Temple Stay at Koyasan


Last week I got to cross something off my long-time Japan bucket-list. A temple stay at Koyasan. Koyasan is the center of the Shingon sect of buddhism introduced to Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi. Kobo Daishi's mausoleum is in the Okunoin cemetery. I have seen countless photos of the amazing Okunoin cemetery and heard about the delicious Shojin Ryori (Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) served at the temples. Seeing as little G is now older and actually really into temples, we thought we could attempt it. 

The train ride to Koyasan is gorgeous when you eventually get out of Osaka, winding up the mountain, looking at the fall leaves and many many persimmon trees. Once we arrived at Gokurakubashi station, we transferred to the cable car for the steep ascent to the top, then hopped on a bus to take us in to town. Although it seems like a lot of transferring, the cable car and buses are all timed to meet each other, so it was fairy straight forward. 

Once we arrived at our temple, we wandered around until we found where to check in, and even though we were there at 1pm, they checked us straight into our room, which was great. We dumped our luggage, then headed out to find some lunch.

This guy - LOVES riding the trains
Our temple, with the name right out the front

View from our temple room

Our room at Shojoshin-in temple in Koyasan. It overlooked a gorgeous Japanese garden with a pond and koi.
Our room

Entrance to the temple

Fall is an amazing time of year to Visit Koyasan. It is cold enough to enjoy your sento and there are red leaves everywhere!
So excited for all the maple leaves

Fall leaves in Koyasan, Japan

Stopped for some matcha - which I don't even like!
Unfortunately, there is actually not too much happening in the town, and finding somewhere that served vegetarian food was difficult. The one place recommended online had a huge wait, so we ended up in a tiny cafe with cheese toast and matcha tea. It was ok, except the matcha was incredibly bitter (and I don't really like matcha) and later we walked past a cafe that was super cute with what seemed to have plenty of vegetarian options! Oh well! We stopped in there for afternoon tea later.

As we were walking through town we checked out a couple of temples, then headed to the Okunoin cemetary, which was next to our temple stay and the main drawcard for me. It was super cold (MUCH more than Okinawa), so we didn't walk the whole way (2kms), and headed back to our room to warm up with a family bath before dinner.

For dinner we were placed in our own separate room downstairs which was already laid out with trays full of different dishes. Someone brought in the hot portions after we sat down and we dug in. The food was really delicious, even though I wasn't sure what some of it was. There was a LOT of food, but it was the kind of food that I knew would leave me starving again in a few hours. There was one especially delicious boiled daikon radish dish.

Dinner time!
After an early night, we had to get up and be at the morning ceremony (prayers) at 6:30am sharp. The room was gorgeous (no photos allowed), filled with gold and we basically sat silently for 45 minutes while the two monks were praying.

Staying in a temple with a 5 year old, we were a little worried about his ability to keep quiet (the walls were paper thin), and last through the morning ceremony, but he did amazingly! Actually other guests were louder than G.

After the ceremony we went straight to breakfast in the same room as the night before, and I think it was even more delicious. The dishes were all different than dinner, including an amazing ginger tofu that I could eat forever.

The morning fog after the ceremony
After breakfast we headed out to explore Okunoin cemetary in the fog. It added such a mystical, eerie quality to the experience, and this was probably my favourite part of the stay. After the morning walk, we packed up and left because we had a long commute to Kyoto for the following 3 nights.

Seriously this fog was intense.

The morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan was mystical and eerie and made for an amazing photography opportunity
Okunoin Cemetary
Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan
Moss <3

Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan. There are over 200,000 graves in this old cemetary

Morning fog in Okunoin Cemetary, Koyasan

The temple we chose to stay at was Shojoshin-in. There is a lot of choice, and it can be a bit overwhelming. We made our decision based on the recommendation of a friend, online reviews and the fact that it was located next to the entrance of the cemetery. I think it was a good choice. The garden was gorgeous, the food was tasty and they don't have a curfew as i've heard some of the other temples have.

Dinner is served at 5:30 exactly, and you need to be at the temple by this time. Guests are also required to attend the morning ceremony. If you are a bit picky with your food, you should note that there are no convenience stores in the town (that I could find!), so it might be an idea to stock up on some snacks before you leave Osaka in case you end up hungry.

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A temple stay at Koyasan in Japan is a must-do for a traditional Japanese experience. The journey up the mountain is gorgeous, and staying in a temple is an experience you won't get anywhere else!

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  1. Beautiful beautiful! Glad to hear you were able to check another thing off your Japan list! And what good moms G must have being able to stay so quiet for that long. Good job ladies!

  2. I went to Koyasan in Sep and loved it! Your pictures of Okunoin in the mist/fog are gorgeous!