Weekend trip to Koyasan 高野山! - Adventures of Anette

Monday, June 13, 2011

Weekend trip to Koyasan 高野山!

Last week my father and stepmother came to visit me in Kyoto, and in the weekend we went together to a place called Koyasan (高野山) in Wakayama-ken to do some sightseeing and to spend the night in a Buddhist temple.
The town of Koya was first settled back in 819, but it is still a bustling place today, and it is visited by loads of tourists every year. Koyasan is a very famous place in Japan, and with its 120 temples Koyasan was designated a World Heritage Site in 2004. 

Going to Koyasan actually takes quite a lot of time, cause you have to change trains a couple of times, not to mention that the train up the mountain side is slow, and eventually you have to go by bus to reach you destination.
If you are going to Koyasan from Kyoto you have to chance train at Shinosaka or Osaka and head for Namba station. From there you can take the Nankai Electric Railway to Gokurakubashi Station. After arriving at the station it is time to change transportation again, and this time you have to go by cable car to get to the top of the mountain. But the trips is not over, cause to get into the village you have to go by bus. It took us about 4 hours to get to Koyasan from Kyoto, so make sure you have enough time.

Train heading for Koyasan
Though the trip to Koyasan does take quite a lot of time, it is still nice cause you get to see a lot of pretty scenery; forests, rivers and small Japanese houses clinging to the mountain sides.

The end of the track for the train to Koyasan.
We had left Kyoto quite early to get to see as much as possible on the first day, so when we got there we left our luggage at the Ichijyo-in temple where we was planning to spend the night.
The weather was nice (though it is supposed to be the rainy season here in Japan right now we seemed to be quite lucky with the weather), so it was perfect for sightseeing.

The Kongobuji Temple, which is the headquarter of Shingon Buddhism
Arriving at one of the temple areas, called Garan (伽藍). To the front you have Konpon Daito Pagoda (根本大塔), and the Toto pagoda (東塔) to the right.
Konpon Daito Pagoda (根本大塔) again, to the right.

A torii (鳥居) archway in Garan
The Konpon Daito Pagoda and some Buddhist monks.
Inside one of the temples the Buddhist monks were performing their rituals.
Buddhist rituals

Even though Koyasan is a fairly big area most of the sights can be reached by foot. Here is the main gate to Koyasan, the Daymon (大門):
The Daimon, litterary "the big gate"
A statue we passed by along the road
We went back to the temple we were staying at to eat dinner, and ended our sightseeing for the day. The next day we got up pretty early (around 5 o'clock) to take part in the rituals in the temple, and then we headed out to explore the east part of the town. We took the bus to Okunoin (奥の院), which is a big cemetery area (the largest in Japan) where you can see over 200 000 tombstones all lined up in the middle of the forest.
The passageway to Okunoin

A video from Okunoin
Some of the tombstones we passed on our way.
The further you go, the older the tombstones gets. Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of the forest, surrounded only by trees and tombstones (well, there are a lot of pilgrims and tourists too.. But
it is possible to visit Okunoin by night, so if you have the chance why not.. I guess there won't be that many tourist there then either).

Walking in the forest in Okunoin

Some of the older tombstones in Okunoin
After walking for a while you arrive at the temple area of Okunoin, where you find the main temple: Torodo (Hall of Lanterns). Beware though that it is not allowed to take photos after crossing the Gobyonohashi bridge.
But there is things to see before crossing the bridge up to the temple as well: a group of statues dedicated to the Boddhisattva Jizo is supposed to look after children, travelers and not to mention the souls of the deceased, and so it is supposed to bring you luck if you throw water on them.

Children throwing water on one of the Mizumuke Jizo statues.


A temple we passed by on the way to Torodo.
After visiting Okunoin it was time to head back to Kyoto again. It was a great trip, both Koyasan itself and the temple lodging is something I would recommend for anybody who wants a unique Japan-experience.
The Koyasan cable-car
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who'd gladly trade a trip to the shoppingmall for a hike in the forest any day.

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About Me

Adventures ofAnette


The classical story about a girl who went for a one-year exchange program to Japan, fell in love and got stuck there. Starting out as a student in Kyoto in 2010 I now work full-time in Tokyo as a hotel consultant, and write mostly about my travels, working life in Japan as well as a bunch of random stuff.
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