Our Night in a 1000 Year-Old Buddhist Temple

Our trip to Japan has been out of this world. We wanted to experience many types of accommodations so we have stayed in some pretty amazing places. One of the most unique was a 1,000 year-old Buddist Temple in Koyasan.It took two separate trains, a subway, a steep cable car straight up a mountain and finally a bus to get there. Between the second train and the subway ride, we were starving so braved the Udon soup which was served in a tiny building right on the platform.trying udon soup on train platform in Japan

It was delicious! Luckily my daughter navigated because I’m not sure I could have figured it out.navigating the Japan Rail system

By the time we got off the bus, I was dragging my tail feathers. My luggage seemed small until I had to schlep it around all day, haul it on and off trains and up and down stairs where there was no escalator. Koyasan is a very special and sacred place, considered the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism. Our temple, Ekoin, is one of many traditional Shukubo lodgings available for travelers to experience simple Buddhist monk lifestyle.

Once you enter the front gates, tranquility surrounds you. You leave your shoes at the door, wear their supplied slippers and enter a different world.

After checking in we were shown to our room which had paper sliding screens and tatami-mat floors.Staying at Ekoin Buddhist temple in Koyasan

The room came equipped with a portable heater because there is no central heat and it was cold!

The meals are served in your room and are traditional Buddhist vegan style. 

After dinner was cleared the monks came in and set up futons for us to sleep in. The pillows felt like bean bags and weren’t the comfiest, but the mattress was great!

The following morning we attended traditional services in the main temple. The monks chanted for about 30 minutes and we were given the opportunity to add incense to the urn and offer blessings for our ancestors.

After breakfast, we wandered through the Okunoin Cemetery. It is Japan’s biggest and home to more than 200,000 graves of Buddhist monks. It dates back to at least 816AD, and every inch of it is sacred. 

Century-old cedar trees tower over the moss-covered tombstones. We wandered through without another person in sight, quiet and peaceful. The leaves were turning because the air was so crisp and the entire experience was surreal.

After a quick cup of green tea to warm up, we boarded the bus and started our long journey to our next stop.

If you are able to visit Koyasan, I highly recommend it!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!



  1. Looks wonderful, Jennifer. So great to get off the beaten track and away from crowds. It’s amazing how your luggage grows when you’re schlepping it on and off trains. Last year in England my girlfriend and I used only public transport, on and off trains etc. and lots of walking towing our suitcases. I was so happy I’d brought a back pack as my personal item instead of the tote bag that attaches to my spinner bag. Cobblestones, and lifting on and off trains were all so much easier when one of my items was strapped to my back. And sooo much easier on my back!

    1. I didn’t bring the bag that attaches to my roller bag but instead used a gift from a brand which was roomy but not very easy. Backpack next time for sure!

  2. How cool is this! It looks like a beautiful, peaceful and historical place. I wonder how it would feel to stay there for awhile. I’ll bet the food is amazing too. What a fabulous trip!

    1. I think staying here for several days would be even more relaxing. The quiet atmosphere is so soothing and meditative.

  3. Looks like so much fun! What an adventure you and you daughter are having. And love the pictures!

    1. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and so happy to be doing it with her!

  4. Barbara Lembo says:

    Wow Jennifer! This was a fascinating stop. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Not sure I could talk my husband into this, but I know sisters and girl friends would definitely be game. So enjoyed the photos. They will make a wonderful photo frame download for you.

    1. Pretty sure my husband would never do this either so I’m blessed to have an adventurous daughter for my travel companion.

  5. Every post is as interesting as the last. What a great trip! Thanks for sharing it! I’m really enjoying following along.

    1. Everyday is a new adventure for us. I’ll be sad to see it come to an end.

  6. I love the idea of staying somewhere that’s nontraditional. It looks like a lovely spa, but one that’s brimming with spirituality. Since I’m a Texas girl… sleeping on the floor means running the risk of being stung by scorpions, but I know I could get past this. Such an adventure! Love reading about it. xoxo, Brenda

    1. This place was far from average and I think you’d love it Brenda! Scrupulously clean so no scorpions to worry about 🙂 xo

  7. What a wonderful adventure! I’m so glad you left the beaten tourist track and ventured outside your comfort zone to experience this. We slept on futons on a tatami floor our entire year in Japan, but we only used those buckwheat pillows on a couple of occasions when we were traveling. They definitely weren’t my favourite. I hope you’re trying lots of authentic Japanese foods.

