Many of the temples offer lodging in suitably simple rooms with Japanese beds and rice paper doors. The ‘shukubo’, which were originally reserved for trainee monks and the occasional weary pilgrim, allow you to live like the monks do. You will join them for meditation and prayer – a hypnotic experience involving sutra chanting, incense and gongs – and dining with them in a large communal hall. Shojin food is completely vegetarian and very simple – no meat, fish, or spices – in accordance with Buddhist philosophy; it is nourishing, sustainable, and does not cause harm. Before dinner, you are invited to bathe in the onsen (a ‘yukata’ or dressing gown will be provided for you to walk around the complex), and we recommend a stroll around the Japanese garden, designed by renowned garden designer Kobori Enshu.
Prices vary between ¥10,000 (£55) and ¥20,000 (£110) per night and usually include two meals. We've stayed here and have personally inspected several of the shukubo – we know which ones are most comfortable and welcoming to overseas guests.