EXPERIENCE

THE RYOKAN COLLECTION

THE RYOKAN COLLECTION
Explore Special Experiences on Foot from FUFU Nara
Back to Ancient Japan - Rediscover Your Nature in the Old Historic Capital, Nara
Japan has a long history, and Nara indeed imbues with historical significance such as temples, shrines, and gardens, in which many sites have become the designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Nara is also easily accessible from both Osaka and Kyoto, which takes less than an hour by train. Visitors usually take a one-day trip to Nara, but it is better worth a 2 to 3-day trip for anyone fascinated with deep Japanese history.

Explore Special Experiences on Foot from FUFU Nara
  • Private Zazen (Zen Meditation) Experience at Gangoji Temple
Distance from nearest ryokan: 10 min on foot from FUFU Nara

Gangoji Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located among the streets of the Nara-machi District. Gangoji Temple was initially founded in 588 during the Asuka Period (the beginning of the 6th century) when Buddhism was in its infancy in Japan. Gangoji Temple was founded as Hokoji Temple, also known as Asuka Temple. It was renamed as "Gangoji Temple" after Heijo in Nara became Japan's capital during the Nara Period (710-749).


(Gangoji Temple / Reproduction prohibited.)


In the Nara Period, jobs of the monks were different from what they do in the present. Nowadays, the primary role of Japanese monks is to take part in the funerals; however, the monks back in the Nara Period mostly dedicate themselves to Buddhism austerities such as studying and reading chants at a temple occasionally attending the imperial ceremonies.

In this experience, you will experience a private visit to the temple, see the Zen Shitsu escorted by the monk of Gangoji Temple, and experience Zazen (Zen meditation) in the Zen Shitsu, one of the National Treasures of Japan.

The Zen Shitsu (Contemplation Hall) at Gangoji Temple is a National Treasure. The buildings have been damaged and restored many times over the past centuries, yet some roof tiles date back to the 6th century. In the Nara Period, hundreds of monks used to study in this room at Gangoji Temple.

Before explaining the Zen Shitsu at Gangoji Temple, Zen Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism are slightly different, though Zen is a type of Buddhism originally brought from India to China. The big difference between Zen Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism is that Zen Buddhism emphasizes meditation and mindfulness, while Japanese Buddhism emphasizes the importance of sutras and mere religious knowledge. Zen is a type of Buddhism that does not have a god or sutras but emphasizes the importance of the insight that can only be gained through meditation or awareness. In Zen, there's no need to search outside ourselves for the answers, because we can find the answers in the same place we found the questions.

In contemporary Rinzai Zen, the master receives disciples for dokusan consultation, holding a stick called nyoi ("wish-fulfilling gem" in Sanskrit). Nyoi is an emblem of spiritual authority that may be used on occasion to strike the sitters during Zazen. However, Gangoji Temple is classified as a Shingon Risshu temple whose Zazen method does not require striking the sitters by nyoi but sit down and meditate quietly.


(Gangoji Temple / Reproduction prohibited.)


Zen sends us looking inside us for enlightenment and realization. Zen is to be wholly alive. In this activity, you may experience the "meditative Zazen" in this Zen Shitsu, a designated National Treasure of Japan. This modern world sometimes allows us to forget what we originally belong to Nothing but ourselves. Join us on a Zen style deep-diving inward journey in this historic Zen Shitsu and free your mind from logic, words, or anything else in your thoughts.

  • Exclusive Night Visit to Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) and Private Visit to the Kasuga Taisha Museum Escorted by Curator
Distance from nearest ryokan: 10 min on foot from FUFU Nara

Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Grand Shrine) is a Shinto shrine located in the east of Nara Park. Kasuga Taisha is considered one of the most sacred shrines across Japan. As numerous gods are enshrined in Kasuga Taisha, it is attracted by both devotees and tourists who look for sacred Shinto experiences.

Kasuga Taisha was initially built in 768 by Nagate Fujiwara, from the powerful Fujiwara clan. Other shrines in Japan usually have one or two gods enshrined in its shrine. Still, the influence of the Fujiwara clan allowed Kasuga Taisha to host four gods, including ones from Chiba, Ibaraki, and Osaka. It is how Kasuga Taisha was established about 1,300 years ago.


Photographed by 桑原 英文 (Reproduction prohibited.)


The path to Kasuga Taisha passes through Nara Park so that you may be bumped into deer roaming freely along the way. It is believed that deer are represented as the sacred messengers of Shinto gods that inhabit the shrine.


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In this activity, you may experience a very exclusive night visit to Kasuga Taisha, escorted by the priest of Kasuga Taisha. You may also light up a lantern before the Shinto priests light up the lanterns for this special tour. This setting up lantern ritual is not open to the public and exclusive for the guests.


