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

When I stayed in my parents place near Osaka, I had two days trip to Mt. Koya (Koyasan) and Wakayama. Actually I had never been to Koyasan before this trip. This was very memorable trip. I really would like to tell you how I felt in Mt. Koya. I also got on many interesting trains. If you are a train lover, you will be impressed.

Departing from Namba

I started my trip from Namba station.

Nankai Railway is most common way to get Mt. Koya. I went there on Saturday and I expected busy day. I left Namba station in very early morning

Namba station 07:12(Nankai Railway Express)08:03 Hashimoto

I had Kansai Thru Pass two days because I had two days trip to Mt. Koya and Wakayama.

Kansai thru pass, map and discount coupon

But if you visited Mt. Koya only, you can purchase Koyasan World Heritage Ticket at 2,860 yen.

You can purchase Koyasan World Heritage Ticket at the ticket window in advance or travel day.

This ticket is valid for two days. But you can get the worth by one day trip easily. If I paid regular fare on the spot, the following costs are required.

2,520 yen for the return fare between Namba and Koyasan by Nankai Railway and Nankai Koyasan Cable Car
330 yen for Koyasan station to Okunoin-guchi by Nankai Rinkan Bus
220 yen for Okunoin-mae to Senjuinbashi by Nankai Rinkan Bus
380 yen for Daimon to Koyasan station by Nankai Rinkan Bus
Total 3,450 yen

As you see, Nankai Railway fare, Cable car fare and one way bus fare to Okunoin-guchi are almost equal to Koyasan World Heritage Ticket. You must use this ticket for trip to Koyasan. This ticket is valid for two days. Of course you can use it for overnight trip.

Koyasan World Heritage Ticket

Actually there is Koyasan World Heritage Ticket with one way limited express train fee to Koyasan is available. This deal is not shown in the link above. But it is sold at 3,400 yen in Japanese site. But you can take limited express train to Koyasan only. You cannot take limited express train from Koyasan to Namba. I think the demand of limited express train from Koyasan to Namab is higher than Namba to Koyasan. Because most of travelers are tired on the way back. They want to take more comfortable train. I think Nankai railway want to sell limited express train ticket to Koyasan more than to Namba. That is why the deal is available only to Koyasan. However it does not match the customer’s demand in my opinion.

In my plan, I took the cruising train “Tenku” from Hashimoto to Gokurakubashi. I took the ordinary express train to Hashimoto from Namba.

Express train to Hashimoto

Sometimes “Express” train is different from ordinary train. But Nankai railway’s express train is a sort of commuter’s train. It has only long bench seat. I was on this train for about an hour to get Hashimoto where is located at the base of Mt. Koya.

Trip by Tenku to Gokurakubashi from Hashimoto

The train set of Tenku

Hashimoto 08:30 (Nankai Railway “Tenku” 51) 09:09 Gokurakubashi 09:14 (Nankai Railway Cable Car) 09:19 Koyasan

At the end of Hashimoto station platform, there is Tenku reserved seat ticket exchange window. I went there to pick
up my ticket.

Tenku is not well known in foreign tourist market. Because online booking is not available even in Japanese. We need to make a call to book. When I called to book a seat, I felt the reservation staff could speak Japanese only. Nankai railway does not introduce this train in any foreign language in official site. Probably this train may be filled up by local tourist.

There are a few trips of Tenku running between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi. I took the earliest one but it was almost sold out. The second departure was sold out when I called.

Tenku came to the platform. I got on the train. This train is four cars formation. But two of four cars are ordinary fleet. You can take these two cars in this train by base fare ticket only. The other two cars are specialize fleet. This two cars are called “Tenku”. All seats are reserved seat. You cannot take these two cars without booking.

If there are seat available, you can book at the booth just before departure time. You can try if you are interested in this train. Tenku has arrived at the platform. I got on the train.

In the carriage of Tenku, all seats are towards to the valley side. There are two rows and the second row seats are a bit higher to offer better view.

