Meditation Retreat & Japanese Cultural Homestay
Shōganji Zen Retreat is an over 600-year-old Zen Buddhist temple site of historical significance in the region. Currently headed by Rinzai Zen monk, Jiho Kongo, Shōganji opened it’s doors to the public in 2004 in order to allow foreigners to experience authentic Zen temple life in rural Japan. This modest little temple is located in the tiny village of Ojuki, part of the Saganoseki village cluster, only 30 minutes from Oita city. The temple site itself and some of its artefacts are more than 600 years old, and have been held by the Kongo family for more than 100 years.
Simplicity, authenticity, and quiet beauty best describe Shōganji. It is a way of life, rich in spirit and culture. Surrounded by beautiful bamboo forest and only a 5-minute walk from the beach, this idyllic location is the perfect setting to meditate, study Zen, or just experience traditional Japanese village life.
The informal and relaxed setting, as well as the small number of guests, allow for a uniquely personalized experience. Japanese cooking lessons, Japanese calligraphy, Zen study and koan, green tea ceremony, hiking, swimming, “onsen” hot spring bathing visits, yoga, gardening, participation in Buddhist festivals, participation in local cultural events, regional sightseeing, and shopping excursions are just a few of the regular activities offered at the retreat. Guests are strongly encouraged to get involved in on- and off-site activity planning, meals, etc.
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Shoganji is not a hotel or hostel. It is a very special homestay experience with a unique and engaged host; an experience offering immersion access deep into a part of Japanese culture rarely experienced by foreigners.
Shoganji is not a monastery. It is, rather, a fully functional Zen Buddhist temple serving about 70 families in the area. It has only one full-time monk (Jiho Kongo). It’s pretty quiet most days, but regularly serves as a community centre for various important dates on the Buddhist calendar and Buddhist services.
Our affordable rates include food, lodging, and all on-site activities.
Shōganji is deeply tied to the local community and hosts both Japanese and foreign guests. A small number of guests is always our preference – allowing us to maintain a relaxed and intimate retreat environment most days of the year (with the exception of a few major Buddhist festival days). You might have the opportunity to visit with local temple members or other Japanese monks. On the other hand, if silence and solitude are golden to you, these desires are easily fulfilled.
The friendly seaside village community of Saganoseki is famous for its fishing, as well as it’s rice fields and speciality citrus groves, all stretched between lush scenic mountainsides. The peaceful location is ideal for long mountain hikes, endless beach-combing, or simply enjoying a slower pace of life. In the warmest months from May to September, the beach is perfect for swimming. The region also features numerous onsen hot springs, with the highest concentration of natural hot springs in all of Japan in nearby Beppu.
I’m Pierre Black, Zen Retreat’s Online Coordinator. I’m a naturopath and healer, and have spent a total of 2 years living at Shōganji.
When I’m at Zen Retreat, I teach yoga, cook, and help facilitate the Shōganji Zen Retreat experience for guests.
If you would like more detailed, personalized live assistance toward planning your trip, meditation coaching, or additional preparation for your time at Zen Retreat, we can arrange a live video session together. Click Here to schedule your live video session.
I’m always here ‘virtually’ to help you navigate this very special Japanese cultural experience. All questions and booking inquiries can be directed to ShoganjiZenRetreat@gmail.com
Ask me anything. I’m here to help. 🙂
If you’re looking for somewhere to “get away from it all” then this is your place. It is also a very authentic way to experience every day life in Japan. Jiho is a very modern and kind monk who went out of his way to make sure we had a good stay – highlights included visits to local onsen and trying out the local cuisine! The morning ceremony is a great way to clear the mind every morning though it’s probably an idea to have some meditation experience before arriving as it’s zen meditation (ie not guided). Pierre was fantastic at communicating and helping out before and during our stay – Thanks to both of you! Definitely recommend if you’re up for an “experience” and open minded to discovering new things.
Lucinda, London, United Kingdom
I’m sure this temple will be one of the most awesome places on Airbnb! The description and website give a good impression of what to expect, but really, you have to check it out yourself to understand how special this place is. Jiho-san and Pierre a wonderful and very generous hosts. Staying with them feels like being part of the family. We felt genuinely nourished by the spiritual energy of the place and our bodies really enjoyed the restfulness and the great meals we prepared together. Oh, and the cool outings of course…. what a precious opportunity to learn more about Japan and its beautiful culture, including the fantastics onsens! Highly recommended in every respect!
Landa, Wellington, New Zealand
From the first email until the last goodbye, Pierre made me feel so welcome. The temple is a special place to practice meditation and yoga and get a feel for temple life. Meals were always prepared together so it felt like we were one big family. The field trips to Usuki and Yufuin were just an added bonus. A rare experience for Japan.
