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Gyokuzoin Temple, Japan

  Immerse yourself in Japanese culture with a night at this little known Buddhist temple on Mount Shigisan inNara.
  The flames crackled in timewith the slow, melodic chanting ofthe Buddhist monks.Itwas 5am and dark outside, butthe tall candleslitthe temple’s room in an eerie half light.The head monk, kneeling on a platform and dressed in flowing gold robes, lent forward to add another piece of wood to the fire.Asthe flames grew, so too did the chanting surging louder and faster until it crescendoed in a frantic,furious beat.And then, all of a sudden, itwassilent.
  Thisritual, designed to expel negative desires,takes place every morning atthe 1,000 year old Gyokuzoin Temple in Nara Prefecture, and something only the overnight guests gettowitness.Thisiswhat staying at a shukubo a traditional temple lodging is all about peering behind the curtain at a part of Japanese culture fewothers getto see.
  The bedroom arrangements at Gyokuzoin are simple you sleep as the monkssleep, on a futon in a tatamiroom,with a communal bathhouse that hassettimesfor men andwomen.You also eat asthe monks eat a beautifully refined vegetarian dinner and breakfast, using seasonable vegetables from the mountain (although you can optto add meat or fish).
  The temple complex clings halfway up Mount Shigisan, above the city of Oji, around 40 minutes from Osaka. The buildings sprawl across the mountainside, connected by paths linedwithover 2,000 stone lanterns. You can climb an hour higher, to the mountain’s peak, but just walking around the complex is amagical experience, as youspy the swish of amonk’s robes, orlistento the sounds ofthe pulsating forest.Atnight, as you peer overthe valley ,it’s hard to see where the lights end and stars begin. Staysin a private room cost 6,000JPY (£47) per person, or 9,000JPY (£70) with vegetarian dinner and breakfast.