How to Arrange a Temple Stay on Mt. Koya, Japan

September 8, 2015

Updated: September 2017

 

Visiting Japan was high on my travel bucket list. After booking a stay in Osaka and Kyoto, I decided to look for a more authentic, Japanese experience.

With the usual tourist spots covered on my itinerary, I wanted to shake things up a bit and do something that was more of a Japanese experience than just sneaking photos of Geisha girls on the street. I decided on a temple stay on Mt. Koya.

A Japanese temple stay seemed pretty magical, and Mt. Koya looked like a small town in the middle of a Zen garden. It was the perfect distance from both Kyoto and Osaka, so I couldn’t resist.

 

The halls of Eko-In

The halls of Eko-In

If you pictured Buddhist Monks delivering hot tea to your rice paper walled room, you would be correct. This Mt. Koya temple was every bit of what I imagined and as I awoke each morning to the soft padding of monks feet, I knew that breakfast was on its way to be delivered to my traditional style bed, made up on the floor.

It was quiet, and when I wasn’t exploring the mossy cemeteries that reside on Mt. Koya and temples in the nearby woods, I was sitting on my wicker chair reading by the natural sunlight that shined through the over-sized windows that overlooked the garden.

On my last evening at the temple, I spoiled myself with a cold sake room delivery before dressing in an authentic Japanese robe and wandering down the dark halls to the traditional Japanese bath. I honed in my bravery and undressed before the other women who were already at the showers, rinsing before entering the warm, communal bath. Feeling cozy from the steam, I fell asleep easily that night, preparing myself for the Monk-led mediation course in the morning.

My vegan meal, delivered right to my room

My vegan meal, delivered right to my room

How to Book a Temple Stay on Mt. Koya

At the time, I never came across anyone who had stayed in a temple and without any recommendation, the search was up to me. After a bit of Googling, I came across the 1000 year old Buddhist temple,  Eko-in on Mt. Koya.  After a glance at the exceptional reviews and facilities, I booked a room for two nights.

The traditional Japanese bath inside the temple

The traditional Japanese bath inside the temple

 

While Eko-in was AMAZING, I know there are quite a few places to stay on Mt. Koyasan. So, I’ve decided to do a little research on the best options so that you don’t have to!

 

Temple Stays on Mt. Koya

 

Eko-in

Mt. Koya Temple Stay

The Temple: This Buddhist temple is 1,000 years old. Guests here will find traditional, Japanese accommodation, free WIFI, and a Zen garden. Meals are vegetarian and delivered right to the room. And, you can order yourself a glass of hot or cold sake to be delivered with your dinner.

Mt Koyasan temple stay

The Rooms: Rooms feature tatami-mat floors, views of the garden, sliding paper doors, and futon-bedding. Guests can choose an economy style room, family room, or superior family room.

Mt Koyasan temple stay room

Mt Koyasan temple stay room

Location: Eko-in is the first temple on the bus route and is in walking distance from restaurants, shops, the cemetery, and other Buddhist temples.

Highlights: Meditation class, Goma fire ritual, traditional Japanese shared bath, opportunities to write Buddhist scripture.

Mt Koyasan temple stay

Mt Koyasan temple stay room

Mt Koyasan temple stay room

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin

Mt. Koya where to stay

The Temple: A historic Buddhist temple surrounded by Zen gardens.

Mt. Koyasan temple overnight

The Rooms: Rooms feature tatami floor mats, sliding paper screens, and futon bedding. Some rooms have garden views and private bathrooms. Vegetarian meals are delivered right to the rooms. The Koyasan cable car station is a 10-minute drive away. The temple is also in walking distance to Kongobu-ji Temple and Daimon Gate.

Temple stay mt. koya

Mt. Koya temple stay

The Location: This temple is located in the heart of Koyasan.

Highlights: Traditional Japanese baths, sauna rooms, Zen garden, opportunity to attend Buddhist morning services.

Mt Koyasan temple lodging

Mt. Koya temple

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Sojiin

Mt. koyasan

The Temple: Historic, Buddhist temple in the heart of Koyasan.

Mt Koya

The Rooms: All rooms are traditional Japanese style. However, some of them have regular beds while others have futon bedding. Guests will experience tatami floor mats as well as paper sliding doors. Vegan meals brought directly to the room.

Staying on mt. koya

Koyasan visit

The Location: The center of Koyasan town-in walking distance to restaurants and other Buddhist temples of interest.

Highlights: Opportunity to write Buddhist scriptures, Zen gardens, Buddhist ceremonies, traditional Japanese bath.

