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”
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.
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.
Rapid Express and Express
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”
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.