Visitors spend thousands of dollars staying overnight in Japanese temples
When visiting the temple, visitors can meditate and use Japanese calligraphy to copy Buddhist scriptures. According to the Japan Tourism Agency, 80% of the guests staying in the temple on Mount Koya, the world cultural heritage, are from Western countries. The monks in this temple are so used to Western foreigners that the reservations can be made in English.
The Nippon Foundation, a Tokyo-based nonprofit organization, and several Kyoto temples, jointly created the project "Iroha Nihonon" targeting wealthy foreign tourists. The project aims to raise awareness about Japan and cultural values through programs such as morning prayers and tea ceremony, according to the AP.
Since September 2016, many temples in Kyoto have started to offer accommodation services for tourists at about 150,000 yen (1,410 USD) per night. So far, 148 groups with a total of 476 people have stayed in these temples.
Since May 2018, Ninnaji temple, a world heritage site founded by Emperor Uda in 888 in Kyoto, has also allowed guests to sleep overnight at a price of 1 million yen (9,400 USD) per night. Guests can rent a royal-style room for three hours.
They can enjoy a lot of activities such as gagaku music, ancient Japanese court music, and chant shomyo Buddhist scriptures. Although the rent is very high, this service proves to be a popular choice among visitors with a total of 48 overnight guests at the temple so far.
One guest who stayed at the temple said: "The luxury experience is that you can have your own tranquility". Another guest added: "It is very touched when you can stay in a temple with a 1,000-year-old history.”
The renting fees are then used for the preservation of the temples that open their doors and rooms for strangers. The maintenance cost of about 30,000 cultural relics is really huge. A manager of Ninnaji temple said: "The (current) donation is not enough, so the temple's program is aimed at securing funding (for the maintenance)."
In addition, Ninnaji temple and five other temples in Kyoto plan to allocate a portion of revenue for the restoration of natural disaster-affected heritages.
"While the number of Buddhists is declining, many temples have been converted into guesthouses and others want to create opportunities for many people to visit," said a Terahaku executive, the site that makes the introduction about temple accommodation.
He added: "We want to increase the number of temples on the system to 100 by the end of this year."
By: Salvador Clayton