How To Get to Mount Koya from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara: travelling to Koyasan, Japan

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The mystical mountain scenery, peaceful temples and Okuoin cemetery in Mount Koya make it a must visit for any Japan itinerary. However, getting to Mount Koya is generally viewed as difficult, perhaps because the JR Pass route is not direct and many travelers switch over to the non JR Nankai private rail line for a quicker journey. Mount Koya is absolutely worth a little extra effort and the journey is quite easy when you know how! Here’s our how to guide to get to Koyasan, be sure to save it for your trip!

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Dawn walks through Okunoin Cemetery, Mount Koya

Using the JR Pass for travel to Mount Koya

It’s the first decision to make prior to a Koyasan adventure: take the cheaper but slower JR Pass route or the faster but more expensive Nankai private rail line. It’s a time versus cost decision and depends on where you are travelling to Koya from and we’ve outlined the options below. Although we really wanted to maximise the use of our JR Pass we came to the conclusion that our limited time in Japan deserved the extra cost of the faster Nankai private rail line and went with that option.

We travelled with a green JR Pass which we purchased prior to travelling to Japan – you can check out the latest prices for green and ordinary passes on Japan Rail Pass where we purchased our JR passes

Click here to buy your JR pass now

For travellers from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka  In terms of the extra costs of travelling to Koya on the Nankai private line, we figured out the prices as follows:

  • Option 1 JR Pass to Hashimoto: The closest JR Station to Koyasan is Hashimoto which is around 20km from Koyasan. It’s possible to travel as far as Hashimoto Station using the JR Pass and then switch onto the private Nankai Line to continue the journey. This, together with the required cable car up the mountainside to Koyasan, will cost ¥730 each way together with the mandatory Koyasan bus fare at an additional cost.

JR Pass total cost: ¥1,460 (¥730 each way including return cable car) + Koyasan buses in addition

  • Option 2 Private Nankai Line from Namba or Shin Imamiya: There are 5 limited express trains per day on the Nankai Line that travel directly to Gokurakubashi from either Namba or Shin Imamiya for a ¥1,650 fare.The train ride to the cable car at Koyasan takes around 80 minutes. Alternatively, there are express/rapid express trains which take 100 minutes for a ¥870 Yen fare and leave more frequently. The cable car is ¥390 in addition to the standalone train ticket. If travelling to Shin Osaka from Kyoto a ¥270 subway ticket is needed to get onto the Nankai Line at Namba.

Click here to order your Nankai Line tickets now

Nankai Line total cost: ¥2,520 (¥1,260 each way including return cable car) OR Limtited Express on outward trip at ¥3,300 (including return cable car) + Koyasan buses in addition

  • Option 3 Combination ticket:  World Heritage Combination tickets are available from Namba or Imamiya which include transport to and from Mount Koya and buses within Mount Koya for two days. If travelling to Shin Osaka from Kyoto a ¥270 subway ticket is needed to get onto the Nankai Line at Namba.

World Heritage Ticket total Cost: ¥2,860 OR Limited Express on outward trip ¥3,400 (includes Koyasan buses)

For Nara travellers: if you are travelling to or from Nara to Mount Koya the JR Pass route to Hashimoto is direct and we would recommend taking the JR line in this case. On leaving Koyasan we switched onto the JR Pass line at the earliest opportunity which is Hashimoto.

Read on for our guide on the quickest routes to Mount Koya or, if you prefer to maximise the use your JR Pass, switch over to our post on how to get to Koyasan by JR Pass here!

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Hashimoto: closest JR station to Koyasan

How to Get to Mount Koya from Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and Nara

Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are the three most popular departure points for Mount Koya and, if taking the private Nankai line, the three take a similar route to the sacred Mount. For Nara, where we travelled to after Koyasan, the JR Pass route is straightforward and we switched back over to a JR line. We’ve outlined the JR Pass (check out our guide to the JR Pass routes here) and the private line routes to help you figure out how to get to and from Mount Koya.

