The Okunoin Cemetery in Koyasan is the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 graves of Buddhist Monks and important people such as warlords.
It’s located in the forest around sacred Mount Koya and can easily be done as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto.
This is a photo guide to the cemetery and also the temples that reside in and around the mountains serene and eerie forest.
At the bottom of the post I have given practical details on how to visit Okunoin Cemetery, so if you just want that information just head straight there.
The Okunoin Cemetery on Mount Koya
During the daytime the sun casts its light through the gaps in the trees.
Buddhist stone sculptures are everywhere, sometimes decorated in clothing.
Getting away from the main path you can find overgrown graves. An ancient area.
A Buddhist Monk strolls along the main walkway through Koyasan.
Going into the cemetery at night is a seriously spooky affair. If you stick to the main path there are thousands of stone lanterns lighting the way, but go up onto the side paths and you will be surrounded by 1000’s of old graves, silent in the darkness.
Being alone in the dark away from everything is at once a very peaceful serene feeling, followed by imagination overload about ghosts.
If you think the possibility of ghosts would come in the form of chilled out Buddhist Monks, don’t forget feudal lords and warriors are also buried there.
The Koyasan Temples
The main Mount Koya temple area is about a 20 minute walk from the cemetery and has some impressive buildings.
You can see Buddhists praying to the various deities that are worshipped there.
Visiting Koyasan in April is perfect for the colours.
Before entering the Koyasan temple complexes you wash your hands with water, like mentioned earlier.
How To Visit Koyasan
Koyasan can be visited as a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. It took just over 1 and a half hours by train from Osaka to Mount Koya.
There is Shukubo Koyasan temple lodging if you want to stay overnight but it’s not the cheapest option if travelling on a budget. If you want to splurge on sleeping in a temple this is a list of all the temples offering lodging in Koyasan.
I left Osaka on a 9.30 train in the morning and reached Koyasan at around 11.30. Take the cheapest option which involves changing trains once, but the connecting train leaves within minutes so there’s no waiting around.
The last train back from Mount Koya to Osaka is around 21.30 so If you want to stay late to see the cemetery at night then go to the temple area first (which is before the cemetery anyway upon entering Koyasan),spend a few hours there, then walk 20 minutes to the start of Okunoin.
It’s a pleasant walk past temples and there are some small eateries to get some ramen and other stuff.
Spend a few hours during daylight to see Okunoin then grab a coffee or snack. A great place for that is Kami Coffee, a chilled out little coffeehouse near the beginning of the cemetery.
Wait until 19.30 when it’s getting dark then walk through the eerie Mount Koya Forest, and if your brave enough walk off the main path.
You can then take one of the last buses from nearby the entrance around 21.00 which will take you to the station for the last train back to Osaka or Kyoto. This way you will get an hour or so at night in the cemetery.
There are so many good things to see in the Kansai region of Japan.
I stayed in Osaka to explore the area and wrote a post about some of the best day trips you can do from Osaka. So if you have some more time around Osaka and Kyoto see what else you can get up to.
I visited Koyasan in April and the weather was fine, not cold, not hot. Always check the day before going though.
Enjoy your cemetery walk.
I recommend getting the Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide) for travelling to Japan.
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