I mentioned in passing that during my time in Osaka, I stayed in a Buddhist Temple, and vowed to share that experience with you. My apologies for leaving it so long, but you know, life. No time like the present, so here it is.
Rows of Buddhist statues.
Back in July of 2016, husband and I thought a little weekend getaway would be nice, and settled on Osaka (and Kyoto) for various reasons. It was one of the cheapest places, well connected, and boasting a rich heritage, it was an easy choice.
Enjoying Osaka Castle.
As with any trip, picking a place to stay can be tricky. Especially in recent years with the addition of Air Bnb opening up a whole other world of choice. It’s also usually way cheaper than a hotel. So, here I am, around June of 2016 (maybe earlier, I really can’t remember), scrolling through a plethora of Air Bnb listings for the dates we had chosen, when my eyes happened upon an interesting listing; a temple. A Buddhist Temple by the name of Le Petit, located 45-50 minutes south of Osaka in Kawachinagano (a place I wrote about here). My interest piqued, I clicked on the listing and had a read. It looked stunning from the photos; a veritable haven tucked away in the rolling hills of Kawachinagano, ensconced in silence and calm. It sounded like the perfect retreat for a couple bound to be burnt out by all the sightseeing we had planned.
The listing was popular, had lots of positive reviews, and sounded great from the description. Plus it was cheap. After convincing my sceptical husband, I booked it and looked forward to the trip.
Stunning mountain views.
Now. Here’s where it starts to get a little weird. The person running the listing is a kind Japanese man, and he immediately contacts me to tell me the hot water in the shower isn’t working, but that we are free to use the facilities with no charge (the listing did mention an extra fee for using the shower, so this sounded like a bonus). After agreeing, he imparted some great information on getting there, and that was that.
Temple grounds (our room in the forefront, toilet behind).
Fast forward, and we’re in Osaka. Woo! First day is great, we see the castle, purchase rail passes, and stroll through a small section of Namba Walk before heading for the Temple for the night. The journey involves 50 minutes on a train, and 20 minutes on a bus. Not too taxing, and the bus stop is right outside the Temple entrance. Bueno. It’s pitch black and deathly silent when we arrive, which is somewhat unnerving. We can see the grand sum of fuck all. In a feeble attempt to not fall down a hole or off a mountain, we put the flash lights on our phones on, which are about as much use as a split condom at an orgy. Likely looking like a pair of revellers at the worlds shittest rave, eventually a voice calls out to us in the dark, and an actual flash light finds us, catching us in it’s beam. I feel like a rabbit caught in headlights for a brief second. The voice belongs to a very surly monk, who proceeds to bark at us in Japanese. I understand Japanese somewhat, but this gentleman spoke so fast I barely heard a word. Repeated pleas to slow down did zero, and instead he decided it best to just usher us to the room, before vanishing into the night. Awkward.
By this point we are too tired to care, so we locate the restroom, which turns out to be a large hole in the ground covered by a plastic toilet. There’s no ventilation save for one piddly window, and it stinks of, well you get the idea. The sink doesn’t work, much to my absolute horror, so we are forced to wash our hands with the drinking water we have on us. This also serves nicely as an aid to brush our teeth. It’s time to give up and crash out.
That fucking bed.
This is when we discover our next issue. The room is hotter than Satan’s armpit, the A/C doesn’t work , and there’s no fan either. Well fuck. Exhausted, we decide to just make the best of it and climb into the bed. Which is apparently made from concrete. With pillows filled with gravel. Fuckity fuck. A night of listening to Kawachinagano’s scary sounding wildlife and about 1-2 hours of sleep total ensues. We wake the next morning tired, marvel/balk at a sign warning us about the sheer drop from the mountain (“if you fall we aren’t responsible”, oookkkkkk), and try to locate the Monk from the previous night to get a shower.
The main building of the Temple houses a prayer room and the living quarters of the Monk. We find him sat in the kitchen finishing his breakfast. I try my best in broken Japanese to first ask for a fan (this gets me nowhere), and then for the shower. In equally broken English, we learn that there is in fact, no shower. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck. He points us instead to a water trough and a bucket outside. We awkwardly wash, brush our teeth, and trudge back to our room to change, departing for the bus and a long ass day of sightseeing in Kyoto.
Main buildings of Temple.
Upon our return, it seems like the heat in the room is far worse (Satan’s ass crack instead of his armpit), and trying to sleep is impossible. We google ways to keep a room cool without a fan, and happen across a weird tip that says to soak towels in water and hang them at open windows. With fuck all else to lose, we do just this, at first reluctant to open the window for fear of what may crawl in. I don’t know if it helped or it was the placebo effect, but we managed to get some semblance of relief. The concrete bed and gravel pillows seemed worse too, and my poor husband was at his wits’ end. The novelty had worn off for me too, so we decided for our last night to just book a hotel in Osaka. We fall into restless sleep to the sounds of postulating Monks.
Fudo Myoo Sama, a fiery mountain deity of Buddhism that is worshipped at Le Petit.
In the morning, we hastily pack, wash, and try our best to check out with a sweet old lady who is sat outside the kitchen. The monk is nowhere to be seen, and the lady understands me less than he does. We give up, message the guy I first spoke to to check out, and hurry for the bus. Another great day out, we return instead to a plush hotel with a hot shower and a soft bed. I may have cried a little when I washed my hair.
Winding roads and one hell of a drop.
In summary, it was a clusterfuck. However, I don’t regret staying there. For one, we got to see a part of Japan we wouldn’t have otherwise; Kawachinagano is stunning. It’s peaceful town, winding mountain roads, and miles of rice paddy gives you a glimpse of true rural Japan. I hope to return one day. Secondly, the temple itself is quite pretty, and it has an incredible outlook. You can meditate at 4am with the Monks if you so wish, something we had hoped to participate in but due to zero sleep it didn’t happen. Finally, it’s good sometimes to get out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t typically do.
A lucky Buddha that sadly bought us no luck.
Would I stay again? Fuck no. But I’m thankful for the experience.