Mt Koya is at the center of Shingon Buddhism, which was introduced in Japan in 805 by Kobo Daishi – one of Japan's most important religious figures. Built on a forested mountain top, the secluded temple village of Koyasan has since developed around the Shingon headquarters, which is also the site of Kobo Daishi's mausoleum.
Koyasan is the ideal place to experience an overnight stay at a temple lodging (or shukubo). Around 50 temples in the area offer this type of visit to both pilgrims and other travelers, offering them the chance to experience a monk's lifestyle by eating, living, and observing prayer times just as they do.
Mt Koya can be reached by train from Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka via a scenic route through valleys towards the final stages of the journey. The cable car that leads up to Mt Koya is the longest in the country, and from the station at the top there’s a bus up to the holy areas. Koyasan tends to be around 5°C cooler than down on the plains, so bring warm clothes if you're visiting at any other time than the height of summer.