How to access to Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

Kansai Area
There are lots of places to see in Mt. Koya. ©JNTO
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Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Mt. Koya (Koyasan) is one of very popular destinations in Kansai area. Most common way to Mt. Koya is Nankai Railway line. It takes you to Gokurakubashi station where is located at the base of Mt. Koya. You may transfer to the funicular to Mt. Koya.

If you use JR deals, such as JR Pass (nationwide pass), Kansai area pass, Kansai Hiroshima area pass and other JR West passes, you cannot use the pass because Nankai Railway is not JR. If you do not use these JR deals, you may use other deals, such as Kansai Thru Pass, Koyasan World Heritage Pass.

You may use these JR deals partially to get Mt. Koya if you want.

In this post, I would like to show you the way to get Mt. Koya and also tell you how you use the deal.

Nankai Railway line

As I mentioned at the beginning, Nankai Railway is most common way to Mt. Koya. Nankai Railway operates a rapid train and a limited express train between Namba and Gokurakubashi. Namba is one of the biggest downtown core in Osaka as you probably know.

Limited Express “Koya”

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya (Namba – Gokurakubashi).

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

Nankai Railway operates Limited Express train “Koya” between Namba and Gokurakubashi. This is the easiest and the fastest way to get Gokurakubashi. Koya is only train which connects Namba and Gokurakubashi directly.

Gokurakubashi station is the gate station to Mt. Koya. You will transfer to Nankai Koyasan Cable Car line (the funicular line to Mt. Koya) at Gokurakubashi.

Koya interior
Interior of Limited Express Koya

Nankai also operates Limited Express train “Rinkan” between Namba and Hashimoto. Hashimoto is 9 stations away from Gokurakubashi. You can simply transfer to a local train to Gokurakubashi at Hashimoto. If you want to get a comfortable seat, you can take Limited Express Rinkan. Rinkan is operated by same fleet as Koya. The express surcharge is a bit cheaper than Koya at 500 yen. But the trip time between Namba and Gokurakubashi is not much different from the trip time by Rapid Express and Local train which I explain in next chapter. Limited Express Rinkan is not a good choice to shorten your trip time.

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Hotels and Ryokans in Mt. Koya
Hotels in Wakayama

Rapid Express and Express

Interior of rapid, rapid express and local trains. Usually train is more crowded.

If you are okay with taking a commuter train, Rapid Express and Express trains are most affordable. Accommodation is completely different from Koya and Rinkan. You have to change the trains at Hashimoto. But you are able to get Gokurakubashi in 90 minutes with no express surcharge. However this is a commuter train. You cannot secure your seat. You may have to stand up in the train.


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

Cruising train “Tenku”

All seats towards to the valley side

Nankai Railway operates Tenku between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi. Tenku is operated as a rapid train on this segment by specialized fleet.

I have taken “Tenku” and rapid express to Koyasan in 2017. You can find my trip report in the link below. You will find my day trip to Koyasan and many information about the stations, transportation and sightseeing spots in Koyasan. I believe this trip report gives you many ideas to build your trip plan.

Two days trip to Koyasan (Mt. Koya) and Wakayama from Osaka, Part 1 – Namba to Koyasan

Taking JR train

If you will use JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass or other JR deals, you might think using the pass to get Mt. Koya. To go straight to the bottom line, you cannot get Mt. Koya by JR trains only. The nearest JR station is Hashimoto. You have to take Nankai Railway train between Hashimoto and Koyasan via Gokurakubashi which is not covered by JR deals. You can use JR Pass or other JR deals to get Hashimoto and save your trip cost. But you have to spend extra minutes in exchange for saving the cost and you have to pay for Nankai Railway.

I will show you the route and trip time. You can compare the cost and the trip time.

Route 1, Osaka or Tennoji / Oji / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Average trip time: 2 to 2.5 hours (and extra 10 minutes for the funicular)
Fare: Basic fare 810 yen for Nankai Railway and the funicular

You have two ways to get Hashimoto by Japan Railway and Nankai Railway.

The first option is taking Rapid train to Oji from Osaka or Tennoji. And then transfer to Wakayama line local train. You may have to change trains once more at Takada station.

If all train connections are very smooth, the trip time to Hashimoto from Tennoji is around 90 minutes. And then you have to spend 40 to 45 minutes for Nankai Railway from Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi and another 10 minutes from Gokurakubashi to Koyasan by cable car.

It is long way and complicated but you can save only 400 yen.

But if you travel to Mt. Koya from Nara, this is not a bad way.

Route 2, Shin-Osaka or Tennoji / Wakayama / Hashimoto / Gokurakubashi / Koyasan

Many of Limited Express Kuroshio is operated by newer 287 series.

