Koyasan Pilgrimage Route (Hike)

 

Koyasan Pilgrimage Route-1

Hiking in Japan? The ancient pilgrimage routes to Koyasan, Koyasan’s Choishi Stupa Route, Koya Sanzan Route and the Women Pilgrims Route, have been well maintained all the way up to the present day. These routes were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in July 2004, as the ‘Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountains Range.‘

Official Website | Wikipedia

Koyasan Choishi Stupa Route Map (PDF)| Sanzan & Women Pilgrim Route Map (PDF)

Access

Official Access Map | Train Route Finder

Take the Nankai Koya Line from Osaka’s Namba or Shin-Imamiya Stations to Hashimoto Station. Change to the scenic train which goes to Koyasan. This train crawls through tight, winding curves towards its destination. Stops are small, very rustic and not well marked, so be aware.

If you’re doing the Choishi Stupa Route, use the stations listed below.

The shortest hike starts at Koyasan Station and merely bypasses the cable car to the top. It’s called the Fudozaka Course.

If you’re not interested in hiking, take the cable car from Koyasan Station and then board a buss into the town at the top of the mountain.

 

Koyasan’s Choishi Stupa Hiking Route

Koyasan Pilgrimage Route-2This is the main route approaching and climbing the mountain. In total, it’s about 23.5km long, an estimated 7-8 hour hike. However, the route can be made shorter. There are three trail heads:

  • Kudoyama Station
  • Kami-Kosawa Station
  • Kii-Hosokawa Station

Koyasan-Hiking-Map

Kudoyama Station Trail Head

23.5km. This is a deceptively long hike. The hike is not difficult and the trail is clean, but the estimated 7-8 hours is for a fit hiker. Take plenty of water and food, and plan rest stops.

Kami-Kosawa Trail Head

Uses Course B to reach Furu Pass, about 2.9km. Then follow the regular trail.

TIP: It’s very easy to miss this stop as the station is not well marked. Count the stations and listen closely for announcements.

Kii-Hosokawa Station Trail Head

Uses Course C to reach Yadate, then follows the regular trail. Course C is a lovely, leisurely stroll through the countryside, past a few old houses, streams and a field or two.

Wakayma-Koyasan-Yadate-SignpostAt Yadate, you’ll emerge onto the main road. Here you’ll see a signpost with multiple directions. Take the small path towards Daimon Gate (topmost arrow).

TIP: In the fall, perhaps October, when persimmons are in season, you might be lucky enough to find locals selling them on the roadside at Yadate. Super delicious! Don’t worry about a knife or peeling them. Persimmons can be eaten directly, just like an apple, skin and all. 

Koyasan Village to Train Station Hike

The pilgrimage trail brings you to the Daimon Gate (#1 on the map below). After exploring town, make your way to Nyonindo (#9). Past the statue, past the entrance to the Women Pilgim’s Route, a few meters down the bus-only road, you’ll find the path leading to the train station below. This path is called the Fuduzaka Course. (You can see it on the Sanzan & Women Pilgrim Route Map.) It’s a 20-30 minute walk and bypasses the cable car.

(No path leads directly to the cable car, you must take a bus, if you don’t want to walk the trail down. Do NOT walk that narrow road to the cable car or you will endanger the buses and their passengers because they’ll have no room to maneuver around you. Or you’ll get hit by a bus. One of the two.)

Koyasan-Village-Map

Koyasan-1
Koyasan has many large temple complexes. Beautiful any time of year.

Koyasan’s Sanzan & Women Pilgrims Hiking Routes

For a long time, women were not permitted close to the many temples at Koyasan. So, women circled the mountain, visiting the seven traditional entrances to the sacred districts there. The Women Pilgrims Route takes up about half the circle around the mountain. The Sanzan Course completes the circle.

To access these routes, go to Koyasan Station then walk up the Fudozaka Course past the cable car. At the end of that course, follow the Women Pilgrims Route. This will naturally transition into the Sanzan Course until you return to your starting point.

 

Editorial Review: 😍

If you’re hiking in the the Kansai area, this is a must. It won’t challenge you for altitude or terrain, but it can for distance. It’s a very long trail. Even the shortest starting point, Kii-Hosokawa Station, will take you about 4 hours. Be prepared for the length you’re shooting for.

The trail is beautiful. There’s everything from palms and banana trees to towering cedar forests. Ferns abound.

You don’t have to be an expert hiker as the trails are often worn and not too steep. The trail is mostly covered and cooler, so it’s doable even in summer. Excellent for doing in groups as the trail is relaxed enough to allow lots of conversation while walking. Despite being in excellent shape and well-known, you won’t find many people on the trail, especially from the earlier trail heads, so don’t worry about crowds.

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