Mt. Koya (Koya-san), with its thick forests and monastic complex is an incredible place to visit from Osaka, Kyoto or Nara. Staying overnight in temple lodgings, wandering the vast mountaintop cemetery and temples and sampling delicious Buddhist cuisine is a potentially enlightening experience.
Mt. Koya’s beauty
Famous for its importance as the centre of Japanese Buddhism, Koya-san has more than 110 temples split into two main areas – pagodas and temples to the west, and the rambling wooded cemetery Okunoin to the east. Breathe in the fresh, cool mountain air and relax in serene settings; Koya-san’s rich and interesting history makes a nice contrast to the fast-pace of the modern Japanese city.
You can book temple lodgings through Mt. Koya’s Tourist Association or by phoning temples directly. There are over 50 shukubo to choose from and you should throw yourself into the early morning prayer services and temple work to get as much out of your stay as possible.
The winding train journey through the mountains, followed by a funicular railway ride is all part of the fun. From Namba Osaka take the Nankai Dentetsu line to Gokuraku-bashi at the base of the mountain, from here you take the funicular. Once you arrive at Koya-san you must take the bus into town as walking on the connecting road is prohibited.
You can use your Japan Rail Pass up to Hashimoto from Nara or Wakayama, from Osaka and Kyoto trains are non-JR lines.
View more images of Mt. Koya on our Flickr page
photo Alexis Lê-Quôc