Mount Koya Temple Stays and Guided ToursA spiritual haven, known for its serene temples, historic Okunoin Cemetery, and beautiful natural landscapes.

About Mount Koya

Mount Koya (also known as Mount Koyasan) is one of Japan’s most holy mountains. The top of the plateau is home to more than 100 temples built around the main monastery which serves as the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which has more than ten million followers. The very first temple was founded here in the 9th century by a Buddhist monk and there has been a religious community on Mount Koya ever since.

The forests around the temple complex make Mount Koya a very peaceful and beautiful area to explore. During the colder months the misty rains give the temple complex an eerie, almost surreal ambiance. It's the sort of place to explore at a leisurely pace, taking time to appreciate the scenery. The journey here is an experience in itself as the train travels through tight cedar-filled valleys overlooked by towering mountain peaks with a steep cable car operating on the last leg of the journey up to the temples.

Tours of Mount Koya

Discover this holy ground and immerse yourself in the spirituality of Japan. Explore the serene nature that surrounds the over 100 temples on the mountain. Connect with nature and spirituality as you explore the mountain. You will be accompanied by an English-speaking local guide who will provide valuable insights into the history and significance of the site.

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What to expect when visiting Mount Koya

When taking a guided tour of Mount Koya expect a spiritual and serene journey into the heart of Shingon Buddhism. Your tour will include visits to sacred sites such as Okunoin Cemetery, the largest graveyard in Japan and the resting place of revered monks and samurai. You'll also explore the atmospheric mountain, with its tranquil temples, lush forests, and traditional Buddhist lodgings known as shukubo. Your guide will provide insight into the rituals and practices of Shingon Buddhism, allowing you to immerse yourself fully in the spiritual ambiance of this mountain sanctuary. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to stay the night in a traditional Buddhist temple lodging, offering a truly unique experience amidst the natural beauty of Mount Koya.

What to do at Mount Koya

Konpon Daito Pagoda
Konpon Daito Pagoda

Stay the night in a Buddhist temple

Staying the night in a traditional Buddhist temple is a unforgettable experience. Immerse yourself in the spiritual culture of Koya, stay in a beautiful lodge complete with tatami mats, screen doors and traditional Buddhist meals. In the morning you can join the Buddhist monks on their morning prayers before enjoying a traditional breakfast. Spending the night in Koya is the perfect way to connect with nature and spirituality, surrounded by such natural beauty and devoted monks, you can’t help but feel a deep spiritual connection to your surroundings. Staying in a temple on mount Koya is a must do experience for those wanting to fully immerse themselves in traditional Japanese culture.

Okunoin cemetery
Okunoin cemetery

Visit the Okunoin cemetery

Okunoin is the largest cemetery in Japan. It’s the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered religious persons in Japan. The cemetery is also the resting place of over 200,000 people many of which are monks and feudal lords. There is also a modern section of the cemetery that houses many corporate graves, these are usually bought by companies for their employees and their families. Within the cemetery you can find the Gokusho offering hall where you can make offerings and pour water on the statues to pray for departed family members, and the Miroku stone which, according to legend, feels lighter for good people and heavier for bad people. The cemetery is a sombre experience, both beautiful and atmospheric, a deeply moving experience.

Tofu

Eat a Shojin Ryori meal

A Shojin Ryori is a traditional Buddhist meal. It is vegetarian, beautifully presented and delicious. A typical Shojin Ryori will have soybean-based foods like tofu, seasonal vegetables and wild mountain plants. The food is made using the rule of five, five colors: green, yellow, red, black and white as well as five flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. This creates a well-balanced, flavorful meal that is supposed to bring your body into balance with the seasons. Eating this traditional meal is an experience in itself, the way it is presented, the flavors and the history behind the meal all come together to create a distinctive culinary experience.

When is the best time to visit Mount Koya?

The best time to visit Mount Koya is during spring when the cherry blossoms and fresh greenery create a serene and picturesque environment, or in fall when the vibrant fall foliage enhances the spiritual ambiance of the area.

Conclusion

Visiting Mount Koya on a tour offers a profound spiritual experience, blending traditional buildings with natural beauty. The serene temples, historic cemeteries, and tranquil forests create a unique and contemplative atmosphere that provides a deep connection to Japan's religious heritage. A guided tour enhances this journey by offering insights into the practices of Shingon Buddhism, the significance of the sacred sites, and the daily life of the monks. Whether you participate in meditation sessions, morning prayers, or simply enjoy the stunning seasonal landscapes, Mount Koya promises a transformative and memorable adventure. This makes it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking both spiritual enrichment and cultural discovery.

Frequently asked questions

What is the significance of Mount Koya in Buddhism?

Mount Koya is the center of Shingon Buddhism, a major Buddhist sect founded by Kobo Daishi in the 9th century. It is considered one of Japan’s most sacred sites and serves as a place of pilgrimage and spiritual retreat. The area is home to numerous temples and religious sites, making it a significant destination for those interested in Japanese Buddhism and spirituality.

Is it possible to participate in temple activities during the tour?

What should I wear when visiting Mount Koya?

What are the main attractions to see on a tour of Mount Koya?

Japan tours: Discover the highlights of Japan

Whilst Japan is full of unforgettable highlights, these are the places that you really can't miss on your trip. From the heaving metropolis of Tokyo to the peaceful, rural tranquility of Miyajima Island and Kyoto - steeped in ancient history. Japan is a land of beautiful contrasts just waiting to be explored.

Kyoto

Japan's cultural capital is home to a plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including some of the country's most famous temples and shrines. It's also the best place in the country to catch a glimpse of the famous geisha, especially the gion district.

Hakone

A stunning national park, home to Japan's most iconic view. Mount Fuji sits atop striking scenes of green woodland, crystal clear lakes, and inviting hot springs. Hike in this scenic region, and spend the night at a traditional ryokan.

Tokyo

Ever-evolving skylines, cosmopolitan corners, and neon-lit streets. Tokyo is a city headed for the future. But look closely for kabuki, sumo, tea, and sushi - tradition is everywhere. Tokyo is huge, so our Signature package tours spend four nights here, allowing you to take it all in.

Miyajima

An idyllic contrast to the chaotic capital, Miyajima is an enchanting island of rural charm, just off the coast of Hiroshima. Home to the floating torii gate of the Itsukushima Shrine, and stunning views of Mount Misen and the Inland Sea.

Himeji

Traveling by bullet train to Himeji, our travelers will get to explore the elegant "White Egret" castle here. It's the best known and most complete example of Japan's traditional tiered castles and even survived heavy bombing during the Second World War.

Hiroshima

A city made famous by all the wrong reasons, a trip to Hiroshima is sobering and emotional, but it's an important and fascinating stop for travelers to Japan. Reflect at the Peace Park and see the A-Bomb Dome, one of just a handful of buildings to survive the atomic bomb.

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