Kōyasan, known to English speakers as Mount Koya, refers to both a mountain in Wakayama prefecture and the small town nestled in its wooded basin, 820 metres above sea level. The town, which is a sacred site specific to the Shingon school of Buddhism, spans approximately three kilometre from east to west, two kilometres from north to south and has a circumference of around 15 kilometres. It is surrounded by eight low peaks, giving it a topography reminiscent of a lotus flower, which is an important symbol in Buddhism. Despite its size, the town of Kōyasan is home to 117 temples.
The area, which is now a holy pilgrimage site that attracts around 15 million visitors per year, was granted to one of Japan’s most significant religious leaders, Kōbō Daishi (known posthumously as Kūkai), by the Imperial Court 1200 year ago. Here, he founded a monastic centre for Shingon Buddhist training, far away from the distractions of the cities.
Around two hundred years ago Kōyasan, which developed around the Shingon Buddhism sect’s headquarters had over 1,000 temples, most of which have now combined to create bigger temples. Today it is a centre of Buddhist study and practice, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Kōbō Daishi lived and taught at Mt. Koya for many years until he finally entered into eternal meditation here in 835. It remains the headquarters of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism in Japan and leads the 117 temples on the mountain, as well as approximately 3,000 temples throughout Japan.
- Koyasan and Kumano Access Bus
- UNESCO World Heritage Koyasan Leaflet in English
- Koyasan Reihokan Museum Leaflet in English
- Dai Garan Kongobuki Koyasan leaflet
- Kongobuji Temple Leaflet
- Guide to Koyasan
- Kōyasan – the 1200th Anniversary Since The Foundation
- Information signs at Kōyasan
- Information provided by guide during night cemetery tour