Along with Yoshino, Omine, and Kumano Sanzan, Mount Koya as the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range” is registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site and also called the sacred place of the sky.
Mount Koya is surrounded by peaks at an altitude of 1,000 meters and covered with dense greenery and trees.
In AD 816, a Shingon Buddhist monk named Kukai founded a temple on Mount Koya. Kukai known posthumously as Kobo Daishi, he brought esoteric practices from the Tang Dynasty to Japan and has greatly influenced Japanese culture during the Heian Period.
To date, worshippers still visiting the snowy Mount Koya in winter day.
- From Osaka or Namba, take the Nankai Koya Line bound for Hashimoto Station, then from Hashimoto, transfer to the Nankai Koya Line bound for Gokurakubashi and get off at Gokurakubashi Station.
Take the Koyasan Cable Car ride from Gokurakubashi Station and enjoy the spectacular view of Mount Koya from above.
The Koyasan Cable Car has a history of nearly 100 years, it was renewed in March 2019 and introduced as the newest generation of Koyasan Cable Car. MAP
- Koyasan Cable Car
- From Gokurakubashi, it takes around 5 minutes to reach the top of Mount Koya.
The cable car can take you up on the 300-meter difference of altitude instantly and arrive at Koyasan Station. From there, you can continue your journey by bus. MAP
- From Koyasan Sta. bus stop, take the Nankai Rinkan Bus bound for Daimon-minami Chushajo. Then, get off on Daimon bus stop.
Besides buses bound for Daimon Gate, there are many buses to other places, so it seems like many visitors miss the entrance. So, this gate is the entrance to Mount Koya, don’t miss it.
When you’re standing in front of the gate, you’ll be overwhelmed by the spectacularly majestic gate painted in bright red. MAP
- It’s a 10-15 minute short walk.
Danjo Garan and Konpon Daito Pagoda
At the time Kobo Daishi opened the temple, the first thing he built was a temple complex called the Danjo Garan. The complex consists of twenty temples, buildings, and the Konpon Daito or the Great Pagoda. In particular, Konpon Daito has become the symbol of Mount Koya.
After climbing all the stone steps, gently pull the sliding door open. And when you enter the building, you’ll be surrounded by a solemn atmosphere and fascinated by Buddha statues and paintings on the pillars.
The “Sixteen Great Bodhisattva” is painted on every sixteen pillars, and the “Eight Patriarchs” who are respected by the Shingon Sect are painted on the corners of Daito. All the paintings were drawn by Domoto Insho who played an active role in the Showa Period. (Admission fee: 200 yen) MAP
- Only a short 5 to 10 minutes walk.
The whole Mount Koya is regarded as Kongobuji Temple. Constructed in 1593, Kongobuji’s head temple is the oldest building in Mount Koya and the headquarters of the Shingon Buddhism where monks come to train. Important ceremonies and memorial services are taking place in the main hall.
Banryutei Rock Garden is the largest rock garden in Japan with 140 granite stones covering a 2,340 square meters garden. And don’t miss the Fusuma paintings (sliding door paintings) on the Kongobuji Temple that was drawn by Kano Tanyu. Add this spectacular Banryutei Rock Garden and Fusuma paintings on your must-see list when visiting this temple.
When you’re facing this building that has been repeatedly expanded and renovated, you’ll strongly feel the solemn history belongs to Mount Koya. (Admission fee: 500 yen) MAP
- About 15 to 20 minutes walk along the street where the temple and shops line.
Ichinohashi Bridge and Approach to Okunoin Temple
If you keep walking through the street, you’ll reach Ichinohashi Bridge, the entrance of Okunoin Temple. MAP
When you walk along a 2 km approach, you’ll see “Okunoin’s cemetery” the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 tombstones and stone monuments lining the path. And from there on, you can find the Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum (Kobo Daishi Gobyo) where Kobo Daishi entered the state of Nyujo (begin the eternal meditation in Shingon Buddhism).
The path you’ve followed is the entrance of Okunoin Temple, it’s still 2 kilometers away from Daimon Gate.
Come explore winter in Mount Koya, visit the picturesque sacred temple complex surrounded by crystal clear snow that covered the trees and pagoda, enjoy a solemn silence of a snow-covered mountain.
- To visit the Kobo Daishi’s Mausoleum, cross the Ichinohashi bridge and walk along the approach to the Okunoin Temple, then cross the mausoleum’s bridge ahead.
- Take the Nankai Rinkan Bus from Ichinohashi-guchi bus stop, then return to Koyasan Station.
- From Koyasan Station, take the cable car to Gokurakubashi Station, then take the Nankai Koya Line from this station.