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Okunoin (̉@) is the site of the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi (also known as Kukai), the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most revered persons in the religious history of Japan. Instead of having died, Kobo Daishi is believed to rest in eternal meditation as he awaits Miroku Nyorai (Maihreya), the Buddha of the Future, and provides relief to those who ask for salvation in the meantime. Okunoin is one of the most sacred places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage spot.

The Ichinohashi Bridge (first bridge) marks the traditional entrance to Okunoin, and visitors should bow to pay respect to Kobo Daishi before crossing it. Across the bridge starts Okunoin's cemetery, the largest in Japan, with over 200,000 tombstones lining the almost two kilometer long approach to Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. Wishing to be close to Kobo Daishi in death to receive salvation, many people, including prominent monks and feudal lords, have had their tombstones erected here over the centuries.

A second, shorter approach to Okunoin, which is used by the majority of visitors these days, starts at the Okunoin-mae bus stop and cuts the walk to the mausoleum in half (to slightly under a kilometer). This alternative route leads through a more recent addition to the cemetery with modern tombstones by individuals, associations and companies, including some surprising ones, such as a pest control company's memorial to all the termites that their products have been exterminating.

Regardless of which approach you choose, both paths meet up at the Gokusho Offering Hall which lies near a row of statues depicting Jizo, a popular Bodhisattva that looks after children, travelers, and the souls of the deceased. Visitors make offerings and throw water at the statues, known as Mizumuke Jizo (Water Covered Jizo) to pray for departed family members.

The Gobyobashi Bridge crosses a stream behind the Mizumuke Jizo that separates the innermost grounds of the temple from the rest of Okunoin. Visitors should again bow to Kobo Daishi before crossing, and photography, food and drink are forbidden beyond this point. To the left of the bridge are a group of wooden markers placed in the stream as a memorial to unborn children.

A few meters past the bridge on the left side of the path lies the Miroku Stone, housed in a small cage. Visitors are challenged to lift the stone from the cage's lower platform to an upper platform with only one hand. It is believed that the stone feels lighter to good people and heavier to bad people, and that it can provide a connection to the Miroku Bodhisattva.

Torodo Hall (Hall of Lamps) is Okunoin's main hall for worship, built in front of Kobo Daishi's mausoleum. Inside the hall are more than 10,000 lanterns, which were donated by worshipers and are kept eternally lit. In the hall's basement are 50,000 tiny statues that have been donated to Okunoin on the occasion of the 1150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi's entrance into eternal meditation in 1984.

Behind Torodo Hall is Kobo Daishi's Mausoleum (Gobyo), the site of his eternal meditation. Visitors come from all over to pray to Kobo Daishi, and it is not uncommon to see pilgrims chanting sutras here.

Some guidebooks suggest visiting Okunoin's graveyard at night. A night time visit indeed provides a special atmosphere that is quite different from that of a day time visit, but note that some parts of the path are poorly lit. It is possible to venture all the way to the mausoleum during the night, but neither the Torodo Hall nor any of the the other offering halls are open. Also, please behave respectfully and keep in mind that photography, food and drink are prohibited beyond the Gobyobashi Bridge.

Getting there and around

The Ichinohashi Bridge is a 10-15 minute walk or short bus ride (140 yen) from the Senjuinbashi intersection at the town center. From the bus stop, it is about a two kilometer walk to the mausoleum along the traditional approach through the graveyard.

Okunoin-mae bus stop is the final stop of the main bus line that connects Okunoin with the town center (Senjuinbashi) and the cablecar station. The bus ride takes 20 minutes and 420 yen from the cablecar station or 10 minutes and 220 yen from the town center. There are 2-3 buses per hour. From the bus stop, it is about a one kilometer walk to the mausoleum through a newer part of the graveyard.

