Osaka to Mt Koya – Snow!

We stopped off for a quick brunch before heading to Koyasan. Takoyaki and chicken!


Mount Koya (Koyasan) is the center of Shingon Buddhism, an important Buddhist sect which was introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), one of Japan’s most significant religious figures. A small, secluded temple town has developed around the sect’s headquarters that Kobo Daishi built on Koyasan’s wooded mountaintop. It is also the site of Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum and the start and end point of the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage.


We stayed for one night on Koyasan in the Eko-in temple. You could visit Koyasan for just the day, but it’s much more relaxing to stay overnight and experience a temple stay. There are a lot of temples you can stay at over the mountain that accommodate various budgets.

There were a few reasons I chose Eko-in. It’s close to the entrance to Okunoin cemetery that leads to Okunoin temple and had good reviews online as one of the larger and older temples. Also they conduct two morning ceremonies. Most temples have a morning prayer ceremony that guests are required to attend. Eko-in has an additional fire ceremony where they burn logs representing the 108 mortal sins thus absolving everyone of their sins.

To get to Koyasan took us a few hours by train and then the last part of the journey by “cable car”. The cable car is not a suspended cable car but a tram that runs along the ground, a little like the tram that goes up to the Peak in Hong Kong. Buses run from the cable car station to various locations on Koyasan. We purchased a Koyasan Heritage Pass which is valid for two days and includes return train fare from Osaka to Mt Koya and the cable car and bus pass. It also includes some discount vouchers for various sights on Mt Koya.

Cable car to Mt Koya

When we reached Mt Koya we were greeted by a thick layer of snow on everything! Also freezing cold and poor Serena only wore her sneakers. We spent the afternoon before dinner walking through Okunoin cemetery. It was just beautiful and so peaceful. We only walked about 20 minutes in and turned back because we had to get back to Eko-in for dinner. But if you walk right to the end you will reach the temple.

Ichinohashi Bridge - the entrance to Okunoin Cemetery

Okunoin Cemetery under snow

Eko-in provides vegetarian dinner and breakfast with our stay. We were really excited about the food and were certainly not disappointed. The complexity of flavours in the food, particularly the soups was amazing. And the care and delicacy in presentation was gorgeous. I would love to know how to make some of this food.

Tower of food trays brought to our room.

Udon and vegetable soup on a burner.

Tempura Vegetables

Yummy beancurd items.

Dinner was served at 5.30 then we went for a dip in the hot baths downstairs before getting an early sleep. First prayer ceremony was going to start at 7am. A little later than usual because of the colder season. Zzz.


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