Mount Koya: Center of Shingon Buddhism for 1200 Years

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August 4, 2016


The town of Koyasan (Mount Koya) is one of the most important places of Japanese Buddhism. One of the Buddhist sects that shaped Japanese Buddhism as it is today, Shingon was brought to Japan by Kobo Daishi (Kukai) in the 9th century, and this is the site of the first monastery he established. He is buried at Okunoin, a huge graveyard and one of the main sights of Koyasan. Walking through the graves under the tall cedar trees, looking at moss-covered tomb stones and torii gates make this an eerie and somewhat magical fairy-tale like place.


Koyasan – Okunoin

Due to its importance in Buddhism, the city is also full of ancient temples nestled in the mountains.



Koyasan – Daimon

Visitors also have the unique opportunity to not only visit these temples but to stay overnight in one of them. You will sleep in a traditional lodging, start your morning with a chant by the monks, and eat shojin ryouri, the vegetarian temple food, a unique arrangement of delicious traditional foods such as goma-dofu (sesame tofu).


Being high up in the mountains, Koyasan is pleasantly cool in summer. From as early as September on it then boasts beautiful autumn foliage.


Autumn foliage



Koyasan is best accessed from Osaka. Take a train to Gokurakubashi where you change to the Koyasan cable car. Once at the cable car station take a bus into the town center (total travelling time: 1h 50 - 2h 10, cost 1500 - 2330 yen, depending on the type of train). Please note that you are not allowed to walk on the street from the cable car station to the town centre.

From Wakayama, take a train to Hashimoto. There transfer to the train to Gokurakubashi and continue as above.

Alternatively, Koyasan can be reached from Kiitanabe with a transfer in Ryujin and Gomadanzan (4h, 3600 yen). This connection is only available on weekends from April 1 to November 31.

There are several discount passes available, such as a 1-Day Bus Pass in Koyasan town or even tickets from Osaka to Koyasan and other areas in the Kansai areas, such as the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket and the Kansai Thru Pass (conditions apply).


132 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama Prefecture




At home anywhere in the world. Foreign language addict. In favour of living with simple means. Currently living the dream in a small seaside & mountainside town in Wakayama prefecture, Japan. Embracing the quiet countryside life and my daily portion of natto.

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