Koyasan is historically regarded as one of the most sacred mountains in Japan. In particular, it is a holy ground representing the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism with a history dating back twelve hundred years.
The holy ground is located in the north-eastern part of the Kii mountain range in Japanís Kinki region, including seven prefectures Ė Wakayama, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Nara, Shiga and Mie. Koyasan is not a particular mountain but a basin of around 630 hectares, 800 meters above sea level. The basin is 6 kilometers from the eastern end to the western end and 3 kilometers from the northern edge to the southern edge. In addition, Koyasan generally represents a series of mountainous zones range from 400 to 1100 meters, all leading into the basin. The shape of the basin looks like a lotus leaf, which shows special meanings of Buddhism.
Koyasan is a noted religious center, with its esteemed Kongobu-ji temple, as well as 116 other temples. It also has a hospital, police station, schools, and shops and restaurants. The population of Koyasan is around 3000. As an additional information, about 100 years ago, Koyasan was a revered male-only area.
Kukai (774-835) is one of the most famous high priests of Buddhism in the history of Japan. The high priest Kukai introduced the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism to Koyasan in 816. Shingon sectís tradition as a way of discovering the mysterious world within our human structures and creating harmony between people and nature has held an intrinsic appeal for Japanese throughout the ages.
He is remembered not only as a saint but as a scholar, savior, spiritual healer, calligrapher, Buddhisattva, pilgrim, inventor of the Japanese Kana syllabary alphabet and founder of Japanese Buddhism and public schools.
In addition, 52 temples in Koyasan provide temple lodging to domestic and overseas visitors and offer a variety of activities to experience Koya culture, such as attending morning services, coping sutra and meditation with monks.
Koyasan started to become an international tourist town after the world heritage nomination - Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range in July, 2004. According to a Wakayama tourist survey, the number of overseas visitors to Koyasan almost doubled between 2002 and 2006, from 8312 to 16413.
As indicated by 2008 Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism 'Numbers of Overseas Tourists' figures, western visitors now make up 70 per cent of Koyasan tourism, with 22 per cent coming from North America, 21 per cent from France, 17 per cent from Germany and 5 per cent each from Britain and Oceania, compared to Asian tourist numbers at 13 per cent and others at 17 per cent. The number of tourists including foreign visitors has been increasing.