Shōganji Zen Retreat

Experience authentic Zen temple life in rural Japan

Facilities & Attractions

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Our affordable rates include food, lodging, and all on-site activities. 

The facilities and general living experience at Shōganji Zen Retreat are best compared, by western standards, to a homestay in a very large well-equipped cottage. There is a quaint and cozy rustic feel and aromas of wood and tatami.

Please don’t confuse our little retreat with a fancy hotel experience or a glossy, westernized spiritual retreat. Shōganji is the real thing. There might be bugs or dirt, and you are expected to help out. In return, you’ll have one of the most authentic experiences of rural Japan and Zen Buddhist life you could ever imagine.


The property features a large vegetable garden, a small orchard with citrus and persimmon trees, all surrounded by lush mountain bamboo forest. Most areas on the property are freely accessible most of the time. You can almost always find quiet and solitude, or pleasant company, somewhere on the property at any given time. The number of guests is intentionally kept small for a more personal and relaxed experience. Typically 3-6 guests at one time.

For ideas on things to do in the area while staying at Shōganji Zen Retreat, see our Nearby Attractions page.

ROOMS: The property features 4 very traditional spacious private occupancy tatami guest rooms with sliding wooden doors. The rooms may be occupied by single guests, or shared by couples, friends, or families if you choose. Rooms are sparsely decorated and almost unfurnished in the traditional Japanese style, with futon bedding on the floor. Basic furniture items such as tables or chairs may be requested in your room if needed. Note that rooms are not very soundproof and do not lock. However, the retreat is quiet at quiet times, and we have never had any security issues in over 20 years of operation. There is a sense of community and support among guests. If you need something to be stored securely, please ask.

Keep in mind you are staying in a 100 year old traditional wooden building on a 600-year-old temple site. Its not a hotel or a hostel. There are no private bathroom facilities in any of the rooms.

BATHROOMS: The well-maintained bath and toilet areas are shared by all guests.  There are two completely separate washrooms with 1 sink and 2 private toilet stalls. As well there are 2 additional sink areas that can be used for washing up or brushing teeth. And finally there is one completely separate traditional Japanese style bathing room with both a normal hot shower as well as an old fashioned wood-fired hot tub. The wood fired bath is especially delightful in the winter months. The bathing room is quite old and rustic. Its not fancy, but its clean and everything works. The shower system is new and has excellent water pressure and consistent hot water for showers. The bathing room is completely private while you are using it, however, couples or families may choose to bathe together if they wish.


INTERNET: There is 24-hour wifi internet access in the kitchen/dining area, outdoor courtyard area, and most of the garden – so feel free to bring your laptop or other device.  If you are lucky you might get a weak signal in your room.

LAUNDRY: A washing machine is freely accessible to guests, and laundry is hung to dry.  If you prefer a dryer, we can take you to a coin laundry nearby on request.

ONSEN BATHING (off-site): In addition, regular outings are taken to local “onsen”, or traditional Japanese public hot spring baths in the area. The onsen experience is unique to Japan and should not be missed. The best onsen have an outdoor pool usually with a pretty view or garden. Most onsen offer complete standard shower facilities in addition to the hot spring water pools. The rule is that one should bathe completely using the showers, before getting into the shared hot spring pools. Nothing should be taken into the pools, and people typically bathe completely naked. (Most are gender segregated.)


“Taste The Season”

a note on season and climate…

An important part of traditional Japanese culture is to taste the season, or engage with and enjoy the seasons as they are.  This is strongly and necessarily reflected in the food, leisure activities, and how one works with nature in preparation for the next season.

Winter: November – March

Why come in winter?  Many guests hesitate to come in winter, however, its a special time of year with particular benefits and pleasures.  Onsen (hot spring) visits and our wood-fired hot-tub are particularly delightful at this time of year.  Traditional winter foods in Japan are hot, hearty, and delicious.  There are seasonal winter fruits and vegetables – since it does not generally freeze in the region – such as a winter citrus fruit unique to Japan and fresh bamboo shoots in the late winter/early spring.

In practical terms:  Its cold at this time of year and there is no central heating in the temple. (However, it rarely, if ever, goes below freezing.)  If you are generally averse to cold weather, do not come at this time of year. The kitchen/dining room tends to be the warmest place in the temple and is the hub of activity at this time of year.  The rest of the temple is either not heated or is minimally heated.  Guest rooms are heated at night with either built in AC/heating units or kerosene heaters. Individual guest room heating is generally used only at night.  Bring warm, comfortable, layered clothing for sleep and for morning meditation.   Please take note of the temperature chart below.

Summer Heat – July and August

July and August are the hottest months. The weather will begin to cool a bit through September. There is air conditioning in the kitchen and most guest rooms, however you should not expect to stay indoors all day with the air conditioning turned on high. If you come at this time of year, you should have some tolerance to warmer temperatures.

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