Getting to Koyasan: Irrespective if you leave from Kyoto, Tokyo or Osaka or if you take the JR or private line route everyone ends up at Gokurakubashi station to switch to the cable car (not covered by JR Pass) for the journey up the mountain side.

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All routes arrive here!

How to get to Koya using the Nankai Line (non JR Pass route)

We’ll start with the Nankai Private Line, the non JR Pass route, as it’s the quickest way to get to Koya from Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

1 | Kyoto to Mount Koya

The Nankai line is the quickest and easiest way to get to Mount Koya and is most conveniently accessed at Osaka’s Namba or Shin Imamiya stations from where the Nankai line goes to Gokurakubashi. Tickets must be reserved in advance so make sure to purchase on arrival at Namba or Shin Imamiya station.

Option A: Kyoto to Shin Osaka

Step 1a: Kyoto to Shin Osaka

  • From Kyoto take the JR Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin Osaka. The journey takes 12 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 2a: Shin Osaka to Namba

  • At Shin Osaka switch to the Midosuji subway line to travel to Namba station. The journey takes 15 minutes and is not covered under the JR pass. The cost is ¥270.
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Switch to Midosuji subway line
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Getting the subway

Step 3a: Switch to Nankai Line

  • At Namba Station make your way to the 2nd and 3rd floors to the Nankai Namba Station where the Koyasan tickets and trains are available
  • Continue to step 4.
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Nankai Namba Station where Koyasan tickets are sold

Option B:

Step 1b: Kyoto to Osaka

  • From Kyoto take the R Special Rapid Service to Osaka Station. The journey takes 30 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 2b: Osaka to Imamiya Station

  • At Osaka switch to the JR Osaka Loop to Shin Imamiya Sation. The journey takes 12 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 3b: Switch to Nankai Line

  • At Shin Imamiya Station switch to the Nankai line where the Koyasan tickets and trains are available.
  • Continue to Step 4
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The Nankai Line train

Where to Stay in Mount Koya

If you’ve visiting Mount Koya we cannot recommend highly enough staying at one of the Buddhist monestaries. A night in a traditional Buddhist Temple, eating Buddhist vegetarian meals and watching the dawn prayer service was an intimate and unforgettable experience. We recommend staying close to Okunoin Cemetary which will allow easy access late at night and early in the morning. The best Buddhist temples close to the cemetary are

  • Yochi-in: All rooms in Yochi-in are Japanese style with traditional futon bedding and is perfectly located for exploring the historic town of Koyasan. For the location, quality of accomodation and on-site onsen Yochi-in is very good value in Mount Koya – Check prices now!
  • Shukubo Koya-san Eko-in Temple Enjoy group meditation, delicious meals and morning prayers at this temple located by the entrance to Okunoin Cemetary – Check prices here
  • Kumagaiji: Recently renovated 9th century monastery has a more modern feel than other temples, with Wi-Fi and comfy chairs on the balcony’s of each room. The monks are happy for people with tattoos to use the onsen, something which is not usually common in Japan – Check prices here

Click here for the latest Mount Koya hotel prices

Step 4: Take the Nankai line from Namba or Shin Imamiya to Gokukurabashi

NOTE: A recent typhoon caused damage to the railway tracks between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi meaning the train only operates as far as Hashimoto. A substitute bus operates to Koyasan. The train service is expected to resume in April 2018.

There are 5 limited express trains per day that travel directly to Gokurakubashi for a ¥1,650 fare.The train ride to the cable car at Koyasan takes around 80 minutes and is pretty spectacular as it approaches the Kii mountain range near Mount Koya. Alternatively, there are express and rapid express trains which take 100 minutes for a ¥870 fare and leave more frequently. It may be necessary to transfer at Hashimoto.

