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【Wakayama/Kansai】Day Tour Course for Mt. Koya, A World Heritage Site

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) is a mountain that has been registered as a World Heritage Site. Hop on the sightseeing train that flies through the mountains – Tenku – and head to one of the leading power spots in Japan! <※This information is from KansaiWalker (issued on September 19, 2017)>

START! Depart from Hashimoto Station via the Nankai Electric Railway

The Koya Hanatetsudo Tenku on Nankai Electric Railway’s Koya Line is a sightseeing train that operates over a 19.8km stretch from Hashimoto Station to Gokurakubashi Station (takes around 50 minutes to get to Hashimoto Station from Nankai Namba Station). The inside of the train is designed to ensure you can enjoy the gorgeous scenery outside, with the seats arranged to face the train windows, a viewing deck, and several other features. Viewing 24 small to large tunnels, as well as valleys and other mountain landscapes, will give you a true sense of travel.

This is the stretch between Kudoyama Station and Koyashita Station. You can marvel at the beauty of Ryuo Keikoku (Ryuo Valley) that spreads in the horizon. The Nyugawa Kyoryo (Nyugawa Bridge) that traverses Ryuo Valley is a historic 72.52m-long bridge that was built in 1925.

This is the view from the single-view seats that face the valley side. With huge window frames, passengers will be treated to a wide view of the mountains.

The pink seats in the second row of single-view seats are set up a bit higher.

This is the viewing deck of the No. 2 train car. Here, you can soak in the outside air.

There are compartments with seats for 4 people in the No. 1 and No. 2 cars. These are perfect for groups.

■ Koya Hanatetsudo Tenku on Nankai Electric Railway’s Koya Line
Phone: 06-6643-1005 (Nankai Telephone Center ※8:30 AM – 6:30 PM)
Hours: Departs from Hashimoto Station at 10:13 AM (10:32 AM on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays)
Arrives at Gokurakubashi Station at 10:54 AM (11:13 AM on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays)
※They have a total of 2 round trips per day
※3 round trips per day on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays
※Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays (but train will run if these days are public holidays)
※From December – March, runs only on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays
Fare: 510 JPY for reserved seating
※Separate fare required

【Approx. 50 minutes on the Koya Hanatetsudo Tenku via Nankai Electric Railway’s Koya Line】

<11:13 AM> Arrive at Gokurakubashi Station via the Nankai Electric Railway

Koyasan Cable is a cable car that connects Gokurakubashi Station with Koyasan Station. It opened in 1930, and has an elevation of 867m. This classical car climbs at an elevation of about 300m, and goes over a total distance of around 800m in one go!

■ Koyasan Cable
Phone: 06-6643-1005 (Nankai Telephone Center ※8:30 AM – 6:30 PM)
Hours: Runs in connection with each train
Closed: None
Fare: 390 JPY one-way

【Approx. 5 minutes on cable car and about 10 minutes on bus】

<11: 50 AM> Chuo Shokudo Sanbo

Chuo Shokudo Sanbo is a shop that serves Shojin Ryori (Buddhist cuisine) to temples like Kongobuji Temple. It is recommended to try the Shojin Hanakago Bento (boxed Shojin Ryori) here. The dishes in this meal follow not just the five prohibitions in Shojin Ryori cooking, but also the rule of five colors taught by Daishisama (Great Teacher). Their main appeals are their healthiness and being able to taste the original flavors of all the ingredients. Your eyes will also be in for a treat with the containers made by potters and ceramists at Mt. Koya.

This is the Shojin Hanakago Bento (2,200 JPY). It comes with sesame tofu, five kinds of tempura, a boiled dish called Shunkan, and wheat and soybean rice. The ingredients in these dishes are harvested from Mt. Koya, as well as the area at the foot of the mountain.

This shop is located at the center of Mt. Koya, where souvenir shops and other establishments are gathered. It is also close to Kongobuji Temple, so drop by before or after worshipping!

