Thursday, May 12, 2016

Japan: Temple Lodging at Mount Koya (or Koyasan 高野山)

In 2004, UNESCO designated Mt. Kōya (or Koyasan) along with two other locations on the Kii Peninsula, as "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range."[1]

Koyasan is also one of the best places in Japan to experience a night at a temple, with more than 50 temples in town serving as shukubo / 宿坊 / temple lodging—you can watch this video for a feeling of it.[2]

Temple Lodging

You can find out some temple lodging reviews on japanican.com.  For example,

For reservation, you can do it by email with Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association. The typical cost for a stay is between 9,000 and 15,000 yen per person and night, including dinner and breakfast. Most temples accept cash only.

Access by Train

There are different ways to reach Mount Koya. Here we only highlight two main routes:
  • From Osaka
    • The mountain is accessible primarily by the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in Osaka
  • From Wakayama
From either route, you need to reach Gokurakubashi at the base of the mountain. A cable car from Gokurakubashi then whisks visitors to the top in 5 minutes. From the cable car station you'll have to take a bus to town (5-15 minutes depending on your destination). Train, cable car and bus schedules are synchronized so this works better than it may sound. Actually, at least some of them are so well synchronized that you only have a couple of minutes in between. So don't count on a toilet break on the station.

A good value way to reach Mount Koya is to purchase the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket from the Nankai ticket counter. This ticket includes round trip train, cable car, and all-day bus pass. This ticket works for either a single day trip or for staying one night on Koyasan. Also gives coupons for small discounts to popular destinations on the mountain.  Also, consider other rail passes for the Kansai region.[19]


Mt Koya receives heavy snow during the winter. This is a time when few tourists venture up the mountain but those that do are rewarded with spectacular scenry and the temples can be seen in a whole new light.

Check out the monthly average temperature here.

What to See

The Koyasan (Mount Koya) best of the best is home to the following famous sites:[14]
  • Oku-no-In (奥の院) best of Japan
    • 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.
  •  Garan (伽藍) outstanding
    • A temple complex designed by Kukai on the western side of town. In its center is the Konpon Daitō (根本大塔) pagoda, which according to Shingon doctrine represents the central point of a mandala covering not only Mt. Koya but all of Japan.
  • Kongōbu-ji Temple (金剛峯寺) outstandingis the sprawling yet atmospheric headquarters of the Shingon sect, with a stone garden that outclasses many of Kyoto's best. Entry ¥500, including a rice cracker and a cup of tea.

Photo Credit


  1. Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (UNESCO)
  2. Mount Koya Temple Lodging (Shukubo)
  3. Koyasan Travel: Pilgrimage Trails
  4. Koyasan (Mount Koya)
  5. SACRED JOURNEYS | Shikoku (Preview) | PBS (video)
  6. PBS - Sacred Journeys - Part 2: Shikoku - YouTube (video)
  7. (Google Search) "pbs Shikoku Pilgrimage"
  8. Best Autumn Color Spots
  9. Travel Tips (Travel and Health)
  10. shukubo.net
    • Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association with a list of temple lodgings.
  11. Japanese Guest Houses - Koyasan
    • Reservation service for temple lodgings.
  12. Japanican - Koyasan
    • Online reservation for temple lodgings.
  13. shukubo.net
    • Offical website of the Koyasan Tourist Association with a list of temple lodgings.
  14. Get there by train (Mt Koya)
  15. Mount Koya (WikiTravel)
  16. Walking Guide (map)
  17. Nankai Koya Line - Nankai Rinkan Bus Timetables
  18. Kyoto Dream Trips (photos)
  19. Rail Passes for the Kansai Region (important)
    • A myriad of tickets and rail passes are available to help tourists save some money
  20. Benefits of Kansai Thru Pass (2 days / 3 days)
    • 20% discount coupon for  Kongobuji Temple
  21. Osaka: Which Namba Station? (Travel for a Purpose)
  22. The Sacred Kumano Kodo: Kii Peninsula ( Japanes Documentary ) (video)
  23. Hotels (Japanology video on Youtube)
  24. Koyasan New Year at a Traditional Power Spot NHK WORLD (video)
  25. Weather forecast (Japan Meteorological Agency)
  26. Koyasan 14 day weather forecast, Japan 
  27. BEGIN Japanology : Life in a Japanese Zen monastery
  28. Temple Lodging in Koyasan—Personal Experience (Travel for a Purpose)
  29. A Unique Hiking Experience on Fudo-Zaka Slope (不動坂) in Koyasan (高野山) (Travel for a Purpose)
  30. A Solo Trip Can Be A Disaster If You Forget These 7 Rules

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