How to get to and around Koyasan

Hours and Fees

Torodo (Hall of Lanterns)

Hours

Closed

Admission

Gokusho Offering Hall

Hours

Closed

Admission

Hotels around Mount Koya

Top rated on Mount Koya
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    • Koyasan Guest House Tommy
      Budget-friendly
      Located 500 metres from Kongobu-ji Temple, Koyasan Guest House Tommy in Koyasan provides rooms with air conditioning and free WiFi. This 1-star guest house offers luggage storage space. The guest house features family rooms. At the guest house, each room comes with a desk, a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, bed linen and towels. Guest rooms will provide guests with a fridge. Nyonindo is 1.4 km from Koyasan Guest House Tommy. The nearest airport is Kansai International Airport, 40 km from the accommodation.
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    • Koyasan Shukubo Fudoin
      Mid-range
      Located in Koyasan, within 800 metres of Kongobu-ji Temple and 1.7 km of Nyonindo, Koyasan Shukubo Fudoin provides accommodation with a garden and as well as free private parking for guests who drive. This 3-star ryokan offers luggage storage space. The ryokan features family rooms. Guest rooms at the ryokan are equipped with a TV and a safety deposit box. All guest rooms include bed linen. Guests at Koyasan Shukubo Fudoin can enjoy a vegetarian breakfast. The nearest airport is Kansai International Airport, 41 km from the accommodation.
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    • Shukubo Koya-san Eko-in Temple
      Mid-range
      A 1000 year-old Buddhist temple, Shukubo Koya-san Eko-in offers Japanese-style accommodation, a beautiful garden and free WiFi. Guests are free to attend Buddhist morning services, the Goma fire ritual and meditation. Rooms feature tatami-mat flooring, comfortable futon bedding and paper sliding screens. They are fitted with an LCD TV and a safe. Bathroom facilities are shared, and the public baths are open 16:00-22:00 and 06:00-09:00 daily. Shukubo Temple is close to other ancient Buddhist buildings such as Kongobu-ji Temple, which is a 10-minute walk. The Ichi-no-Hashi entrance to the ancient Okuno-In Temple is a 3-minute walk away. Guests can experience group meditation, and they can write Buddhist texts with a brush and ink on scrolls at their room. They can also go hiking in the scenic surroundings of Koya-san Eko-in. The temple has a lounge with a PC corner. Meals are served at the guest room at scheduled times and feature Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, and gluten-free meals can be requested at an additional fee. Groups of 4 or more persons dine at the Japanese-style dining room, where chairs can be provided upon advance request.
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    • Jokiin
      Mid-range
      Located in Koyasan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jokiin offers free private parking. All rooms include a flat-screen TV. Certain rooms have a seating area where you can relax. Rooms have a shared bathroom. Jokiin features free WiFi throughout the property. There is luggage storage space at the property. Guests can participate in the morning prayers upon request. The property is a minute's walk from Kongobu-ji Temple. The temple building is also situated nearby.
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    • Kumagaiji
      Budget-friendly
      A Buddhist temple lodging accommodation, Kumagaiji lies amid mountains in the sacred Koyasan area. It features classic Japanese architecture and a tranquil atmosphere, adjoining a temple built in 837. The property serves traditional vegetarian meals. Featuring minimalist lines and a serene beauty, rooms come with a tatami (woven-straw) floor and traditional futon bedding. A TV and a low table are provided. Bathroom and toilet are shared with other guests. Certain rooms feature garden views. Kumagaiji offers free WiFi in all rooms. A limited number of free tablet rental is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Luggage can be stored at the property at no extra charge. Guests can participate in Buddhist liturgy sessions and Homa rituals in the morning, free of charge. Activities such as Sutra copying and the tracing of Buddhist images are offered at an additional charge. Healthy vegetarian meals are served in the dining room for dinner and breakfast. The property is a 2-minute walk from bus stop Karukayado-mae, which is a 15-minute bus ride from the Koyasan Cablecar Station. The famous Kongobu-ji Temple is a 12-minute walk away.
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    • Sojiin
      Luxury