■ Chuo Shokudo Sanbo
Phone: 0736-56-2345
Hours: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (last order at 4:00 PM)
※Closes when dishes get sold out
Closed: Irregular days
Seating capacity: 32 seats
Smoking: Non-smoking
Access: Short walk from Senjuin-bashi bus stop

【5-minute walk】

Chuo Shokudo Sanbo

722 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<12:45 PM>Danjo Garan

The Danjo Garan is the first Konpon Dojo (main training hall) for the Shingon sect. It was opened by Kobo Daishi – the founder of the sect – 1,200 years ago. It houses the Konpon Daito (large pagoda) that is considered to be the symbol of Mt. Koya, as well as the Kondo (central hall) of the sect’s head temple. As one of the two largest sacred sites on this mountain, it is filled with an aura of mystery. The right way to worship at this temple is to walk in a clockwise direction, with your right shoulder facing the Kondo.

Danjo Garan is the collective term for this place that has 19 structures inside, including the Konpon Daito, Kondo, and Miedo (Great Portrait Hall) that was built as a Jibutsu-do (temple building enshrining a Buddhist statue) for Kobo Daishi. The term “garan” means “tranquil garden where Buddhist priests and monks learn and train”.

This is an image of the inside of the Konpon Daito. The must-see pieces inside this pagoda are the four Buddha statues – centering on Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) and including Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) – and the three-dimensional mandala of the Juroku Daibosatsu (16 Great Bodhisattvas) drawn on a pillar.

■ Danjo Garan
Phone: 0736-56-2011 (Kongobuji Temple)
Hours: Free to roam inside the temple grounds, but the Kondo and Konpon Daito pagoda are open from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (final entry at 4:30 pm)
Closed: None
Admission fee: Free when visiting the temple grounds
200 JPY for worshipping in the Kondo and Konpon Daito
Access: Short walk from the Kondomae bus stop

【Short walk】

Danjogaran

152 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<1:15 PM> Koyasan Daishi Kyokai

This is the headquarters of the Koyasan Shingon sect and the Shukyo Buyo (religious Buyo dance), among others. The Daikodo (grand lecture hall) that was built in 1925 enshrines Kobo Daishi as the principal image, along with Aizen Myoo (Ragaraja) and Fudo Myoo (Acala) as attendant statues. At the Jukaido (precept hall) in the back, you can see the precepts teaching the Bosatsu Juzenkai (10 moral precepts), such as Fusessho (precept that forbids the taking of life). You can also experience hand copying the sutras.

This is the hand copied version of the Hannya Shingyo (Heart Sutra) (admission time: 8:30 AM – 3:00 PM, admission fee: 1,000 JPY ※Inclusive of offering).

■ Koyasan Daishi Kyokai
Phone: 0736-56-2015
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed: None
Admission fee: Free
Access: Short walk from the Kongobuji-mae bus stop

【Short walk】

Koyasan Daishi Kyokai

347 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<2:00 PM>Sohonzan Kongobuji Temple

This is the Sohonzan (head temple) of the Koyasan Shingon sect that has around 3,600 temples all over Japan. The Shuden (main building) that stretches about 60m east to west, as well as around 70m north to south, is open for viewing. It is full of sights that you must not miss, including artworks displayed in the Great Hall, like folding screen art (Gunkakuzu (drawing of cranes)) by the Kano and Unkoku schools. You should also listen to the Buddhist sermons of the monks in the New Temple Annex.

This is the main temple, which was once known as Seiganji Temple. It was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to pray for the soul of his deceased mother.

This is the main gate that was rebuilt in 1593. It is the oldest among all the structures at Kongobuji Temple. In early summer, you will see fresh verdure, while in the autumn, the momiji (autumn leaves) are a sight to behold.

■ Sohonzan Kongobuji Temple
Phone: 0736-56-2011
Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (final entry is at 4:30 PM)
Closed: None
Admission fee: 500 JPY
Access: Short walk from the Kongobuji-mae bus stop

【Approx. 4-minute ride on bus】

Sohonzan Kongobuji Temple

32 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<2:40 PM> Koshinise Koyasan Daishido

This is the only shop at Mt. Koya that is dedicated to manufacturing and selling incense sticks and plain incense. The incense sticks that use natural fragrances, such as sandalwood and agarwood, have a soothing effect that will calm the mind. You can even test the incenses and other products inside the shop! The popular Daredemo Kantan Set (Simple Set for Everybody) (2,080 JPY) here will easily let you enjoy incense.