Average trip time: 3 hours (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 Mt. Koya is Wakayama route. You may take Limited Express train Kuroshio from Shin-Osaka or Tennoji to Wakayama. And transfer to JR Wakayama line local train. Even if you take Limited Express to Wakayama, trip time is longer than the first option. Again this option is not a smart way even if you use JR deals partially. Simply it is a big detour. Trip time is much longer than Nankai Railway route.

But if you look for the route from Wakayama to Mt. Koya, this is the best and the fastest route. It takes just one hour from Wakayama to Hashimoto. And you will spend another one hour from Hashimoto to Koyasan via Gokurakubashi.

Suggested deals

There are some deals for the trip to Mt. Koya.

Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

This deal includes round trip fare between Namba and Mt. Koya, unlimited ride of local bus in Koyasan and discount coupon for major attractions and souvenir shops. It is valid for two days but you can get the worth by day trip too.

You can find the details about this deal in the link below:

Nankai Railway official site – Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

In this link, it shows the deal which includes one way limited express fee to Koyasan at 3,400 yen. But the deal which does not include limited express fee is available at 2,860 yen.

Kansai Thru Pass

If you visit Mt, Koya as day trip and visit other place(s), such as Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Kansai Thru Pass is the perfect choice. It covers Nankai Railway and bus in Koyasan area. Please see the link below to learn more about Kansai Thru Pass.

How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare

Assessment

As I explained, JR train does not offer good access to Mt. Koya. Nankai Railway is a realistic choice. Even if you use JR pass or other JR deals, please try to avoid using it.

Comments

  1. Angelica says:

    hi.
    This post is super useful!
    However, I still have some minor queries. It’s regarding the nankai railway line. What does the express surcharge mean? Is it necessary? The average time of 1hours 40 minutes is the normal train without the expess surcharge or with the express surcharge already?
    I can use the nankai railway line with the kansai thru pass right?

    • Hi Angelica,

      If you take limited express, express surcharge is required. Trip time is not much different between normal train and limited express. But accommodation is quite different. As you see the post above, Limited Express Koya and Rinkan run to Koyasan. These trains are not covered by Kansai thru pass fully. You need to add limited express surcharge. The other trains are like commute trains, but you don’t need to add any fares on top of Kansai thru pass. It’s covered by the pass fully.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail

  2. Lei says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    thank you very much for your guides! They are very helpful!
    But I still have some questions:
    I am planning to enter Japan via Kansai Airport and then go directly to Koyasan using Koyasan World Heritage Ticket. Is this ticket only valid for Kansai Airport -> Koyasan (staying overnight) -> Kansai Airport or can I use it Kansai Airport -> Koyasan (staying overnight) -> Osaka Namba? If not, I would go to Osaka from Kansai Airport, stay overnight and then start from Osaka/Namba -> Koyasan (overnight) -> Osaka Namba.
    Thank you for your advice!

  3. N. Cherry says:

    Takeshi san

    Can you please advise on my itinerary
    as to what train Passes to buy.

    April 2015

    2- 4th. Kyoto
    5th. Osaka Namba to Himeji and Okayama
    6th. Osaka Namba to Mt Hiei , Otsu & Shiga
    7th. Osaka Namba to Yoshinoyama
    8th Osaka Namba to Mt Koya
    9th. Osaka Namba to Kansai intl Airport

    Appreciate your advice.

    Nancy

  4. Carolina says:

    Dear Takeshi,

    Thank you so much for your great website! It has so much useful information I haven´t found elsewhere.

    As it is to be expected, I´m travelling to Japan from late March (arrive on the 21st) to early April (5th). Our itinerary will be as follows:

    Days 1 through 7: Tokyo- with day trips to Nikko, Kamakura and Mount Fuji (Fuji Five Lake area).

    Day 8: Tokyo to Osaka

    Day 9: Osaka to Mount Koya

    Day 10: Mount Koya to Kyoto

    Days 11 to 13: Kyoto -with day trips to Nara and Hiroshima -Miyajima

    Days 14 to 16: Tokyo

    We are considering buying a 14-day JR Pass since we think it will be worth, do you agree? If we do so, it won’t cover 2 days of our trip, so we have two options: activate it as soon as we arrive in order to be able to use it from Narita to Tokyo, or activate it on the 23rd so we can use it from Tokyo to Narita for our departure. Is there any of the two options better than the other?

    Since one trip to the airport will not be covered by the JR Pass, I thought a good alternative would be the Keisei electric railway? Or is it better to get a ticket for the NEX?

    Also, for our stay in Tokyo, what would you think will be the best option for metro tickets? This also applies for Kyoto, should we buy a metro pass?