Jacob, Cambridge, MA
This was by far one the most amazing experiences I’ve had traveling abroad and the best to date on Airbnb. Jiho and Pierre are incredible hosts and go above and beyond to make your stay at the temple incredibly comfortable, genuine and true to the spirit of Siyoganji. The temple itself allows for one to relax, think and immerse yourself in Japanese Zen culture. In addition to meeting Jiho and Pierre, I met other incredible people visiting and will remain friends for years to come. I won’t get…Read more
Pablo, Oakland, CA
A wonderful and unique experience – Pierre and Jiho were incredible hosts who went out of the way to make my experience at the temple truly memorable. From picking me up at the station, to incredible meals, daily yoga classes, and an outing to an onsen town – this was an airbnb experience like no other. These guys are providing not just a room but an incredible, and unforgettable experience.
Brigid, New York, NY
I had a wonderful stay at Shoganji with Jiho and Pierre. This is a truly unique cultural experience – morning meditation, bountiful communal meals, morning work in the garden, trips to local onsens, and much more. I felt genuinely immersed in the daily life of the temple. I look forward to my next visit!
Tim, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
It was a great pleasure to stay 10 days at Shoganji with Jiho and Pierre. meditation yes but not only, Shoganji is a place you feel like home. thank you!
Cecile, Paris, France
WOW! This experience surpassed my expectations on all accounts. Pierre and Jiho are the warmest hosts I’ve ever encountered, from being picked up at the train and whisked to an onsen to being dropped off right at the train door – a little teary eyed to leave new friends behind. However long you are planning to stay – add a few days, you’ll want them. The food is beyond words and you’ll learn quite a bit about Japanese cooking. The ritual and routine of meditation, cooking, and temple service draw you right into an authentic experience that you play a hand in creating. This place is a home away from home for those who seek it. Do not let the distance keep from coming – I took the train and that was half the adventure. This is the place to be if you want an inner and outer journey and truly immersive Japanese experience.
Sarah, Fort Worth, TX
I had a really wonderful time at Jiho and Pierre’s place! In many ways, it felt like being part of a “little family” (doing meditation & yoga together, then cooking or helping around, plus some activities on afternoons/days depending on the number of people), and it is something I really want to thank them for. Staying in Jiho’s small temple is clearly an unique experience which I recommend! Thanks again Jiho and Pierre for your time and for everything =)
Adrien, Paris, France
Wow – what a stay! By far the most unique Airbnb experience I had and I never felt so relaxed and ‘zen’ afterwards. Imagine waking up at 5:45h (after a long sleep, don’t worry) to monk Hosan’s chanting, then meditate for an hour in the temple, have tea and fun with everyone and do some yoga with Pierre afterwards – and then the day has only begun! Excursions, such as to relaxed hot springs for a bath, and really nice lunches and dinners often prepared by Hosan’s 98 year old (!) lovely mother are to follow. Pierre is so friendly, relaxed and open-minded rational guy and monk Hosan is the funnest monk you’ll ever see: he drinks beer and jokes around. All in all, great and unique experience you should all try if you’re up for it. Thanks again!!!
Wouter, Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you can make this place and these people, a part of your stay in Japan, do it. Finer company or a more welcoming environment cannot be found. My days here truly enriched my experience of Japan. It is a wonderful place to be alone and an equally wonderful place to share. I am very grateful for my time here and am happy to recommend it to any and all who are looking for a unique and fulfilling travel experience.
Cecily, New York, NY
I had a really great time at Shoganji. Jiho was an amazing host and a very inspiring person and was very welcoming and accommodating to myself and the other guests. He treated us like family and was really kind with his time, cooking delicious, healthy food, taking us on daily trips to the local onsen and even driving us to see some of the magical local sights. The daily 5.30am meditation was challenging at the start but really rewarding. I would have liked more meditation. Whilst it was an amazing experience I think the description as a ‘cultural exchange’ is more accurate than a meditation retreat, as we met lots of the lovely locals and it was a very hands on experience of living in a temple in the Japanese countryside. Overall a really fantastic and rewarding and inspiring experience.
Una, London, United Kingdom
We absolutely loved our experience at the zen temple. A truly unique experience that can’t be compared to anything else. Meditation, making fresh noodles and trips to the onsens were all apart of the fantastic experience. Me and my Girlfriend really enjoyed the experience and thank Jiho again for his hospitality as well is everyone else at the temple. Word of advice though, bring mosquito repellant as they really enjoy you at night.
The Zen Buddhist temple was an amazing experience. Jiho-san was a very amazing host and Pierre was very responsive and helpful along the way. The neighbourhood was very quaint and quiet, with a beautiful view of the waterfront. The unique experience is definitely something everyone should consider experiencing.
