How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Mt. Koya (Koyasan=高野山) has been getting popular destination recently. The fastest way to get Mt. Koya is using Nankai Railway line (=南海電車). They take you to Gokurakubashi (=極楽橋) station where is the nearest station to Mt. Koya and easily transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya. But you cannot use Japan Rail Pass to take Nankai Railway. So I show you how to get Mt. Koya by Japan Railway as much as we can. Then let’s see the difference of cost and time between using Japan Railway and using Nankai Line.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Using Nankai Railway line

Average time required: 1 hour 20 minutes (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 1,230 yen + Express surcharge 760 yen

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya
Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya

Limited Express train

Nankai Railway operates the Limited Express train “Koya (=こうや)” from Nanba (=難波) station. Nanba is one of two biggest downtown core in Osaka. Koya takes you to Gokurakubashi station directly. Gokurakubashi station is the gate station to Mt. Koya. You will transfer to Nankai Koyasan Cable Car lline (the funicular line to Mt. Koya) at Gokurakubashi.

Koya is operated 4 to 5 round trips a day. It takes 1 hour 30 to 45 minutes to get Gokurakubashi. It takes another 10 minutes to get Mt. Koya by the funicular. The basic fare to Nanba to Mt. Koya via Gokurakubashi is 1,230 yen one way. The express surcharge is 760 yen. This train does not have any non reserved seat. So try to book your seat as early as possible.
Sample schedule
09:15 Dep Nanba station by Koya 1
10:36 Arr Gukurakubashi station
10:44 Dep Gukurakubashi station by funicular
10:49 Arr Koyasan station

Koya interior
Koya interior

This image shows you how to read Nankai Railway timetable in Japanese.
This image shows you how to read Nankai Railway timetable in Japanese.

Nankai also operates Limited Express train “Rinkan (=りんかん)” to Hashimoto (=橋本) station. Hashimoto is 9 stations away from Gokurakubashi. You can simply transfer to the local train at Hashimoto. This combination, Rinkan+Local train, is not slow. The time is almost same as using Limited Express Koya. Limited Express Rinkan is operated almost once an hour. The express surcharge is 500 yen. If you cannot catch Limited Express Koya, you can take Limited Express Rinkan. You can get the timetable of both Koya and Rinkan at Nankai Railways official website English page.

Nankai Railways have a discount pass for the tourists who want to get Mt. Koya. It is called Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket. It includes a round trip to Mt. Koya by Limited Express train, some of bus service at Mt. Koya and some discount coupon for some attractions and souvenirs shop. Please see the details at here.

Ordinary trains

If you don’t care to take a commuter train, Rapid Express and Express trains are available. Some of Rapid Express trains are as fast as Limited Express Koya with no express surcharge. If you want to save money, the commuter trains may be considerable.

If you want to get a timetable, please access these following links. You will see PDF file. Unfortunately it is in Japanese. But you will find how to read this timetable in the image to the right.


View How to get Mt Koya (Koya San) in a larger map

Using Japan Railway line Route 1, Osaka / Oji / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Average time required: 1 hour 45 minutes (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

You cannot access to Mt. Koya by only Japan Railway. Japan Railway can take you to Hashimoto. So you need to take Nankai line from Hashimoto to Mt. Koya via Gokurakubashi.

You have two ways to get Hashimoto by Japan Railway. The first one is using Rapid train to Nara from Osaka station. Get off the train at Oji staion and transfer to Wakayama line. You will not have any express or rapid train to Hashimoto from Oji. Wakayama line is very local. The trains to Hashimoto are operated once or twice an hour. Some of the trains make you need to transfer the train at Takada station.

It takes about 45 minutes to get Oji from Osaka, 25 minutes from JR Nanba. And another 1 hour to Hashimoto from Wakayama station.

Then you transfer to Nankai Railway line at Hashimoto. It takes another 45 minutes from Hashimoto to Gokurakuzaka.

You can save the money. But it is long long way… to get there!

Using Japan Railway line Route 2, Shin-Osaka / Wakayama / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Limited express train Ocean Arrow
Ocean Arrow service operates by newer train 287 series than Kuroshio.

