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Iroha Nihon – a stay in a Zen Buddhist Temple turned luxury ryokan
The path to enlightenment is never easy, but in Kyoto, at least, it can now be luxurious. Japan’s former imperial capital has opened the doors of a handful of its historic Zen Buddhist temples, allowing guests rare overnight stays in spruced-up monks’ quarters. Launched in 2016, the Zen experience Iroha Nihon — the Soul of Japan (available through Cerca Travel Co.’s Tabikyo-Japan division) was developed by the Tokyo-based Nippon Foundation. The programme invites travellers to one of five temples — all of which are closed to the public — for private tours, lessons in zazen (sitting meditation) and shojin ryori (vegetarian cuisine based on traditional Buddhist principles). Guests stay in elegantly upgraded monks’ residences that might include private tea rooms, Yamato baths and manicured rock gardens ideal for self-reflection. If, after a night among holy men, enlightenment still proves elusive, guests need not worry: The US$2,000 nightly donation is sure to bring plenty of good karma.