How to get to Mount Koya using a JR Pass: Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and Nara to Koyasan, Japan

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It’s a question that arises frequently in relation to Japan travels: how to get to Mount Koya from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara followed closely by inquiries as to the possibility of using a JR Pass to travel there. Although often more time consuming than the private rail line alternative, it is possible to travel most of the way to Mount Koya using a JR Pass. We’ve outlined the routes from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara which are covered under a JR Pass ticket.

Be sure to read the first part of our guide to getting to Mount Koya: it covers the advantages and disadvantage of the JR Pass route versus the paid Nankai Private line as well as how to get to Koya from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Nara using the often faster but paid Nankai private line.

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How to Get to Mount Koya from Nara, Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka using a JR Pass

Nara, Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto are the four most popular departure points for Mount Koya and, if maximizing use of the JR Pass, the four take a similar Nara based route to the sacred Mount. The closest JR Station to Koyasan is Hashimoto which is around 20km from Koyasan and, from there, it is necessary to purchase additional tickets.

JR Pass to Mount Koya: 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.

Irrespective if you leave from Kyoto, Nara 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 for the journey up the mountain side.

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

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The only way up the mountain side!

A note of caution on using the JR pass routes: with the exception of Nara, the JR Pass based routes rely on a number of connections to different JR train lines. Be careful to plan your route in advance of departure and ensure that the various schedules are conducive with your planned journey.

As an alternative to the JR Pass routes check out our guide to using the more expensive but often more straightforward and quicker Nankai private rail line here.

Sim Card and Internet

One of the best investments you can make for your trip to Japan is to buy/rent a sim card or 4G hotspot. This will give you internet access while on the go throughout the cities in Japan, where free public wi-fi is extremely limited.

We have used both sim cards and 4G hotspots during our trips to Japan. A sim card is perfect if you just have your phone – just check the sim card is compatible with your phone The 4G hotspots are great if you have multiple devices that need internet or if you’re travelling a group. They also avoid any compatibility issues with installing a sim card.

We used the Klook app to order our sim cards for our last trip. The app is great as you can order in advance and pick up on arrival or from various departure cities.

Click here to order your sim card or 4G hotspot now

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 best Mount Koya hotel prices

Travel Guides

Here are some of the best travel guides for planning your Japan trip. We personally used the Lonely Planet Japan series for our trip planning. Click on the images below to buy yours now!

Buy your guidebook now!

1 | Nara to Mount Koya using JR Pass

There is a direct JR line between Nara and Hashimoto which is covered under the JR Pass and, since the time difference was marginal with the paid Nankai alternative through Osaka, we opted to use our JR passes for the journey between Nara and Hashimoto and would definitely recommend.

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.
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JR train: Nara to Hashimoto

Step 2: Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi

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

Step 3: 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 Gokurabashi funicular which whisks visitors up the mountainside in a cable car between Gokurabashi stations and the Koyasan bus station. The views are incredible and the journey is a real treat!
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Boarding the funicular!

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/taxi 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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Destinations are in English on the buses

2 | Kyoto to Mount Koya using JR Pass

Step 1: Kyoto to Nara

  • Use the JR Nara line to travel between Kyoto and Nara. The journey takes around 45 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.
  • Follow the Nara to Mount Koya directions from Step 1 above.

3 | Tokyo to Mount Koya using JR Pass

Step 1: Tokoyo to Shin Osaka

  • Use the JR Shinkansen line to travel between Tokoyo and Shin Osaka. The journey takes around 2 hours 30 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 2: Shin Osaka to Wakayama

  • Use the JR Kuroshio, a limited express train, to travel between Shin Osaka and Wakayama. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and is covered under the JR Pass.

Step 3: Wakayama to Hashimoto

  • Use the JR Wakayama Line to travel between Wakayama and Hashimoto. The journey takes approximately 1 hour 20 minutes and is covered under the JR Pass.
  • Follow the Nara to Mount Koya directions from Step 2 above.

4 | Osaka to Mount Koya using JR Pass

The JR Kuroshio line is most conveniently accessed at Osaka’s Shin Osaka station. From here, follow the Tokyo to Mount Koya directions from Step 2 above.

Click here to buy your JR Pass now

Koyasan World Hertiage Ticket at Hashimoto

At Hashimoto there is a choice between a standalone train ticket and a Koyasan World Heritage Ticket. The World Heritage tickets costs ¥2,160 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 discounts to some of the temples and souvenir shops in Mount Koya.

The World Heritage ticket was definitely worth it for us: the biggest bonus was not having to wait to purchase each individual ticket at the 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. It’s not quite as good value on the shorter Hashimoto to Koya part of the route but it’s worth considering depending on your needs.

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 best 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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Dawn offering in Okunoin

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