Kōyasan, Japan’s Secluded Temple Town Located on a Sacred Mountain

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.

SOURCES:

  • 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
  • http://eng.shukubo.net/about.html
  • https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4900.html
  • http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/buddhist-pilgrimage-sites-japan/

14 thoughts on “Kōyasan, Japan’s Secluded Temple Town Located on a Sacred Mountain

  • December 31, 2017 at 11:31 am
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    I have yet to goto visit Koyasan! I’ll put it in my to do list!!!

    Reply
      • December 31, 2017 at 11:35 am
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        Aww thanks! Noted! I’m hoping to go 2018/2019. Not sure yet because I’ve got Fukuoka to explore in feb. Will see when is my next opportunity out of work! ^___^ Have a great New Years, wishing you all the best and looking forward to more amazing photos from you!

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        • Profile gravatar of Uncover Travel
          December 31, 2017 at 11:39 am
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          Enjoy Fukuoka, will look forward to reading about it and seeing your pics too! Have a great New Years!

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    • Profile gravatar of Uncover Travel
      December 31, 2017 at 11:50 am
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      Neither did we until we stumbled upon it online while looking for places to visit in Japan. It is a magical place! Will be posting more about Kōyasan soon – so much to say about such a little place!

      Reply
  • December 31, 2017 at 6:14 pm
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    Another reason why Japan would be worth 1.5 years of intense exploration. Some nuggets contain a ton of gold.

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    • Profile gravatar of Uncover Travel
      December 31, 2017 at 7:26 pm
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      Couldn’t have put it better! There is just so much to see and do in Japan – much more than we had imagined!

      Reply
  • December 31, 2017 at 8:02 pm
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    Lex and I visited here years ago when we first got married. My Uncle and cousins took us there and we saw the beautiful forest and many of the fascinating memorials. I vividly remember seeing a huge coffee cup with saucer dedicated to the UCC Coffee company workers. We also experienced a parade of Buddhist monks marching toward the temple in unison. A truly magical place. Thanks for sharing! – Neek

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    • Profile gravatar of Uncover Travel
      December 31, 2017 at 9:24 pm
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      We didn’t see the coffee cup but we did see the Panasonic ‘memorial’! Seeing the monks marching like that must have been an incredible experience! It really is a magical place!

      Reply

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Kōyasan, Japan’s Secluded Temple Town Located on a Sacred Mountain

by Uncover Travel time to read: 1 min
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