The 117 temples of Kōya-San

06 Mar 2019 in Discover Japan

Experience Buddhist life first-hand at this sacred mountain complex.

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Situated in a remote wooded area of Wakayama Prefecture, Mt. Kōya (Kōya-san) is the centre of Shingon Buddhism.

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This sacred site was founded in the early 9th century when the monk Kobo Daishi first established the sect. At its height during the Edo Period, over 2,000 temples stood here. Today, there are some 117 for you to explore.

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The must-see temples are Kongobuji, the sect’s head temple complete with a stunning rock garden (Japan’s biggest), and Okunoin, where Kobo Daishi’s mausoleum stands at the end of a forest path lined by the tombs of some 200,000 monks.

Kongobuji

Okunoin-walk

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As well as being an important historical site, Kōya-san is an active monastery complex. Wander around and you’ll see monks going about their daily business. What’s more, you can get a unique insight into Buddhist life by staying at one of the 50-plus temples that offers overnight accommodation.

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Rooms are simple with shared bathrooms. In the evening, you’ll be served shojin ryori, the traditional vegetarian cuisine of monks. The mix of tofu, seasonal vegetables and mountain plants is said to work wonders on body and mind.

The next morning, you’ll be invited to take part in chanting and prayers before a communal breakfast.

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Kōya-san is best combined with a stay in Kyoto. Book yourself into HOSHINOYA Kyoto to maintain your Zen state of mind thanks to the ryokan’s secluded riverside setting and traditional Japanese gardens!

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hoshinoya-kyoto

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