Wednesday, August 12, 2009
We stayed in a shukubo (temple lodging) here, which is pretty easy to do. We booked it through the rakutentravel website.
The temple was called "Komyo-in". It was clean and very pleasant to stay in. The staff spoke a little English, too. Baths are communal, as I think most of these temple lodgings are, (separated by gender, of course) so if you're not comfortable being naked with strangers, a hotel might be a better choice for you. The toilet area looked very new and was spotless. Toilets were western-style (hurray, no squatting!) Here's the outer garden. There were carp in the pond, too!
The rooms were clean, with windows facing an inner garden. The bedding is put away during the day but during the evening meal someone will come and set it all up for you, then put it away during the morning meal. There are thin cotton robes for you to wear to and from the bath, and a hot water pot with tea leaves and a tea pot.
Shukubos are famous for vegetarian cooking, called shojin ryori. I'm not sure about shukubo in other regions but Koya-san is know for sesame tofu, so almost every meal included this.
We were put in our own little dining room but this could be because it was low season. Depending on the place, you might even be put in a room with a bunch of other people. One thing to keep in mind, is that these meals are usually served on low tables, so you'll be sitting on the floor. If you've got leg issues or find sitting seiza (on your feet) uncomfortable, find out if they have a table and chair options. Because these rooms are tatami (thatched), it might not be possible, but it never hurts to ask, I guess. The food was just amazing. The flavours were so simple but each dish had it's own unique taste and texture. Nothing was too rich or too salty. We had been eating pretty rich, greasy restaurant foods before this, so it was just what our tummies needed.
Our dinner, from top, left to right: sesame tofu; vegetables and fu (soy bits?) boiled in broth; oragnes; vegetable tempura; pickles; stewed soy beans, mushrooms, and gourd; fu, mushrooms and taro potato ball in starchy sauce (lid closed); tempura dipping sauce; rice and miso soup.
Sesame tofu is very soft and almost mousse-like but has the rich taste of sesame. It kind of melts in your mouth like mousse, too! Too bad I've never seen it in Vancouver...
Above, is the fu (the pink and green thing), mushooms and taro potato ball in the starchy sauce.
Komyo-in was a great experience for us, and I would definitely love to stay at a shukubo again. If you don't have major dietary restrictions (like a soy allergy) it is a lovely way to see a bit of temple life and experience some simple, healthy food that your body is probably in dire need of after travelling for a few days. Next time we go to Japan, we'll definitely seek out a shukubo in a different region.