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.

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

  1. Hello again Takeshi-san,
    I forgot to mention we are landing at Narita airport, so will need transport to Tokyo too.
    Therese

  2. Hello Takeshi-san,

    Thank you for your useful information. I am planning a 16 day trip mid Mar-early Apr with 4 adults and have worked out the JR pass will not provide me with significant savings (is this correct?) esp in the Kansai region.

    Can you help suggest which passes may be worth considering. Will the Kansai Thru pass help for Nara/Ise/Yoshino?

    And is the Koyasan heritage pass useful for me given I am staying 2 nights and then going to Nara?

    What is the best way route from Nara to Tokyo?

    My itinerary is as follows:
    Day 1 Tokyo (night arrival) plan to buy Suica
    Day 2 Tokyo (full day)
    Day 3 Tokyo to Kanazawa
    Day 4 Kanazawa (full day)
    Day 5 Shirakawago
    Day 6 Kanazawa to Kyoto
    Day 7 Kyoto (full day)
    Day 8 Kyoto (full day)
    Day 9 Kyoto to Mount Koyasan
    Day 10 Mt Koyasan (full day)
    Day 11 Mt Koyasan to Nara
    Day 12 Nara (full day)
    Day 13 Nara to Ise (Day trip)
    Day 14 Nara to Mt Yoshino (Day trip)
    Day 15 Nara to Tokyo
    Day 16 Tokyo return home (night)

    Many thanks for your service.

    1. Hi Mimi san,

      JR pass does not work for your trip. Single ticket is the best choice for long transfer mostly.

      Single ticket is recommended for Tokyo to Kyoto with stopover at Kanazawa and Kyoto to Tokyo. Please see the link below to find the info about single ticket.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/for-non-jr-pass-travellers-guide-to-use-jr-single-ticket-basic-rules-validity-and-stopover.html

      You may use Kansai thru pass 2 days for day 9 and day 11. Koyasan world heritage ticket is valid for only 2 days and it does not work.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You can take Keihan railway from Kyoto to Yodoyabashi, subway to Namba from Yodoyabashi and then take Nankai railway from Namba to Koyasan. All trains are covered by Kansai thru pass.

      When you go to Nara, you can take Nankai railway to Namba and take Kintetsu railway to Nara. All trips are covered by Kansai thru pass too

      But you need to have one more deal which is Kintetsu rail pass. Ise is not in the coverage area of Kansai thru pass. Only Kintetsu rail pass covers it. Yoshino is not covered by Kansai thru pass fully. Kintetsu rail pass is better choice. You can take Kintetsu railway to get Kyoto when you go to Tokyo.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/kintetsu-rail-pass-most-affordable-deal-for-osakakyoto-nagoya-and-access-to-ise.html

      When you go to Ise, I recommend you to pay limited express fee. There is no direct trains from Nara to Ise. But if you pay limited express fee, you can catch the train to Ise at Yamato-Saidaiji which is a few stations away from Nara. If you take only ordinary train to Ise, you have to change the trains three or four times and not realistic choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you so much Takeshi-san. Your information is everything I needed and more!

        I wasn’t aware you could do a stopover on a ticket from Tokyo-Kanazawa-Kyoto so thank you for that tip!

        Thank you also for the tip to get to Ise from Nara. Your advice has been invaluable, thank you so very much!

      2. Hello Takeshi – san,
        We are going to Japan in less than 2 weeks.
        I am getting myself rather confused, trying to figure out whether a 14 day JR pass is the most appropriate thing to get.

        I am travelling with my family. 2 adults and 2 children, ages 13 and 10yrs.

        We will be away for 19 days and this is our itinerary.

        Tokyo 4 nights
        -Day trip to Nikko

        Hakone 3 nights

        Osaka 5 nights
        – Day trips to Kobe/Nara/Kyoto

        Hiroshima 2 nights

        Return to Osaka 2 nights

        Tokyo 2 nights, then fly out.

        I have read somewhere about the Kansai pass. Would this be appropriate for us?
        The Shinkansen that are covered from Osaka to Tokyo, are they express?

        If we buy the basic JR pass, are we able to book seats?

        If you are able to make any recommendations, that would be incredibly helpful.

        Regards
        Therese

        1. Hi Therese,

          JR Pass covers most part of your trip, like Shinkansen among Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima. You don’t need to add any “Kansai” deals. But you may need to add local deal, such as subway pass in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka because JR pass does not cover subway and city bus. Please see the links below to find the coverage of JR pass in the cities.
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

          In Hakone, JR pass is not useful. You can get Odawara but after Odawara, you need to add Hakone Free Pass.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-get-hakone-from-tokyo-compare-japan-railway-and-odakyu-lines.html

          In Hiroshima, you can take sightseeing bus by JR pass.
          https://www.chugoku-jrbus.co.jp/teikan/meipurupu/en/
          This bus is covered by JR pass full and also you can take ferry to Miyajima by JR pass.

          JR pass covers reserved seat fee. You can book your seat by JR Pass without any extra. But mostly you need to do it after you arrive in Japan. Please see the link below:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/how-to-reserve-seat.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takehsi,

    We will travel to Tokyo on 1st of August till 10th.
    On 4th we would like to go to Mt. Koya and stay there one night in a temple.
    What´s the best and cheapest way to reach the Koyasan? I would like to go directly from Tokyo.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      There is no direct ways to get Koyasan from Tokyo. If you take trains, you have to change trains at least three times.

      Tokyo (Shinkansen) Shin-Osaka (subway) Namba (Nankai railway) Gokurakubashi (cablecar) Koyasan

      JR pass is recommended for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka return.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      And need to add single fare for subway around 200 yen and use Koyasan World Heritage Pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Perfect, thanks!

        And what about coming back from Mt. Koya to Tokyo and making stop in Mt. Fuji? (we also want to stay there for one night and then come back to Tokyo)
        I have found this travelling route but I wanna check if this option has sense or not 🙂

        Koyasan-Gokurakubashi-Shinimamiya-Osaka-Kyoto-Shizuoka-Fuji (5 transfers is quite a lot, but still not problem if we reach the goal)

        Thank you again for your help!

  4. 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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