Japan: Koyasan

Koyasan (Mount Koya) is located in Wakayama Prefecture. It is a historical site recognized as the center of Shingon  Buddhism. Koyasan is home to about 120 temples and a university that focuses on religious studies.

My brother, sister-in-law, myself and a friend recently visited Koyasan and easily accessed it via Shinimamiya Station. The best way to travel here is with the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket (2,860円 non-express, 3,400円limited express). Buying this ticket from Shinimamiya Station gains you a round trip Nankai Railway pass, an unlimited bus pass around town and discounts for certain temples. The pass is valid for two days.

It was definitely an interesting visit. Even though I don’t follow Buddhist practices I’m glad to add this to my Japan travel destinations list. The train ride to Koyasan is beautiful. It was really nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city for a while and get some fresh air.

It took about 2 hrs to get to Koyasan from Shinimamiya Station. We rode the limited express train to Gokurakubashi Station then took a 5 minute cable car ride up the mountain. Once up the mountain we hopped on the bus and made our way through a few of the many temples found around here.

There are some noteworthy temples found around Koyasan such as Kongobu-ji, the head temple for Shingon Buddhism. And  Danjogaran Kondo, Danjogaran Saito, Danjogaran Toto, Banryutei rock garden, Pagoda of Kongozanmain plus many more. Most of these temples are within walking distance from each other.

The highlight to Koyasan is perhaps Okunoin Cemetery.

The Okunoin Cemetery is huge. I’ve never been to such a large graveyard until visiting Koyasan. There were several chanting monks at the time of our visit near the Tokugawa Mausoleum. In fact, there are many monks found around these parts as these Buddhist temples are still being actively used.

Koyasan is a small, secluded, religious temple town that is rich in history. The founder, Kobo Daishi first established Shingon Buddhism in this wooded mountain town in 805. His mausoleum is included in the Shikoku 88 temple pilgrimage. There are many lodging facilities that cater to Shingon Buddhist followers and visitors wanting to participate in a more traditional experience.

We had a good time visiting Koyasan. We spent about half the day here and got to see an interesting side of Japan that not many other foreign travelers perhaps would. Happy travels!

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