Interior of Tenku

There is the open air observation deck. All passengers who have reserved seat ticket can enter this deck.

Observation deck does not have window. But in case of bad weather, this compartment is closed.
The view from observation deck
The view from observation deck

The track runs on very steep hills and sharp curves. Wheel and rail make lots of squeaky noise. This segment between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi is known as one of the mountain railways in Japan.

After I enjoyed 40 minutes mountain train ride, Tenku arrived at Gokurakubashi.

Trip by cable car from Gokurakubashi to Koyasan

Gokurakubashi has a ticket gate but there is not any residential areas around the station. This station is existed as transfer point between train and cable car. I changed train to cable car.

Walkway from train platform to cable car platform
Cable car platform at Gokurakubashi station

And I was on the cable car for another 5 minutes from Gokurakubashi.

And then, I arrived at Koyasan station.

However Koyasan station is away from the center of Koyasan. There is only one store around Koyasan station. I needed to take a bus to get the center of Koyasan.

It was foggy when I got Koyasan station.

Continue to the post, “Two days trip to Koyasan (Mt. Koya) and Wakayama from Osaka, Part 2 – sightseeing in Koyasan

12 thoughts on “Two days trip to Koyasan (Mt. Koya) and Wakayama from Osaka, Part 1 – Namba to Koyasan”

  1. Hi Takeshi,
    Glad to find some information about Tenku in English here. Here is my itinerary to Koyasan from Kansai international airport. I will be traveling to Koyasan on 1 Dec [Saturday]

    Osaka Kansai Terminal take train to Wakayama station [JR line 44mins] [890yen]
    Wakayama station – Hashimoto [JR line 56mins] [840yen]
    Hashimoto – take Nankai line Tenku [510 yen] – Gokurakubashi [43 mins]
    Gokurakubashi – cable car – Koyasan station [3mins] [390yen]
    Koyasan station- take bus to town [10mins]

    Is Tenku train [depart from Hashimoto] and cable car service affected by Typhoon No.21 happened in September?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    1. Hi Kym,

      If you want to take JR line, your route is okay. But if you don’t care, the following route is faster and cheaper.

      Kansai airport (Nankai railway airport express) Tengachaya (Nankai railway Koya line express) Hashimoto
      Trip time less than 90 minutes from KIX to Hashimoto

      And the base fare for Kansai airport to Koyasan is 1790 yen altogether, plus Tenku seat fee. It’s cheaper.

      Train line and cable car were suspended but it’s back to normal now.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Dear Takeshi San,

        Thank you for your suggestions. I’ve made some changes on my itinerary, kindly need your help to check it out. Also, I have some questions to ask about the route and train ticket during my trip is Kansai, thank you again 🙂

        1-Dec(Sat)
        ~KIX [nankai airport express]- Tengachaya [nankai koya line express]- Hashimoto
        ~Hashimoto – take Nankai line Tenku – Gokurakubashi
        ~Gokurakubashi – tram – Koyasan station
        ~Koyasan station- take bus to Senjuinbashi
        ~walking around Koyasan
        ** question 1: Will it be better if I purchase Koyasan World Heritage Ticket? Is Tenku seat fee included?
        ** question 2: mentioned in your reply as above, “base fare for Kansai airport to Koyasan is 1790 yen”.. is Tenku seat fee included in this package? If yes, do I need to reserve for Tenku seat by phone call as well?

        2-Dec(Sun)
        ~check out temple stay
        ~take bus to Koyasan station- take tram to Gokurakubashi -take train – Hashimoto
        ~self- drive from Hashimoto [Toyoya rent a car Hashimoto shop]- Hongu taishamae [Kumano]
        ~drive around Hongu Taisha and Yunomine onsen
        ~overnight at Yunomine onsen ryokan
        ** question 3: will it be snow falling during early Dec in Koyasan to Kumano? Do I need to have winter tire and snow chain while driving from Koyasan – Kumano?

