The Setting: Mount Kōya
There are few experiences that can humble you quite like a local homestay. This is even more unique when you get the chance to be staying with Buddhist monks.
Throughout my time in Japan, I wanted to stay at as many local ryokans as possible. In my research, I found beautiful ryokans in Osaka, Kyoto and one in the mountains.
The experience that especially stood out for me was my time with Buddhist monks in Mount Kōya.
Mount Kōya is considered to be one of the most sacred locations in Japan. It is a huge temple settlement, home to the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon School. I was walking around this town throughout my time here and you can lose count of how many temples there are!
I checked in to Jofukuin Temple. It is a mid-range ryokan and while there are cheaper options, this one really suited me.
The Buddhist temple is one of many religious buildings offering homestays to guests in Wakayama. I chose it because they have a stellar reputation as being one of the cleanest and they offer great meals. Moreover, they’ve recently had a refurbishment and although the accommodations are basic, it felt very welcoming.
The price is 10,800 yen per person per night, including both breakfast and dinner.
Your stay at Jofukuin includes both breakfast and dinner, all of which are strictly vegetarian (no meat, no fish). Both meals were really tasty with more food than you’ll ever finish. But before you know it you’ve sampled a little bit of everything! The meals are served very traditionally so this is a great experience if you are new to Japanese culture.
Read more: Visit the Highlights of Japan in 7 days
Around the prefecture of Wakayama there is much more to see and do, especially if time is on your side. I was pretty short on time so spent my day exploring Koya (where the lodge was located) and the many temples that occupy this settlement in the mountains.
Koya is the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and as such has many religious buildings to explore.
My highlights were: Kongobuji, Danjō-garan and Konpon Daito.