Shukubo & heritage at Koya-san

November 8th 2006

Koya-san is a sacred city deep in the mountains of the Wakayama prefecture. It took quite some time to get there from Kyoto (about 4 hours or so) by train, cable car and bus. The city was founded around the year 816 and is full of temples, although it is just a small village. Of these temples, over 50 offer shukubo (temple lodging) of which Fukuchi-in is one. We stayed there for 2 nights.

Fukuchi-in is located in the more quiet part of Koyasan, just off the main street. It is quite a large compex with nice rock-gardens, a garden with a pond, a special part for morning prayers full of relics, a coffee corner and 4 public baths (2 for women, 2 for men). I guess we were off-season, as it was remarkably quiet.

We got dinner served in our room. As in all temples it is Shojin Ryori, which basically means vegetarian with some vegetables and a lot of tofu, seeweed and slimy stuff. It is a traditional style of cooking that meets all their religious laws. Probably it was washoku as well, which means that the 5x5 elements should be present in a good meal (5 colours, 5 flavours, 5 preparation methods, 5 textures and 5 considerations when eating it) (see also this blog)

The dishes all looked great and some tofu were quite nice. The sesame tofu was house made and a traditional product from the area. Little bags of thin, deepfried tofu were filled with finely chopped vegetables, tied with a stem of some herb and boiled. They were really good.

Luckily buddhists dont have any problem with alcohol, so except from tea, we had some (hot) sake with our dinner.

All dressed up in Yukata, we are ready to head for the bath

In a japanese house you normally take off your shoes at the entrance and wear slippers. In the tatami rooms (rooms covered with grass mats) you have to take the slippers off, and in the toilets you have to change them for special toilet slippers. Here you see the red ones with the fukuchi-in logo and the white ones with the japanese word for toilet written on them.

The garden view that can be enjoyed from the coffee corner

Stone garden at the Kongobu-ji Temple

Konpon Daito (Great Pagoda) at the Garan complex

Daimon (Great gate)

Old cedar trees at the Okuno-in cemetery area

Okuno-in cemetery