Kudoyama is a town of 4,000 people (2021) in Wakayama. The town has long been regarded as the gateway to the temples of Mount Koya.
Kudoyama is on the south bank of the Kinokawa River, and consists of a valley formed along the Fudodani River that flows into it, and a valley formed by the Nyu River that flows into it from the east.
The economy of Kudoyama is centered on horticulture and seasonal tourism.
Kudoyama's main train station is 1 Kudoyama Station in the city center's south eastern area. The station has direct connections to Namba in Osaka which is just over an hour away. Additionally it has direct connections to Gokurakubashi Station where one can access the cable car to Mount Koya, as this rail line is not operated by JR the Japan Rail Pass will not work on this route though there are other alternatives such as the Koyasan World Heritage ticket which provides free rail travel on this route for ¥3,080 and additionally also pays for the cable car to Mount Koya if you plan on visiting it in conjunction with Kudoyama.
Hashimoto station, which is roughly 10 minutes north of Kudoyama, has connections to Wakayama and southern Nara prefecture; these are JR lines so the Japan Rail Pass will work on these lines.
Kudoyama is easily accessible from the rest of Kansai, the town is roughly 90 minutes by car from Osaka and Nara, and two hours from Kyoto. The nearest car rentals are available at Kansai International Airport, Wakayama, and on Mount Koya.
Kudoyama's temple of Jison (covered in See) is the starting point of the ancient Chōishi-michi (町石道) pilgrimage trail to Mount Koya. The trail is named after the stone markers placed every chō (about 108 meters) along the trail.
To reach the temple from the station, follow the main road downhill and across the bridge keeping an eye out for the green signage on the left. Free detailed English and Japanese hiking maps are available at the temple. If you want to do the Japanese thing, you can pick up a souvenir stamp rally card too. The 7th and final stamp can only be obtained during business hours.
The trail is about 22 km long, ascends about 700 m (most of this in the first and last quarters) and can be walked in about 7 hours plus resting time, offering a very rewarding hiking experience. In reality, you'll likely want to take the side-detour to Niukanshōfu Shrine roughly 1/3 of the way up, adding a third World Heritage site on to your journey as well as an extra 2-3 km depending upon approach. Local signage claims there is guest house accommodation at this point but this is unconfirmed.
Fire is prohibited, but there is nothing stopping you from camping in one of the observation huts along the way. In fact, like many such huts in Japan, locals have stashed a couple of ground mats in the rafters of one roughly 2/3 of the way up, just past the Yatate Jaya Teahouse.
- 1 Jison-in (慈尊院), 832 Jisonin, ☏ +81 736-54-2214. Daily 08:00-17:00. This Shingon Buddhist temple functions as the start for pilgrims planning to pilgrimage to Mount Koya, it is inscribed as part of the Mount Koya UNESCO World Heritage Site due to this religious significance. The temple is also a destination for women struggling with motherly issues such as child birth, this is because the temple served as the residence Kukai's mother.
- 2 Niukanshōfu Shrine (丹生官省符神社). It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range".
The production of washi paper is a local handicraft.
Few people choose to stay in Kudoyama since Osaka is only an hour away.
If you have camping gear and want to get an early start, you can also ask the resident monk at Jison if you can camp on the grounds; there is a little graveled area, just beside the toilets, on which he'll probably let you sleep.
- 1 Nipponia Koyasan (Koyashita stn). Clean, functional lodging located inside Koyashita station (高野下駅), the next one up the mountain from central Kudoyama. Rooms are decorated with railway memorabilia, and you'll get to watch actual trains trundling just outside your window. There are no staff on site and no stores in the immediate vicinity, so bring dinner and reheat it in the microwave. Prices include an onigiri (rice ball) breakfast coupon for downtown Kudoyama. From ￥8,000.