Gay Travel Guide Koyasan: 120 holy temples of Japanese Buddhism at Mount Kõya | Wakayama Prefecture
Our holy trip to the 120 Koyasan temples Japanese Buddhism Mount Kõya on 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 nature environment with our blog article “Koyasan temples Japanese Buddhism Mount Kõya” through a couple of men’s eyes!
Our way up to 120 Koyasan temples of Japanese Buddhism
After our Gay Couple Trip to Tokyo, the two Disney Parks in Toyko, 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 is 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.
Photos of & from the cable car on our way from Osaka to Koyasan:
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 fresh prepared vegatables and tofu and having a Japanese bath experience wearing Kimonos: Read all about our stay our Stay at Kumagaiji Buddhist Temple Lodging Koyasan (Kōya-san) Japan!
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 like 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 nature environment a mystical atmosphere. 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.
Our best photos of Okunoin Cementery:
Good to know about exploring Buddhism temples in Japan:
- 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 about, that Japanese people will appreciate you following their rituals.
Our best shots of Torodo (Lantern Hall) & Eireiden Temple ith Graveyard Area
Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) complex with 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 backpack 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 easily to put on and put off and small coins for the entrance (more like a donation to preserve the cultural treasures of the Japanese Buddhism). We were allowed to take pictures from outside but not inside the building, what we respectful accepted. The best Photo points are marked with a small smiling Japanese manakin. 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 articles main picture.
Pictures of Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) heartland of Koyasan:
Our time exploring Koyasan temples Japanese Buddhism Mount Kõya
Throughout the town of Mount Kõya we found a hand full of restaurants and snack places offering most of the times sushi, freshly made Japanese cuisine and some western meals. Additional to those, we found a small grocery store where we were able to buy some fruits, drinks, and vegetarian snacks. All in all, our time in the mountains of Koyasan was an amazing 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.
Our favorite picture from Koyasan Nature:
All articles interesting for your Gay Japan Travels:
- Overview over our one-month Travel to Japan >
- Our review of the Kumagaiji temple lodge stay in Koyasan >
- Enjoy our gay couple Pilgrimage Kumano Kodo Part 1 >
- Traveling somewhere else? Click for all our gay-friendly Hotel Reviews >
The 120 holy Koyasan temples of Japanese Buddhism at Mount Kõya
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.
Karl & Daan