Staying in a Buddhist Temple in Osaka
Air BnB is a wonderful thing. It’s added a completely different dimension to holiday accommodation. I’m a big fan. You can find all manner of weird and wonderful places, all over the world, and quite often for a lot less than a hotel. This in mind, a Buddhist temple probably still wouldn’t figure in your top 5 of places you can find on Air BnB (it sure wasn’t on mine), but here we are. Allow me to tell you the story of when I stayed at just such a place.
Curled up on my couch, laptop at hand, I was browsing the many Air BnB listings for a planned trip to Osaka. There were a lot of good ones. Price was a motivating factor, but uniqueness and location were important too. Scrolling through the many, many apartments and rooms, one particular listing caught my eye. Le Petit Temple. The photo was of a monk meditating, lush green mountains in the background. My interest piqued, I clicked. It looked incredible, there was a decent amount of information, lots of positive reviews, and more stunning photos. I was sold. After a brief consultation with my husband, I booked it. Three nights stay for 7,700 Yen ($73.00). Bargain!
Prior to departure, one or two details caused me mild concern. The first was access to wash facilities. To shower, the listing said you would need to pay 500 Yen for half hour. The second was lack of plumbing. There is an outside latrine, but it’s a dug-out toilet, no main plumbing. A subsequent message from the host, Suzuki-san, stating that the hot water is out but that we could use the shower facilities for free if we didn’t mind cold water, was the last. However, I was still excited to see what it would be like.
Le Petit Temple is located in Kawachinagano, in the south of Osaka prefecture. It’s a bit of a trek from Osaka City, taking about 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach from Namba, a major interchange. The trip, if you don’t have access to a car, requires a subway train, and then a bus. The temple itself is quite far out from the central hub of Kawachinagano, approximately a 20 minute bus ride. It’s incredibly pleasant, winding roads pass through rice paddies, past houses, and up mountains. It’s a road trip lovers dream. The day we arrived in Osaka, we decided to explore for the afternoon and head back in the evening to check in. We start off well by accidentally taking the stopping train, which takes 50 minutes instead of 40 to reach Kawachinagano station. The ride is peaceful, there’s very few people aboard and it’s dark outside. We still arrive almost an hour before our bus. The bus times are slightly erratic, with an almost two hour gap between services. Having missed the 2000, we waited patiently for the 2138.
Boarding the bus, we sit right at the front, watching carefully as the stops roll by. Thankfully, the bus has a digital display indicating the next stop. When our stop comes up, we push the button, and wait to arrive. The bus stops on a mountain road. it’s completely black, no street lighting, and eerie. The only noise being the local wildlife. The bus departs, leaving us in the twilight to fumble for where we need to go. Luckily, it’s barely a minutes walk. The host, Suzuki-san, does not actually reside at the temple. This privilege belongs to a Japanese monk by the name of Master Kook. We pick our way carefully up the cracked path, using our useless phone torches to try to light the way. Just as we reach the first nest of buildings, a flashlight suddenly appears, and we are greeted by a surly Master Kook. He points out the toilet, then shows us to our room, which sits separate from the main structure. He speaks no English, and very quickly in Japanese, so it was hard to understand him! Before we know it, he’s off, and we are left alone in our room.
It’s a surprisingly large room, very neat and clean. The walls were covered in wood panelling, there’s a double bed, a low table and mirror, and a table with chairs around it. The room has a small entranceway to leave your shoes in, which opens out to another room. This is used as storage. This is also where the entrance to the space is. It’s got a few boxes, bicycles, and creepy crawlies lurking in it, but again it’s otherwise clean. The light switches for all the rooms are in the little alcove between the bedroom and the entrance. There’s also a cheery sign reminding you to be frugal with the electricity, and to not fall off the cliff. Alright then.
Not wishing to disturb Master Kook, we head to the toilet to try to find wash facilities. The toilet is in a separate building, right next to ours, and houses a tiny room containing the toilet itself, as well as storage on one side and a crooked sink on the other, which appears to not be hooked up. There’s a floodlight to assist us in not falling off the cliff (I’m joking, the edge is quite far from here). Unfortunately, the sink appears not to work at all, and the toilet is definitely not for the faint hearted. The tiny room, which you need to be a contortionist to fit into, is dominated by a plastic toilet. It has a lid, thankfully, but it leads down into basically a large hole. As I said, no plumbing. The only other thing in the room, aside from a light overhead, is a rather large collection of air fresheners. These don't really do much to help the odour, but the thought was there. We had a wash using an unopened bottle of water we had with us, and returned to the room for the night.
The bed is not comfortable. It’s very hard, and the pillows are not much better, having a weird gravelly texture. Prolonged periods of rest were giving me neck ache. Another issue was the heat. July is pretty hot, even at night, and a lack of air conditioning (something we weren’t aware of prior to booking), made sleep that night virtually impossible.
Waking the next morning after approximately 2-3 hours of sleep, a spectacular sight greets us. The beauty is immeasurable. There is a small, outside temple to the left, the main building just next to it, and to the right mountains as far as the eye can see. Thick with vegetation, they look almost fluffy. We cautiously approach the edge, looking down into the valley. Roads snake in and out, a drivers playground. We stroll around the grounds a little, admiring the plethora of Buddha statues, in all shapes and sizes, as well as the peace and tranquility. They line the path leading up from the road on either side. Wishing to shower, we head to the main building to locate Master Kook.
Within the main building sits another place of worship. This building is two storey, I imagine the upper half plays host to bedrooms. On the ground floor is just the large room used for worship, a cupboard, and a kitchen, which is where we happen upon Master Kook. I ask him about the shower, and he starts gesturing and talking, fast, in Japanese. I don’t really understand him, and he doesn’t seem to hear me when I tell him I can’t understand. Eventually it transpires that the shower is actually broken, and that if we wish to wash, we must do so using the outside tap and a large bucket. Oh. There is an Onsen close by (natural spring bath), however sadly I am unable to use this, because I have tattoos. We opt to have a quick wash, brushing our teeth, before heading out for the entire day sightseeing in Osaka. We return once again at the same time as the night before.
The second night was worse than the first in terms of sleep. It was stiflingly hot, the air so thick with humidity you could almost see it. There was also someone postulating all night, hitting a bell and chanting. Actually, this was quite peaceful and soothing. The lack of sleep the previous night, coupled with another night of humidity, and of course the bed, made for a very unhappy evening of rest. After researching ways to cool a room down with no air conditioning (and no fan, we asked), we managed to get about an hour or so of sleep thanks to an odd trick I found on the internet. Wet some towels, open the windows, and hang them up. It helped, but it was still a long night! We also decided it might be best to spend our last night in a hotel in Osaka, so booked one last minute online.
In the morning, after a night spent mostly packing and grumpy, we had another quick wash at the sink before taking in the views one last time. It really was beautiful. After checking out, we bid our goodbyes, waiting for the first bus of the day (0621) to pick us up.
Needless to say, it was an eventful stay. It was nothing like I imagined it would be, however, I don’t regret the stay. Despite the shortcomings, it allowed me to see a slice of Japan I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Kawachinagano is very pretty, a place I would most certainly like to visit again and explore more. The temple itself is serene. It’s a nice escape from daily life. Suzuki-san, who can be contacted via Air BnB, is the most helpful person. He’s a wealth of knowledge for transport, sightseeing, and Osaka in general. He helped with trains, buses, and restaurants. I can’t praise him enough. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. For a short stay, 1-2 nights, it’s a great way to unplug and unwind. You can even join Master Kook for early morning meditation (we didn’t, but it starts around 4am and lasts an hour).
Fancy trying it for yourself? Find the listing here.