4 Mount Koya World Heritage Sites

by Luke - TripleLights travel specialist

If you are interested in Buddhism, then Mount Koya is the place to be. Boasting four World Heritage sites, and a wealth of temples (117 in total), you will be amazed when you travel around the mountain. Buddhist style temple lodgings offer a place to stay the night, so you can really enjoy the sacred area of Mt. Koya in a traditional style:

Mount Koya Danjo Garan

4 Mount Koya World Heritage Sites

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Garan refers to a facility for Buddhist practice and/or meditation for monks. Garan is a collective name for an area that consists of seven main facilities: a main hall, a pagoda, a lecture hall, a bell tower, a scripture storage, monks’ quarters, and a dining hall. Danjo Garan is part of Mount Koya, the center of Shingon Buddhism. Along with Okunoin (the inner sanctuary), Danjo Garan is one of the two great sacred spots of Mount Koya. Dotted with nearly 15 buildings, Danjo Garan is a must see tourist attraction. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the sacred air of Danjo Garan.

Enjoy the seasonal views of Mount Koya – cherry blossoms in spring, young tender leaves in summer, colorful leaves in fall, and snow in winter. Among the many highlights, worthy of special note is the large pagoda Konpondaito, the symbol of Mount Koya. The pagoda’s interior embodies the great monk Kukai(Kobo Daishi)’s idea of mandala. Visitors can enter the building to view Buddhist statues and wall paintings. Another highlight is the main hall (Kondo) which serves an important role as the headquarters of all Buddhist facilities in Mount Koya. Don’t miss the Buddhist themed paintings by Buzan Kimura decorated inside this main hall. Just another reason for visiting Mount Koya, coming up soon is the unveiling of the Chumon Gate which is now being reconstructed. Impressive Buddhist statues currently in temporary storage and newly created Buddhist statues will be placed inside this gate.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 500 / Child: ¥ 200

Guidebook from Planetyze about Mount Koya Danjo Garan
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Mount Koya Danjo Garan
Tours of Mount Koya Danjo Garan

Koyasan Shukubo

4 Mount Koya World Heritage Sites

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Do you know that you can lodge at historic temples? In Koyasan, there are countless lodging facilities, called Shukubo, in temples where that offer a valuable chance to spend time with monks.

Currently, there are 117 temples in Koyasan, of which 52 have Shukubo lodging facilities. Each Shukubo has different characteristics, including Buddhist cuisine, a variety of guest rooms, baths and gardens. When lodging at Shukubo, you will be able to observe the morning duties of the monks, and you can enjoy a relaxed tour of the countless historical temples. You will experience unique aspects of Japanese culture at these precious lodges, where you can also enjoy Buddhist cuisine (a cuisine based on the Buddhist teachings that forbid killing of any kind, and that only uses grains, beans and vegetables without any meat or fish), and you can stay in a traditional Japanese-style room with a futon rolled out on tatami straw mats.

Many foreign travellers come to Eko-in, a pilgrim’s lodge near the inner sanctuary where guests can experience Ajikan meditation and sutra copying for free. Ichijo-in is located in the middle of Koyasan, which is convenient for visiting temples where you can enjoy water-feature gardens with colored carp, and grand temple buildings. Jimyo-in is also centrally located, and you can eat Koyasan’s famous freeze-dried tofu and sesame tofu at the temple, which is encompassed by a 6600 square meter garden. For access to Koyasan, we recommend taking the special Tenku train service between Hashimoto Station and Koyasan Station. This train journey takes about 50 minutes, giving you opportunity to thoroughly and calmly enjoy the scenery.

Admission: Various

Guidebook from Planetyze about Koyasan Shukubo
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Koyasan Shukubo
Tours of Koyasan Shukubo

Okunoin Temple

4 Mount Koya World Heritage Sites

(image by flickr.com)

Known as a power spot, Okunoin Temple is where the founder of the Shingon sect, Kobo Daishi (the monk Kukai), performed the ultimate ascetic training in which he practiced austerity to the point of death. To get to Okunoin Temple, visitors walk along a 2km approach to the temple from Ichi-no-hashi Bridge to the mausoleum. According to the tradition, Grand Master Kukai comes to this Ichi-no-hashi Bridge to greet you at your arrival and then later to see you off. For this reason, visitors bring their hands together and bow once toward this bridge as a form of prayer. Along the approach are more than 200,000 monuments including graves, prayer steles and memorials. The temple is also well known as the spot of the graves of famous, powerful feudal lords and samurai warriers who fought more than 500 years ago including the grave of Nobunaga Oda and the memorial pagodas of Shingen Takeda and Masamune Date. The remains and personal belongings of the deceased family members have been brought to the sanctuary of Mount Koya for generations by people praying for the rebirth of the deceased ones in the Pure Land.