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The trains at Gokurakubashi
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Gokurakubashi Station

Step 5: At Gokurakubashi take the funicular to Koyasan

As Mount Koya is situated in the mountains the only public transport option for getting there is via the Gokurakubashi funicular which whisks visitors up the mountainside in a cable car between Gokurakubashi stations and the Koyasan bus station. The views are incredible and the journey is a real treat!

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Boarding the funicular
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Meeting another cable car: traffic jam Koyasan style!

Step 6: Jump on a bus or grab a taxi

The funicular drops passengers at the Koyasan bus station. No walking is permitted on the mountainous road between the bus station and the town centre so a bus or car must be used. The bus staff will tell you which bus you should take to your accommodation or to a particular Koya sight. The bus routes are:

  • Koyasan bus station to Okunoin
  • Koyasan bus station to Daimon Gate
  • Daimon Gateto Okunoin
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Koyasan bus station
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English destinations are shown on the buses

2 | Tokyo to Mount Koya

Step 1: Tokoyo to Shin Osaka

  • Take the JR Shinkansen Line from Tokyo to Shin Osaka. The journey is around 2 hours 45 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.
  • Follow Kyoto directions from step 2a above.

3 | Osaka to Mount Koya

Step 1: Travel to Osaka’s Namba or Imamiya Stations

From Osaka, Namba or Shin-Imamiya are the most conveniently accessed stations for the Nankai line.

  • From Namba or Shin-Imamiya Nankai Line stations follow the Kyoto directions from Step 4 above.

4 | Nara to Mount Koya

The slightly quicker and most flexible way to travel between Mount Koya and Nara is to go via Osaka and switch to the Nankai Private Line. However, there is a direct JR line between Nara and Hashimoto which is covered under the JR Pass and, since the time difference is marginal, we opted to use our JR passes for the journey between Nara and Hashimoto and would definitely recommend. For a more extensive outline of JR Pass travels to Mount Koya, switch to this post.

OPTION A: VIA OSAKA (NON JR PASS)

Step 1: Nara to Shin Imamiya

  • Use the JR Yamatoji Line to travel from Nara to Shin Imamiya. The journey takes 35 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.
  • From Shin Imamiya follow the Kyoto directions from Step 3b above.

OPTION B: JR WAKAYAMA LINE (JR PASS)

Step 1: Nara to Hashimoto

  • Take the JR Wakayama Line from Nara to Hashimoto. Be careful as not all Wakayama trains are direct to Hashimoto: some require a transfer at Oji or Takada. The journey takes 1 hour 40 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 2: Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi

  • Switch to the Nankai Private line from Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi. The journey takes 45 minutes and costs ¥440.

Step 3: At Gokurakubashi take the funicular to Koyasan

  • A cable car is necessary to climb the mountainside at Mount Koya. The journey takes 5 minutes and costs ¥390. See step 5 in Kyoto to Koya above for more details.

Step 4: Jump on a bus or grab a taxi

  • The funicular drops passengers at the Koyasan bus station. No walking is permitted on the mountainous road between the bus station and the town centre so a bus or car must be used. See step 6 in Kyoto to Koya above for more details

World Heritage ticket at Hashimoto: a World Heritage ticket can be purchased at Hashimoto at a cost of ¥2,160. This covers a return journey between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi, the cable car both ways and 2 days of bus travel in Koyasan.

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Back on the JR Line at Hashimoto
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The transfer at Hashimoto is well sign posted

Koyasan World Hertiage Ticket

At Namba and Shin Imamiya stations there is a choice between a standalone train ticket and a Koyasan World Heritage Ticket. The World Heritage tickets costs ¥2,860 and this combined ticket covers all transport to and from Koyasan as well as buses within Mount Koya for two days: it includes return journeys on the Nankai rail line to Gokurabashi (the last train station before Mount Koya), the funicular from Gokurabashi to Koyasan bus station and the buses in Mount Koya for 2 days. It gives a small discount to some of the temples and souvenir shops in Mount Koya. A  ¥3,400 ticket is available which includes a Limited Express ticket for the outward trip.

