Japan cannot be only resumed as Tokyo, Kyoto and other big cities. This island is also a country full of rich countrysides and rurality. You can feel a real different adventure if you go further in Japan’s land and there discover an amazing culture. In the little village of Koyasan there is a lot of different temples where you can spend the night . I personally went to Eko-in temple, and warmly recommend it. To go there you will have to take a special train which will go there and after take a cable car to access the village. Indeed, it’s kind of lost in the middle of the mountains…
Sleeping in a temple means following the rules and way of life of the monks. Dinner is around 5pm, wake up at 7am and breakfast at 8 am. The room in the temple are simple and sober which represents the way of life of monks. No extravagance. However, you will find some electric heater in your room during winter which can be really cold.
In the middle of the room there is a table with a blanket in it. At night, the monks will come in your room to transform this table into a bed. The blanket will become your bed’s blanket and you will have a small mattress on the floor.
Dinner and breakfast are directly served in your room and are composed of typical Japanese monk food. This Buddhist vegetarian meal is made of tofu, miso soup, rice, vegetables, fruits and tea. You’ll have almost the same thing for breakfast and dinner.
The temple I went in proposed some activities that I experienced. The first one was a meditation introduction also called Ajikan meditation. From 4 pm until 4:30 a monk explained us what meditation is and we tried to meditate on our own lives. It was a really great experience, and I’m glad I did it. However, be aware that staying in the same position for 30 minutes doesn’t seem as easy as we can imagine. It’s more impressive when the monks say that they stay like this for hours and sometimes during all night. If you want to try at home (as they recommend at least 5 minutes every day) this is how you are supposed to seat :
- Bend your left leg first and place your right leg on your left thigh. Basically, your knees and buttocks must be grounded to the floor.
- Place your right hand on your left hand, put your thumbs together and make a circle.
- Push your stomach out to lift your pelvis. Relax and let the tension out of your shoulders, neck, arms and chest. So your stomach must be tensed, but the other parts of the body must be relaxed.
- Place the head on the spine.
- Your eyes must be neither open nor closed. Be with your eyes half in order to watch both the external world and internal world at the same time.
Moreover, after dinner around 8 pm this temple propose a visit of the cemetery at night. Even if I already did it during the day, seeing it at night with explanations, horror stories and rumors was really fun.
On the morning, you can wake up early to see the morning prayer. It’s an incredible experience. The atmosphere is full of emotions with the monks saying prayers, singing and playing drums. At the end of the morning prayer, the fire ritual is taking place. During this ritual, the monks burn the wishes that you can give them the night before. At the end of the ritual they give some offerings to the different divinities in the room. The fire ritual is also charged of emotions while the monks are praying,talking, playing drums and making fire.
The village of Koyasan is a really small village so during the day you can visit the famous cemetery (called Oku no in) which is also full of a special atmosphere. The place is really green and you’ll find a lot of small divinities dressed. At the end of the cemetery, there is a temple ( Toro-do temple) full of lanterns which is really beautiful.
On the other part of the village you will find a grouping of temples which are good to visit. There is no admissions fee and it’s really enjoyable if you have some time to spend there.
At the end of the day, spending one day and one night in a temple in Koyasan make you feel so many experiences and emotions that you could ever meet in your life.