Mount Kōya – 高野山
Let’s visit mount Kōya (高野山) this time, located in Wakayama prefecture, a world Heritage.
It is a mystic mountain with a rich history. Kūkai, also known with the title of Kōbō-daishi he obtained after death, made this mountain the place of his trainings and the headquarters of the Buddhist Shingon sect (真言宗) he founded in the Heian period.
Also nowadays many people come here to pray.
What’s special about mount Kōya?
Kōya mountain preserves many treasures which are considered World Heritages by UNESCO.
The most famous one is the Kongōbuji temple.
In this tranquil forest there’s a mild atmosphere in every season.
In the Oku-no-in (奥の院) area there’s plenty of graves, you can also see those who belong to noblemen and daimyō feudal lords.
The central zone is where Tokugawa family’s tombstones are located, here is the resting place of Ieyasu, Iemitsu and Hidetada.
How to get to mount Kōya
If you’re in Tōkyō, the first thing to do is going to Ōsaka.
With the Shinkansen you can get to Shin-Ōsaka station, and from there to Nanba station (you can take the
Midōsuji line of Osaka subway and arrive in about 25 minutes);
You can reach Nanba station also from Kansai International Airport or other airports, in case you got to Ōsaka by plane, by using Nankai line.
From Nanba station, reaching mount Kōya by the “Kōya” limited express train heading to Gokurakubashi is the easiest and most comfortable way.
If you don’t want to take the express train (whose ticket costs 760 yen), a cheaper way is going from Nanba station to Hashimoto station. There you can take a local train to Gokurakubashi, where you can get on the cable-car,
passing through the mountain’s forest: this will surely be part of your memories when you will think of mount Kōya!
The cable car carries you to Kōyasan sation: taking a Nankai Rinkan Bus (the ticket costs about 280 yen) and getting off at “Senju-in-bashi” is a good way to enjoy your visit. You can also use your “Surutto Kansai Pass” or your “Kōya-san World Heritage Ticket” to access the site.
With the “Kōya-san World Heritage Ticket”, you can save up to about 800 yen with the return ticket, including also travel on Koyasan buses.
More information here (in Japanese): http://tinyurl.com/llv4yge
Also, be aware that the Japan Rail Pass cannot be used on Nankai railway lines.
My impression of mount Kōya
While leaving the vivid, urbanized Ōsaka to reach mount Kōya, I felt like escaping the modern civility.
After departing from Namba station, the train entered after a while in an idyllic landscape: I suddenly got into the woods and then on the top of the mountain.
Mount Kōya’s ambiance depends on the time of the year, but I have been there in every season and it is always a wonderful place.
Spring’s air is refreshed by just-bloomed flowers and the leaves have incredible colors in Autumn.
Even the snow make of mount Kōya a beautiful place.
Oku-no-in is wrapped into a mysterious atmosphere: the contrast of Kongōbu-ji’s vermilion red and white snow is very charming.
There, I was lucky to meet training monks doing their ascetic practice in the forest, I was touched by their devotion.