The World Heritage ticket was definitely worth it for us: the biggest bonus was not having to wait to purchase each individual ticket at various train, bus and funicular stations. It saved us an hour on the way home as we were able to jump on the waiting funicular while others purchasing tickets had to wait for the next. Plus it’s pretty good value as it covers all travel costs for up to two days.

Where to Stay in Mount Koya

If you’ve visiting Mount Koya we cannot recommend highly enough staying at one of the Buddhist monestaries. A night in a traditional Buddhist Temple, eating Buddhist vegetarian meals and watching the dawn prayer service was an intimate and unforgettable experience. We recommend staying close to Okunoin Cemetary which will allow easy access late at night and early in the morning. The best Buddhist temples close to the cemetary are

  • Yochi-in: All rooms in Yochi-in are Japanese style with traditional futon bedding and is perfectly located for exploring the historic town of Koyasan. For the location, quality of accomodation and on-site onsen Yochi-in is very good value in Mount Koya – Check prices now!
  • Shukubo Koya-san Eko-in Temple Enjoy group meditation, delicious meals and morning prayers at this temple located by the entrance to Okunoin Cemetary – Check prices here
  • Kumagaiji: Recently renovated 9th century monastery has a more modern feel than other temples, with Wi-Fi and comfy chairs on the balcony’s of each room. The monks are happy for people with tattoos to use the onsen, something which is not usually common in Japan – Check prices here

Click here for the latest Mount Koya hotel prices

Staying in the Mount Koya temples: check your booking for any restrictions on check in times at the Koyasan temples. Many require a pre dinner check in and, if this is the case, be sure to plan your journey accordingly.

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Morning prayer service in the temple

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16 thoughts on “How To Get to Mount Koya from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara: travelling to Koyasan, Japan”

  1. Hi! I am reading your blog and trying to map out our route from Tokyo to Mount Koya in the most time effective way! I am a little unclear on what you say the fastest route is – Can you clarify please? We don’t mind switching from the JR pass to the private rail line.. thanks so much!!

    Reply
    • Hi Lizzy,
      the fastest route from Tokyo to Mount Koya is to take the JR Shinkansen Line from Tokyo to Shin Osaka. From Shin Osaka take the metro to the Namba station and use the private Nankai line to get to Mount Koya. This is not covered by the JR pass, see teh article above. We reccommend the Koyasan World Hertiage Ticket as it includes return journey on the Nankai line, the funicular up to Mount Koya and buses within Koya. The trip is possible on the JR pass from Shin-Osaka, but it’s a lot slower.

      Hope you enjoy Mount Koya, it’s an incredible place!

      Reply
  2. Hi! How long is the trip from Mt. Koya back to Tokyo? Would you recommend breaking up the trip and stopping anywhere?
    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Hi, from Mt. Koya you will need to first get to Osaka and from there a bullet train to Tokyo. You can easily do this in a day, leaving Mt. Koya early in the morning, but it might be worth staying overnight in Osaka for the night as it’s a cool city.

      Reply
  3. How far in advance can or should you buy your tickets? Just day of? We’re going to Mt. Koyasan from Kyoto on March 20th and I’m concerned about tickets being sold out. We arrive in Kyoto on March 16th. Any advice is appreciated. Your article is super helpful! Totally going to get the Heritage pass!

    Reply
  4. Hi , thank you so much!
    I’m writing you from Argentina, still trying to figure out how to get to Koya san.
    I will stay a couple of days in Kyoto , and my plan A was to do a side trip to nara from kyoto , then on the next day go to koya san from kyoto as well.
    I believe maybe the best way would be this plan B :
    Kyoto to nara ( spend the night )
    nara to koya san
    koya san to osaka
    ( i would like to to koya san to hiroshima , but i think that wouldn’t be possible , right? )
    What option would be best ?
    THANK YOU!

