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. Zoe says:

    Hello Takeshi,
    Could you please help us? We fly into Tokyo and we wil stay there for 2 nights. Then we go to Kyoto for a few nights then to Hiroshima and over to miyajima. The next day we are going to Osaka and visiting nara. We are wanting to go to koyasan for one night. Then go back to Osaka and back to tokyo for a few more nights. We thought it would be best to get a JR rail pass for 14 days and also get a Kansas thru pass or the world heritage pass. Could you please advise the best option. Thankyou so much!

  2. Emily says:

    Hi Takeshi

    We are planning the following route – would you recommend getting a JR Pass? In particular, I am concerned that the Kyoto-Nara-Mt Koya-Osaka section may be quite travel heavy, and I’m not sure what trains I will be allowed to take with a Pass! Do you have any recommendations about the best way to see all 4? We are coming in late May and so are hoping that the train line will be fixed by then!

    Day 1 – land in Tokyo (early morning)
    Day 2 – Tokyo
    Day 3 – Tokyo
    Day 4 – train to Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto
    Day 7 – train to Nara, night in Nara
    Day 8 – Train(s) to Mt Koya, night in Mt Koya
    Day 9 – Train to Osaka
    Day 10 – Osaka
    Day 11 – Train to Hakone
    Day 12 – Hakone
    Day 13 – Train to Tokyo, night in Tokyo
    Day 14 – Flight home

    Thanks in advance
    Emily

  3. Feldel says:

    Hi Takeshi! My husband and I will be in Fukuoka on Feb 13 and then take the train to Nagasaki, stay two nights, then take the train to Beppu where we will stay two nights. We want to take the Yufuin No Mori train back to Fukuoka. I have bought Northern Kyushu JR passes for us. My questions are do we have to go back to Fukuoka when going to Beppu from Nagasaki? And can you suggest other sites that we can visit on this itinerary? Many thanks!

  4. Rosanna White says:

    Hello All,

    I would be very grateful for some advice please on our upcoming travel to Japan. We are arriving into Shin-Osaka from Matsumoto on Sunday 12th August 2018 and staying close Namba Station/s. We won’t have a JR pass as we won’t be doing enough train travel to warrant it.
    However is it worth getting the Kanzai through Pass in Osaka (can this be brought at Osaka Municipal Subway Namba Station? for the below 3day itinerary? Where can I find the train departure timetables? And as we will be travelling to Koya-san on the Obon Rosoku Matsuri festival can we reserve our train seats in advance?

    Monday 13th August 2018 Osaka-Koya San via Gokurakubashi station.
    Tuesday 14th August Koya-San to Kyoto station
    Wednesday 15th August day trip to Nara and return to Kyoto

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

  5. Fely Del Rosario says:

    Hi Takeshi! Please help. My husband and I will go to Akita from Tokyo on Dec 6-8. After some research, I think it’s best to buy a Japan East Tohoku pass. However, I understand this is for no reserved train travel. We still have to pay for seat reservation and green car travel. It seems with all the additional charges, it will be cheaper just to buy the Japan wide rail pass that includes green car travel. Please advise. Thank you!

  6. Fely Del Rosario says:

    Dear Takeshi, my husband and I want to to go to Wakayama, Koyasan and the shrines in Kumano in early December this year. Our itinerary is as follows:
    December 5 Tokyo to Wakayama overnight there.
    December 6 Wakayama to Koyasan and overnight there.
    December 7 Koyasan to the Kumano shrines and back to Wakayama for overnight stay then back to Tokyo.
    Please advise what are the best routes to take. We are getting a JR pass for this trip. Thank you.

  7. Therese Foo says:

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

  8. Mimi says:

    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.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    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.

  10. Alison says:

    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

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