It’s not an easy feat to arrive at Mt Koya, but the journey makes you appreciate the secluded village, which is considered the centre of Shingon Buddhism, even more. Just be prepared for the cooler temperatures. It didn’t quite snow, but it was pretty close.
Kayosan is essentially a temple town with numerous temples and shrines scattered throughout, with a few shops and cafes dotted in between. Do take the time to wander through the streets as it offers an eerily peaceful ambiance, particularly with the setting sun.
Most people who venture up the mountain do so to visit the Okunoin Temple, Japan’s largest and most sacred cemetery. You cross various bridges and walk the path to the mausoleum where it is believed the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, is in eternal meditation.
If you are game you can do a night tour through the cemetery, however, late in the afternoon when the sun is settling beneath the trees, and in my case the fog slowly rolling in, I think it was eery enough.
Do ensure that you book the night at one of the Buddhist Temples, it’s an effort to get to the top of the mountain so you do not want to rush back down. It also means that you embrace the quiet mindfulness that the temple gardens offer, the fabulous vegetarian meals, and the morning prayers and meditation that quite often in our western lifestyle we struggle to find time to do.