Average time required: 3 hour (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

Another option to use Japan Rail Pass to get Koyasana, take Limited Express train Ocean Arrow or Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka. Get off the train at Wakayama staion and transfer to Wakayama line. Once again you will not have any express or rapid train to Hashimoto from Wakayama. You take same Wakayama as Route 1 from the other side. The trains to Hashimoto are operated once or twice an hour.

It takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to get Wakayama from Shin-Osaka. And another 1 hour 15 minutes to Hashimoto from Oji station.

Then you transfer to Nankai Railway line at Hashimoto. It takes another 45 minutes from Hashimoto to Gokurakuzaka.

You can save the money, even though taking Limited Express train. But it is long long way… to get there too!

Conclusion

If I go to Mt. Koya, I will give up to use Japan Rail Pass and take Nankai Railway. But If you access from Kyoto, you can take Limited Express Ocean Arrow from Kyoto. you don’t need to transfer the train between Kyoto and Wakayama.

Eve though you will stay in Osaka, when you use Nankai Railway, you have to think about taking subway from Osaka (Umeda=梅田). You will lose 15 minutes to transfer the trains and another 10 minutes to get Nanba. Then you need another 10 minutes to transfer the trains at Nanba. So if you stay near Nanba, Nankai Railway is very accessible. But if you stay around JR Osaka station, keep these extra times in your mind.

And also, if you go to Mt. Koya and another spot in UNESCO world heritage, “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”, you can use the part of Route 2. After you stay in Mt. Koya, you can take Wakayama line from Hashimoto to Wakayama. Then you can transfer the trains at Wakayama to go to Shingu or Kii-Katsuura.

77 thoughts on “How to access World Heritage Mt. Koya. Japan Rail Pass can be used to get Mt. Koya?”

  1. Hi Takeshi

    Would you kindly advise on which travel pass combination for my itinerary.

    Day 1-3: Arrived at Tokyo International Haneda, in Tokyo.

    Day 4: Hakone. Intending to purchase Hakone Free pass.

    Day 5-7: Start JR pass. To kyoto. Day 7 to travel to Nara for a day trip.

    Day 8: Koyasan, stay at Shojoshin-in (566 Koyasan, Ito-gun, Koya-cho 648-0291, Wakayama Prefecture). Can you advise how do I get from kyoto to Koyasan? Any pass I need to buy separately?

    Day 9-11: Osaka. Would also like to know the route from koyasan to Osaka

    1. Hi Alison,

      Are you going back to Tokyo after you stay in Kyoto, Koyasan and Osaka? If you leave from Osaka, JR pass is not your choice. Single ticket is cheaper.

      When you go to Koyasan from Kyoto, you need to go to Namba or Shin-Imamiya in Osaka. There are a few ways to go to Shin-Imamiya or Namba. The easiest route is taking JR trains from Kyoto to Osaka and Osaka to Shin-Imamiya. But if you don’t use JR Pass, Kansai thru pass is the best choice for trip to Nara and Koyasan.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      This pass does not cover JR trains. You should take Keihan railway (via Yodoyabashi) and Osaka subway (via Umeda)or Hankyu Railway and Osaka subway to get Namba.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html#Private_Railways_in_Kansai_area

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi

        Thank you for your advice.

        From Tokyo i will go to hakone and stay for a night. Use Hakone free pass back to Tokyo before proceeding to Kyoto and stay for 2 nights. After Kyoto I will head to koyasan for a night and go to Osaka for 2 nights. I will fly out from Nagoya so I will have to travel from Osaka to Nagoya.

        So is it still good to use the JR pass?

        1. Hi Alison,

          Single ticket is still a bit cheaper. Actually even Tokyo-Osaka round trip fare is a bit cheaper than JR pass 7 days price.
          If you use JR pass to get Hakone, JR Pass will work. In this case, take Shinkansen to get Odawara by JR Pass and then purchase Hakone Free Pass at Odawara. This round trip will help to get the worth JR Pass. I’m not sure you can make Hakone, Kyoto, Osaka, Koyasan and trip to Nagoya in 7 days. But if you can, this is only way to get the worth of 7 days JR pass.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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