Choishi-Michi Pilgrimage Trail to Koya-san (町石道)

Kudoyama-chō, Japan



15.5 miles

Elevation Gain

4826.1 ft

Route Type



Added by Lindsay Tamm

Earn a well deserved meditation retreat atop Koya-san by taking the pilgrimage route from Kudoyama to Koya-san, the holy centre of the Shingon Buddhist sect in Japan and the resting place of Kobo Daishi. The Choishi-michi trail is a beautiful, contemplative and ancient approach which takes you in the footsteps of Kobo Daishi.

Starting from the Kudoyama Train station, you walk just under 2k through town to begin the trail at the Jison-in Ji (慈尊院). The Jison-in temple is a great place to pick up a map of the trail which is available in several different languages. The first 1/3 of the trail is quite steep and you make rapid elevation gains at first through persimmon and citrus orchards. After that, the trail meanders through a really nice forest as you climb ever higher towards Koya-san. 

If you're running, I recommend taking the initial climb somewhat easy because it can be quite hot, sunny and steep. After that though, the trail levels out and becomes very good quality through the forest for the rest of the journey. The trail intersects a town and the highway about 3/4 of the way up where there are bathrooms and a small tea house for refreshments. You can run the trail or fast-hike it in 3-4 hours or a casual hike will take you about 5-6 hours.

At the top, I recommend staying 1 or 2 nights at one of the many temple accommodations. Japanese Guesthouse is a great place to book your temple stay. Note that temple visits include evening and morning meditation sessions and 2 fully vegetarian meals. And for great coffee in Koya-san, head to Komi Coffee! When you leave Koya-san, you can either hike back down or take a cable-car from Koya-san station to Gokurakubashi Station where you catch the train. I took the cable-car. 

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