    Going to Mount Koya, we won’t use the JR Pass because as you made very clear, it will be a long long way… to get there! (jajaja), instead, we’ll use the Nankai Railway Line. However, you talk about a “Koyasan World Heritage ticket” and add a link to it. In the website it says that the ticket is sold at the major Nankai Line Stations windows, so I understand this can’t be purchased online? Also, I couldn’t figure out how to buy regular Nankai railway line tickets online neither; is it possible through their website? Because I’m worried about the seat reservations you say need to be done in advance.

    Lastly about train seat reservations, do you think it is necessary to reserve seats once we get to Japan, or right up to train departures?

    Sorry about the long reply and thank you so so much in advance!!

    Carolina

  5. Patricia says:

    Konnichiwa! Takeshi-San,

    Thank you so much for your great website, it is so informative, however, can you please advice me how and what ticket I should purchase for my following itinerary arriving OSA from 12th Mar 2015 to 20th Mar 2015.

    Day 1 – Arrive OSA from ITAMI Airport at 1240pm (taking airport limousine bus to Namba)

    Day 2 – Dep Namba at abt 10am by train to Wakayama Station (pls advice how and which train to take), will be renting a car for travelling to Kii Tanabe and Hongu.

    Day 3 – Driving

    Day 4 – Return car at Wakayama Station East Exit and taking train to Koyasan (pls advice single trip or heritage Ticket), staying overnight at Fudoin Temple.

    Day 5 – Dep Koyasan abt 10am for Namba (pls advice single trip or heritage Ticket) will be spending the rest of the day shopping at Shinsaibashi/Dontobori/Namba/Umeda.

    Day 6 – Day trip from Namba- Kyoto-Namba (pls advice if I should get a 2 days JR pass?)

    Day 7 – Day trip from Namba-Kobe-Namba (as above)

    Day 8 – Spending time around Osaka visitng Kaiyukan/USJ/Osaka castle etc.

    Day 9 – Sayonara to OSA.

    Could you please kindly advice if I need to reserve seats for the recommended train that I wil be taking. Hoping to get your reply as soon as possible. Arigato Gozamasu!

  6. Joyce says:

    Dear Takeshi San,

    I will arrive at the Kansai Airport on 6th Sept early morning

    thinking about going to Namba for breakfast first then head to Mt Koya to stay for 2 nights there. Then I will spend a full day in Osaka before leaving Japan.

    What would you recommend I get? the Kansai thru 2 day pass or the Koyasan World Heritage ticket?

    Thank you so much for your help, these are so confusing…

    • Hi Joyce,

      Do you want to take limited express train to get Koyasan? If so, World Heritage ticket is better. You can use other deals for KIX-Namba trip.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/

      Meanwhile Kansai thru pass cover whole part of your trip from KIX-Koysan-KIX. You can drop by Namba and this pass covers Osaka subways too. You can visit other places in Osaka too. But it does not include limited express surcharge. So if you don’t intend to take limited express train, Kansai thru pass is better choice.

      Limited Express Koya is much more comfortable than other local trains. Other trains is a commute train.

      Cheer,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Rach says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    I have a question about Koyasan World Heritage ticket.

    I will be going to Koyasan straight from Kansai International Airport. May I know if the Koyasan World Heritage ticket covers this route? or do I have to make a stop at Namba / Gokurakubashi station before going to Koyasan?

    The next day, I will be going from Koyasan to Kumano. How can I use the Koyasan World Heritage ticket in this case?

    Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Rach

  8. riccardo says:

    hello Takeshi,
    I would like to ask you a suggestion, I’ll arrive in Osaka airport on May 3rd, the first night I’ll rest in Osaka, the second day I’ll go in Koyasan, the third day I’ll be in Nara and the next day I’ll go to Kyoto. Which pass should be better to buy? Thanks so much

  9. Nonna Nanagas says:

    Hello Takeshi san! My friends and I will be in Kyoto from April 27 to May 1. We are right in the middle of Golden Week so I suppose it will be very busy. Our initial plan was for a 1 day tour to Mt. Koya for April 29, Monday. I have been reading the above posts and am looking for the links to the timetables of the trains that will take us from Kyoto Station to Namba, from Namba to Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi to Koyasan. If we leave Kyoto Station very early (7 am) will we get to Mt. Koya before 11 am? We are not planning to stay the night and will leave late afternoon, maybe 4 or 5 pm. Thank you so much for your help!

  10. Ruta says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Would you be able to advise me for below itinerary I arrive KIX at 6 am. Will want to go to Koyasan, stay there overnight and from there go to Yuchino, stay for a few hours and reach Naga for overnight stay. From Naga I’ll go to Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto. Total 9 days.

    1) Is there a train that I can take from Koyasan to Yuchino in the morning? Do I need to change? How long would it take?
    2) Should I use my JP rail pass for this part? As I have it only for 7 days and maybe it’s better to save it for remaining days?

    Thank you very much in advance!

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