I booked my hotels for my Japan trip kinda late and since it was for Spring, it was a challenge to get the same one for the entire vacation. Long story short, I ended up with one day with no hotel. Problem? Nah – it’s a good excuse to do something I’ve been wanting to do for ages… stay in a temple! I googled and found a good site for temple lodging. I chose Ninna-ji for several reasons. First, it is within Kyoto and very accessible. Second, Ninna-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage site. And lastly, it provides everything I expect in a temple stay – breakfast, morning meditation and access to the grounds. At 6,200 yen per person (breakfast and tax included), it’s definitely a good deal! Ninna-ji is accessible via JR bus or tram (Keifuku Kitano Line -Omuro Ninnaji).The lodging is called Omuraikan. I sent them an email beforehand to check for room availability. I received a prompt response and details were provided. On the day of my reservation, I went to the east gate (it was after closing time of the temple) and introduced myself. The staff opened the gate and I was led to the reception hall. The lodging is like a ryokan. After we settled on the instructions (there’s a long list), I was given my room key. The room I was given can accommodate maybe 12-14 tatami mats. It has a safe, a refrigerator, a yukata robe, head towel, toothbrush and a tea set with hot water and green tea. Unfortunately, I lost my pic of the room but you get the idea. The room was very comfy and I had a good night rest 🙂 So back to the instructions. Bath (shared) is only from 4:30pm to 11pm. What???!!! So I forced myself to take a bath before 11pm. Lucky for me, I was the only one there. Since it’s a traditional Japanese bathroom, I sat on a stool at the side of the room first and took a shower (body cleansing) before soaking myself in the hot bath (mental relaxation). I won’t go into much detail but hopefully I followed the etiquette for bathing in Japan (as I’ve seen in animes!) The instructions said morning service is 6:00am at the Kondo Hall. So I woke up at 5:00am and got ready. When I got here , I sat down in seiza position (formal position of sitting on one’s legs) even though it was not required. I lasted for maybe 15 minutes but got tired so I sat more comfortably. The service was solemn and interesting even though I did not understand anything. After the service, the monk leading the service gave us a talk about the temple (in Nihonggo again). The only thing I captured was that there’s a TV crew from NHK running a report on the cherry blossoms at that moment. Apparently, Ninna-ji is popular for long lasting cherry blossoms. Breakfast was served at 7:30am in the restaurant attached to the lodging. It’s not vegetarian but pretty tasty. I liked everything they served except the pickled plum (blah!)
Check-out was 9:00am. I left my suitcase at the reception and went to visit the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), one of my favorite places to see in Kyoto. Then I returned to Ninna-ji to check out Goten Hall (free ticket for overnight visitors). Overall, my experience in Ninna-ji exceeded my expectations. The temple is beautiful and the service has been wonderful. I’d love to do this again someday.