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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be staying in Osaka for 5-nights, and is planning to make a 1-day trip to Koyasan, 1-day trip to Kyoto, 1-day trip to Himeji/Kobe and 0.5-day trip to Nara. I already have a JR National Rail Pass (because I will also be travelling out of Kansai region), but I understand some of the travelling in Kansai region is not covered by JR Pass. I am thinking if I should also get both Kansai Thru Pass and also the Mt Koya Heritage Pass. Which is a better deal in your opinion?

    1. Hi Elaine,

      You can get Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and Himeji by JR pass. So I don’t think you need to have Kansai thru pass. Please see the link below:
      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#JR_trains

      You don’t need to use any other passes to get Nara and Himeji. Most of places in Kobe can be accessed by walk too. I think Kobe is okay too. You need to have city deal in Kyoto. Many places can be accessed by subway and city bus only. Those are not covered by JR pass. Please see the links below:
      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/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-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-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html#Kyoto_area

      You need Koyasan World Heritage Ticket. JR Pass does not help anything.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. I enjoyed reading your advice to others. I will be arriving at Kansai International at 18:30 on Nov. 6, staying overnight at Monterey Grasmere in Osaka, and then going to Koya-san the next morning. I will be staying overnight at Koya-san, and then leaving late morning/early afternoon to go to Kii-Tanabe via Hashimoto to Wakayama Station. Which would be better to buy: The Kansai Thru Pass or the Koya World Heritage Pass? I have a JR 14-day pass but will not activate it until Nov. 13. Thank you.

    1. Hi Lana,

      It depends on other part of your trip. If you use Kansai thru pass, you can use the first day of trip to Koyasan. Because you will take train to Hashimoto only. Train after Hashimoto is not covered by Kansai thru pass anyway. Kansai thru pass is minimum 2 days. So if you have any other trip, such as trip to Nara, Kyoto or Kobe from Osaka later, you can use one of two days for one of these trips. It’s not a good idea to use one day of the pass for just short ride from Koyasan to Hashimoto.

      World Heritage Pass may not work. But if you will make many trips in Koyasan by bus. it may work.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi. I am planning to travel by train from Kyoto to Mt Koya on Mar 21. What is the best way to get there?

    Secondly, I plan to leave Mt Koya on Mar 23 to go to Haneda Airport by 16:00 for a plane departure from Haneda at 18:50.
    How should I go to Haneda – by plane (and, if so, from which airport, Osaka or Kansai?) or can I go by train?

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Bridget,

      Take JR train from Kyoto to Osaka and Osaka to Shin-Imamiya. After Shin-Imamiya, take Nankai and follow the route in the post above.
      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

      You may get Haneda from either Kansai or Osaka. If you depart from Kansai, you also can use Nankai. You may find the route on the map in the link above too.

      If you depart from Osaka, you can take limousine bus from Namba.
      http://osaka-airport.co.jp/en/access/bus/

      There are lots of flights between Kansai/Osaka and Haneda. Please find the air fare and timetable at other site, like expedia.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Dear Takeshi, I will be staying at Koyasan for a night 20 February and have to be next day (Sunday 21 Februari) in Kyoto not later than by 1 p.m. What is the best route to chose, considering timing and travelling with a suitcase? I’ve seen several options (by train to Nankai, transfer by subway, then by train from Ukeda to Kyoto, or more transfers via Wakayama or other stations). What would you advice as most reliable and easy with a luggage?

    Also: what is the best way to buy tickets for such a trip where several trains are combined?

    1. Hi Oiga,

      If you go to JR Kyoto station, the route that you mentioned, Nankai-subway-JR, is the best route. You have to move station to station in Namba and Umeda. But there is no other better choice. However if you go to other station in Kyoto, other two trains run between Osaka and Kyoto. Please find the more info at the link below:
      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

      If you travel by Nankai, subway and JR, there is no deals available to cover all three trains. If you take other train, Hankyu or Keihan, Kansai thru pass covers all trips.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      But this pass is available from 2 days. You need to use it for access to Mt. Koya or other trips.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. How can we get from Kyoto to Namba Station to take the Nankai Railway line from there, i.e. which trains can we take, which Plattform should we take?

  6. Hi, I will be staying at Osaka and I wish to visit Mt Koya and Nara. But I only have a day free for both places, I really want to visit them. Is it possible to do a day trip from Osaka to Mt Koya and Nara?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Kelly,

      It depends on how much you want to see in each places. I think you will spend 4 hours for the trip to Nara and 8 hours for the trip to Mt. Koya.
      You cannot access directly between Nara and Mt. Koya. You have to come back to Osaka-Namba anyway. If you leave early morning to visit Nara, you may be able to come back to Namba around 10:00. But some of temples do not open for public in early morning. For example, Todai-ji temple is open at 8:00 during winter time. So you have to check the time before you go.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Please advise on which travel pass combination for my itinerary to the Kansai Region. I will be staying at the same hotel in Gojo, Kyoto throughout my stay.

    Day 1 Arrive Kansai International Airport in the morning. Transfer to Kyoto by Haruka train and sightseeing Kyoto.

    Day 2. Sightseeing in Kyoto.

    Day 3. Day trip to Koyasan from Kyoto

    Day 4. Day trip to Wakayama from Kyoto

    Day 5. Day trip to Himeji and Kobe from Kyoto

    Day 6. Day trip to Osaka from Kyoto.

    Day 7. Day trip to Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara.

    Day 8. Last minute shopping and sightseeing before transferring to Kansai International Airport for flight departing at 2300 hours.

    Is any of the following a good combination of travel passes for my itinerary?
    Combination A:
    ICOCA-Haruka Return Pass for travel to and from the airport.
    3-Day Kansai Thru Pass (Surotto-Kansai Pass)

    Combination B:
    ICOCA-Haruka Return Pass for travel to and from the airport
    4-Day Kansai Area Pass for use on consecutive days

    Any other suggestions will be welcome.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Cheng,

      Kansai thru pass is better for day 3, 4 and 5 because this covers subway too. Kansai area pass covers only JR trains and not flexible very much in the city. But I recommend to use Kansai area pass one day for day 5. Because there is no direct train by Kansai thru pass to Himeji but JR has Special rapid. It takes you Himeji directly from Kyoto. If you switch day 6 (Osaka) and 7 (Fushimi, Nara), you can use 2 days Kansau area pass for Himeji and Nara.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. I am planning 3 days on my vocation transfer on these area.
    Day 1: From Kyoto station to Osaka Shinsaibashi station
    Day 2: Sight seeing in Osaka kaiyukan aquarium and ferries wheel osaka.
    Day 3:From Osaka Shinsaibashi station to Koyasan
    Which pass is suitable for me?
    Surutto Kansai thru pass for 3 days or koyasan heritage ticket and osaka visitor pass?
    Or any better suggestion for me? Thx

      1. Thanks Takeshi, in this case can I use 3 days kansai thru pass from kansai airport to kyoto, then one week later from kyoto to osaka and after 2 days later to koyasan? Thank you for the info you provided.

        1. Hi Eugene,

          I don’t recommend Kansai thru pass to get Kyoto because you have to transfer at least twice.
          KIX-(Nankai)-Tengachaya-(subway Sakaisuji line)-Awaji-(Hankyu)-Karasuma/Kawaramachi

          All trains are commute trains and may be crowded. And also it takes a long time to get Kyoto. JR train limited express Haruka is much much better choice. It’s fast and direct to get Kyoto. You may use one way ICOCA and Haruka.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

          It’s much more expensive but it’s worth paying.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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