Three days in Osaka: Day 2 – Koya-san
On my second day, I did a day trip to Koya-san, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Koya-san is a large religious city established by the priest Kukai who brought Shingon Mikkyo (esoteric Buddhism) from China approximately 1200 years ago (2015 will be the 1200 year anniversary for the establishment of Koya-san). The site is approx. 850m above sea level and has over 120 temples. It is a common spot for tourists to experience a Buddhist’s lifestyle with many temples offering overnight stays. Some temples invite you to attend the morning meditation session and the majority include dinner and breakfast (vegetarian of course!).
Getting to Koyasan
Koyasan can be accessed by Nankai Railways (not covered by the JR Rail Pass) on the Nankai Koya Line. Go to Shin-Imamiya station with your JR Rail Pass then purchase a ticket to Koyasan (go to the ticket man because he will give you a brochure with bus timetables for Koyasan). There are some limited express trains (80 minutes) which depart 5 times a day, otherwise there are the rapid express trains which depart every 20 – 30 mins (100 minutes). You have to get off at Gokurakubashi station to then catch an extremely steep cable car ride up to the Koyasan site. There are regular buses that run through the Koyasan site so make sure you plan when you want to get back to the station because it gets dark quite quickly around 430pm during the winter.
What I found pretty interesting was that Gokurakubashi, written in kanji as 極楽橋, means ‘bridge to heaven’. Is Koyasan the heaven? Or is it the other way around?