Thursday, December 8, 2016

Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience

On 11/26/2016, I have finally arrived Koyasan (高野山) in the Kansai region of Japan.  Below photo shows the temple called 本覚院 that I have booked for staying overnight.  My goals of visiting Koyasan in the autumn are to:
  • View autumn colors that Koyasan is famous for[7]
  • Stay in a temple to expeirience the simple life of a buddist monk (or Shukubo)
  • Visit famous places such as Garan (壇上伽藍) and Okunoin (奥の院)

My decision was based on reading an article on japanguide.com, which says that
Koyasan is one of the best places in Japan to experience a night at a temple, with more than 50 temples in town serving as shukubo.
In this article, I will describe my personal experience of visiting Koyasan―starts with the process of choosing and booking a temple to stay.

Which Temple to Stay and How to Book for the Shukubo?

Which temple to stay is a decision to be based on:
  • Personal budget
  • Unique experience that a specific temple it can offer
As for how to book for the shukubo, it's a choice between booking via  Koyasan Tourist Association or third-party booking sites. The advice is that you should book it directly via the Association because it's normally cheaper.  For example, here is the comparison between the two options based on price.

Booking via the Association

Here is the sample email of my shukubo (宿坊) booked via
Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association
and the details of the booking with name of the shukubo and phone number edited only.

This was the steps that I went through in the reservation:
  1. (05/18/2016) Have booked directly using the form on the Association's web site
  2. (05/19/2016) Have received the reply from the Association
    • However, the total price was mis-calculated (i.e., it has charged for 2 guests instead of 1 guest).
  3. (05/20/2016) Have received a corrected reservation 
Overall speaking, I have had a very positive experience with the booking process because I got a good  price and the reservation could be canceled based on the following policy (copied directly from the email):
Day of reservation
  • no-show : 100%
  • 1-3 days in advance : 20%
  • 4 or more days in advance : ---

The only drawback is that we need to pay the temple lodging in cash and in person, which means that we need to consider how to get enough cash after arriving Japan. Finally, a kindly reminder:
You need to print your confirmation email and bring it with you at arrival

Third-Party Booking Sites

For comparison, here are the similar reservations on a third-party booking site checked on 05/21/2016:

if you decide to book the shukubo via third-party booking sites, here are things to consider :
  1. It's not easy to find all template lodgings (~ 50 temples) that are available on any third-party booking site except for the Association's.
  2. Even I can book the temple directly from the Association, this site doesn't even allow me to book on the date that I want. In other words, the date I chose above are 1-2 weeks earlier (assuming the price won't be that different from my real booking date). 
  3. Most third-party booking sites charge you in US dollars based a conversion rate (e.g., the lowest price shown above is 15,120 yen (or 140.92 US dollars). 
  4. All third-party booking sites charge higher price than the one I actually paid (i.e, 11,880 yen). 
  5. Some third-party booking sites play tricks. For example, it says that "Breakfast included" (hint: Dinner not included).

What the Room Looks Like?

As shown below, here is the room that I have booked for the shukubo:

Garan (壇上伽藍) and Okunoin (奥の院)

You can read articles on japan-guide.com for the details of Garan and Okunoin.  Here I would just show my own photos taken on the trip:

Garan (壇上伽藍)

On the third photo, I have taken this picture after asking for the priest's permission who might have just finished his daily routine indoors and stepped out for a break.

 Okunoin (奥の院)


  1. Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山)  (Travel for a Purpose)
  2. Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association
  3. Koyasan Travel: Garan
  4. Koyasan Travel: Okunoin Temple
  5. Japan Travel: Why and How to Use the ATM? (Travel for a Purpose)
  6. 高野山の情報
  7. 高野山 金剛峯寺 Koyasan Kongobuji
  8. Japan: Best Autumn Color Spots near Kyoto (Travel for a Purpose)
  9. Visiting Arashiyama (嵐山) in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  10. Visiting Ohara in Kyoto—Personal Experience
  11. Visiting Nigatsudo Hall (二月堂) in Nara—Personal Experience
  12. Visiting Yoshiki-en Garden (吉城園 / よしきえん) in Nara—Personal Experience
  13. Visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社)—Personal Experience
  14. Visting Uji (宇治) near Kyoto and Nara—Personal Experience
  15. Travel: How to Ride a Train in Japan (Travel for a Purpose)
  16. Japan Travel — How to Ride a Bus in Kyoto Area (Travel for a Purpose)

1 comment:

  1. Great information. Enjoyed the pics. Looks like it was a very "personal" experience.