Julian, Toronto, Canada
From the moment Jiho met us at the train station — with his wonderful, heartfelt smile, to the moment he saw us off, with that same kind, warm heart, time seemed to stand still — in a magical, sweet, relaxing, zen-state-of-mind space. This is a welcome, earthy, authentic contrast to the American, high-end-destination spiritual retreats. Not only does a stay at the Zen Temple allow one to learn the gift of “BE-ing in the present moment,” but it also provides a deeper understanding of Japanese culture, history, and religion. Jiho is the penultimate host, answering every conceivable question, spending hours in thoughtful dialogue, preparing nutritious and delicious meals, and making sure you experience the beauties and treasures of the surrounding area. To add even more value to your experience, you will find the few guests who may also be on this soulful journey with you, are so interesting, delightful, and multi-faceted, making for fascinating conversations and moments you never expected from such an adventure. Thank you Jiho (and your dear Mother) for three days of awakening!
Catherine, Angers, France
What a one of a kind off the beaten path experience we were so lucky to have! Jiho was an amazing host and made us feel very welcome. We loved every moment. From waking up and meditating, to having peaceful afternoons just reading while it rained. It was magical and fun. The temple is on a beautiful piece of land surrounded by giant trees and moments from the ocean. Everything is so clean and peaceful. The food is absolutely delicious, and you should definitely go to the bath house. I…Read more
Venetia, San Francisco, CA
Jiho’s Zen Retreat has been a great experience for three days, deserving more time in my next visit. I have appreciated our monk’s life, starting with early chanting and meditation and doing some interesting activities such as calligraphy and gardening. Food was great, both the on-site fresh food and the off-site restaurant visits. Jiho is not only a good monk but also a very pleasurable and funny character, looking forward to return as his honourable guest. I may see him in another country as he is interested in many countries that I will be travelling as well.
Joe Gebbia, one of the founders os AirBnB came to SHOGANJI ZEN RETREAT twice!
My second time back, and the experience only got better! Hosan greeted me with a warm smile at the temple. I stayed for a brief two nights, catching up with Hosan, his delightful mom, and two other Airbnb guests who were also there. Thank you Pierre for managing the listing on Hosan’s behalf. The morning starts with silent mediation. During the day the four of us explored the nearby beach, the main temple in Oita, and dined on Hosan’s delicious lunch and dinner. Some of the best Japanese food you could eat! The accommodations are just has pictured – a traditional, Japanese style thin futon on a tatami mat floor. This stay was during the summertime, which means it is warm! You will be in the hillside, surrounded by lush greenery, bamboo forests, and the sound of the cicadas (the insects that chirp). It’s quite charming. This place is perfect for a serious getaway, a reflective time with a monk, and an immersion in Japanese culture. I can’t wait to come back a third time. See you soon Hosan.
Joe Gebbia, San Francisco, CA
Imagine waking up to the sound of trees rustling in the wind and birds singing to the sunrise. As you lay in bed, your fingers feel the reeds of the tatami mat underneath your futon, and your eyes gain focus on unidentified Japanese calligraphy across the room. The sound of footsteps passes through the hallway outside your door and you know it’s time to join your host, Hosan, in the temple for a hour of silent meditation. Welcome to “Zen Retreat – Buddhist Temple, Oita”. Oita, a sleepy industrial city on the southern coast of Japan, is a short plane ride from Tokyo. About 2 hours outside of Oita is a Buddhist temple run by a monk named Hosan. This guy will change your life. And if he doesn’t, his 94 year old mother will. Together, these hosts provide the most Japanese experience one could hope for. Thanks to Pierre & Yo for adding this listing and managing the account for Hosan. Your morning begins at 5:30am in the shrine area of the temple. Do not be late. Hosan will provide a place for you to sit on the tatami mat. The next 30 mins is something I won’t give away, but rather you have to experience first hand. Then, at 6:00am you sit in silence, the sun isn’t even up yet. The day wakes up with you as birds begin to chrip and light floats through the transparent panels of the Japanese walls. There is no breakfast at the Zen temple. Instead the next meal is lunch, prepared by his mom at 12:00pm. The afternoon will be filled with activities. Or not. The beach is 5 mins away. There are mountain trails. There is a store in the village filled with all kinds of oddities. You can watch Korean soap operas with his mom during the day, or check your email over their wifi (you won’t want to get on computers once you’re here). Be sure to take a walk into the orange tree grove, and explore the wooded paths behind the pond. Hosan teaches and believes in the Nishi Health System. You will eat some of the most authentic, healthiest food in his kitchen. His mom prepares the best soba noodles, tempura, diakon, fish. Each night was feast of nutritious proportions. Dinner is at 6 or 7pm. After that the night is free, though you will probably want to go to bed earlier than in your normal life. Did you feel your chest expand while reading any of the above? If yes, book this listing. Yes, it will be different. Yes, you will learn about Japanese culture in a brand new way. And yes, you will have a story to tell when you return.
Joe Gebbia, San Francisco, CA