Asia,  Japan,  TDM,  Travel Journal

One day in Koyasan – Mount Kōya (Japan): Okuno-in cemetery, how to get there, Koyasan pass, practical info

Koyasan is the cradle of esoteric Buddhism in Japan. It is here that a young monk named Kukai (Kobo Daishi) established a religious sect in 816, inspired by his 2 years in China

Source : Lonely Planet

We have heard much good from travelers who have come here to see thousands of tombs covered by vegetation. So we decided to go there, even though it took us 4 hours round trip from Osaka

For the travel journal, read Part 1
For transport tips, tricks, night in a temple, lunch at the monks etc. read part 2

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

Usually, we aren’t motivated at this point (4h round trip in the day), but the day before, on the way to a ryokan near the airport, we had to buy a ticket at the counter for the train and I thought: “As long as I have someone who speaks English in front of me, I might as well buy the Koyasan pass at the same place, valid for two days”. With non-stop trips in a few days (Kobe, Himeji, Kyoto, Nara…) with a return every night to Osaka, I was very tempted to cancel our trip to Koyasan, but my thrifty side took over. And here we are in Koyasan

How to get there

Just the way to get there is an obstacle course. We leave our ryokan at 10 am to return to Namba Station

Then we take the 50mn train to Hashimoto Station. We wait on the same platform for another 41mn mountain train to Gokurakubashi Station. The landscapes are magnificent, on one side the mountains, on the other side the cliff, the valleys, the mountains… Sumptuous!

Arriving at Gokurakubashi Station, you don’t go out, but take the cable car (included in the ticket) up, at least 60° of difference in altitude, for 5 minutes to Koyasan Station

It’s not over, from there, we take a bus to the Ichi-no-bashi-mae stop (bus included in the 2 days pass)

Note: if you plan to sleep here, it is better to leave your luggage in Osaka in a locker at Namba Station, for 600yen a day (about 4€), and come with the bare minimum, instead of bringing it to Koyasan. In any case, it is always necessary to come back to Osaka to go to other cities afterwards.

The cemetery

This is where our walk in this immense cemetery begins. We must first cross a small bridge, make a curtsy before crossing it

The 2km walk through the cemetery is extremely pleasant, it’s quiet, the fresh mountain air does us a lot of good, and seeing the tombs (old graves) covered with moss, and realizing the significance of the place (thousands of souls waiting for the saving sermon) – it touches us a lot and we already forget all the long way to come here

The idea of sleeping in a Buddhist temple, as most Western tourists do, crossed my mind. But it costs as much as a ryokan, and the activity itself is touristic. We aren’t believers, and waking up early in the morning to participate in prayers isn’t one of our favorite activities. So we prefer to go back and forth. However, if you prefer to sleep or try the monks’ breakfast, there will be more information at the end of the article.

Let’s take pictures now

At one point, we arrive in front of an old well. Legend has it that whoever cannot see his reflection in this well will die within 3 years

Phew, the well is filled with water and we see our reflection

The small brook next door is beautiful

We finally arrive at Oku-no-in. And pictures are forbidden so I can only describe what’s there. It’s the most interesting and most beautiful part

Before the bridge, there are several statues of Jizo, and the faithful pour water (from the river) over the statues as an offering to the dead

When we cross the bridge, we see on the left side wooden plaques with inscriptions (the place is beautiful!!!) to pay homage to foetuses that died before term and drowned people

Then, continuing towards the main building, there is a small building on the left where people try to lift a very large stone with one hand to put it on the shelf. Its weight is supposed to vary according to the weight of each person’s sins. JB’s sins must be huge because he will not be able to do the task at all 😀

We finally arrive at the main building, we have to look up at the ceiling, and we will see hundreds of lamps, two of which apparently have been burning for more than 900 years. The building on the right stores lanterns, also lit, on two floors, one can enter it provided one takes off one’s shoes before

We go along the cemetery but on the other side to go to the bus stop. On this side, the tombs are more modern. It is already too late when we cannot visit the famous Kongobu-ji temple. We take again all the transports in the opposite direction (bus, cable, train) to return to Osaka, exhausted but very happy of our beautiful day. Fortunately we decided to go there despite our tiredness, because it is one of our most beautiful visits in Kansai


Part 2: Practical Tips


The route isn’t compatible with your JR pass. I have calculated the fees and the Koyasan combined ticket on sale in the transport offices (especially at Namba Station, where you have to take the train) is the most economical

This combined ticket is called Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket and is valid for two consecutive days. You can buy it well in advance, but you have to specify which day you want to be in Koyasan because these tickets are dated. I bought it at Namba Station, where you also buy tickets for the rapi:t train to the airport

The combined ticket costs 2860 yen/person if you take a slow train – for two consecutive days. We will give you a lot of small tickets

  • a one-way ticket for the train and cable car, valid for two consecutive days, to be used only once
  • a return ticket for the train and cable car, valid for two consecutive days, to be used only once
  • an unlimited ticket for the bus to Koyasan, valid for two consecutive days

It will cost 3400yen/person if you take a limited express train (there are between 4 and 7 per day) so check the schedules below to see if you are thinking of taking an express train or a slow train. You can see that there are direct trains to Koyasan, and trains with change in Hashimoto (click on the picture to zoom)

You can also consult the itinerary on Google Maps 😀

If you don’t take a direct train, the route is as follows

  • Train from Namba Station to Hashimoto Station (50mn)
  • Change train (same platform, opposite train) to Gokurakubashi Station (41mn)
  • You don’t leave the station but you turn right to take the cable to Koyasan Station (5mn)
  • Take a bus to the Ichi-no-bashi-mae stop to get to the cemetery

Map of Koyasan & What to visit

I took a picture of the guide in French available at the Koyasan train station (and given when you buy a Koyasan pass). Click on the pictures to zoom

Sleeping in a temple in koyasan: where to book

Because of the long drive from Osaka to here, many stay overnight, and while they are here, why not in a temple. Here are the activities you are entitled to when you sleep in a temple – prayers, calligraphy, meals… (click to zoom in)

This type of accommodation is called shukubo. It is an opportunity to try the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine but delicious shojin-ryori

It is necessary to count at least 9500 yen per person for one night and two meals. You have to pay in cash

To make a reservation, go through the Koyasan Shukubo Association: http: //

If you only want to taste the Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, go through the same association as well

It is advisable to book everything at least 7 working daysin advance.

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