Visiting Hilltop Buddhist Cities, Mt. Koya-san, and the Sacred World Heritage

Koyasan Area

Mt. Koya-san, the world heritage site, is where the Shingon Buddhist sect was introduced 1200 years ago by the priest Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi). If you have extra time, you are welcome to stay at one of the temple's accommodation facilities called shukubo and experience the ascetic training of this sect.

Day 1

Osaka -- <Osaka Subway Midosuji Line10 mins.> -- Namba -- <Nankai Electric Railway Limited Express90 mins.> -- Gokurakubashi Station -- <Cablecar 5 mins.> -- Mt. Koya-san -- <17 mins. by bus> -- [Daimon] -- [Danjyo Garan Temple] -- [Reihokan Koya-san Museum] -- [Kongobu-ji Temple] -- [Kongou Sanmai-in Temple] -- [Okuno-in Temple] -- Okuno-in-mae -- <20 mins. by bus> -- Mt. Koya-san -- <Cablecar5 mins.> -- Gokurakubashi Station -- <Nankai Electric Railway Limited Express90 mins.> -- Namba -- <Osaka Subway Midosuji Line10 mins.> -- Osaka

*The times required with public transportation are approximate.


Daimon is the gateway to Mt. Koya-san. The guardian of the temple is almost 25 m tall and stares down at you with a frightening face as you pass. Up until about 100 years ago, women were not allowed to enter the mountain, and could go only as far as Nyonin-do.

Danjyo Garan Temple

Reihokan Koya-san Museum

This museum displays cultural assets owned by the temples on Mt. Koya-san, some of which are 1000 years old and designated as national treasures.

Kongobu-ji Temple

This is the main temple of the 3600 Shingon temples throughout Japan. Many halls run off from the shuden (main hall) that covers 54 m east/west and 63 m south/north.The paintings on the sliding screens in the great hall are vibrant. The Banryu-tei Garden is the largest stone garden in Japan. Two dragons created from 140 pieces of blue granite and white sand are set as though guarding the okuden (sanctuary).

Kongou Sanmai-in Temple

Hojo Masako (1157-1225) constructed this temple about 800 years ago as a memorial to her deceased husband, Minamoto Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate. The temple is maintained very close to its original condition.

The structures, the Buddha statues and the sliding screen paintings are precious property and the elegant Tahou-to Tower erected around 1223 has been designated as a national treasure. Near the temple is a 400-year-old rhododendron, also designated as a natural treasure, and from the end of April to the beginning of May, its beautiful pink blossoms add color to the historical building.

Approach to the Okuno-in Temple

The sacred atmosphere of the beautiful, cedar-lined approach envelopes you. There are more than 200,000 gravestones and towers constructed as memorials over a period of around 1000 years. You may recognize some important names from Japanese history including warlords Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Oda Nobunaga.

Okuno-in Temple

This is the spiritual resting place of Kukai. Beyond the Gobyo-bashi Bridge, you are not allowed to take photographs, eat, drink or smoke. When you cross this bridge, you bow your head and fold your hands in prayer because it is believed that Kukai waits in welcome at the other side of the bridge.

Shukubo (accommodation facilities)

There are a total of 117 temples in Koyasan, of which 52 are what is known as shukubo, temples that offer overnight lodging. A stay would be very worthwhile if you have the opportunity.