        3-Dec(Mon)
        ~check out ryokan
        ~drive to Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine/ Kamikura-jinja Shrine/ Kii- katsuura (Tuna auction)
        ~overnight at shingu

        4-Dec(Tue)
        ~drive to Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine/ Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple/ water fall/ Daimon-zaka Slope
        ~overnight at shingu

        5-Dec(Wed)
        ~check out shingu/ drive to Yuasa
        ~Yuasa old town/ Jinburo bath/ Yuasa soy sauce/ wakayama castle/ Momijidani Garden/ Kuroshio Market
        ~JR Wakayama station [return car at Toyota rent a car Wakayama station shop]
        ~take train to kyoyo
        ** question 4: I will use ICOCA/ Kansai one pass for this [wakayama -kyoto], is it suitable?

        6-Dec(Thu)
        ~kyoto- Kamogawa river/ Ninenzaka/ Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaaka Yasaka Chaya Branch/ Sannenzaka/ Jishu-jinja Shrine/ Yasaka Shrine / Kodaiji [red leaf at night]/ kiyomizudera/ Higashiyama/ Gion/ Hanamikoji Dori
        ~Check in Tanaka-ya Gion
        ** question 5: Buy Kyoto City Bus or Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass or by foot for traveling around kyoto?

        7-Dec(Fri )
        ~Kyoto- Nishiki Market / tenryu-ji temple/ Arashiyama/ adashino nembutsu-ji/ Inari Shrine- take train/ Ponto-cho
        ** question 6: Buy Kyoto City Bus or Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass for this day?

        8-Dec(Sat)
        ~Kyoto- nanzen- ji/ Eikan- do Zenrin- ji[red leaf- open till 2100]/ Ginkakuji/ Keage incline/ Philosopher’s path/ Heian Shrine
        ~Travel from Kyoto to Osaka [by train]
        ~check in Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi

        9-Dec(Sun)
        ~Osaka- dotonburi/ shinsaibashi/ Daimaru/ Soccer shop Kamo Shinsaibashi/ Den Den town

        10-Dec(Mon)
        ~Osaka- Tenmagu/ shitenno ji/ Kuromon Ichiba Market/ osaka castle
        ** question 7: Do I need ICOCA/ Kansai one pass while traveling in Osaka city on 9 & 10 Dec?

        11-Dec(Tue)
        ~Osaka- Nambayasaka Shrine/ Katsuo-ji Temple/ mino parking/ shopping around shinsaibashi
        ** question 8: will rent a car for day trip to the places above as they are quite far away from Osaka city, is it necessary?

        12-Dec(Wed)
        ~KIX, return home

        ありがとうございます Takeshi San for helping on this.

        Best regards,
        Kym

        1. Hi Kym,

          1. No. You cannot get the worth of it because it includes round trip fare but you will use it for Koyasan to Hashimoto only on day 2. Just use regular fare ticket for trains and cable car. And you can add Koyasan bus pass.
          http://www.rinkan.co.jp/global/en/ticket/

          2. No. You have to add a seat fare. Base fare covers just train ride. It does not include any special seat fees. You have to make a call to reserve a seat. But I don’t know that reservation staff can speak English.

          3. Yes. It’s surprised if it snows.

          4. Kansai area pass is recommended:
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

          You can take Kishuji rapid train to Hineno from Wakayama, and then change to take Haruka to get Kyoto.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-get-kansai-airport-and-wakayama-kansai-airport-rapid-service-and-kishuji-rapid-service.html
          https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/kansai-airport-limited-express-haruka.html

          5,6. Yes

          7. You may think about using Osaka amazing pass.
          https://www.osp.osaka-info.jp/en/facility/free
          It includes admission for Shitennoji and Osaka castle. You can get unlimited subway ride too. It includes many other attractions fee. If you change mind, you can add some places to visit.

          8. I have no idea. I haven’t driven car in Japan for more than 10 years.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Dear Takeshi,

            Thank you very much for the recommendations, it helps so much on my travel plan. I’ve spent some time read up your posts and made some adjustment on the itinerary, kindly need your help to check on the itinerary again.

