Kansai Region Day 1 – Koyasan

This series is a record of my journey though the Kansai Region. For a more geeky perspective, try following this set of posts!

25 May, 7.15am – Arrival in Kansai International Airport

After a 9-hour journey, our plane touched down in Kansai International Airport. I decided against renting a SIM card since my old Nokia N86 could not support the network, and I didn’t want to rent a phone. 3G/4G simcards for iPhones are available though. One day I’ll read up on the tech and find out why.

9am – Journey to the Mountains

We went straight to Koyasan from the airport – the journey taking about 2.5 hours with two train changes, a cable car ride, and a bus to the hostel. The train and cable car rides were covered by a single ticket purchased at the airport station (¥1,740), but the bus ticket is purchased separately.
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The bus system in Koyasan is interesting. People board from the back of the bus, and if you don’t have a day pass (¥800), you’ll pay the driver at the front when alighting (¥400). The town itself is about 4km wide and walkable, but the journey to the bus-station from town is challenging on foot (there is a bus-only route).

12pm – Koyasan Guest House Kokuu

I must admit to being surprised at how cosy the place was. My guess is the entire hostel is just about 20m long and 8m wide, packing in a common area and bar in addition to the capsule-style rooms. The decor was very Swedish (think IKEA) with plenty of whites, clean lines and efficient space use. It sounds cramped but is actually very comfortable. And new – since it’s only been open for 7 months.
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Can I also say that the owner is pretty cool, makes a mean breakfast (with homemade bread) and the toilet seats are warm?
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You can watch a short video about the guesthouse here.

1pm – Eat your vegetables

With the recommendation of our hostel owner, lunch was a traditional vegetarian meal eaten by monks at this restaurant called Sanbo. As quaint as the town was, the restaurant expected visitors and were prepared with an English menu.
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They serve this interesting tofu that’s made of potatoes. Not to everyone’s taste, but generally the meal was quite unique and we enjoyed it.

3pm Tongubuji temple + Mini-hike

I’m not a huge temple guy, so we while we did pass through a few shrines and temples, I was looking more to walking along one of the trails. Koyasan has quite a few trails which pilgrims used to travel along – the longest and most challenging spanning about 22km.

Our group were not seasoned hikers by any means, so we opted for a 2km segment of another route. The elevation was pretty steep, and there were too many trees to get a great view – but we did catch a glimpse of the mountain ranges that cloudy day.

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6pm onwards – Dinner + Cemetery

The hostel is a stone’s throw from Okunuin Mae – a cemetery where an important monk is buried (they believe he is still meditating).
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We walked through it on the way back from our hike, but it really is quite interesting to visit at night:
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Dinner was at the simply-named Tonkatsu – you can guess what they serve. Great portions, simple but honest fare – I was happy.
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Looking back on Koyasan

Some people like to take day trips to Koyasan, but I think it’s worth it staying overnight, especially now that there is great budget accommodation. It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, and both amateur and serious hikers will enjoy the trails available.

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