#63 Koyasan

Belonged to someone cool otherwise I wouldn't have taken the picture... if only I had taken notes too...

Koya-san is a collection of mountains in Wakayama Prefecture in western Japan. It is most famous for its graveyard, which not only contains thousands of graves, but also has hundreds of monuments to rich and influential Japanese historical figures. You can walk around them by yourself or you can take a guided or audio tour, which I really recommend. It’s almost impossible to know who’s grave it is until somebody tells you, and it’s absolutely worth it to find out that the grave you’re looking at belonged to a famous samurai, or two lovers, or rivalling families.

We got there by train from Osaka station, and took a cable car to the top of one of the mountains. We stayed in special group lodging that provided us with breakfast and lunch.

You should have seen what this looked like ten minutes later


In our lodging there was a meditation room in which we did a short session with one of the monks. There was also a nice big bath which I took some pictures of. It was only later that I discovered that the price of taking those pictures was my camera lens because of the steam that got into them. I’m in the process of getting it repaired, but for the next couple of weeks my photos will probably be a little bit blurred.

Koya-kun is the mascot of Mt. Koya, but in my opinion it would have been wittier to call him 'Koya-san'


There are loads of temples surrounding the area, with just as many tourist trap shops ready to take your money in exchange for omiyage, charms and other knick-knacks.


The place is peppered with many statues, especially ones like these that had money in or around them.



Only in Japan would this money not be stolen in a day.

Other touristy things to do is to visit the houses of the wealthy people of the past. You’ll find beautiful gardens and some of the most stunning shoji (paper doors).

I also had my first taste of kurogama (black sesame seeds) ice-cream. Needless to say, it was delicious.

All in all, I felt very much like a tourist whilst I was there (maybe because I was one) – it’s one of those places that expect foreigners, so I felt a little distanced from the real side of what Koya-san is all about, namely the pilgrimage and practices of the actually religious. I would have loved to actually taken part in some of the ceremonies.

Nevertheless, the atmosphere around Koya-san is definitely something to experience. On top of that, the views are amazing practically everywhere you turn. It has it all, the history, the religion, the architecture, the art… in my opinion every country should have a Koya-san.

… but then again, every country should have traffic laws that don’t allow pedestrians and cars to cross at the same time… but you can’t get everything you want.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Timbrel
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 20:53:38

    I think your article is pretty good–I love this website even, as a whole. However, I disagree with some points. Not every country should have Japan’s traffic laws–that is what makes Japan unique and wonderful! We should be allowed to have cultural differences everywhere. It’s the epitome of showing acceptance, of showing gratitude, and of loving others: allowing them to be different.

    Also, in lots of places there are fountains that are used for throwing coins in for wishes; that money isn’t stolen either. 🙂 (And it stays there for much longer than a day!)


  2. Eli
    Oct 31, 2010 @ 14:34:52

    Amazing, I would definitely love to visit this place some day! What a beautiful cemetery and the statue conveys such peace! The shoji are exquisite! I’m so glad you are enjoying this and sharing it with us. Thank you 🙂


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