Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Best Guide to Rengejōin – Sanada Clan’s Family Temple

For the Japanese history buff and admirers of Sanada Yukimura (真田 幸村), Rengejōin (蓮華定院) is the destination that you will want to visit when you come to Kōyasan. The temple has a deep connection with the Sanada Clan. The family crest, which features six mon coins, was the amount that the Japanese would use to pay for crossing the Sanzu River (三途の川) safely to reach the afterlife. The soldiers of the Sanada Clan would always carry six mon coins when they were off to the battlefield as it symbolizes that they were ready to die for glory.

The six mon coins also symbolize the six realms in the Buddhism sutra representing the Deva realm, Asura realm, Human realm, Animal realm, Hungry Ghost realm, and Naraka realm.

Rengejōin Temple’s History

Established in the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333), the connection between Rengejōin and the Sanada Clan originated from the big fire hazard that burnt down 4,000 temples in Kōyasan in 1521. Seeking to restore the temple, messengers were sent to meet the powerful families, including the Unno Clan (海野) in the Shinshū region (信州).

With the funding gathered in exchange for temporary residence in Kōyasan, Rengejōin was able to be rebuilt. Unno Clan is now known as the origin of the Sanada Clan. Having received aid from the Sanada Clan before, the temple prepared temporary residence for the Sanadas during their confinement.

Fast track the time to after the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い). After being defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s (德川 家康) force, Sanada Masayuki (真田 昌幸) and Sanada Yukimura were ordered to be confined in Kōyasan. Not long after they were reallocated to Rengejōin, their families were allowed to accompany them. As women were forbidden to enter Kōyasan, the family moved to Kudoyama (九度山) at the foot of Kōyasan, where they spent their 14 long and miserable years at.

After the collapse of the Sanada Clan, Rengejōin became the family temple of the Sanadas, with many temple treasures related to the family. The current main worship hall, storage, and mountain gate of the temple were rebuilt in 1860 with financial support from the Sanada Clan’s offspring.

During the 14 years of confinement, Yukimura would visit the temple regularly. So if you want to be in the same hall and room where Sanada Yukimura resided, book your stay with Rengejōin!

For those interested in more information about the confinement of the Sanadas, refer to our article on Kudoyama, where we talk about the attraction, Sanada-an!

Staying Overnight at Rengejōin

Rengejōin is known for its delicious vegetarian Shōjin Ryōri and guest rooms. It was considered one of the most popular temples in Kōyasan to spend a night in. They have staff who can speak proficient English and will be able to answer all the questions that you have about the temple and Kōyasan in general. During your stay, you can join their meditation session before dinner and the chanting sessions in the morning.

Below are some suggestions for you to consider before booking through one of the hotel booking websites.

  • The peak seasons in spring and autumn usually means that staff might be unable to be around when you need them. So consider staying with them during the off-peak season so that the staffs and the monk of Rengejōin have the capacity to provide the best hospitality that they can offer.
  • The floor might be a bit too hard or uncomfortable to sleep on from a single futon. You can check with the temple to see if they can provide you with two futons to make your stay more comfortable (no guarantees, though!)
  • If you are sensitive to noise, consider booking one of their two suite rooms. Their standard rooms are mostly divided by thin fusuma sliding doors.

Also, please bear in mind that staying overnight at a temple means you are willing to embrace the lifestyle of a monk. Of course, you aren’t expected to live like one. But there won’t be entertainment such as a TV or even an air conditioner during the warmer days. Heating will be provided during the colder seasons but don’t expect it will be able to warm up the entire room.

For photos, please refer to their official website HERE. Most of the answers to your questions concerning your stay at Rengejōin can also be found there.

Tip: You will share the communal bathing area with others, including the monks and staff. If you feel uncomfortable doing so, there should be a small shower room for you to use. Please check with them beforehand for availability.

How to Get to Rengejōin

  • From Kōyasan Station, take bus services bound for Okunoin-mae (奥の院前) or Daimonminami Chūshajō (大門南駐車場) and get off at Isshin-guchi (一心口).
    • From the bus stop, it is less than a 5-minute walk.

Discover other Attractions in Kōyasan

Click the photo to find out more about Kōyasan!

To find more divine places to visit at the sacred mountain, such as Okunoin, please read our article on Kōyasan. You will also find information on restaurants to enjoy the vegetarian Shōjin Ryōri, as well as other temples where you can stay overnight!

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