Walking in Mount Kōya

A poster promoting mask wearing when visiting shrines.

As with elsewhere in Japan at the moment places that would normally be heaving with tourists and a zillion selfie sticks are eerily quiet and much more pleasant to visit as a result. Mount Kōya (高野山) was no exception.

  • Saitō (West Pagoda) of the Danjōgaran, Mount Koya.
  • Woman walking in the rain, Mount Koya
  • Temple complex at Mount Kōya, Wakayama, Japan.

The main home of esoteric Buddhism in Japan, Mount Kōya has been photographed and documented hundreds of times so there are other places to look if you want to delve deeper into its history. It’s the kind of place where you need to immerse yourself for months or even years (decades perhaps?) if you want to fully understand it.

We stayed at a tiny hotel in Koyashita Station (高野下駅) in nearby Kudoyama (九度山) and originally planned to hike from there to Mount Kōya, but a relentless downpour all morning the day before put an end to any hiking plans we had. Instead we drove the 20kms of twisty mountain road, passing road work after road work in what felt like the middle of nowhere before being spat out into the main street of the village. Take the train and cable car if you can, or better still hike there on a nice day.

  • Mount Koya (Koyasan) in the distance. Viewed from Niukanshobu Shrine, Kudoyama.
  • Jison-in Shrine, Kudoyama, Wakayama.

Apparently it is quite common to visit Jison-in Temple (慈尊院) in Kudoyama beforehand where you can get a glimpse of the area that makes up Mount Kōya from a distance. So that’s what we did first. Historically women weren’t allowed to visit, so Jison-in temple was where many went to get a glimpse of the mountain range and basin that make up Mount Kōya.

  • Koyashita Station, Kudoyama, Wakayama.
  • Driving back from Mount Kōya through a mountain village. Wakayama, Japan.

I’d like to go again when the chance arises to do the hike we had planned and even walk some of the Kumano Kodō which connects Mount Kōya with Ise Grand Shrine and Kumano Sanzan on the eastern coasts of Wakayama and Mie prefectures.

But to do justice to the history and heritage of Mount Kōya you would need to visit numerous times in all seasons, over many many years.

Have anything to say? Feel free to email me. And even better why not subscribe to Restless too?

One response to “Walking in Mount Kōya”

  1. […] rained hard the day before so hiking on the muddy and slippery mountain trails north of Mount Kōya, in Wakayama was out of the question, especially with a young daughter in tow. Instead we followed […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: