Koyasan(Mount Koya) Q&A
Basic information about Koyasan (Mount Koya).
Brief Introduction to Koyasan
The literal translation of the Japanese word "Koyasan" means "mountains in a highland field." Koyasan is the general name for the mountains of northeastern Wakayama Prefecture and the religious city located in the mountains. Koyasan was founded by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in the early Heian period (794-1192) as a training center for Shingon esoteric Buddhism. Koyasan is home to "Koyasan Shingon sect" of Buddhism, but it has long been widely worshipped regardless of denomination.Koyasan is a sacred place representing Japanese Buddhism, along with Hieizan (Mount Hiei). Koyasan was registered as a World Heritage site in 2004, along with Kumano, Yoshino, and Omine ("Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range").
What are the "Koya Sanzan (three mountains of Koya)"?
Although there is no mountain named "Koyasan (Mount Koya)." There are eight mountains in Koyasan, and the religious city is formed in a basin surrounded by these peaks. The elevation of the basin is about 800m to 900m, and the land is relatively flat, stretching 6km from east to west and 3km from north to south. The three mountains, Mount Yoryu (1009 m above sea level), Mount Mani (1004 m above sea level), and Mount Tenjiku (915 m above sea level), are known as "Koya Sanzan(the Three Mountains of Koya)." These three mountains are considered especially sacred because they surround Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary), where Kobo Daishi's mausoleum is located. This area is the dividing line between two rivers that run east to west through the northern part of Wakayama Prefecture, the Kino River system and the Arita River system. Table of Contents
Why is Koyasan called a "religious city"?
Koyasan is home to 117 temples, centering on Kongobuji Temple, the head temple of the Koyasan Shingon sect. "Kongobuji" used to be a generic name for the entire Koyasan temple complex. Even today, "Kongobuji" as the registered name of the World Heritage Site is the generic name for the temple complex located on Koyasan. "Kongobuji" is sometimes used as the name of a single temple. This temple is the result of the merger of two temples founded in the Azuchi-Momoyama period.However, at the time of Kukai's founding, the center of "Kongobuji" was not located at this temple site, but at "Danjo Garan" to the west of it. For the general public, the main place of worship and visitation is Danjo Garan. Danjo Garan also houses a shrine, retaining the vestiges of the age of syncretism between Shintoism and Buddhism. The Daimon Gate, once the main entrance to the temple, is located at the western end of Koyasan. From there, the approach to the east through Danjo Garan, Kongobuji, and Karukayado is the main street of Koyasan, ending at Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary). Koyasan is a "town" with not only temples and shrines, but also a town hall, hospital, fire station, police, bank, kindergarten, elementary and junior high schools, high school, university, and taverns. The population of Koyasan Area is about 4,000, a quarter of whom are monks. Many young monks attend college while training at temples in order to take over temples around the country.
Should I go to the Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary) as well?
If you visit Koyasan, be sure to make your way to Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary). Okunoin is considered the holiest place on Koyasan, and is home to a collection of memorial pagodas for the repose of souls. Calling it a "graveyard" may sound scary, but it is more like a group of ruins in the forest. Crossing the Ichinohashi Bridge at the eastern edge of the basin, you will enter a forest covered with giant 800-year-old cedars and Koya-maki trees. This is the approach to Okunoin, which continues for 2 km to the Kobo Daishi mausoleum. The approach to the temple is lined with tombstones and memorial towers as far as the eye can see. Memorials to warlords who fought against each other also coexist here. Among them, there is even a memorial tower for Oda Nobunaga, who killed many Koyasan believers and tried to invade and destroy Koyasan. There are countless small memorial towers not only for feudal lords and warlords, but also for common people. The souls of the dead accumulated over hundreds of years and the feelings of the people toward the dead are overwhelming at this sacred site. The historical figures who are honored at the shrine come from various backgrounds. However, it is believed that if they had any grudges, they were sublimated by Kukai, who resides in the "Kobo-Daishi Mausoleum" at the innermost part of the temple. Table of Contents
How long does it take to visit Koyasan?
If visiting Koyasan for the first time, how much time will it take to see the whole area? It is possible to visit just the major spots on Koyasan, such as Danjo Garan, Kongobuji, Kongosanmaiin, and Tokugawake Reidai, in 3 to 5 hours. It is not impossible to visit Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary) if you try your best. This means that it is possible to visit Koyasan on a day trip from Osaka, Kyoto, or Kobe. However, if you want to take your time to see each one, or to see more than just the main attractions, it is best to go on a two-day and one-night itinerary. You can also enjoy the lights at night and the early morning hours when there are fewer tourists. If you want to walk along the Koyasan Choishimichi and see the sights around Koyasan, add another day or two to give yourself more time to enjoy Koyasan.
If I were to visit Koyasan for a day trip or two days and one night, where should I go around?
If you are planning a one-day trip to Koyasan, you may consider the basic route of Daimon => Danjo Garan => Kongobuji => Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院), and add options such as Tokugawake Reidai(Tokugawa Family Mausoleum / 徳川家霊台), Kongosanmaiin (金剛三昧院), Koyasan Reihokan (Sacred Treasure Hall / 高野山霊宝館) , Shukubo (Temple Lodgings), and shopping, depending on your time and interests. If you plan to stay at Koyasan for more than one night, you can add to the above such places as Nyonindo (Women's Hall / 女人堂), Fudoin & Bifukumonin Mausoleum (不動院・美福門院陵), Kiyotaka Inari Shrine (清高稲荷神社), Karukayado (苅萱堂), the seven Benzaiten temples of Koyasan (高野七弁天), and Koyasan Daishi Church (高野山大師教会). For more information for your travel plan: Recommended Routes & Itinerary tips to explore Koyasan Table of Contents
What is the weather and climate like in Koyasan? What kind of clothing should I wear?
Because Koyasan is located at an altitude of more than 800 m, the temperature is 5 to 7°C lower than in the plains like Tokyo and Osaka, with average winter temperatures reaching 0°C or lower. It gets especially cold in the mornings and evenings, so it is best to bring adequate warmth in winter, spring, summer, and fall. Precipitation in Koyasan is higher than in the plains.
Average annual temperature: 10.9°C Maximum temperature in January: 3.4°C (Osaka City: 10°C) Lowest temperature in January: -4°C (Osaka City: 3°C) Monthly precipitation in January: 87.6 mm (Osaka City: 45 mm) Maximum temperature in July: 26.6°C (Osaka City: 32°C) Lowest temperature in July: 18.4°C (Osaka City: 24°C) Monthly precipitation in July: 256.4 mm (Osaka City: 157mm)
The following page explains the recommended clothing for each month, as well as the clothing etiquette to be aware of at Koyasan. What should we wear to Koyasan? Clothing etiquette, temperature and recommended fashion by month Table of Contents
What kind of municipality is Koya Town?
Koyasan is located in Koya Cho (Koya Town), Wakayama Prefecture. As the name suggests, the municipality has developed around Koyasan. The main industry is tourism related to Koyasan. Located in the northeastern part of Wakayama Prefecture, Hashimoto City, Kudoyama Town, and Katsuragi Town are neighbors within the prefecture. It is also adjacent to Gojo City and Nosakogawa Village in Nara Prefecture.
Area: 137.08 square kilometers Population: 2903 (projected 2021) Population density: 21.2 persons/square kilometer Tree of the town: Koya-maki (Japanese umbrella pine) Town flower: Rhododendron Major Industry: Tourism Friendship City: Zentsuji City, Kagawa Prefecture
What are the major cultural assets of Koyasan?
Koyasan has many valuable cultural assets, but a representative list includes the following
Tahoto (Pagoda of many treasures / 多宝塔) in Kongosanmaiin (金剛三昧院) National Treasure and World Heritage Established in 1223 Fudodo (不動堂) in Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) National Treasure and World Heritage Built in 1197 or 1198, rebuilt in 14th century, moved in 1908 Sannoin Honden (山王院本殿） in Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Rebuilt in 1522 Saito (西塔) in Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) Important Cultural Properties Established in 887 Re-established in 1834 Daimon (Great Gate / 大門) Important Cultural Asset/World Heritage Established in 1230 Re-established in 1705 9 buildings including the Daisyuden (大主殿 / Main Hall) in Kongobuji (金剛峯寺) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in the Momoyama Period, rebuilt in the late Edo Period Shishomyojinjya Honden (Main Hall of Shishomyojin Shrine / 四所明神社本殿) in Kongosanmaiin (金剛三昧院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in 1552 Guest House and Kitchen (客殿及び台所) in Kongosanmaiin (金剛三昧院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in the early Edo period Kyozo (scripture house / 経蔵) in Kongosanmaiin (金剛三昧院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in Kamakura period, moved in 1496 Shoin (Study /書院) in Fudoin (不動院) Important Cultural Properties Established during the Azuchi-Momoyama period Shikyakumon Gate(四脚門) in Fugenin(普賢院) Important Cultural Properties Established during the Kan-ei period (Edo period) and moved in 1892. Satake Yoshishige's Mausoleum (佐竹義重霊屋) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in Azuchi-Momoyama Period Uesugi Kenshin's Mausoleum (上杉謙信霊屋) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in the early Edo period Azekura (Ancient Log Storehouse / 校倉) in Jokiin(常喜院) Important Cultural Properties Established in 1631 Matsudaira Hideyasu and his mother's Mausoleum (松平秀康及び同母霊屋) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in 1607 and 1604 Gorinto (Five-story Pagodas / 五輪塔) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Properties Established during the Kamakura period Tasoto (Many-tiered tower / 多層塔) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Properties Established during the Kamakura period Okunoin Kyozo (Okunoin's Scripture House / 奥院経蔵) in Okunoin (the Inner Sanctuary / 奥の院) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in 1599 Mausoleums of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Tokugawa Hidetada in Tokugawake Reidai(Tokugawa Family Mausoleum / 徳川家霊台) Important Cultural Property, World Heritage Built in 1643
In addition to these architectural structures, there are also sculptures and other works of art designated as national treasures and important cultural properties, many of which are housed in Koyasan Reihokan (Sacred Treasure Hall / 高野山霊宝館) .