A view of the zen garden of the Kongobuji temple, Koyasan, Japan; Shutterstock ID 59794360; Your name (First / Last): Laura Crawford; GL account no.: 65050; Netsuite department name: Online Editorial; Full Product or Project name including edition: Kii Peninsula page online images for BiT

Shutterstock / Valeria Cantone


Kii Peninsula

This is the headquarters of the Shingon sect and the residence of Kōya-san's abbot. The main gate is the temple's oldest structure (1593); the present main hall dates from the 19th century. It's free to enter the grounds, but costs ¥500 to enter the main hall, which has several fusuma (opaque paper sliding doors) adorned with landscape paintings by famed 17th-century artists, including those of the Kanō school. Many of the temple's statues and ritual implements are displayed at the Reihōkan.

From inside the main hall you can see the banryutei (1984), Japan's largest rock garden. It contains 140 large granite stones brought from Shikoku (Kōbō Daishi's birthplace) and white gravel from Kyoto, which are collectively meant to represent two protector dragons rising from a sea of clouds.

The more recently built annexes (Betsuden and Shin-Betsuden) contain contemporary paintings of seasons and images inspired by Kōbō Daishi's sojourn in China.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Kii Peninsula attractions

1. Tokugawa Mausoleum

0.25 MILES

These adjacent mausoleums were completed in 1643 at the behest of the third Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, for his grandfather, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and…

2. Konpon Daitō

0.25 MILES

The most interesting structure at the Garan is the Konpon Daitō, a 50m-tall, bright-vermilion pagoda seated at what is considered to be the centre of the…

3. Reihōkan

0.26 MILES

Several important artworks from Kōya-san's temples are collected here, most notably some Heian-era wooden sculptures of the Buddha and Fudō Myō-ō…

4. Kondō

0.28 MILES

The Garan's kondō is the temple's main hall and enshrines Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of medicine and healing. First constructed in the early 9th century,…

5. Garan


The name of this temple, which is sometimes called Danjo Garan or Dai Garan, derives from the Sanskrit saṅghārāma, which means monastery. With eight…

6. Chūmon

0.32 MILES

This temple gate was renovated for Kōya-san's 1200th anniversary in 2015, after an 1843 fire. Two of the original statues of guardian kings enshrined in…

7. Sai-tō

0.33 MILES

The Western Pagoda was most recently rebuilt in 1834.

8. Ichi-no-hashi

0.64 MILES

This simple stone bridge marks the entrance to the sacred Oku-no-in complex.