Learning Japanese Culture: Lodging at Furumine Shrine in Tochigi
Did you know that many temples and shrines in Japan provide lodging for tourists? Temple/shrine lodging was originally meant for trainee priests but it is now available to anybody interested.
Compared to temples, there are actually only a limited number of shrines providing lodging. But because Shinto shrines are unique to Japan, it is more recommendable than temples to anyone looking to experience genuine Japanese culture. Here we are taking this opportunity to introduce to you Furumine Shrine and its lodging service. I is located in Tochigi Prefecture, which is easily accessible from Tokyo.
Furumine Shrine is a shrine located in Kanuma City, Tochigi Prefecture. The shrine is dedicated to the Tengu, the legendary half-human creature considered to be god’s messenger, and has many tengu statues and sculptures scattered around the shrine site.
Tengu is believed to have a red face and a long nose and fly around in mountains. There are also variations with a black face and a beak. Furumine Shrine is nestled deep in a mountain but has many devotees. The statues and sculptures mentioned above were all donated by the devotees.
To get to the shrine, you can first take the Tobu Railway from Asakusa Station and get off at Shin-Kanuma Station after a 1 hour and 35 minute ride, then switch to the bus for another ride of about 1 hour and get off at the terminal stop. The shrine gate you can see on the way from the bus window is actually Japan’s largest shrine gate made of copper. You can easily tell its enormity when you compare the size to that of the car in the photo.
Lodging at Furumine Shrine
If you want to lodge at Furumine Shrine, make an inquiry via the shrine’s website first. There are only three guest rooms, which are sometimes occupied by a group of the shrine’s devotees, so early booking is recommended. Also, a ritual dance by shrine maidens start from 4:30 PM at the shrine, so make sure to arrive before that.
Once you are at the shrine, you first have to let them know of your arrival and that you have a reservation for lodging. In cold seasons, you will be given a lockable private room with a heater. In other seasons, you will stay in a room which is only separated by sliding doors and not lockable. Each room comes with minimum necessary amenity items including towel, tooth brush and yukata (cotton robe).
In the ritual dance by shrine maidens mentioned above, you can enjoy looking at the ritual in which they perform their dance to slow music as a Shinto religious offering to the god. It is something you would rarely be able to see, so don’t miss out. Remember no photography and talking is allowed during the ritual. Just prepare yourself for a solemn ritual.
Dinner is offered from 6 PM. It is either served at the large hall or each private room. Each meal is never an extravagant feast but you can surely enjoy typical traditional Japanese meals. Very tasty miso soup here deserves a special mention. You can get free refills of rice and miso soup, so feel free to have as much as you want. A small cup of sake is also available but never drink too much of it and be noisy.
Breakfast is from 7:30 AM. And you will join in the prayer from 8:00. The priest will make a Shinto prayer for the wellness of the guests and call the names of all the guests, so listen carefully and don’t miss yours to be called out.
Furumine shrine does provide lodging but you should never forget that it is a sacred place. If you must have a complete service as a customer, you’d better go for a commercial hotel. But for anyone looking for an opportunity to learn Japanese culture in depth, the shrine can be a perfect place. Information: Map
Shrine lodging will surely be a rare and valuable experience for you.