Kōyasan / Mount Kōya
How To Get There
Almost everyone that goes to Kōyasan will get there from Ōsaka, but a few might go from Wakayama City if they go directly from Kansai International Airport and skip the trip into Ōsaka. So, if you are coming from anywhere else in Japan, start by making your way to Ōsaka, and the Nankai Nanba Train Station. Your dreams begin there...
Before beginning, something to keep in mind. Wherever you stay on the mountain, you most likely will not be able to check in until 4:00-4:30 in the afternoon. So, if you are anzxious and get on a 7:00am train out of Ōsaka, you'll arrive on the mountain a half day before you can go to your room.. What i usually/always do is have a long, leisurly breakfast in Ōsaka (or near Wakayama if i'm staying there) and aim for a 10:00am train so that i get to Kōyasan just after noon, stop at the lodging and ask to leave my backpack there while i wander to the Okunoin, and then come back and check-in around 5pm.
Please note that i do not guarantee that the below prices are completely accurate. These are what i currently find online and are what i would expect to see if i went today, but i do make mistakes, prices change, and you may find other options at the station where you buy your tickets while traveling. In any case, the below will give you a good idea of what to expect as you put together a budget.
• Take a Nankai Kōyasan Line train from the Nankai Nanba Station. There are several options, including Express Trains and Limited Express Trains. I recommend the regular Express Train.
• Transfer trains at Shinimamiya Station. Ask if necessary, but in general if you follow the crowds, you'll end up OK. I think that everyone has to transfer here because this is the end of the line for this train; i.e., if you don't get up a station employee will come chase you off the train. It takes about 15 minutes to get to Shinimamiya Station from Ōsaka, with no stops in-between.
• After transfering at Shinimamiya Station, get off at the end of the line, Gokurakubashi Station ('Bridge To Paridase' Station) at the base of Mt. Kōya. If you don't speak Japanese, don't worry. Just get off when all (100%) of the other passengers do. Gokurakubashi Station is the last stop; the tracks stop here. It takes about 90 minutes from Shinimamiya Station to Gokurakubashi Station.
- If you use the standard, and more frequent Express Train, it should cost ¥1,400 and take just about an hour and forty-five minutes.
- If you choose one of the slightly faster Limited Express Train (about 12 minutes faster), seats are reserved. These are more comfortable, but cost ¥2,160; the normal ¥1,400 plus a ¥760 upgrade for the Limited Express Train. As you can see on the railmap to the right (click to enlarge), the Limited Express Rinkan stops at Hashimoto anyway, forcing you to move over to the normal Express Train. The Limited Express Kōya goes all the way to Gokurakubashi Station and does skip the last dozen stops the the Express Train stops at, but the time savings is not substantial. More comfortable, yes, but more expensive. Not worth the extra money, in my opinion.
- Caution/Note: All of the trains from Shinimamiya to Gokurakubashi stop at Hashimoto Station. In some cases, the train is split in two, where the back half of the cars are disconnected so they don't have to pull so many up the mountain. They start with 8 cars in Shinimamiya, disconnect the back 4 cars at Hashimoto, and only pull those 4 cars up to Gokurakubashi. If you happen to be sitting in one of the back 4 cars, you will have to move to one of the front 4 cars at Hashimoto. I honestly don't know if this applys to ALL trains or just some of them. I'll look online and try and verify which, then update this note. In any case, be ready to do something when the train pulls into Hashimoto Station. Same train, just move to one of the front cars. Or, be sure to sit in one of the front cars when you leave Shinimamiya.
- Whatever you do, don't take a Local Train from Ōsaka, which stops at EVERY stop!
• You can also buy a "Koyasan - World Heritage Ticket" (Kōyasan Sekai Isan Kippu) at the Nankai Nanba Station in Ōsaka. You just have to ask for it. This is a special package for tourists to the mountain and has a discounted price of ¥3,310. It includes: roundtrip train tickets between Ōsaka and Kōyasan, a 2-day, ride as often as you want, pass for the bus on the mountain, 20% discount on admission fees at some of the sites on the mountain, and a 20% discount at a few of the stores in town.
