Highlights of Mt. Koya's Kongobuji Temple: A World Heritage Wonderland!

Highlights of Mt. Koya's Kongobuji Temple: A World Heritage Wonderland!

1 Oct 2023

The KANSAI Guide

Mt. Koya (Koyasan) is located in the northern part of Wakayama Prefecture. The more you learn about this ancient spot with more than 1,200 years of history, the more you'll want to visit! This article will introduce the interesting history and best sights to see in Mt. Koya!

What is Mt. Koya?

Mt. Koya is a plateau that sits at an elevation of about 800 meters in Wakayama Prefecture's Ito District. The area is surrounded by other mountain peaks with heights of 1,000m and has beautiful, rich natural scenery. Often called the "Holy Land of Buddhism" in Japan. Mt. Koya has an extremely long history, as the area was first constructed more than 1,200 years ago by a monk named Kobo Daishi, also known as "Kukai" (the founder of the Shingon School of Buddhism). Mt. Koya is home to many Important Cultural Properties, historic landmarks, and scores of Buddhist monks who still train and study Buddhism here. Due to its highly significant history and beautifully tranquil atmosphere, Mt. Koya was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2004 as part of the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range," drawing the attention of visitors from around the world.

What Are the Highlights of Mt. Koya?

Mt. Koya is vast complex with more than 100 different temples! Among them, however, a temple called Kongobuji stands out in particular as the head temple of the Shingon school of Buddhism, the sect founded by Kukai. While it is called a "temple," Kongobuji Temple actually refers to a collection of many temples spread throughout Mt. Koya, all of which are individual yet considdered to be one. In the next sections, we have carefully selected four highlights of Kongobuji Temple.

【Facility name】 Kongobuji Temple
【Opening hours】 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (entry until 4:30 pm)
【Days Closed】 None
【Price】 Middle school students and older: 1,000 JPY, Elementary school students: 300 JPY
【Address】 132, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

1. Daimon Gate

The Daimon Gate stands as the entrance to Mt. Koya. Although it was lost once in a fire, the current structure was rebuilt in 1705 and has been standing ever since. You will definitely stand in awe of the impressive 25 meter height of this giant gate! In particular, we recommend visiting the gate around sunset., when the rays of the setting sun glimmer off the vermillion surfaces of the gate, making the colors even more beautiful.

【Address】 Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

2. Danjo Garan

After Mt. Koya was first established, the Danjo Garan was said to be the first complex built by Kukai, and has long been revered as a special place for Shingon Buddhism since. Even today there are monks practicing here, so you just might see them when you visit!

【Address】 152, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

3. Kondo

"Kondo" is the name of the main temple building for all of Kongobuji Temple. Many religious ceremonies take place in Mt. Koya, and most of these are held here at the Kondo, thus giving it a deeply important role.

【Address】 132, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

4. Okunoin

Okunoin is said to be the place where Kukai entered an eternal meditation. There are some 200,000 monuments, gravestones of deceased daimyo (feudal samurai lords), and other memorial statues lining a two kilometer path stretching through the forest. Although it is a cemetary, the place has a mystical ambiance that is strikingly beautiful.

【Address】 550, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

Other Recommended Spots in the Area

Next, we will introduce two more recommended spots nearby that should be visited if you go to Mt. Koya.

If You're Thinking About Spending the Night, Check Out Henjosonin!

Henjosonin is a temple that stands in a sacred place where Kukai was said to have spent time training. Here, visitors can have a special experience by spending the night at the temple's "shukubo," or temple lodgings. The experience offers a first hand look into the lives of Buddhist monks, from the traditional and totally vegan cuisine called "shojin ryori" served for dinner, to the early morning sutra chanting that is open for visitors to watch.

【Facility name】 Koyasan Henjosonin
【Address】 303, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

For a Tasty Meal, Try Kadohama!

Kadohama Goma Tofu Sohonten is a restaurant where you can enjoy outstanding tofu, one of the essential ingredients used in the above-mentioned "shojin ryori." Tofu is made by adding a coagulant to soy milk—squeezed from soybeans—to form a solid block. At this restaurant, you can try a wide variety of tofu dishes prepared with various seasonal ingredients, making it a great place for people to try tofu for the first time or for people who are normally averse to the ingredient to find something that they like. Check it out for an outstanding, traditional meal!

【Facility name】 Kadohama Goma Tofu Sohonten
【Address】 230, Koyasan, Koya-cho, Ito-gun, Wakayama
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

So, what do you think? If exploring a mystical spot with more than 1,200 years of history sounds like something you're interested in doing, put Mt. Koya on your travel list!

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