Whether you’re interested in the country’s feudal past or its spiritual present, castle and temple stays provide a unique and unforgettable way to immerse yourself in Japan’s cultural heritage. With Japan opening its borders to international travellers, many people are excited to visit the Land of the Rising Sun and immerse themselves in its rich history and culture.

One of the best ways to do this is by staying in a traditional Japanese castle or temple. These accommodations offer a chance to learn about Japan’s unique past while experiencing its traditional way of life.

Castle stays

When it comes to Japanese castles, Ozu Castle in Ehime Prefecture was the first to provide overnight stays in its tower. Its doors opened to visitors worldwide in 2020 after being rebuilt in 2004, utilising historic techniques certified with UNESCO for the project.

Selective guests can experience the domain’s grandeur and ambience as Sadayasu Kato, the first lord, did in the 1600s and even dine like the 17th-century lords. The castle and Garyu Sanso, a former collection of tea houses, are both recognised as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.

Hirado Castle can be found in Nagasaki Prefecture, just off the coast of Kyushu Island. The castle’s mediaeval castle tower, Kaiju Yagura, can be rented out as a private retreat for anyone interested in experiencing the Hirado way of life. The interiors of Kaiju Yagura were restored in 2020 and exhibited a contemporary interpretation of Japanese aesthetics, focusing on locally obtained natural materials.

Guests of Hirado Castle can also participate in traditional cultural activities, such as a tea ceremony at a nearby Zen temple, a special supper prepared by a professional chef, or a lesson in the samurai sword art of iaijutsu.

Temple stays

Temple stays may be the way to go for curious travellers that find themselves drawn to Japan’s religious culture. Visitor activities at Zenkoji, Nagano Prefecture, one of Japan’s oldest and most important Buddhist temples, include a ‘goma’ prayer (fire ceremony), a’shakyo’ (brush meditation), or a ‘zazen’ (seated meditation), as well as attendance at the temple’s daily ‘O-Asaji’ (morning ceremony).

If you want a more secluded trip, consider staying at Miidera Temple in Shiga Prefecture. The temple has welcomed emperors and commoners for thousands of years. Now, its 400-year-old rooms may be rented as a private retreat, providing guests with an authentic and intimate opportunity to learn about Miidera and the local culture. Visitors can anticipate the opening of numerous distinctive lodgings in 2023, including Fukuyama Castle in Hiroshima Prefecture and Nakatsu Castle in Oita Prefecture.

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