The temple has been collecting people who make wishes and prayers for the repose of the departed soul, and by that, it has been collecting spiritual energy. This sacred spot has come to be revered by people of all social levels–members of the Imperial court, aristocrats, samurai worriers, and the commons–and it has prospered as a place of comfort and support for people regardless of their sect. Pilgrims, who are called ohenro-san, pray in gratitude to Grand Master Kukai in front of his mausoleum at Mount Koya Okunoin Temple before departing on a pilgrimage to express their joy of “kechien (to make a religious connection)” and after finishing it to report “kechigan (to finish ascetic practices for making a wish).” The temple premises is mystic and sublime; the gigantic cedar trees and moss-covered stone pagodas speak of the temple’s 1,200 years of history.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Okunoin Temple
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Okunoin Temple
Tours of Okunoin Temple

Kongobuji Temple

4 Mount Koya World Heritage Sites

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

At the spacious and gracious, approx. 160,000 square meters premises of the Kongobuji temple, the headquarters of Mount Koya Shingon Buddhism, visitors can leisurely enjoy a variety of rooms and gardens. The area collectively called Kongobuji temple includes the Main Hall, the Head Monk’s Room, the Inner Hall, the Annex, the New Annex, the Drawing Room, the New Drawing Room, the Scripture Storage, the Bell Tower, the Shinzen Hall, the Goma Prayer Hall, the Ajikan Meditation Hall, and a tea house as well as the Banryutei garden which is one of Japan’s largest stone gardens. Take your time to observe the wonderful artwork on transoms andfusuma sliding doors. At the New Annex, visitors can listen to sermons given by monks in a casual atmosphere while enjoying Japanese style tea and confections. While at this temple, we highly recommend participating in the ajikan meditation session. The term ajikan refers to the breathing method and meditation method of the Shingon Buddhism; it is a Buddhist training method to unify with the Buddha within you. Become tranquil and let the time pass slowly at the meditation hall surrounded by nature. There is no need to make a reservation to participate in the ajikan session and you are welcome even if you are a complete beginner. Detailed and supportive instructions are given to participants by the monks. People around the world are increasingly taking interest in meditation. Some say meditation is beneficial for maintaining your health. Mount Koya, a Buddhist temple site with 1,200 years of history, is definitely a great place to try out meditation. 

Admission: Adult: ¥ 500 / Child: ¥ 200

Guidebook from Planetyze about Kongobuji Temple
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kongobuji Temple
Tours of Kongobuji Temple

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31 Oct 2015

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Recent Tour Reviews in Mount Koya

“ A must do in Koyasan ”

Excellent
1 month ago Traveler: Anne -   Tour Guide: Koyasan monk guide

What a wonderful experience and a nice informative tour! Getting to know inside information is clearly a plus and you also get to ask information about Buddhism from a specialist if you are a layperson. This tour made me want to know more about Buddhism. It was fun and Nobu also gave me a few tips on what else to visit/ do in Koyasan. I can’t thank him enough and would highly recommend this tour t...
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“ Lovely lady ”

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2 months ago Traveler: Judy -   Tour Guide: Noriko

Noriko is a lovely lady who travelled 3 hours to be our guide in Koyasan. She was already waiting at our hotel when We arrived from Nara so we were able to start walking with her right away.
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“ Monk tour vs “regular” tour ”

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2 months ago Traveler: Glenn -   Tour Guide: Koyasan monk guide

Very interesting and informative tour. Learning more about this sect of Buddhism and the spiritual significance of the area was enlightening. Highly recommend a monk tour instead of “regular” tour.
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“ Koyasan One Day Tour ”

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2 months ago Traveler: Allen -   Tour Guide: Noriko

Noriko did an excellent job in modifying her one day Koyasan tour to start and end from a hotel in Osaka for a group of six people. Without Noriko's help, it would have been difficult for first time visitors to Japan to navigate the transportation to and from Koyasan, especially during rush hours. I highly recommend Noriko as a tour guide.
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“ Hideo was a life saver! ”

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3 months ago Traveler: Chris -   Tour Guide: Hideo

We booked an afternoon tour with Hideo, but unfortunately I had an accident as our tour was to begin. Hideo went above and beyond what any guide would do, meeting us at the hospital, arranging transport and even returning the next day to help us make it onto our train on time. Words cannot express how indebted to him we are for his help. You won't find a more compassionate human to spend time with...
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“ An amazing day ”

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7 months ago Traveler: Cheryl -   Tour Guide: Koyasan monk guide

Our day with Nobuhiro made Koyasan the highlight of our 3 week vacation in Japan. Nobu was well informed He is a great story teller and shared a wealth of information about Esoteric Buddhism . He was well prepared without boring us with lots of statistics that would soon be forgotten We never felt rushed but managed to see all the major sights as well as a special fall festival at the Shinto...
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“ Awesome experience ”

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1 year ago Traveler: Laura -   Tour Guide: Hideo

Hideo was fantastic
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“ Mount Koya ”

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1 year ago Traveler: Kit -   Tour Guide: MAKOTO

We enjoyed Makoto very much. He was prompt and a great help getting us from Osaka to Mount Koya. His English is very good and easy to understand. He provided us with good information on history of Japan and where Mount Koya fit in that history. We enjoyed his discussion on current Japanese life. As this was his first tour to Mount Koya his information on that site was limited.
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“ Magical koyasan with excellent guide ”

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1 year ago Traveler: Sylvia -   Tour Guide: Hiroyuki

I enjoyed the trip with Hiroyuki very much. He communicated very well already before the trip when I planned koyasan and always answered my questions promptly. He planned ahead of time what to see when but was also flexible when I wanted to change things. His humor matched mine so the tour was not only very informative but also real fun. He was able to answer all my questions, not only related to...
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“ A guide to Koyasan ”

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2 years ago Traveler: Andrea -   Tour Guide: Noriko

We had a lovely day with Noriko at Koyasan. She arrived on time and had our day planned to make the most of the sites we were to visit. Background information was good and all our questions were answered. A very informative and special day - thank you Noriko!
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