One of the most rewarding things we did this trip to Japan was a temple stay (shukubo) at Taiyoji temple (Taiyo-ji). Deutsch hier. Français ici. We had done a temple stay at Koyasan before but this was a much more satisfying experience. Not that we didn’t enjoy our stay at the temple on Mt Koya, on the contrary, but there is a reason why the Taiyoji shukubo is considered the best of all shukubo experiences in Japan.
Imagine an isolated temple on the top of a mountain in a glorious area of Japan and only 2 hours away from Tokyo. This is not the endless urban area of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima anymore, this is not the well-trodden route most tourists in Japan stick to for even repeat visits, but this is the Japan I would like all tourists to Japan to enjoy.
As part of the shukubo we copied the sutra in calligraphy, participated in all Buddhist services, chanted the sutras and enjoyed a morning zazen session. The shojin ryori, the vegetarian food served in Buddhist temples was delicious and at the end of the day the rotenburo (outdoor bath) waited.
If you would like to stay at Taiyo-ji temple longer than just one night and are willing to help out with the cooking and serving of the shojin ryori, cleaning, etc., this is perfectly possible and you wouldn’t need to pay full price. Had I known this, I would have stayed for a week, what a chance to learn to cook the shojin ryori!
How to get to Taiyoji
We took the train from tiny Ohanabatake station in the middle of Chichibu to Mitsumineguchi station and continued by bus in the direction to Nagatsugawa via Kawamata and alighted at the bus stop serving Taiyoji temple. From there we walked the rest of the way by turning to the right over the bridge over the Arakawa River from the bus stop and following the tarmac road leading up for the mountain. From time to time, wooden signs indicated the way. After about 4km, we arrived at the fishing spot with a tiny soba/udon restaurant and followed the sign for the temple leading up for a steep and ancient pilgrim’s path lined with Ojizō-sama statues which brought us directly to the temple.
Alternatively, get a taxi from Mitsumineguchi station or call ahead to Taiyoji and somebody will come and pick you up from Mitsumineguchi station.
I created a book of our temple stay experience and put it online, I am sure you will recognise your stay at Taiyo-ji Temple in my photos!