Buddhist monk apologises for snappy responses to negative tourist reviews of temple

By @chelean on
Buddhist monks walk at a temple in Koyasan in Koya, Wakayama prefecture, June 25, 2013.
Buddhist monks walk at a temple in Koyasan in Koya, Wakayama prefecture, June 25, 2013. Reuters/Hideyuki Sano

A Buddhist priest has apologised after his tirades against whining tourists went viral. The Sekishoin Shukubo guesthouse in Koyosan, Japan, offers simple lodgings and serves vegetarian meals, but some tourists still expected luxury accommodations.

Mount Kōya’s ancient Buddhist temple tourists have the option to stay at the traditional Japanese guesthouse Sekishoin Shukubo for simple, monastic rooms. The visitors sleep on futons over tatami (woven-straw) floors. There are rooms with private bathrooms, while some have shared bathrooms and toilets. According to its booking.com entry, it serves traditional vegetarian cuisines for breakfast and dinner. The listing was straightforward, and from the photos on the online travel accommodation website, it was apparent that visitors are in for modest spaces.

For some tourists, though, they still expected something grand. A Canadian journalist has tweeted negative reviews by visitors and the fed-up replies by a monk.

“Monk at Buddhist temple lodgings on Japan’s Mt Koya is 100% done with your tourist crap,” Melissa Martin tweeted along with screenshots of the reviews.

One reviewer said the “futon and the pillows weren’t the best” and the meals were “basic and vegetarian.” The reviewer even said that it would have been better if the place offered history of the building and the Buddhist order in English.

The property responded that they weren’t going to get any special treatment just because they were Westerners. “If you are that interested in a monks [sic] life then you should shave your head and be one. End.”

Another tourist complained that the staff were “impersonal,” to which the property replied, “Why do we have to be friendly????? What do you ppl come here for??? Why do you such a warped view of what a Shukubo Temple is??” [sic]

The property’s most brutal response was reserved for the tourist who called the vegetarian food served “strange.”

“Yeah, it’s Japanese monastic cuisine you uneducated f---,” the reply reads.

The property has more sarcastic replies to complaining visitors.

The property’s responses were written by Shingon priest Daniel Kimura, who made accounts in different online travel websites just to answer the reviewers’ complaints. Kimura, 30, was born in the United States but has lived in Japan for 15 years.

He admitted that it was him who replied to the negative reviews online and he deeply regretted swearing in one of the replies. He told the Guardian that he was just frustrated by continually dealing with tourists that have “arrogant responses like they’re some travel pioneer.”

“Of course, they don’t speak one word of Japanese and they come here expecting everything to be handed to them on a platter, and I’m like, you’ve got to know konnichiwa (hello) and ohayo gozaimasu (good morning) — just a little bit,” he told the paper. “You get impatient, even for a monk or a priest. I have to work on that.”

He vowed to “tone down” his comments in the future. Meanwhile, his original replies have since been taken down from booking.com.