            1-Dec(Sat)
            ~KIX [nankai airport express 38 mins] – Tengachaya [nankai koya line express 45mins] – Hashimoto
            ~Hashimoto – take Nankai line Tenku [earliest train 43mins] – Gokurakubashi
            **Q1: for Tenku train, do I need to pay while calling to make reservation or I pay the fare on the spot?
            ~Gokurakubashi – tram 5mins – Koyasan station
            ~Koyasan station – take bus to Senjuinbashi [10mins] [single ticket 290yen]
            ~Koyasan Shukubo Association (Central Office)
            ~walk around Koyasan- Odawara street
            ~Check in Henjokoin temple
            ~Kongobu-ji Head Temple/ Danjo Garan Scared Temple Complex/ Reihokan Museum/ Dai mon Gate

            2-Dec(Sun)
            ~morning walk to Kobo Daishi Gobyo/ Torodo hall for morning offering
            ~check out temple stay
            ~take bus to Koyasan station- take tram to Gokurakubashi – take train – Hashimoto
            ~Hashimoto station walk to “Toyoya rent a car” Hashimoto shop
            ~Self- drive from Hashimoto – Hongu Taishamae
            ~Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Route- Dainichi-goe route/ Kumano Hongu Taisha Grand Shrine/ Kumano Washi Paper Otonashi/ Yunomine onsen
            ~overnight at Yunomine onsen ryokan

            3-Dec(Mon)
            ~check out ryokan
            ~drive to Kumano Hayatama Taisha Grand Shrine/ Kumano River Boat Tour/ Kamikura-jinja Shrine/ Kii- katsuura (tuna)/ tuna auction
            ~overnight at Shingu

            4-Dec(Tue)
            ~drive to Kumano Nachi Taisha Grand Shrine/ Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple/ water fall/ Daimon-zaka Slope
            ~overnight at Shingu

            5-Dec(Wed)
            ~check out shingu/ drive to Yuasa
            ~Yuasa old town/ Jinburo bath/ Yuasa soy sauce/ Wakayama castle/ Momijidani Garden/ Kuroshio Market
            ~JR Wakayama station [return car at Toyota rent a car Wakayama station shop] – Kyoyo station – hotel nearby Okazaki Koen
            **Q2: from Wakayama station to Kyoto hotel, I will buy Kansai Area Pass
            at Wakayama station take Hanwa line, kishuji rapid train, 33mins to Hineno, at Hineno take Haruka train, 75mins to Kyoto station.
            at Kyoto station, i will buy single bus ticket, from Kyoto Ekimae bus stop, take bus 市営5 to Shrine Michi Bus Stop 230yen
            Is the above method correct?

            6-Dec(Thurs)
            ~Ninenzaka/ Starbucks Coffee Kyoto Ninenzaaka Yasaka Chaya Branch/ Sannenzaka/ Yasaka Shrine/ Kodaiji/ kiyomizudera/ Jishu-jinja Shrine/ Higashiyama/ Gion/ Hanamikoji Dori/ Ginkakuji 银阁寺[Kyoto City Bus 204]/ Kamogawa river
            ~Check in Tanaka-ya, Gion
            **Q3: Hotel is nearby the above mentioned tourist spota, will walk around the places without using transportation, ok?

            7-Dec (Fri)
            ~From hotel [Tanaka-ya] to Tenryu-ji temple/ adashino nembutsu-ji/ Kinkaku-ji temple/ Nijo castle/ Teramachi/ Shinkyogoku/ Nishijin textile center/ Nishiki Market/ Arashiyama [take Sagano Romantic train]/ Ponto-cho
            **Q4: buy kyoto sightseeing one day pass [600yen] for the day?
            **Q5: I would like to take Sagano Romantic train for the illumination along the route, according to my plan as above, please guide me where to buy Sagano Romantic train ticket and where to board the train.