Koyasan visit

Mt. Koya temple hotel

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Koyasan Guesthouse Kokuu

The Temple: This Japanese temple is more modern than the rest, but still exudes a traditional feel. Expect lots of natural lighting, white walls, and light-colored wood.

Mt. Koyasan

The Rooms: The rooms here range from dormitory-style bunk beds to double and triple rooms.

Stay on mt. koyasan

Temple Stay mt. koyasan

The Location: Centrally located in Koyasan town.

Temple stay mt. koya

Mt. koyasan temple stay

Highlights: There is an onsite bar for late nights of sake drinking. Guests can also rent bicycles, enjoy the guest house lounge, and go hiking nearby.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Koyasan Saizenin

Mt koyasan temple stay

The Temple: This temple was originally build to house pilgrims. It was a beautiful place for them to rest as it’s surrounded by forest and mountain views. This temple has been top rated for solo travelers.

Mt. Koya temple hotel stay

Mt. Koya temple hotel

The Rooms: Each room features tatami mats, paper screens, traditional futon bedding, a sitting area, and a flat-screen T.V. A vegetarian meal is delivered to each room for dinner and breakfast.

Mt. Koya temple lodging

Mt. Koya Temple Stay

The Location: Centrally located in the town of Koyasan.

Mt. Koyasan temple hotel

Highlights: Buddhist services every morning for guests to attend. There are also traditional, Japanese baths.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Kumagaiji

Mt. koya temple hotel

The Temple: This classic Japanese temple offers beautiful views of the mountains. It’s one of the most ancient buildings in the town, as it’s adjoined with another temple build back in 837.

where to stay mt. koya

Mt. Koya where to stay

The Rooms: The minimalist rooms feature tatami floor mats, traditional futon bedding, and a television. Guests will have healthy, vegetarian meals delivered to their rooms.

mt. koya temple stay

mt. koyasan hotel

The Location: Centrally located and within walking distance of the Kongobu-ji Temple and the bus stop.

mt. koyasan temple hotel

Mt. Koyasan

 

Highlights: Guests can participate in Buddhist ceremonies, liturgy sessions, and Homa rituals. There are also traditional, Japanese baths.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Kongo Sanmaiin

Mt. Koya lodging

The Temple: This rustic Ryokan is a traditional, Japanese inn. It’s full of Japanese artwork and surrounded by Zen gardens.

Mt. Koya lodging

The Rooms: Each room features a traditional futon bed as well as paper screens, a television, and tatami mat floors.

Mt. Koya lodging

The Location: Centrally located in Koyasan town.

Mt. Koyasan temple hotel

Mt. Koya

Mt. Koyasan hotel

Highlights: Guests can join in on Buddhist ceremonies and enjoy the traditional, Japanese baths.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Henjosonin

Mt. Koyasan temple homestay

The Temple: A traditional, Japanese temple that is surrounded by forest and has an ornate Buddhist mediation room.

Mt. Koya temple lodging

The Rooms: Traditional Japanese rooms with tatami mats, paper screens, and futon bedding.

Mt. koya hotel

Temple stay mt. koya

The Location: Centrally located in town.

Mt. Koyasan

Temple stay mt. koyasan

Temple stay mt. koyasan

Highlights: Guests can enjoy a traditional, Japanese bath with a view.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Yochiin

Mt. Koya temple stay

The Temple: This historic temples features a rock garden that was created by Mirei Shigemori, the famous Japanese, landscape artist. It has also been dubbed a natural monument by the Japanese government.

Mt. Koyasan

The Rooms: All rooms features traditional futon bedding, tatami floor mats, paper screens, and a television. Vegetarian meals are delivered to each room.

Mt. koyasan temple hotel

Mt. koyasan temple hotel

The Location: Guests can walk to the Danjogaran temple in three minutes and the Kongobuji temple in ten minutes.

Mt. Koyasan temple accommodation

Mt. koyasan temple lodging

Mt. Koya temple hotel

Highlights: During their stay, guests can experience sutra copying, meditation, morning prayers, and the tracing of Buddhist deities.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Jokiin

Mt. Koya hotel

The Temple: This traditional temple is surrounded by Zen gardens and forest.

Mt. Koyasan

The Rooms: All rooms feature paper doors, tatami mats, traditional futon bedding, a T.V, and a seating area.

Mt. Koya hotel stay

Mt. Koyasan where to stay

The Location: Guests can walk to Kongobu-ji Temple in only a few minutes.

