Visit Japan's Most Sacred Mountain
In 2015, Mt. Koya, one of Japan’s most sacred sites, celebrates 1,200 years since its esoteric Buddhist dojo was opened by Kobo Daishi Kukai. Read the full story to find out about the wealth of activities you can experience on Mt. Koya to relax and gain a better understanding of Japanese Buddhism.
In 2015, Mt. Koya, one of Japan’s most sacred sites, celebrates 1,200 years since its esoteric Buddhist dojo was opened by Kobo Daishi Kukai. In this memorable year, for 50 days from 2 April to 21 May 2015 memorial services will be held on Mt. Koya in gratitude to the great heritage left by Kobo Daishi Kukai. Kobo Daishi chose Mt. Koya (known in Japanese as Koyasan) in the Kii mountain range, surrounded by great nature and far from the hustle and bustle of the city, to build his esoteric dojo. Kobo Daishi was motivated by the desire to educate people who would work for the happiness of others and pray for eternal peace and security for the country and society.
Still today Mt. Koya is one of Japan's premier training centres for Esoteric Buddhism with dozens of temples, gardens, and old growth trees. Kobo Daishi is believed to still live here, sitting in eternal meditation in an elaborate mausoleum. On Mt. Koya you can immerse yourself in the mystical world of Japanese Buddhism while staying in one of the dozens of temples.
Things to do on Mt. Koya* Spend a night in a temple
Temple lodging or shukubo, as they are known, are a great way to experience a quieter, simpler, more spiritual life. A stay includes vegetarian food, an early rise, and participation in morning Buddhist services. The most famous place in Japan for shukubo is Mt. Koya, where about 50 temples offer lodgings. Average costs are around 10,000 yen (£56) per night, including breakfast and dinner. Visit the Koyasan Shukubo Association website to find a shukubo to stay in, eng.shukubo.net.
The area around Mt. Koya is known as the Kumano region and it is packed with sacred places. A network UNESCO World Heritage listed pilgrimage routes called the Kumano Kodo lead to these isolated spiritual hot spots. Along the trail are quaint accommodations and soothing hot springs, including the Kawayu Onsen in Hongu, where hot mineral waters bubbles to the surface of the river. Find out more about the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage travel hikes here or book a trip with a tour operator like Walk Japan or Oku Japan
* Ajikan Meditation
At Kongobu-ji Temple on Mt. Koya, you can practice ajikan meditation in Japan’s largest rock garden, which is ordinarily closed to the public. Ajikan is a form of breathing exercise and meditation practiced in Shingon Buddhism. Meditate in tranquility amidst the pure aura of Mount Koya, still the mind, and leave your busy life. Monks are on hand to guide beginners, so this is an excellent addition to your visit to Mt. Koya. Find out more here, www.koyasan.or.jp.
* Shakyo Sutra Copying
Studying the Heart Sutra intently is said to lead to enlightenment. A Kongobu-ji Temple you can join a shakyo session to copy this sutra one character at a time, paying close attention to the meaning contained in every word. If you focus your entire action on this task, you will forget idle thoughts and still your mind. The activity is recommended as a way to develop a tranquil, bountiful state of mind. More here.
* Flower Arrangement
Kobo Daishi teaches us that, ‘We are but one part of the universe, and all plants, animals, and sentient beings have the same life. We must live together in harmony with that around us.” Bringing out the life force and vitality of flowers and understanding their true nature is at the essence of Koyasan Flower Arrangement. Classes are available on Mt. Koya, but also in Osaka and Tokyo. See here for more.
* Forest Therapy
Forest therapy is a program that lets you regain your energies amidst the natural beauty, scents, sounds, and textures of the forest. Witness nature with your five senses as you unwind. In addition to being designated a World Heritage Site for the sacred areas and temple roads along the Kii Mountains, Mt. Koya was also been designated a forest therapy site in 2007. Click here for dates and further details.
New Place to Stay on Mt. KoyaIn 2013, Mt. Koya’s first guesthouse opened, giving travellers on a budget a cheap and comfortable accommodation option. Guesthouse Kokku (pictured right) is a compact, minimalist hostel that draws on capsule hotel design to offer guests private double rooms, and cubicles for single travellers. The owners are a DJ and a great cook, so your stay will be filled with good music and good food. Stays cost from just 3,500 yen (£20) per night.
Mt. Koya is less than two hours from Osaka. It is most conveniently accessed by Nankai Railways from Osaka’s Namba or Shin-Imamiya Stations. Take the Nankai Koya Line from either station to the Gokurakubashi station (80 minutes, 1,650 yen (£9.30), five trains per day). At Gokurakubashi, transfer to the cablecar which travels up the mountain to Mt. Koya. The ride takes about five minutes and costs 390 yen (£2.20). To save money consider using a Koyasan World Heritage Ticket or Kansai Thru Pass.
For more information visit the websites below:
* Official website of Kongobu-ji Head Temple
* Koyasan Shukubo Association
* Kumuno Kodo Pilgrimage routes for hikers
* Wakayama Tourism (the prefecture that Mt. Koya is in)