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In addition to the Exclusive Night Visit, you may visit the Kasuga Taisha Museum escorted by a curator. In the property of Kasuga Taisha, there is Kasuga Taisha Museum that stores 354 of National Treasures and 1,482 of Important Cultural Properties.


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In this private tour, you may visit the Mikasa-yama Ukigumono-mine Yōhaijo, located on the top of Mt. Mikasa, the sacred place where the gods enshrined in Kasuga Taisha have descended for the first time, the beautiful vermillion color of the central gate and the main hall of the Kasuga Shrine.

  • Private Sweets Making Experience at Nara Sweets Craftsman Nakanishi Yosaburo
Distance from nearest ryokan: 15 min on foot from FUFU Nara

Types of sweets in Japan are divided into two broad categories: wagashi, the traditional confectionery created before the 1800s and yogashi, desserts influenced by Western culture. Yogashi usually contains eggs or dairy, but wagashi generally contains only plant-derived ingredients. In contrast, Japanese wagashi is traditionally vegan because it was heavily influenced by Buddhist beliefs, which discourage the use of animal products in sweets. While yogashi is widely consumed in Japan nowadays, wagashi is still highly valued not only as an accompaniment to tea in the practice of tea ceremony but represents one of the unique cultures of Japan.

Nakanishi Yosaburo is a traditional Japanese sweets store established in 1913 in Nara-machi, Nara, and has been supplying their wagashi to many of the top restaurants.


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(Reproduction prohibited.)


Their beautiful wagashi is made by hand every day. Traditionally, the wagashi designs are inspired by nature and symbolize a moment in nature, so they reflect the changes in nature every month.


(Reproduction prohibited.)



(Reproduction prohibited.)


The store has now been passed down to the grandson of Mr. Yosaburo Nakanishi – the store owner who originally founded in 1913. Although Mr. Yosaburo Nakanishi was deeply steeped into tradition, he was also flexible enough to adapt to contemporary initiatives and approaches. As the tradition has been passed down to the third-generation owner, Mr. Katsuyuki Nakanishi aims to increase the wagashi's interest by hosting sweets and doing workshops for the customers. The workshops take place in the back of the store upstairs, where the customers can relax and make their wagashi in the background of a beautiful Japanese garden.


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There are several courses in the workshop offered to the customers in which they can make their wagashi and enjoy it with either tea or sake after the workshop. Meet the shop owner, Mr. Nakanishi, who is very friendly and welcoming, and make your special wagashi at the historic sweets shop that has been running in Nara-machi for over 150 years.

  • Exclusive Japanese Flower Arrangement, Kadō Experience at FUFU Nara
In the teahouse of Yugayama Garden which belongs to Nara Park, FUFU Nara offers the guests an exceptional Japanese flower arrangement experience.


Japanese flower arrangement is called "Ikebana" in Japanese, also known as "kadō." Kadō is an original form of Japanese art that engages with arranging a variety of plants, which allows you to expand your appreciation of beauty. According to one of Japan's influential practitioners of modern Kadō, Kadō is to see the whole universe contained in a single flower. Ikebana and Kadō are practically the same, but Kadō requires not only the skills and techniques of flower arrangement but also manners, mental and physical training. As the masters of Kadō have developed their techniques since olden times, there are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 schools of Kadō in Japan. The Kadō master for the flower arrangement classes in FUFU Nara teaches you in the Yamamura Goryu style from Ensho-ji Temple, one of the Kadō schools whose fundamental belief is that "feel the beauty and dignity as it is" through Kadō.

There are three broad flower arrangement classes offered in FUFU Nara: Beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses. The beginner and intermediate courses are a 2-hour session and the advanced course is a 3-hour session.


The beginner course is a very comprehensive class, even for those who have never done Kadō before. If you are new to Japanese culture, joining this beginner course of Kadō is a great introductory session.

The intermediate course would be suitable for those who are interested in flowers or Kadō. Throughout the session, you will be able to learn more about the cultures of Nara and Kadō.

The advanced course gives you a more in-depth view of Kadō and the cultures of Nara. This course would be more suitable for those who are familiar with flowers or Kadō. The advanced course also includes sketching your flowers after arranged.

After the course is done, you may, of course, bring your flowers back home. You may also bring back your flowers and the vase to your room and enjoy it during your stay at FUFU Nara.

In the fundamental belief of the animistic Japanese Shinto culture, god resides in everything - from the wind to flowers to stones. God is in all the natural things, so all the natural elements are god. Fundamentally, Kadō is a quest for balance between opposites - an exploration of discords between permanence and ephemerality, life and death, the visible and the invisible, and luxury and simplicity. Arranging flowers has always been a way of harmonizing the human world and the natural world. Much beyond the simple frame of just "learning Japanese culture," would you like to glimpse "the universe" of Japanese culture through Kadō?