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Koyasan: 120 Temples of Japanese Buddhism at Mount Kõya

Koyasan: 120 Temples of Japanese Buddhism at Mount Kõya

Our spiritual trip to the 120 Koyasan temples of Japanese Buddhism in Mount Kõya on the Wakayama Peninsula. Japan was and still is one of the most interesting countries for us gay travelers to explore. During our first trip to the island country in Asia, we put a two-nights stay at UNESCO world heritage Mount Kõya on our Japan bucket list to explore as many temples, pagodas, and monasteries of the 120 located in the valley at the Wakayama prefecture in Japan as possible. Huge old trees, beautiful statues, graceful graveyards, Japanese pilgrims in deep meditation, and the possibility of staying at Kumagaiji temple lodge: exploring the valley of the mountain range called Koyasan made our gay travel to Mount Koya an extraordinary spiritual experience, next to our Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage just days after. Let us show you our best travel photos of some of the most interesting Koya-san Buddhism Garan temples Konpon Daitō, Kongōbu-ji, the Okunoin Cemetery, and the natural environment with our blog article about Koyasan Temples on Mount Koya in Japan through a couple of men‘s eyes.

Kumagaiji Buddhist Temple Lodging Koyasan Japan ©
Kumagaiji Buddhist Temples: Lodging in Koyasan, Japan ©

Via train & Cable car from Osaka to Koyasan

After our Gay Couple Trip to Tokyo, the two Disney Parks in Tokyo, our Gay Couple Trip to Kyoto, and our day at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, we took the early morning train Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in a southern direction right into the prefecture of Wakayama. Kilometer by kilometer the train took its way up into the Japanese mountains only one goal ahead to reach the train station of Gokurakubashi after 1.5 hours (by express train). Here we had to wait for our connection train, the cable car of Gokurakubashi, that would bring us in only 5 minutes all the way up to the 800 meters high mountain valley of Kōya-san. Mount Kōya or Koyasan actually are modifying words for Kongōbu-ji, an area of the mountain range in Wakayama where the valley with 120 temples of Kōyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism is located.

Kumagaiji Buddhist Temple Lodging Koyasan Japan ©

Kumagaiji Temple Lodging

During our explorations around the 120 temples of Koyasan, we had the chance to stay at Kumagaiji Buddhist Temple Lodging Koyasan. Waking up with the monks at 6 am in the morning, eating freshly prepared vegetables and tofu, and having a Japanese bath experience wearing Kimonos.

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Koyasan Temples Japanese Buddhism Mount Kõya

We arrived at Koyasan Station after an exciting ride uphill with the cable car. In front of Koyasan station, we had to buy our bus tickets for the only available public transportation to the town of Mount Kõya. The bus driver will announce almost all stops during the 10 minutes ride through the city. If you are staying at Kumagaiji Temple Lodge as we did, the bus will stop almost right in front of the gay-friendly accommodation in Koyasan. After checking in, we prepared our hiking gear and started our exploration of the Okunoin Cemetery. Hundreds of small statues in between the graveyards surrounded by gigantic old trees half in sunlight, half in the shadow gave the unique natural environment a mystical atmosphere.

Okunoin Cemetery

We followed the main path towards the temples of Okunoin, Torodo (Lantern Hall), and the Kobo Daishi Mausoleum. The area around the temples was very busy with hundreds of pilgrims and religious Japanese people praying, singing, or meditating. On our way back to Koyasan town, we passed by the Tea House with an area by the river where people could wash their feet and refresh themselves. It was our first walk around Koyasan full of peaceful moments and a lovely, almost graceful atmosphere.

Good to know about Buddhism temples in Koyasan:

  • Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) Area:
    • Open: 24 hours daily 356 days a year
    • Entrance: no fee for Garan Grounds
  • Kondo Hall and Konpon Daitõ Pagoda:
    • Open: open daily 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
    • 200 yen (each temple), 100 yen for the smaller temples
    • or 2000 yen (combination ticket including admission to the Kondo Hall, Daito Pagoda and more)

Don’t forget to put off your shoes every time you enter a temple. Be polite and follow the photo restrictions, meaning no photos in holy temples, mausoleums, or simply in buildings with the sign “no photos”. You can be certain, that Japanese people will appreciate you following their rituals.

Torodo (Lantern Hall) & Eireiden Temple with Graveyard Area

Gay Couple Travel Guide Japan: A Gay Couple traveling Japan for one month ©

Gay Japan Travel Guide

It was an adventure we were looking so much forward to, already for years! We spent one month in Japan starting with Tokyo and the Tokyo Disney Parks followed by Kyoto and our pilgrimage of Kumano Kodo. After some exciting days around Mnt. Fuji, we were back in Japan’s capital city.

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Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) complex & Konpon Daitō Pagoda

Our second day started with the morning ritual at Kumagaiji Temple Lodge very early in the morning. After the freshly prepared breakfast by the monks in training, we packed our day backpacks and started our exploration of the Danjōgaran District. This area of Koyasan is known as the ecclesiastic center of the Kōyasan Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Dozens of bigger and smaller temples are assembled around the main temple Kongōbu-ji (金剛峯寺) on smaller squares and in between trees. One of the most famous trees is the pine tree of Kobo Daishi (the founder of Shingon Buddhism). Who wants to see all temples of that area should bring patience and shoes easy to put on and put off and small coins for the entrance (more like a donation to preserve the cultural treasures of Japanese Buddhism). We were allowed to take pictures from outside but not inside the building, which we respectfully accepted. The best Photo points are marked with a small smiling Japanese manikin. Our best shot with him in front of the Konpon Daitō (the big red, 45 meters high main pagoda and symbol of Koyasan) by a Japanese tourist became this article’s main picture.

Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) heartland of Koyasan:

Koyasan temples of Japanese Buddhism – Mount Kõya

Throughout the town of Mount Kõya, we found a handful of restaurants and snack places offering most of the time sushi, freshly made Japanese cuisine, and some western meals. Additional to those, we found a small grocery store where we could buy some fruits, drinks, and vegetarian snacks. All in all, our time in the mountains of Koyasan was a remarkable journey through the Japanese tradition of Buddhism, temples, and cuisine. If you have time, and you are searching for one of the most peaceful places in Japan, Koyasan might be a great choice to understand the Japanese way of preserving tradition even in our fast driven present.

Favorite pictures from Koyasan Nature

Koyasan Temples Wakayama Japan Gay Travel Koyasan temples in ofJapanese Buddhism at Mount Kõya ©
Koyasan temples on Mount Koya – Wakayama, Japan ©

The Temples on Mount Koya: Koyasan Wakayama Japan

The mountain range of Koyasan is a special, spiritual, and very peaceful place in central Japan. For us, Mount Kõya was the entrance to the spiritual well-known nature world of Prefecture Wakayama before we started our four-days pilgrimage Kumano Kodo from Kii Tanabe to Nachi. Both experiences have been a great addition to our one-month travels to Japan including Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fujiyama with the world-famous Mount Fuji. More stories about our Gay Travels to Japan soon on our Gay Couple Travel Blog.

Do you want to know more? Stay tuned… on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. See you in Japan or around the world!

Karl & Daan.