Mount Koya

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  • Japanese: 高野山 (Kouya-san)

Mt. Kôya is a sacred mountain in Wakayama prefecture (Kii province); the chief headquarters of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, Mt. Kôya is also home to one of the world's largest cemeteries, which includes the graves of a great many prominent historical figures. The mountain's sacred spaces are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside Yoshino, Omine, and Kumano Sanzan, as part of the "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range."

The Shingon temple on Mt. Kôya was established in the 9th century by Kûkai, who is said to remain alive, and in a deep meditative state, atop the mountain.

In 1130, the monk Kakuban established a temple called Denhô-in on the mountain. This was later moved to the Negoro region, becoming the temple of Negoro-ji.[1]

Kôya-san may have been the site of some of the earliest stone gorintô grave markers in Japan, erected in the late 12th or early 13th century.[2]

In the medieval period, Kôya was a common destination for exile. Figures exiled to Mt. Kôya have included Sakuma Nobumori and his son Sakuma Masakatsu in 1580, Hôjô Ujinao and his wife Tokuhime in 1591, Toyotomi Hidetsugu in 1595, and Sanada Masayuki and Sanada Yukimura in 1600.


  1. Gallery labels, "Negorodera Tahôtô mokei" (Negorodera treasure tower model), National Museum of Japanese History.
  2. Hank Glassman, "Remembering the Dead in Medieval Japan: On the Origins of Stone Grave Markers," talk given at University of California, Santa Barbara, 7 May 2015.