From Wakayama City:
There are two ways up to Kōyasan from Wakayama City: Wakayama City to Tengachaya on the Nankai Line and then transfer there to the Nankai Kōyasan Line for the trip to Kōyasan; or Wakayama City to Hashimoto on the JR Line and then make the transfer to the Nankai Kōyasan Line there.
I don't know this route as well because i've only gone down to Wakayama City from Kōyasan once, never up from there. But, looking at online schedules i see these as example schedules for the transfer in Tengachaya:
• Take a Nankai Line train from Wakayama City Station to Tengachaya Station. (It takes about 55 minutes.) You can also leave from Wakayama Station (as opposed to Wakayama City Station) but you'll end up going back through Wakayama City Station anyhow. (Just making sure you know there is a difference between these two stations)
• Transfer to a Nankai Kōyasan Line train and go to Gukurakubashi Station at the end of the line and the base of Mt. Kōya. It takes about 90 minutes from Tenkachaya Station to Gokurakubashi Station.
- There are many options for which trains to ride going from Wakayama City to Tengachaya. If you take the Limited Express train they add a Limited Express upgrade fee of ¥500 to the price. I'd choose the Express Train.
- Once at Tengachaya Station and transfering to a Nankai Kōyasan Line train, they offer you the choice of taking a normal Express Train or taking another Limited Express Train.
• Limited Express from Wakayama City to Tengachaya: ¥500 & 53 minutes. Limited Express from Tengachaya to Gokurakubashi: ¥1,260 (normal fare) + ¥760 (Limited Express upgrade) & 74 minutes. Gokurakubashi to Kōyasan: ¥380. Total: ¥2,900 and 132 minutes riding + some amount of wait at transfer in Tengachaya and at the cable car up the mountain.
• Limited Express from Wakayama City to Tengachaya: ¥500 & 53 minutes. Express (not Limited Express) from Tengachaya to Gokurakubashi: ¥1,260 & 86 minutes. Gokurakubashi to Kōyasan: ¥380. Total: ¥2,140 and 144 minutes riding + some amount of wait at transfer in Tengachaya and at the cable car up the mountain..
Looking at online schedules i see these as example schedules for the JR Line from Wakayama to Hashimoto and then Nakai Kōyasan Line from there to Gokurakubashi:
• From Wakayama Station, take a JR Line train to Hashimoto. The online schedules i see show no stops in-between and a cost of ¥820 and 75 minutes.
• Once at Hashimoto, transfer to the Nankai Kōyasan Line and take this to Gokurakubashi Station as listed above in the "From Ōsaka" section. ¥850 and 83 minutes.
• Take the cable car up from Gokurakubashi Station to Kōyasan Station as above in the "From Ōsaka" section. ¥380 and 5 minutes.
• The one time i took this route down the mountain from Kōyasan to Wakayama Port in order to take the ferry across to Tokushima, the schedules were terrible. I remember waiting forever in Hashimoto for the JR Line train to come in. The Nankai Kōyasan Line and JR West Line don't seem to have very compatible schedules.
• For that reason, except for that one time, i always go to/from Kōyasan via Ōsaka and then take a high speed bus over to Shikoku. The ferry was a nice experience once, but now i always say, "been there, done that." If i could figure out how to make the schedules work out better, i would always take the ferry across, i love ferrys, but....
Once at Gokurakubashi Station:
- Nankai Trains & Stations
- Nankai Kōyasan Line Station Map
- Koyasan - World Heritage Ticket
- JR West Trains & Stations
- Nankai Rinkan Bus (The bus system on the mountain)
- Nankai Rinkan Bus Stops (Japanese)
- Nankai Rinkan Bus Schedule
- Guide to the Nankai Rinkan Buses (pdf)
- Official Website of the Kōyasan Tourist Association
- Welcome To Kōyasan (English/French/Italian)
- Welcome To Kōyasan (Japanese)
- Nankai Complete Guide To Kōyasan