Mt. Koya and Nara

After working two consecutive Saturdays, I was rewarded with a two day vacation on Monday and Tuesday. So, I decided to check out Mt. Koya, the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, and Nara, home of the world’s largest Buddha statue  (大仏).

With the help of another teacher, I mapped out my route from Awaji to Koyasan and Nara. If you’re ever interested in visiting Koyasan from Kobe, Osaka, or Nara, then here is the itinerary. I traveled from Kobe –> Koyasan –> Nara. Here’s the cheapest way by train:

1) Sannomiya –> Namba Osaka (¥400, 41 minutes)

  • Take the Hanshin Line and transfer to the Nankai Line

2) Namba Osaka –> Koyasan (¥2,780, 1 hour & 42 minutes)

  • Transfer from the Hanshin line to the Nankai line. At the Namba station, go to the ticket window and ask for a Koyasan round trip ticket. They will give you a map of the mountain in English, a cable car ticket, unlimited travel on the Koyasan bus, as well as a discounted admission to various museums, temples, and gift shops (don’t worry  almost all the temples and shrines are free anyways).

3) Koyasan –> Shin-imamiya (¥0, 1 hour & 39 minutes)

  • Use your round trip ticket that you bought at Namba Osaka and get off one stop before Namba to transfer to the JR line to Nara.

4) Shin-imamiya –> Nara JR (¥540, 36 minutes)

  • Transfer from the Nankai line to the JR line

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Nakanohashi Cemetery (中の橋霊園) where Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), one of the most revered leaders of all time laid buried beneath the shadows of hundred year old massive cedar trees. Most people reading this probably have no idea who Oda Nobunaga is, so here is a little history lesson!

Perhaps no one understood the need for Japan to have a national identity better than Oda Nobunaga. His desire to better centralize power was seen in his survey of the agricultural lands under his control in 1571. To insure safety and help eliminate riots, Oda seized the peasants’ weaponry. Another accomplishment that helped unify Japan was his standardization of weights and measures. Additionally, since Oda was at war against many Buddhists (he even tried to destroy Koyasan!), he allowed Christian Missionaries to spring up throughout the country. In terms of having a lasting impact on Japan, then Oda definitely deserves some recognition. After all, he gave rise to Hideyoshi and Tokugawa, whom all three combined to establish the Shogunate rule in Japan.

Speaking of Hideyoshi and Tokugawa, I saw both of their mausoleums too. The Tokugawa Ieyasu one was built in 1643 and stands next to the Tokugawa Iemitsu mausoleum. It took twelve years to finish them, and the inside is lavishly decorated in gold. But, it’s closed to the public.

It was definitely worth the trip to see the cemeteries and mausoleums of some of the most famous Japanese leaders that I studied about in school.

4 thoughts on “Mt. Koya and Nara

  1. Sounds like a great trip!! I dont know if I’d call Koyasan the birthplace of Buddhism in Japan (since it was introduced several centuries before Kukai started the Shingon sect and it’s headquarters there) but he & Mt. Koya certainly had a a big impact on spreading Buddhism! (sorry, this was a big part of my honors thesis…I spent a year on it and couldn’t help myself). Did you try any shojin ryori?

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