The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan
  • Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, is famed as the location of a sacred pilgrimage known the Shikoku Henro and taking in some 88 Buddhist temples dotted around the island. Among the most significant of these many temples is Zentsu-ji in western Kagawa Prefecture: this is revered as the birthplace of the monk Kobo Daishi (774-835 AD, also known as Kukai and the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism) whose followers established the pilgrimage after his passing. Zentsu-ji is not only deeply holy: in the Shukubo Iroha Kaikan it also provides a great place to stay the night.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The word shukubo has historically signified very simple lodgings, provided by a temple for pilgrims to stay the night before embarking on the next stage of their devout journey. Zentsu-ji’s status as the fountainhead of Shingon Buddhism however, and its significance on the 88-temple pilgrimage, has seen its own shukubo, the Iroha Kaikan, grow over the centuries to become essentially a hotel in its own right. In the present day it rivals minshuku guest houses for traditional Japanese atmosphere, and welcomes both the casual tourist and the pious pilgrim alike.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan is located just a stone’s throw from the temple it was originally built to serve, and contains no less than 70 rooms over three floors, accommodating up to around 200 guests. As well as offering accommodation and food, it also houses its very own onsen (hot spring water) bath: a major attraction for the more secular visitor. The flat room rate of 6,100 yen per person per night, including two meals, also makes it a great option for budget-conscious travelers.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    This being firmly traditional-style lodging, shoes are taken off at the entrance and deposited in an individual shoe box for the dedicated use of your room. In the lobby meanwhile, just in front of the check-in desk, you will notice rows of red cloth-draped benches that recall those used inside temples. Similarly the heavy, dark tones of the woods used here suggest the depth of the Buddhist worldview.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    Up on the two guest floors, red-carpeted and white-walled corridors create a surprisingly Western-style atmosphere, while once inside the guest rooms we are firmly back to Japanese aesthetics. As mentioned, each guest room is in the style of a classic minshuku inn, meaning tatami flooring; wood-paneled ceilings; futon bedding and spartan furnishing including low tables and sliding-door closets. Note that although each room is equipped with a washbasin, washroom and toilet facilities are shared. Complimentary Japanese sweets are also provided in each room, along with a yukata for each guest.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The yukata is a light, simplified version of a kimono that in the modern day is worn at onsen resorts and summer festivals. At the Shukubo Iroha Kaikan it is requested that you wear your yukata when making your way between your room and the on-premises onsen bath. Don’t worry, unlike the formal kimono a yukata is extremely easy to slip in and out of: easier than most Western garments in fact.

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    The Shukubo Iroha Kaikan

    Dining meanwhile is as wholesome and traditional as you would expect. Set meals are based around grilled fish and hearty nabe hot pots, with Kagawa Prefecture’s ubiquitous Sanuki Udon noodles also served. Long communal dining tables encourage getting to know your fellow guests, with word having it that some meaningful relationships have begun right here.

    Zentsuji Temple Iroha Hall
    place
    Kagawa Zentsuji Zentsujicho 3-chome 3-1
    phone
    0877620111

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