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Takayama Zenkoji Temple in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, has opened its main hall and lodgings for use by local residents, after receiving few reservations for stays since April amid the spread of COVID-19.

Local people are encouraged to visit the Buddhist temple and use the rooms for reading or teleworking between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., as electricity and internet access will be provided. They can also experience shakyō (transcribing sutras by hand) or meditation, as well as receiving counseling by priests.

“We hope the temple will be used as a place to find peace of mind,” said Kaiji Yamamoto, 48, a priest and manager at the temple.

Takayama Zenkoji Temple in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, now invites local people to use its spaces for reading and teleworking. | CHUNICHI SHIMBUN
Takayama Zenkoji Temple in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, now invites local people to use its spaces for reading and teleworking. | CHUNICHI SHIMBUN

The facility, which belongs to the Jodoshu sect, was built in 1896. Instead of depending on danka (financial supporters), the chief priest had been managing the temple by running an inn on its grounds.

Three years ago, the temple handed over the inn business to ShareWing Inc., a Tokyo-based firm offering tours and stays at temples, and renovated its lodgings. Staying at the temple proved popular especially among foreign tourists, attracting some 4,000 people a year.

However, since the temple has received almost no reservations from tourists amid the coronavirus outbreak, it has turned to local people, offering them use of its facilities to refresh themselves. On June 1 it began offering overnight stay plans limited to people living within the prefecture, ranging in price from under ¥6,000 per person without meals.

“First and foremost, a temple is a place that stays close to local people’s hearts,” Yamamoto said. “People might feel hesitant to visit us, but we want them to stop by casually.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published June 5.

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