In postmodern society the importance of traditional religious organisations and practices have declined. As a result, spirituality tends to be sought outside of institutionalised religion. Tourism is seen as one avenue for such spiritual fulfilment. Tourism research commonly frames tourism as a sacred journey and has pointed out that like modern-day pilgrims, tourists seek spirituality through travel. Of course, not all tourist travel is motivated by a search for spirituality, and yet many tourists still describe their travel experiences as spiritual. Therefore, in addition to understanding motivations of travel, the tourist experience is also an important element of making tourism a sacred journey. Is spiritual motivation a necessary prerequisite for a tourist to have a spiritual experience? What other site-specific elements might enable spiritual experiences of tourists, even if they are not motivated by a search for spirituality? Such questions have not been sufficiently explored. The aim of this paper is to investigate the relationship between visitor motivation and spiritual experience at an influential religious sacred site in rural Japan; the Shingon Esoteric Buddhism headquarters in the town of Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture. Since becoming registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, Koyasan has rapidly become an internationally renowned spiritual tourism destination. This paper presents the result of a questionnaire survey of both religious tourists and tourists to Koyasan. The findings indicate spiritual motivation is not a prerequisite for spiritual experience and shows how tourists’ spiritual experiences are affected by the atmosphere of place, people and activities that comprise the temple stay setting in Koyasan.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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