditional monk rooms, we took the time to relax.
After some writing, yoga, and a quick public bath, dinner was served to us in our room. Muryokoin prepared us a typical monk’s meal, a Shojin Ryori, and set it up nicely on our tatami.
With ten small dishes, our vegetarian meal consisted of gohan (rice), osuimono (soup), yasai tempura (vegetable tempura), gomadofu (sesame tofu), koyadofu, satsumaimo ni (sweet potatoes in lemon sauce), kuromame (sweet black beans), mozuku (seaweed with ginger and vinegar), tsukemono (pickles), and fresh oranges (there’s no Japanese word for that!). It was definitely unique to say the least!
Once our stomachs were settled, a young monk came in to prepare our futons. He set them up with such speed and precision — I was quite impressed! Come 9pm, we were exhausted and passed out knowing that we had to be up at 5:30am to get ready for the Morning Ceremony at Muryokoin.
If I had to guess, I’d say that most people stay in a Shukubo to have a chance to experience the Buddhist Morning Ceremony. Beginning at 6am, this was the most intriguing aspect of my journey to Koyasan. During the Morning Ceremony, the monks recited a special form of sutra known as Shomyo, and they also performed Goma, the Shingon fire-meditation. While I couldn’t particularly follow the ceremony itself, the singing was powerful, and the environment was beautifully haunting.
After the hour and a half service, we partook in a light vegetarian breakfast with the other guests who attended the Morning Ceremony, before making our way back to Osaka.
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**Special thanks to Muryokoin Temple and Japan Experience for sponsoring my journey. As always, all opinions are my own.