    Reply
    • Hiroshima to Koya would be alot as you’d have to go through Osaka or Nara and it’s a long journey. I’d go with your plan B as your first itinerary would have you doubling back on yourself from Kyoto to Nara and back to Koya. Have you come across our itinerary post (it’s here) – we did something similar for Koya – there’s a really convenient hotel at the train station in Nara (Nikko – you’ll see it in our itinerary) – perfect for a one night stopover. Nara is really lovely and the deer wandering around are fantastic!

      Elaine

      Reply
  5. Thanks. This is a really helpful summary of the options. I have a question – would you spend two nights there? I leave Tokyo at 7PM to see Himeji. From what I read the castle is amazing, but will take 4 hours max to see. If I spend the night in Himeji and start early I can be done by early PM. That gives me time to get to Koya-San for two nights. Then on to Nara for one night via Namba (I will have the pass).

    Reply
    • Hi John

      I think it’s definitely worth having two nights in Koya especially as you’ll be arriving late. Have you seen this article we did on things to do in Koya? We thought there was a lot to do, it kept us busy! Just make sure to confirm the check-in times if you’re staying at a monastery – I seem to recall they had an earlyish last check-in time which might be something you want to consider.

      Elaine

      Reply
  6. Hi Elaine, I went to Koyasan on my own today following your advice in this blogpost and was thinking about how grateful we should all be for people like you doing the effort of describing things so detailed for other travelers. Really helpful. ?? Thank you! Marion
    ps I found Koyasan a serene and beautiful place, definitely with this wonderful spring weather … would go back if I were to travel to Japan again

    Reply
  7. Hi Elaine,

    Several years later and this post is still very much helpful, we used your guide all the way from Kyoto. We stayed a Fudouin for 2-nights (highly recommended!)

    For those interested, we took the following and had:

    – Suico Card from Tokyo, this works on all Subways/trains (except the bullet trains) through Kyoto and Osaka
    – Purchased a bundle for Koyasan once we arrived at Namba station, this included transportation there and back for all trains for 2-days. Does not cover bus (which is cash only)

    1) Kyoto to Shin-Osaka on the Nozami (JR) — this was a quick 10~12 min. ride, I don’t think it’s necessary to take the Nozami next time

    2) Once you exit, head towards the Subway signs

    3) Walking towards Midosuji subway was quite a bit of a walk

    4) Get on the train to Namba station — this was several stops away

    5) Once at Namba, head up a few flights to get to Nankai station. Here is where you will buy your Koyasan tickets

    6) Follow the arrows on the ground towards the Ticket Counter — they’ll help you with which bundle you should get depending on the lengh of your stay. For us, we are staying 2-nights, so they recommended a bundle for 2400Y each person

    7) There are two trains that will take you to Koyasan: (Express) which seemed faster that’ll drop you off at Gokurakubashi, and the other (slightly longer) will take you to Hashimoto — which requires a transfer to Gokurakubashi

    8) The attendee gave use the longer route, however bundled for 2-days. Once we arrived at Hashimoto, there aren’t any obvious signs telling you the platform on the other side (track 5) is the one you need to get to Gokurakubashi. DO NOT EXIT THE STATION ONCE YOU ARRIVE HERE, otherwise you’ll likely end up on the JR back to somewhere? In any case, there should be a train already there in queue.

    9) Jump on, enjoy the ride for 80 min. and you’ll finally arrive at the cable car; it’s the end of the line

    10) Try to get on the cable car as fast as you can, there’s a schedule when these run. We had to stop for the bathroom, otherwise we could have saved 30 minutes

    11) Arrive at top of the mountain, and proceed to the bus. We needed the bus at platform 2. Again, cash only. You can get change at the service window before getting on.

    12) Figuring out the bus stop cost is simple, the top-left box at the front of the bus will be the amount you have to pay based on the stop you need to get to. Our stop was at Stop 8, which was about 380Y per person. Remember to press the STOP button, otherwise the bus will pass your stop.

    Now to do everything in reverse order.

    Thanks again Elaine!

    Reply

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