Koyasan (Mount Koya)

Remote 〒648-0211 Wakayama-ken, Ito-gun, Kōya-chō, Kōyasan, 347 金剛峯寺, Japan Published on: 20-02-2016

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  • Highly recommended by fellow travellers.
Mount Koya (Koyasan) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi, one of Japan's most significant religious figures.

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Why Koyasan (Mount Koya) is special ?

Mount Koya (Koyasan) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), one of Japan's most significant religious figures. A small, secluded temple town has developed around the sect's headquarters that Kobo Daishi built on Koyasan's wooded mountaintop. It is also the site of Kobo Daishi's mausoleum and the start and end point of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Kobo Daishi began construction on the original Garan temple complex in 826 after wandering the country for years in search of a suitable place to center his religion. Since then over one hundred temples have sprung up along the streets of Koyasan. The most important among them are Kongobuji, the head temple of Shingon Buddhism, and Okunoin, the site of Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. Koyasan is also one of the best places to experience an overnight stay at a temple lodging (shukubo) where you can get a taste of a monk's lifestyle, eating vegetarian monk's cuisine (shojin ryori) and attending the morning prayers. Around fifty temples offer this service to both pilgrims and visitors.

Source: http://www.japan-guide.com

What to explore at Koyasan (Mount Koya)?

The mountain is home to the following famous sites, you can admire. To the east of town is Oku-no-In (奥の院), the mausoleum of Kukai, lit by thousands of lanterns. According to tradition, the lights have been lit since Kukai's death over 1000 years ago.

The mausoleum is surrounded by an atmospheric and immense graveyard, set among giant cedar trees with winding paths throughput. Particularly interesting are the many fanciful gravestones, including giant spaceships and cups erected respectively by an astronautical and coffee company, and a monument erected by a pesticide company to commemorate all its insect victims.

Moreover, you can hike around Mount Koya. Among many courses, there is one that starts at Daimon (大門、big gate), hiking up to a tiny shrine at the top of Bentengaku (弁天岳), and then down to Nyonindou (女人堂). Not a difficult hike, and should take only a couple of hours, depending on how often you stop on the way to take photos.

All temple lodgings on Mt. Koya offer shōjin ryori, purely vegetarian food intended for monks. People who equate vegetarian food with blandness will be surprised - in their hundreds of years of experience with vegetarian cooking, the monks have invented amazingly tasty dishes. A local specialty, Kōya-dōfu, is prepared by freeze-drying and then reconstituting tofu.

Source: http://wikitravel.org

How to get to Koyasan (Mount Koya)?

By car

If you have your own set of wheels, you can also head east towards Ise or south to Ryujin Onsen and southern Wakayama. Both roads are small and there is no public transportation, but daring souls might try hitching.

Source: http://wikitravel.org/

Selling points

  • Lovely serene spot for a night
  • Rural place with gorgeous temple and spooky cemetery
  • Atmospheric historical place out of the crowd
  • Peaceful and quite
  • Beautiful and historical
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6.0 days
146.26 USD
Total travel distance
Number of places
18 places




〒648-0211 Wakayama-ken, Ito-gun, Kōya-chō, Kōyasan, 347 金剛峯寺, Japan

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Tips for you

  • You should bring plenty of cash in case you want to buy something.
    What to bring
  • You should bring suntan, hat, sun glass to save your health.
  • You need bring your camera to caught the spectacular sightseeing of the nice mountain.
  • Staying in a temple inn will allow you to experience Shingon Buddhism including vegan meals, meditation, temple services, and the fire ritual.
  • You should bring umbrella or raincoat, weather is unpredictable.
  • At the beginning of April, the temperature was around 7ºC, elevation about 1000 m. so take a warm and waterproof clothes.
    What to wear
  • You should wear the comfortable shoes to move easily.
    What to wear
  • You should keep eyes on your children to avoid getting lost.
  • For those unwilling to eat vegetarian, a number of restaurants offer regular Japanese and Chinese cuisine.


TripAdvisor View more

As my husband and I planned our trop to Japan, we had it as a must to go to Mount. Koya. We had heard that you could stay in a Buddhist temple, wake up to prayers, drums, and fire.. how exciting! So, we started doing the search on how to get there. Everywhere we looked, it said that you cannot do this trip on one day. Well, that is all not true - if you plan correctly, you can do this in one day and not have to stay at a temple. if you are coming from Kyoto, you can take early (Like 6am) train fast train to Osaka train station, there, you can get on a cab and go to the train station that takes you to mount Koya (it is not the same as the one where you arrive from Kyoto). Once you get to the Osaka train station, you should get the Mount. Koya Passport (you will not see it advertised anywhere, so just make sure you ask for it). The passport will give you round way tickets on the express train to mount koya, tickets on the cable ride to get up to the mountain, and everything you need to go and come back. it's very hassle free. Make sure you get the Limited Express train tickets to and from Mount Koya; the limited express train takes about an hour to get to Mount Koya and it's a nice fast train with limited stops; the other train stops every 5 minutes and can take 2 or more hours. The ride on the train is very peaceful and you get to see Japanese life as you would imagine it in the movies... truly magical. Once you get to Mount Koya station, you'll get on a bus that will take you to the able cart that you must take to take you up to the mountain. once you are up in the mountain; you'll take another quick train to where all the temples are... everyone is friendly and although not everyone speaks English, everyone is nice and will help you out. this all sounds like a great ordeal, but it really isn't. in total, getting there from Osaka will take you 1.5 hours; from Kyoto, it could take you 2. we took the 8am Limited Express train to Koya and got to the top of the mountain by 9:30am. if you are staying at a temple, then you can go and lodge and then walk around; literally, the attractions to see are temples after temples after temples. if you are into Buddhism; this place is magical!!! truly is, you can learn a lot from every temple you walk into; they all have different stories. walking around the temples can take you 5 hours... but that's all there is to see... (the cemetery too if you wish you walk it)... so, if you are all in for seeing temples a full day and be done with it; then you can make the track back to Osaka... you can definitely do this in one day... it will be a loooooong day but doable in a day. If you are staying, then you'll get to experience the food the monks eat and the morning prayers.... but... don't expect much interaction with the monks... there are no drums, and there is no fire... just 5am prayer.. and then you are done. We stayed the night; and it was really cool to stay at a Buddhist temple... but honestly, I wish that for the money we payed, we could have interacted more with the monks or seen more about the life at the temple; but... nope... don't expect that if you are staying.

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