Last week, I wrote a post about karate out of inspiration from my trip to Japan. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do it by clicking on the following link, because this post will be a continuation of the Japanese-style retreat theme: http://blog.retrigo.com/2017/07/25/not-just-martial-art-lifestyle/.
This week, we will take a look at the more spiritual side of Japan. As a country full of Buddhist temples and shrines, it’s no surprise that Japan offers a variety of options for people who wish to rest their minds and connect with the hereafter. And I don’t only mean by praying for one minute and then leaving… Did you know you can actually stay in a temple as you would in a hotel? These special temples are known as “ryokans” and are similar to inns, but just more traditional Eastern-style. Here are a few interesting facts about ryokans.
First, before entering any ryokan, you must remove your shoes. This practice is customary in all Japanese households, but is even more enforced in ryokans. This is because many guests come and go during the day, and the owners wouldn’t want them dirtying their tatami-matted floor.
All guest rooms have a sliding door which opens to a comfy tatami floor, which is the style of flooring used in most areas inside a ryokan. At the back of the room is a porch or balcony where guests can sit and have tea (bags, kettle, and cups provided) while enjoying the beautiful natural view outside. Sleeping mattresses and pillows are found on the floor to spend the night, and most ryokans even provide pajamas, in case you packed too quickly before coming.
After a good night’s sleep, guests wake up and, depending on the ryokan, may watch a praying and worshipping ceremony by monks early in the morning.
Afterwards, it’s breakfast time! In ryokans, breakfast and dinner are offered, and they always consist of traditional Japanese cuisine (called kaiseki). Each guest is served an arrangement of small dishes where each dish contains one specific type of food (a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, a plate of tofu and soy sauce, another of grilled or fried vegetables, and more!). Some ryokans also serve vegan meals, as this diet is the usual lifestyle of monks.
Having lived the ryokan experience myself, I have to say that it is a wonderful and relaxing experience that I highly recommend. You will learn more about a tradition which is quite far from Western culture while freeing your mind from the stress of urban life. Also, because ryokans are typically located in natural scenic areas, such as near mountains or by the sea, you may get the chance to admire Mother Nature in all her beauty.
This marks the end of the Japanese-style retreat theme. I hope you liked my previous posts and that they inspired you to dig deeper into Japan’s marvelous and unique culture. As always, have a great week and a happy retreat!