Koyasan, Japan – A beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site

I flew in from China and arrived in Osaka early evening, just in time to go out for dinner.  What a culture shock from the hustle and bustle of china to such friendly and polite people.

The next day I was up early and headed to Koyasan.  It’s only a couple of hours from Osaka and easy to get to.  You get the subway to Namba station and then transfer to the Nankai Koya Line and get a direct train to Gokurakubashi or get an express train and change at Hashimoto station.  Once you arrive at Gokurakubashi then transfer to the cable car which takes you up the mountain to Koyasan.

Koyasan Japan

I was looking forward to visiting Koyasan as the pictures I had seen beforehand were beautiful, just how you imagine Japan to be.  It is a very sacred site specific to the Shingon school of Buddhism and attracts huge numbers of pilgrims and tourists a year.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is a beautiful place and feels so peaceful.  It was always very quiet.  If you have time for a few days or a day trip from Osaka, then it is well worth the visit.  The town is amazing to walk around as there are lots of beautiful temples.

I went to my Shukubo.  It’s a Buddhist temple where you sleep on a mattress on the floor, have a cold vegetarian meal (I struggled with this part as I eat everything with meat, it was the same meal for dinner and breakfast too) and get woken in the morning to attend the prayer ceremony, it was a great experience and worth staying in this spiritual place.  The rooms were amazing and beautiful and we had to go down to the communal bathing area before putting on our kimono’s and heading for dinner.  The prayer ceremony in the morning was an amazing experience to be part of, even for someone who isn’t spiritual, though after about 30 seconds of being sat on my knees I had to give up and sit on my bum.

Koyasan JapanKoyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

Like my new shoes?? How anyone could walk around without breaking their neck in these is beyond me!!

I then went to explore the town.  I stopped first at Kongobuji Temple, the original temple was built in 1593 and rebuilt in 1863, it is the headquarters of Koyasan Shingon-Shu Buddhism.  It is a beautiful place with sliding doors painted by well known artists and Banryutei Rock Garden, the largest rock garden in Japan.  It’s a very impressive building.

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

I then walked up to the main complex Dai Garan, meaning great quiet and secluded place, for Buddhist monks to gather and practice.

The first place I visited was Konpon Daito – originally built in 887 and rebuilt many times due to 5 lightning strikes.  It is about 50 metres high and the most impressive building on the site.

Koyasan Japan

I also visited the Kondo where many rituals and ceremonies are held, saw some monks and walked around the grounds.  The buildings are very impressive although most of them were rebuilt in the 1930’s following many devastating fires.  Despite quite a lot of tourists still a very quiet and peaceful place, when the bell is not ringing!!

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

After dinner and after dark I visited Okunoin, it is a huge graveyard with more than 200,000 grave stones.  Some of them huge and very impressive depending on the wealth of the family.  I walked the 2km path to Torodo, the lantern temple.  It was beautiful all lit up and as I arrived there was a ceremony just finishing and all the monks came out and walked down the path, it was an impressive site.

Koyasan JapanKoyasan Japan

The next day I was up early again to make my way back to Osaka and head to Hiroshima.

I loved Koyasan and seeing such an old and traditional part of Japan.

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Koyasan Japan A beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site

Find out about Why I started travelling here, Miami Beach here, Key West here, Everglades here, Bolton Abbey here, Naples here, Koh Tao here, Yangon – Myanmar here, Ischia – Italy here

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20 thoughts on “Koyasan, Japan – A beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site

  1. Oh wow, that sounds like an awesome day! I’d love to stay overnight at a temple like that. That’s the kind of experience you remember for the rest of your life. Definitely going on my bucket list.

  2. You had such an amazing chance by staying at the Shukubo overnight. I would love to try that out myself when I visit Japan, hopefully next year. I don’t mind vegetarian meals and the morning prayer sounds like a great way of starting your day with a bit of meditation. The entire town of Koyasan looks lovely, I’ll definitely put it on my list with things to see in Japan.

  3. This is a lovely and unique experience. How wonderful that were able to get there by train and enjoy the journey from Osaka. It looks like there was quite a variety of food, peaceful surroundings, and a comfortable place to sleep. Sounds like a great place to put on the travel list, especially if you were visiting Osaka.

  4. Somehow the surroundings of the place resembles Fukuoka where I have been to. I know the temples may probably look alike in most cases, though! 😉 Glad you were able to experience being a Japanese and literally walk in their shoes for a day!

  5. Wow! This is a different kind of Japan adventure that I have never heard of til now! I have stayed in a ryokan (we also slept on a tatami mat on the floor) but sleeping in a Buddhist temple sounds even more awesome! And the fact that they have a prayer ritual every morning is really interesting. 🙂 It’s like being in an Indian ashram!

  6. Japan is one country that seems to be in another time era altogether. Some of these places like the one ypu describe in yoir post are so unusual in that they transport you into the past. Interesting!

  7. What an amazing and authentic experience! This is something I’d really love to try (and see). Japan is so beautiful just about anywhere you go–I just can’t understand their shoes!

  8. What a lovely place to visit. I always love exploring UNESCO sites since it leaves you in awe with the history of the place, not just the beauty. I’d want to check this off my travel bucket list one of these days.

  9. This sounds like such a unique experience. I must admit, I would have struggled with the cold vegetarian meal as well! But for an experience like this, I would push through hehe. I think it’s fantastic that you participated in the prayer ceremony. I have never heard for Koyasan before, but will be putting this on my list as I would love to go to Japan one day.

    • I did prefer Japan to China but as it’s much cleaner, the people are so nice and friendly, but China is a place you have to experience.

    • I did prefer Japan to China but as it’s much cleaner, the people are so nice and friendly, but China is a place you have to experience.

  10. I know exactly how you felt sitting on your legss. I always keep changing my position when sitting like that in Japan, my legs fall asleep, it is very uncomfortable when not used to it. Looking very good in your getas by the way 🙂

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