Thursday, September 24, 2009

Japanese temple lodging, please

Japan decided to lump a bunch of holidays I don't know anything about together so I had a five day weekend. Instead of "respecting the aged" and whatever else I was supposed to be doing for these holidays I decided to visit Koya-san, the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Buddhism located in Wakayama prefecture. It has 120 temples that offer lodging, so in making my selection I used the scientific method known as "hey, this one's ten bucks cheaper!" The primary draw of staying in a temple for Greg and me is they are pretty much the only places in the country that understand vegetarianism. When I mention that I'm a vegetarian here in Japan, the conversation usually continues as follows:

Japanese person: But you eat fish?
Me: No, no animals.
Japanese person: So octopus is ok?

Buddhist temples, however, specialize in a cuisine called Shojin Ryori, which is always vegan. By staying at a temple we were assured two carefully prepared vegan meals a day. We ended up at the Haryo-in temple. I must say, I kind of wish we had sprung the extra ten bucks to stay elsewhere. Firstly, they had two kinds of slippers out front: nice looking ones and cheap, crummy looking ones. We were quickly informed that the nice slippers are for "Japanese only." This rule was pretty firm. We saw a mixed couple and the Japanese man was allowed to wear the nice slippers while his Western girlfriend had to wear the vinyl ones. At this point I'm pretty well accustomed to the various rules about shoes (put the slippers on before going inside, take them off to go on the tatami, put them back on to walk to the bathroom, take them off and put on the toilet slippers to go in the bathroom, etc) but the monk in charge was watching me constantly, just waiting for me to slip up. And the room had bugs in it. Lots of bugs. Food was decent, though. But then I got scolded for putting my tea cup on the food tray instead of the tatami. Ugh.

1 comment:

  1. Yikes, I started to reply to this post and Google treated me as if I were a spy in Japan or wanted by the Stasi in Germany, not unlike I'm sometimes treated here. As long as I'm quiet I pass. But when I have to say something I'm branded as an intruder and the treatment is rude This corresponds to Olga's perception. Perhaps it's our view on the receiving end. In any case it's not pleasant.

    The reverse overseas has been true for me. The worst tourists are the ugly Germans, followed by the Brits and Australians. The Americans now have to compete for a place on the viewing stand. But maybe that was because I was in Southeast Asia when I came to this conclusion. Always keep an open mind. It leaves that brain gray matter subject to further coloration.