Mt. Koyasan temple stay

Mt. Koyasan temple lodging

 

Highlights: Guests can join in on the morning Buddhist prayers and experience the traditional baths.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Zoufukuin

Mt. koya hotel

The Temple: This traditional Japanese temple offers an authentic experience for guests looking to get in touch with the Buddhist culture.

Mt. Koya temple stay

Mt. Koyasan temple lodging

The Rooms: All rooms have traditional futon bedding, tatami mats, paper screens and come with a bathrobe. Vegetarian meals will be brought to each room.

Mt. Koyasan temple hotel

The Location: Guests can walk to Koyasan Reihokan Museum in only a minute, and Kongobuji temples in only five minutes.

Mt. Koyasan where to stay

Mt. Koyasan temple stay

Mt. Koyasan hotel

Highlights: A traditional, Japanese bath and the chance to attend the morning ceremony with monks.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

Sekishoin

The Temple: This ancient temple is 1100 years old and is still traditionally decorated for guests to enjoy. It features Zen gardens, small ponds and lots of beautiful, natural scenery.

Mt. Koyasan temple hotel

 

The Rooms: Rooms are traditional, Japanese style with futon bedding, tatami mats, and paper doors. Some rooms have views of the gardens and ponds. Vegetarian meals will be served in the dining room.

Mt. Koya hotel

Mt. Koya temple lodging

The Location: Guests can walk to the Kongobu-ji Temple in ten minutes and the Tokugawa Family Tomb in only fifteen minutes.

Mt. Koyasan temple stay

Mt. Koya temple hotel

Mt. koyasan where to stay

Highlights: Guests can experience the Buddhist ceremonies in the morning. There are also traditional, Japanese baths onsite to enjoy.

Check Daily Rates & Reviews HERE.

 

 

Getting to Mt. Koya

Getting to Mt. Koya from Kyoto or Osaka can be a bit of a treasure hunt. Although it doesn’t take too much time and isn’t difficult to arrive, there are quite a few steps to get from a major city to the temple’s location atop Mt. Koyasan. Here is a step-by-step route to Mt. Koyasan

• Start at either JR Shin-Osaka or JR Osaka train station

• Take a 15 minute ride on the Midosuji line to Namba Station

• At Namba, transfer to Nankai Station

• Ride the Nankai Koya line for 1 ½ hours to the Gokurakubashi train station

• At the Gokurakubashi station, take the Koya-san cable car up to Koyasan Station. The ride will take five minutes

• Ask for a map once you reach the station and you will see the Eko-in clearly marked on it

• There will be a guide telling you which bus number to get on depending on your accommodation

• Once on the bus, you will travel about 20 minutes before getting off at the closest stop to the Eko-in, Karukayado-mae

Tip: If you’re traveling around Japan, a Japan Rail Pass may be more helpful than buying individual tickets.

Figures from the beautiful graveyard on Mt. Koyasan

Figures from the beautiful graveyard on Mt. Koyasan

What to do on Mt. Koyasan

When you aren’t enjoying traditional Japanese tea, meditation courses and traditional baths inside the temple, there is plenty to explore atop this mountain. Some of the top sites:

Okuno-In Graveyard: A mausoleum surrounded by an immense and moss covered graveyard. You could wander through this graveyard for hours. There are multiple paths; even lesser traveled ones that go off into the woods. There are over 200,000 tombstones, some of them dressed in dresses and hats to represent lost children. Once you reach the Okunoin Temple, make sure to get a look at the impressive lantern hall, which houses 10,000 lanterns from floor to ceiling.

 

The Danjo Garan Temple Complex: This is one of the main temple complexes on Mt. Koyasan. For hundreds of years, Shingon, Buddhist training has been taking place here, mostly in secrecy. It’s known for its giant pagoda that reaches 50 meters in height. Make sure to visit during the sunset to get the best photos.

The Danjo Garan Temple Complex

Photo Source: Japan Travel Mate

Kongobu-ji Temple: Built back in the 1500s, it’s considered the head temple of the Shingon Buddhists. Guests can take a tour which includes traditionally decorated rooms, artwork, and famous rock garden.

Go Hiking: There are historic hiking trails all around the mountain. The Fudozaka trail is the most popular for visitors. However, more advanced hikers can trek along the Kohechi Trail, which takes about a week to complete.

A temple stay was one of the top activities on my trip that made my journey to Japan feel more like an experience than just a visit. My time there has inspired me to treat future travels in the same way and to try to find authentic experiences over trekking to the tourist sites.

 

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