            8-Dec(Sat)
            ~From hotel [Tanaka-ya] to Inari Shrine- use one way ICOCA and Haruka/ nanzen- ji/ Eikan- do Zenrin- ji/ Keage incline/ Philosopher’s path/ Heian Shrine
            ~check out hotel – Kyoto station
            **Q6: buy kyoto sightseeing one day pass [600yen] for the above?
            ~Kyoto station – Osaka station – Check in Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi
            **Q7: Can I use Kansai One Pass for Kyoto station to Osaka station?
            **Q8: Is Kansai One Pass include train from Osaka station to Shinsaibashi station [nearest station to hotel]? If not, can I just use ICOCA card for this?

            9-Dec (Sun)
            ~From Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi to Shinsekai/ Tsūtenkaku/ Shinsaibashi/ Daimaru/ Soccer shop Kamo Shinsaibashi/ Den Den town [electric]/ Dotonbori at night
            **Q9: can I walk around the places above? or should I buy Osaka amazing pass?

            10-Dec(Mon)
            ~From Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi to Osaka Tenmagu/ shitenno ji/ Kuromon Ichiba Market/ Osaka castle
            **Q10: can I walk around the places above? or should I buy Osaka amazing pass?

            11-Dec(Tue)
            ~From Hearton Hotel Shinsaibashi to Nambayasaka Shrine/ Katsuo-ji Temple/ mino parking/ Umeda sky building [go around by car]/ shopping near shinsaibashi

            1. Hi Kym,

              1. No. You can pay it on the spot.

              2. If you want to buy it online at early bird price (100 yen cheaper), you must pick up a pass at Kansai airport. You can purchase it at Wakayama but the price is a regular price.
              http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai/

              3,4,6,7. Ok.

              5. You should purchase a ticket in advance at Kansai airport. You can take a train at JR Saga-Arashiyama station.
              http://www.sagano-kanko.co.jp/en/josyaken.php

              8. ICOCA and Kansai one pass are basically same. You can use either one. Please read the link below:
              https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/what-is-ic-card-suica-icoca-pasmo-how-to-use-these-cards.html#Kansai_One_Pass

              9,10. Walking and short subway ride are okay. Osaka amazing pass is not required.

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JPRail.com

              1. ありがとうございます Takeshi San.

                I’ve got the whole picture of which train to take and which pass to buy for my trip, we are grateful for having you here to give us recommendations and advises, thank you for spending your precious time to look at our itinerary. Please keep up the good work, we will definitely come back again for your advice in future 🙂

                Best regards,
                Kym

                  1. Hi Takeshi,

                    Good day to you. It’s me again, Kym. Just found out the below statement from Tenku website, does it mean Tenku will be suspended for some time?

                    高野山ケーブルカーの新造に伴い、以下の期間は「天空」を全列車運転休止とさせていただきます。
                    2018年11月26日(月)〜2019年2月28日(木)(予定)

                    Kindly need your advice on what train should I take from KIX to Koyasan [if Tenku and cable car is suspended].

                    Thank you.

                    Best regards,
                    Kym

                    1. Hi Kym,

                      Unfortunately both Tenku and cable car will be suspended from November 26 to February 28. You have to take a substitute bus service between Hashimoto and Koyasan. You can take same route from Kansai airport to get Hashimoto. You supposed to take Tenku and cable car between Hashimoto and Koyasan via Gokurakubashi. You will take a bus instead for Hashimoto to/from Koyasan.

                      Cheers,

                      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi, since the Nankai Railway Koya line and Cable Car are closed for repair, wondering what is the alternative mode of transport to access Koyasan from Osaka?

    1. Hi James,

      Substitute bus service is available between Hashimoto and Koyasan. But there is no timetable available. Even Nankai railway official site in Japanese does not mention any timetables. It says the following:

      Trip time is 1.5 hours in weekdays and 2.5 to 3 hours in weekend from Hashimoto to Koyasan.
      The number of bus is very limited. Waiting time may be long.

      You can reach Koyasan but it may be longer trip than usual.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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