From Kansai International to Koyasan: Getting Lost and Found

It was a chilly October afternoon when I landed at Kansai International Airport on the outskirts of Osaka.  I had a tight schedule, since the last bus to my hostel left the bus station, which was three hours away, at 7pm.  I didn’t have time to make a mistake – I needed to be as quick as possible.

But a trip without a few wrong turns isn’t too much fun, now is it?  That in mind, I had to wait in line to grab my pocket wifi, and again for my Kansai Thru Pass (which I will write about at length – I loved it!)  My general mistrust of Google Maps meant I got lost a bit on my way to Koyasan, until I gave in and realized that unlike in Korea, Google Maps is actually brilliant in Japan. I wasn’t going to make my bus.  I thought I was going to be stranded at the top of some rural mountain in Kansai.

To calm my nerves, I grabbed a hot cocoa from the vending machine (Yes, it was warm! Japanese vending machines are the best) and sat back to watch the pitch black forest pass by the train windows.


It was close to 8pm when I got to Koyasan train station, a full hour after my bus had left the station.  I wasn’t even upset at this point because I was tired, cold, and being filled with the most incredibly clear mountain air I had ever tasted.  I followed the two other train passengers through the station to the funicular: the beloved Koyasan Cable Car.

The cable car, taken on the way down, as my trip up was in the middle of the night!

The cable car, taken on the way down, as my trip up was in the middle of the night!

A few minutes later, after climbing straight up a mountain in the rickety but safe cable car, I had finally reached Koyasan, home of the Okunoin Cemetery that I had traveled so far to see.

I hopped on the only available bus and stayed on until the final stop where I then had to walk about 20 minutes through the misty night with a cemetery on my left and a dark lurking pine forest to my right.  The only thing I could see was a few street lights, mysterious lanterns deep in the cemetery, and occasionally, my breath.

After a nice long walk that had me terrified for my life (but only of ghosts and mountain spirits, not anything too serious – Japan is much to safe for me to have be really afraid!) I reached my cozy guesthouse.

Sliding open a shed door to the smell of fresh coffee and the sound of soft jazz is what I imagine entering heaven will be like.  The all white interior of the Kokuu Koyasan Guesthouse made me feel safe and clean, and when I was shown my small capsule room I was relieved to feel how comfortable it was.  Had they not mentioned the free tea in the entrance area, I would have fallen asleep immediately.  Instead I took the time to tell my parents I was safe and warmed my insides with green tea.


The rest of the trip in Koyasan was incredibly easy and I will be sure to make an entire post for it.  For now, here’s how I got to Koyasan using my Kansai Thru Pass.  There are other ways to get there, but if you are using Kansai Thru, this is a great route and all of the transportation (including the cable car and bus) are included in the Pass (you don’t have to pay a thing extra!)

From Kansai International Airport to Koya-san Station and Koyasan Guesthouse

  1. Nankai Line (timetable) —> Tengachaya Station
  2.  Nankai Koya Line —> Gokurakubashi Station
  3. Cable Car —> Koyasan Station
  4. Nankai Rinakan bus (time table) —> Guesthouse

Remember, if you have Wifi…trust in Google Maps! 

Check out my adventure here: