After a few days in the city, Koyasan was a nice change of scenery – peaceful and serene.
This secluded temple town is the center of Shingon Buddhism and located high in the forest-covered mountains of Kansai region .
Getting to Koya-san is easier than it seems. From Osaka, it takes two change of trains, cable car and bus to get there, but don’t let this put you off.
With Japan’s efficient transport system, the transfers were seamless and it took less than four hours to get to Koya-san.
First stop: Okunoin – the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism. I thought it would be eerie visiting the cemetery. And I couldn’t be more wrong. Okunoin was peaceful, and it was refreshing walking around this sacred place.
Lunch was a simple vegetarian soba in the town. Tasty, nonetheless.
It was cold when we visited Koyasan in autumn. I was totally unprepared. We ended up sipping hot tea and enjoying Japanese sweets along the way.
There are quite a few temples in Koyasan offering temple lodging (shukubo). Most comes with breakfast and dinner. We chose Ekoin temple partly because it has wifi. Ekoin has good reviews and fitted our budget (10,000 yen per person per night including breakfast and dinner).
We were well taken care of by the monks at Ekoin. Service, as in most of Japan, is excellent.
The monk who served us, Nobu, speaks perfect English. Which was not surprising when we later found out he was educated in UK.
The room is simple, but adequate. It has all the basic amenities, including heater and kotatsu (the little heated table with futon in the picture below) which kept us nice and warm.
I especially liked the silky smooth goma-tofu (sesame tofu). It is made from sesame paste (not soy milk), water and kuzu (a thickening powder). It’s soft, creamy and has a different texture from the tofu we are used to.
After dinner, the monks came to lay our bedding.
Some temples, including Ekoin, offer night tour of Okunoin (with additional charge). If I do visit Koyasan again, I would make sure I’ve enough warm clothing and opt for this.
Although it was cold when we visited Koyasan (around 5C in the day, and colder at night), the futon bed and room heater were enough to keep us warm. I slept so soundly that I almost didn’t get up in time for prayer service the next morning.
After breakfast the next day, we checked out of Ekoin, rejuvenated.
Visiting Koyasan and spending the night in a temple was an interesting experience – one that I’d recommend.
Some temples have curfew. Curfew time for Ekoin is 10pm.
Ekoin has a fixed time for breakfast and dinner. The shower is available for a few hours in the evening. (Just don’t expect to shower anytime you fancy. We are there as a guest, not a customer.)
Do consider getting the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket which covers a round trip to Mount Koya by Nankai Railway, unlimited travel on buses in Koyasan and discount to selected tourist attractions.