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.
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.
Can I also say that the owner is pretty cool, makes a mean breakfast (with homemade bread) and the toilet seats are warm?
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.
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.
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).
We walked through it on the way back from our hike, but it really is quite interesting to visit at night:
Dinner was at the simply-named Tonkatsu – you can guess what they serve. Great portions, simple but honest fare – I was happy.
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.