      Located at the heart of Mount Koya, Sojiin offers Japanese-style accommodations in a Buddhist temple. Vegan meals are served for dinner and breakfast. Sakai is 42 km from Soji. The nearest airport is Kansai International Airport, 40 km from the property.
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    • Yochi-in
      Budget-friendly
      Located in the sacred Mount Koya area, Yochi-in is a historic temple and an accommodation for visitors. Just to the left of entering sanmon gate, there is a stone garden created by the famous Mirei Shigemori and designated a natural monument by the Japanese government. Guests can experience temple activities such as meditation, sutra copying and tracing of Buddhist deities at an additional charge, if reserved in advance. Guests can also participate in morning prayers, which do not require reservation. All rooms at Yochi-in are Japanese-style and feature tatami (woven-straw) floors. Traditional futon bedding, a TV, fan and heater are provided. Bathroom and toilet are shared with other guests. The spacious public baths feature a hot tub. On-site luggage storage is available. Guests with reservations that include a meal can enjoy delicately prepared homemade vegetarian meals featuring seasonal dishes. Convenience stores are located within a 3-minute walking distance from the property. It is a 10-minute walk from the famous Kongobuji Temple. Guests can visit the Buddhist temple, Danjogaran, just a 3-minute walk away.
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    • Koyasan Saizenin
      Mid-range
      Located in the sacred Koyasan area, Saizenin offers simple accommodation surrounded by mountains and many temples. Originally developed as a lodging for the templesf pilgrims, it conducts Buddhist services every morning that guests can attend. Nankai Koyasan Train Station is a 15-minute drive away. Fitted with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and traditional futon bedding, each room comes with a flat-screen TV and a seating area. A safety deposit box is also provided. The Koyasan Saizenin features luggage storage and free parking. Kansai International Airport is 40 km away. Nankai Namba Train Station in Osaka is a 2-hour train ride from the proprety. Healthy vegetarian meals are served in the guest room or in the dining room for dinner and breakfast.
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    • Koyasan Zofukuin
      Budget-friendly
      Open from 2017 and located in Mount Koya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Zoufukuin offers a traditional Japanese-style accommodation housed within a Buddhist temple. Guests can reach Zoufukuin in 10 minutes by bus from Koyasan Station to Reihokanmae Bus Stop. Koyasan Reihokan Museum is a minute's walk from Zoufukuin, while Kongobuji is a 5-minute walk away. Koyasan Daishikyokai is a 2-minute walk away and Koyasan University is 5 minutes away on foot. Kansai International Airport is 40 km from the property. All rooms are Japanese-style rooms and include bathrobes. The bathroom is shared. Guests with a meal plan will be provided with local traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine. There is a convenience store within a 3-minute walk from the property.
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    • Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin
      Mid-range
      Located at the heart of Mount Koya, Koyasan Onsen Fukuchiin Shukubo offers Japanese-style accommodations in a historical Buddhist temple. Guests can refresh in the public hot-spring baths, experience Shakyo Sutra transcriptions or attend Buddhist morning services. Koyasan Cable Car Station is a 10-minute drive away and guests can take the public bus to Koya Police Station Bus Stop, which is located right by the property. The Japanese-style rooms feature tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each comes with a safety deposit box and a TV. Some rooms come with garden views and a private toilet. All guests share bathrooms. There are a public indoor and open-air hot-spring baths. You can relax by looking out into the traditional garden made by a famous landscape artist, Shigemori Mirei, and purchase gifts at the souvenir shop. Daily newspapers are provided. Luggage storage is available at the front desk. Traditional Buddhist vegetarian dishes are served for breakfast. Guests who wish to have dinner must make a request in advance. All meals are served at the guests' rooms or the dining room. Fukuchiin Koyasan Onsen is a 15-minute walk from Daimon Gate and a 5-minute walk from Kongobu-ji Temple. Namba Station is 2.5 hours away by train.
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