When planning our trip, I read so many accounts of Koyasan being the highlight of others’ visits that I had to incorporate it into our itinerary. I enjoyed learning some about Buddhism and visiting a monastery during my trip to Taiwan, and Mt. Koya seemed like the perfect place to explore this aspect of Japanese culture.
Our travel route meant that visiting Koyasan between our time in Tokyo and Kyoto was the most logical. Unfortunately, this resulted in a long travel day. If all went smoothly, traveling from our apartment in Tokyo to our lodging in Koyasan would require eight transit changes and approximately six hours. And all did not go smoothly.
The bullet train from Tokyo deposited us at the Shin-Osaka station. From Shin-Osaka, there are two options for reaching the Nankai Koya Line: 1) taking the subway to the Namba station; or 2) taking the JR line to Osaka and transferring to the Osaka Loop Line to Shin-Imamiya station. Since our bullet train tickets included inner-city travel on the JR, we chose Option 2.
Here’s where it got tricky. Between our arrival at Shin-Imamiya and the departure of our train toward Koyasan, we only had six minutes.* During this time, we had to buy tickets and change train lines. We knew that our chances of making the connection were slim, but we were determined to give it our best shot.
If you are traveling to Koyasan from the direction of Kyoto/Osaka and plan to catch the Nankai Koya Line from Shin-Imamiya, please note the following: When you get off the train at Shin-Imamiya, GO LEFT. If you go right, you will end up outside of the station and have to walk around it and down the street in order to reach the Nankai line. (As you may have guessed, I know this from experience.) There will also be nowhere to buy the World Heritage Ticket, if that’s what you plan, as they are not available from the ticket machines.
Please note that this instruction directly contradicts a TripAdvisor forum post discussing this very transfer. Making a brief connection is very difficult if you do not know exactly where to go, and in this case, making a wrong turn will render it impossible. Missing the connection delayed us by one hour, certainly not a catastrophe, but meaningful when you’re traveling a long distance for a short stay.
Timetables for the Nankai Koya Line between Namba and Koyasan are available here. (There is a two-minute difference between the Namba and Shin-Imamiya stations.) Timetables for the buses running within Koyasan are available at the cable car station.
*It’s worth noting that we faced the same connection on our return with an even smaller window of time and successfully made the transfer.