A well-established store that sells incense sticks for temples. You can sample the authentic incenses burned by the staff. If you find an incense you like, you can buy it.

■ Koshinise Koyasan Daishido
Phone: 0736-56-3912
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Closed: Mondays
Access: Short walk from the Karukayado-mae bus stop

【Approx. 2-minute walk】

Koshinise Koyasan Daishido

732 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<3:00 PM>Komi Coffee Koyasan Honten

Komi Coffee Koyasan Honten is a cafe near Okunoin, the second of the two largest sacred spots on Mt. Koya. Their drip coffee that uses an original blend of roasted beans and spring water from Mt. Koya is both mellow and rich in flavor. Their meals also make use of spring water, and the shop is particular about using local produce like vegetables. You’ll be happy to know that this shop is still open after sunset, as at Mt. Koya, night tends to come early.

This is the Komi Tamago Coffee (500 JPY) that has the yolk of a Kishu egg. The egg makes the coffee taste milder. There are also four kinds of homemade chiffon cakes (priced at 500 JPY each) available here, such as the Natamame Hojicha that is flavored with natamame (sword beans) from Mt. Koya and hojicha (roasted green tea) from Kyoto.

■ Komi Coffee Koyasan Honten
Phone: 090-7758-0805
Hours: 7:30 AM – 8:00 PM ※May change depending on the season
Closed: Irregular days
Seating capacity: 25 seats ※Counter seats available
Smoking: Non-smoking
Access: 1-minute walk from the Karukayado-mae bus stop

【4-minute walk】

Komi Coffee Koyasan Honten

571 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<3:40 PM>Okunoin

This is a sanctuary surrounded by cedar trees that are as old as 1,000 years old. The approximately 2km approach from Ichinohashi Bridge to Gobyobashi Bridge is lined with the tombstones and memorial towers of people like Sengoku Daimyo (feudal warlords in the Sengoku period). The mausoleum at the back of Gobyobashi Bridge is the place where Kobo Daishi died, so it continues to be revered today as the center of the Koyasan Shingon faith.

Kobo Daishi died in 835. He is said to still meditate at this mausoleum today. The Shojingu, wherein offerings are given to Kobo Daishi, is done twice a day: 6:00 AM and 10:30 AM. You will be able to see the Torodo (Lantern Hall) at the back.

Officially called Obashi, Ichinohashi Bridge is the first bridge to cross at the entrance of the temple’s approach. You will be welcomed and sent off by Kobo Daishi, so you need to press your hands together and bow before you cross this bridge.

■ Okunoin
Phone: 0736-56-2002
Hours: Visiting or worshiping can be done anytime, but the Torodo (Lantern Hall) is open from 6:00 AM – 5:30 PM (final entry into the hall at 4:30 PM)
Closed: None
Fees: Visiting or worshiping is free of charge
Access: Short walk from the Okunoinguchi bus stop

【Approx. 10 minutes for bus ride and walking】

Okunoin

550 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

<4:35 PM>Fuzen

Founded during the Bunsei era, Fuzen is a well-established shop that specializes in namafu (fresh gluten cake), which is essential to Shojin Ryori. They do not use artificial preservatives or seasonings. Their namafu is famous for its unique smooth texture. The Sasamaki Anpu – a kind of manju (steamed bun with filling) that is made with yomogi (mugwort) and then wrapped in bamboo grass – is the staple souvenir of Mt. Koya.

You can buy even just a single piece of Sasamaki Anpu (140 JPY)! There are also boxed sets (950 JPY for a set of six pieces) that are perfect as souvenirs.

■ Fuzen
Phone: 0736-56-2537
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM ※Closes when the products get sold out
Closed: Mondays
Fees: Visiting or worshiping is free of charge
Access: 3-minute walk from the Koya Keisatsusho-mae bus stop

Fuzen

712 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 10.02.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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