    1. We are having fun exierinenting with the food but I did pass on the shot glass of vinegar for breakfast this morning 🙂

  8. Thank you for these interesting posts and the fascinating photo’s, it has been enjoyable to travel along 🙂

    1. I’m so happy you’re following along and enjoying our travels!

  9. What an adventure this trip has been! It’s nice to experience places that are not teaming with tourist and it sounds like your time at the temple was peaceful and introspective.
    I have no sense of direction so would rely on my daughter, too. She inherited her dad’s ability to get around everywhere. Good thing we have someone to guide us through life. ????
    With all the walking you’re doing on this trip you’ll be coming home lighter. Your luggage on the other hand might be a tad heavier?

    1. I’d be totally lost without her for many reasons but the navigation is priceless here. I was hoping to come home lighter but it’s not feeling that way. Too many wonderful meals and delicious treats to enjoy. I’ve only bought 2 souvenirs so far but there’s still time;)

  10. If you are in Hakone, don’t miss the amazing sculpture garden! We traveled with friends who had lived in Japan for almost 7 years, and we visited places which had been favorites of theirs. We stayed at a traditional ryokan in Hakone, which has similarities to your temple stay. It was a beautiful place, but the sculpture garden was a real highlight. I’m enjoying your travelogue, reminiscent of our trip a few years ago!

    1. We are traveling to Hakone today. I could easily see living in Japan. Everything is so clean, well ordered, efficient and wonderful.

  11. Camille Ludlow says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful unique experience!

  12. Love these photos of the monastery and graveyard. This whets my appetite to see Japan in greater detail than I have. Thank you so much.

    1. I need to plan another trip here. There’s so much we haven’t seen and want to experience.

  13. Cynthia Dailey says:

    I love these posts. Please keep it up and lots of details of the trip.

  14. Thanks for sharing, fascinating and beautiful.

  15. Susan Gowan says:

    Thanks sp much for sharing. A younger cousin was married in Japan last spring so some of the guests got to tour Japan and China. The Far East is enchanting and filled with history. Your daughtwr certainly resembles you but is a taller silhouette of you. Travelling with daughters is the best! Did it with one to Cuba and NYC! Both times were a blast!

    1. I hope we can travel again next year. It’s a wonderful experience to share with her. China is on my list of places to see to so I have to start saving.

  16. I’ve loved reading about your vacation and am also wondering if you’ve traveled with just a carry-on. I’ve heard it can be done! Great pictures!

    1. Yes, just a carry on and I needed less than I brought! This trip has taught me a lot about packing for trips where you move almost every day to a new location.

  17. I’m really enjoying these post as we hope to go to Japan next year. We are thinking of joining a tour first, then going off on our own for a few days. Koyasan is on many itineraries we have seen, so it was great to read about it here. I’m also interested in a packing post afterwards!

    1. You will love it! I had no idea Koyasan would be so cold so would pack warmer next time. You’ll have an amazing trip!! The after packing post is already writing itself in my head as I haul these bags in and off trains. Stay tuned

  18. An experience you will never forget, wonderful! My husband taught college in Taiwan one summer (computer science), and we were invited to a Buddhist monastery, where everyone takes a vow of silence. We were honored to have lunch with the head monk. He invited my husband to come back and stay for a month. This is what he said “we will cut you a robe of golden cloth and shave your head; unlike others you will be allowed to speak one a hour a day.” When John asked him why he could speak, the monk said “we have a new computer system and don’t know how to use it!”

    1. That’s hilarious!! I will never forget these magical experiences. Collecting memories is so much better than collecting things.

  19. So Enjoying your trip with you and your daughter. Did you wear your clothes a couple times or have them washed? I am also curious if you and your daughters bags are just a “carry on”? Looking forward to seeing what you packed, etc.

    1. Yes just carryon. I am rewearing many things which are interestingly all black. I’ll have a post trip roundup of what worked and what could have stayed at home.

  20. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  21. I’m siting here with a newly replaced knee so your travels seem especially enchanting. I have not been to Japan though it is on a wish list. I’m wondering who planned your itenerary? You are bold girls to take out on your own! Safe travels home!

    1. My daughter planned things. I’m lucky she’s a very experienced traveler. Thanks!

  22. I look forward to your post showing us how you packed, what you took that worked/didn’t work and the type of luggage you used. Was it all carryon or did you check some of it? What shoes worked/didn’t work? Was there something you didn’t take that you wished you had taken? Looks so fun and I’m so glad you see you and your beautiful daughter together.

    1. It was all carryon for both of us. I will do a post on what worked and what didn’t because I’ve learned more than I thought I would on this adventure. Many things have never been worn and there are several things I wished I brought. Stay tuned!

  23. Thank you for sharing the details of thus amazing experience! You have really planned your vacation to include so many diverse places it seems. Wonderful!
    Love reading about them…every detail.

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