Shojin Ryori(精進料理)



This month I had the opportunity to visit Mount Koya, one of the most famous pilgrimage places in Japan. In these places that are surrounded by such a spiritual atmosphere, it has become popular to stay in a shrine, where you can taste this kind of menu called shojin ryori. Do you want to know more about it? Let’s get to it!


Shukubo is the experience of staying in a Buddhist shrine, respecting the traditions that are part of Buddhism. You should not forget that you are not in a hotel, but in a temple, where the staff that will attend you are Buddhist monks who live and practice there, so it is important to respect the rules of the place. The rooms are equipped with tatami mats and you have the opportunity to attend the early morning prayers (around 6:30 a.m.). But what usually surprises most people who decide to have this experience is none other than the food.

What’s shojin ryori?

The type of food served in shukubo is very particular, as it is all based on vegetarianism. With the introduction of Buddhism, Zen monks from China popularized the form of vegetarian cuisine in Japan, shojin ryori. Various dishes are served, from vegetable tempura, raw vegetables, pickled vegetables, nabe, and rice.

Goma dofu

It is one of Koya-san’s specialties, so if you visit a local shukubo, it will definitely be on the menu. Instead of being made with bean sprouts like most tofu, in this case it is prepared with sesame seeds. The texture is much creamier than conventional tofu, making it an experience for the palate. It can be a perfect omiyage for family or friends, or even for your pantry.

Is it worth the experience?

It is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For some people, eating two vegetarian meals can be quite a challenge. I thought I was going to be hungry at dinner, but it was the opposite: I had a hard time finishing everything due to the large number of dishes. Plus, even though it’s all vegetables and fruits, you won’t miss the meat and fish, that’s for sure!