The largest cemetery in Japan contains over 200,000 tombs, most of which are large, moss-covered old graves,
within a beautiful cedar forest creating an almost magical landscape.
At the back is the Torodo hall, lit by hundreds of lanterns, and the sacred mausoleum of Kobo Daishi Kukai,
where he is said to be sitting in eternal meditation.
There is also a food offering brought to him by three monks in a large box twice per day, which you can see at 6 and 10:30 in the morning.
Almost every temple in town has their own morning service, many of which are open to the public - You can sit near the melodic
chanting in the beautiful Torodo lantern hall or be dazzled next to the fire ritual of Eko-in. Most of them begin at 6 AM.
The Garan area has about 20 traditional temples and shrines, and is one of the sacred centers of Koyasan.
It includes the Daito, a large red pagoda, structured as a 3-dimensional mandala which visitors can walk through.
There are over 100 temples inKoyasan, many with beautiful gardens.
One also includes Tahoto, the 2nd oldest wooden pagoda in Japan.
Koyasan has been a central pilgrimage location for 12 hundred years and has many trails around it and leading to it.
The UNESCO World Heritage pilgrimage route, “Cho-ishi-michi”, has nearly 200 large stone trail markers,
most of which were installed during the 1200s.
The“Nyonin-do” is a trail that circles the entire town, going up to each of the surrounding peaks.
The“Kohechi” heads all the way from Koyasan to Hongu near the Southern coast and usually takes about 4 days to hike,
though the beautiful Ohtaki waterfall about 5km away is reachable on a roundtrip day hike.
The “Fudozaka” trail includes numerous historic sites, and trail markers.
Available in English within a couple temples at Koyasan,
you can receive instruction on basic meditation techniques and learn to quiet the mind in this sacred town.
Enjoy the many cafes, restaurants, and gift shops in town.
Koyasan is known for its “Shojin-ryori,”a Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, which includes a sesame tofu specialty of this town.
However, the many quaint, independent businesses in this small town offer numerous options for a variety of tastes.
Another form of meditation, you can relax the mind while sitting in a traditional sutra-copying room,
using a calligraphy pen to copy the characters of the Heart Sutra, a short Buddhist text.
Whether you are Buddhist or not, it is a fascinating cultural experience to participate in this esoteric Buddhist ceremony,
as one monk leads and another helps guide you through various ethical commitments.
A variety of tours are available in Koyasan.
A monk from Eko-in temple offer night tours through the Okuno-in cemetery in English.
Private and group tour guides are available for hire through the information centers.
You can also do self-guided tours through many of the sites with electronic audio guides, available to rent with hours of
interesting facts in English, French, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Koyasan is the first and last stop of one of the world's most popular pilgrimage routes.
Many people spend around 40-50 days walking to see an 88-temple route around the island of Shikoku,
and Koyasan is both the beginning and end of the journey for such pilgrims.
Even if not doing the pilgrimage yourself, you are almost sure to see some of the pilgrims around Koyasan when you come,
walking with their all-while outfits, walking staffs, and round hats.