Given the consistent raves from earlier reviewers, I was particularly surprised and disappointed with my stay at the Shojoshin-in Temple. First, though, I'll start with the good:
- Easy to find
- Nice (though not stunning) grounds
- Reasonably tasty food
- Greeted and briefed at reception by a polite woman who spoke English well
- Decently comfy futon and very large room (by Japanese standards)
- No guidance, no welcoming, really, almost no speaking other than the rules-of-the-road intro by the woman at reception.
- In fact, when I saw many of the monks pass by me in the cemetery next door, it was as if I were a ghost... not a glimmer of acknowledgment, etc. And at Shojoshin-in, the only words spoken to me by a monk were "Sauce. For tempura."
- Everyone ate semi-alone. It was the semi- part that was especially awkward. For our meals, we were placed in a large narrow room with shallow portable dividers, so that each couple ate together, but was within clear earshot of all the other couples. This resulted in a lot of uncomfortable whispering, and exactly zero interactions amongst guests. I would have been fine with being served completely alone (in our individual rooms), or together in a communal setting, but -- especially as a solo traveler -- this in-between was just odd and unpleasant.
- The morning ceremony felt as if I was watching from a seat in an IMAX theatre. Definitely surround sound, but -- except for a brief moment in which we were invited to walk up to the front to briefly pray one at a time -- it was 100% non-interactive, and -- for non-Japanese speakers -- 100% non-intelligible. No context. Had the monks taken just 2 minutes before or after the ceremony to provide context, or even a brief personal greeting, my take on the morning prayer would have been greatly improved.
And that sort of sums up how I felt. Not mistreated, certainly, and no one was rude. But I felt essentially invisible. Ignored. One might cynically suggest... well, perhaps we tourists were just there to provide funds. I didn't get the sense that we were welcomed, much less that the monks desired to share anything of their life and beliefs and experiences with us in any real, substantive way.
Three stars because of the adequate food and lodging, Two missing stars to symbolize my sadness at what could have, should have been in such an emotional and historical place.
- Also Known As:
- Shojoshin-In Temple Hotel Koya-Cho