Mount Kōya

Mount Kōya
Mount Kōya

Mount Kōya

Mount Kōya (Kōya-san) is a large temple settlement in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan to the south of Osaka.

In the strictest sense, Mount Kōya is the mountain name (Sangō) of Kongōbu-ji Temple, the ecclesiastical headquarters of the Kōyasan sect of Shingon Buddhism.

First settled in 819 by the monk Kūkai (774-835), Mount Kōya is primarily known as the world headquarters of the Kōyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism.

Located on an 800 m high plain amid 8 peaks of the mountain (which was the reason this location was selected, in that the terrain is supposed to resemble a lotus plant),

the original monastery has grown into the town of Kōya, featuring a University dedicated to religious studies and 117 sub-temples, many of which offer lodging to pilgrims.

Mount Kōya is also a common starting point to the Shikoku Pilgrimage (Shikoku Junrei) associated with Kūkai.

The mountain is home to the following famous sites:

1) Kongōbu-ji, the head temple of the Kōyasan Shingon Buddhism:

Located roughly in the middle of the sanctuary, Kongōbu-ji is colloquially known as "Kōyasan-Issan", literally meaning "the mountain of Kōya".

The temple was built by the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi for the benefit of his mother when she died.

Originally named Seigan-ji, it was later renamed Kongōbu-ji in the Meiji Era.

2) Danjō Garan, at the heartland of the Mount Kōya settlement:

Garan is a name for an area that has the 7 main sacred buildings:

a main hall, a pagoda, a lecture hall, a bell tower, a scripture storage, monks’ quarters, and a dining hall.

There is also a shrine dedicated to the Shintō-gods of that mountain area and in front of it an assembly hall (Sannō-dō).

Danjō Garan is one of the 2 sacred spots around the Mount Kōya.

3) Konpon Daitō, the "Basic Great Pagoda" that according to Shingon Buddhism doctrine represents the central point of a mandala covering all of Japan.

Standing at 48.5 m tall and situated right in the middle of Kōya-san, this pagoda was built as a seminary for the esoteric practices of Shingon Buddhism.

This pagoda and the Okunoin Temple form a large sanctuary.

4) Sannō-dō, an assembly hall for special ceremonies dedicated to the Shintō-gods guarding the area

5) Okunoin, the mausoleum of Kūkai, surrounded by an immense graveyard (the largest in Japan)

6) Kōyasan chōishi-michi, the traditional route up the mountain with stone markers (ishi) every 109 metres (chō)

7) Daimon, the main gate for Mount Kōya. This mammoth gate stands as the main entrance to Kōyasan. It is flanked on each side by Kongō warriors who guard the mountain.

8) Tokugawa Family Tomb: This mausoleum was built by the 3rd shōgun Iemitsu Tokugawa. It took 10 years to build and is architecturally representative of the Edo Period.

1st Edo shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined on the right and the 2nd shōgun Hidetada on the left. The Structure is decorated with carvings and brass fittings.

9) It also houses a replica of the Nestorian stele (Xi'an Stele) – its original was a Tang Chinese stele erected in 781 that documented 150 years of early Christianity in China.

In 2004, UNESCO designated Mount Kōya, along with 2 other locations on the Kii Peninsula as World Heritage Sites "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range".

Danjō Garan Mount Kōya

Danjō Garan
Mount Kōya


Kōya-san is accessible primarily by the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station (in Osaka) to Gokurakubashi Station at the base of the mountain.

A cable car from Gokurakubashi ("Paradise Bridge") then lifts visitors to the top in 5 minutes.

The entire trip takes about 1.5 hours on an express train or 2 hours by non-express.

Local automobile traffic can be very heavy on weekends until well into the evening.

On weekdays, however, the mountain offers a pleasant drive followed by the excitement upon reaching the monasteries lining the summit.

Many Buddhist monasteries on the mountain function as hotels for visitors providing traditional accommodation with an evening meal and breakfast.

Guests are also invited to participate in the Morning Services.


There is bus which runs non-stop from Kansai Airport near Osaka to Mount Kōya and it costs around 2 000 yen for an adult. The bus is operated by Kansai Airport Transportation and Willer Express.

There is a bus Koyasan Marine Liner which runs from Wakayamakō Station to Okunoin Bus stop in Mount Kōya and it costs around 2250 yen (adult). The bus is operated by Daijū Bus