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Explore Japan – Koyasan, a sacred place close to the sky

Koyasan is known as a sacred place for Shingon Esoteric Buddhism on a mountain at an altitude of 800m in the northern part of Wakayama Prefecture. Despite its name Koyasan (san = mountain), it is in fact a valley surrounded by eight 1000m-class mountains. Due to this topography, Koyasan is likened to a lotus flower. The lotus, which grows its stem from the mud and blooms beautiful and pure flowers, has a special meaning in Buddhism. Let's invite you to a trip to a religious city close the sky, which is separated from the present world.


History of Koyasan

Koyasan was opened by Kobodaishi Kukai as a Zen dojo in 816. The whole Koyasan area is considered to be the precincts of Kongobuji Temple.

Kukai was a monk in the Heian period and is known as the founder of the Shingon sect. He went over to Tang Dynasty China as a Japanese envoy to study esoteric Buddhism transmitted directly from India, and after returning to Japan he established the Shingon sect that worships Dainichi Nyorai. Kukai arrived Koyasan after searching for a suitable place to teach and practise the doctrine. Legend has it that Kariba Myojin, the deity of Koyasan, turned into a hunter with white and black dogs and led Kukai to this place.

Koyasan, which has developed as a religious city unlike any other in Japan, currently has 117 temples, and faith is alive in people's lives. In 2004, it was registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range". Many tourists come from all over the world as well as from Japan.


The highlight of Koyasan

Koyasan Kongobuji Temple

It is the head temple of 117 in Koyasan and 3,600 nationwide of the Koyasan Shingon sect. There are many highlights such as the stately hall of the main shrine, Japan's largest stone garden "Banryutei" that represents the dragon rising from a sea of clouds, and gorgeous fusuma painted by Kano school painters.

Koyasan Okunoin

The sanctuary where Kukai was in the meditative state. Along the 2km path from Ichinohashi entrance to the mausoleum where Kukai rests, there are hundreds-years-old cedars and numerous tombstones. Once you step in, a mysterious atmosphere makes you feel like you are in another world.

Danjo Garan

The first auditorium opened by Kukai. Garan means "a clean place where monks gather and practice", and the trainee monks can still be seen today. Among the 19 buildings, the red-painted Konpon Daito stands out, which inner decoration represents the world of Mandala.


Nyonindo, or Women’s Halls, was a dedicated place of worship for women when they were prohibited from entering the temple. Women at that time could only stay here and pray to the distant mausoleum of Kukai.

Kouyahana Railway "Tenku"

A sightseeing train that connects Nankai Electric Railway Hashimoto Station to Gokurakubashi Station, located at a distance of 19.8km and an altitude difference of 443m. It offers one-view seats where you can enjoy a wide view from the big windows and an observatory deck where you can feel the mountain air, you will surely feel more excited about your trip.


Let's stay at a shukubo

Shukubo is an accommodation facility in a temple set up for worshipers and visitors. At more than 50 shukubo on Koyasan, anyone can stay regardless of religion or denomination. It is popular with tourists because you can enjoy historically valuable buildings, Buddha statues, and beautiful gardens.

Here you can experience "Buddhist cuisine" without meat and fish, "sutras copying" that you copy Buddhist sutras, "Ajikan" meditation of the Shingon sect, "morning practice" that you work on sutras and worship from early morning, etc.

If you visit Koyasan, why not stay at a shukubo and spend an extraordinary time?


Koyasan, surrounded by 1000m-class peaks, is a sacred place for Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, which was opened by Kobodaishi Kukai as a Zen dojo. With a history of more than 1200 years, it is a rare place where tradition, culture and nature are condensed. It is the place to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the world of Buddha.

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