- The Station Building Hotel opened at the base of Koyasan at Koyashita station!
- Two guest rooms with different tastes
- A crew waiting area reborn as the “Tenku” guest room for two people.
- “Koya” room for 4 guests remodeled from the crew break room
- For breakfast, try the “Rice Ball Stand Kudo” at the next station
- Koyasan train access
- Recommended spots around Koyashita station and Kudoyama station
Koyasan is located at an altitude of about 800 meters, in Ito-gun, Wakayama Prefecture. Koyasan (Mt. Koya) is known as a holy site of Buddhism and many people visit the area. Are you aware of the unique “Station Building Hotel” that opened in November 2019 in Koyashita station, which is very close to Koyasan? An unmanned station building was remodeled and reopened with the rooms of the hotel decorated with train artifacts. The official name of the hotel is “Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji”. Get ready for an in-depth introduction for you, of this “station building hotel”, it’s two total guest rooms, and all that is great about them!
(Main Photo Courtesy to: NIPPONIA HOTEL Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji)
The Station Building Hotel opened at the base of Koyasan at Koyashita station!
Behind Koyashita station you can see the station building.
Koyasan is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range". 2015 was the 1,200th anniversary of Koyasan`s founding as a holy place of Buddhism. When you visit Koyasan by train, you must pass by a station at the bottom of the mountain. That station is Koyashita station, with the newly opened “Station Building Hotel”. Until it was renamed in 1925, the original name of the station was “Koyasan station”. Being the nearest station to “Makio-michi”, the pilgrimage route to Koyasan, this station prospered greatly as a hotspot of accomodation facilities.
Passing a track crossing barrier on the way to the ticket gate
I visited “Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji” which is built in the historic Koyashita station. This hotel is one example of the ”Nipponia" project, renovating various buildings around Japan such as traditional houses, while simultaneously preserving their historic character and reinventing them to become facilities with new uses and values.
Koyashita station building with the hotel
Koyashita station was built in the Taisho era and was a popular gateway for pilgrims traveling to Koyasan. The station was remodeled into a hotel in a way that preserved this history, allowing guests to feel nature’s peace and the warmth of the local area as they travel through the gateway to Koyasan.
Two guest rooms with different tastes
One of the hotel rooms next to the ticket booth
After you get off at the platform and walk towards the Koyashita station building, you will see two brand new doors. While the original function of the station building is undisturbed, the space that used to be used by crew members have been remodeled to become two guest rooms.
A major feature of the hotel is the interior design of the two rooms named “Tenku” and “Koya”, which incorporates various train parts that were used for a half century such as doors, baggage racks, seats, and hanging straps into its decorations. Let’s open the doors, and take a look at what is inside.
A crew waiting area reborn as the “Tenku” guest room for two people.
Tenku room name plate
First, I will report about the room Tenku, which accommodates two guests. Previously a waiting area for train crew, the 17 square meter space was reborn as a compact guest room with a double bed.
“Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji” does not have a reception counter or on-site staff. A password will be mailed to you upon confirming your reservation, and this will act as your room key.
Once you open the door…
What I saw beyond the door, was a space that utilized the aesthetic of its old train station interior, while also incorporating a modern touch. The wood floors were renewed and presented a refined, natural atmosphere and harmonized with the pure white bed in the center of the room. The all-red curtain and the stools under the counter table presented a Taisho era feeling.
Some of the walls seemed to be remnants of the building’s old styling; the exposed pillars and small cracks in the plastered walls told of the room’s long history. The room was remodeled in a unique way to preserve the history and feel of the station and trains. In the direct line of sight was the original frosted glass door, just as it was when the staff used it for access, and next to it were straps hanging. A part of the paneling on the lower wall has been replaced with wood, but in a particular way that does not look out of place.
Behind the bed’s headboard is a double sliding window which allows abundant sunshine to enter the room. The room is full of gentle light. The windows appeared to be original, with a type of threaded lock that is not manufactured anymore, and made me feel the passage of time.
Trains from the Tenku room window
One of the real pleasures of the Station Building Hotel is the view of the station from the window. I was invited by the sounds of approaching trains, and just as I neared the window, the train passed just a few meters outside. I was happy to see next to the bed, a former train seat from which you can view the scenery through the window. You can fully enjoy the sights and sounds of the trains passing the platform while sitting on the seat or lying on the bed.
As you can feel everywhere in the room, the “Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji” has a special train interior design, which is an important feature of the hotel and provides a unique ambience throughout the room.
For example, there was train gauge on the counter table on the opposite side of the bed . You can see an alert for “Do not forget turn off the ATS switch” on top of the gauge. The interior design preserves and utilizes the actual equipment of the time.
A gauge preserved inside the room. ATS means “automatic train stop”
In addition, a baggage rack, hanging straps, and other items casually decorate the room. Of course they were all formerly used on trains. Please feel the history and atmosphere of the trains by touching the equipment with your hands.
New and clean bathroom
The Tenku room has a nostalgic interior design combining modern and antique features. You can enjoy a comfortable stay, with its bathroom facilities all newly renovated as well. Why don't you visit the hotel, to experience the era when Koyashita station flourished as “Koyasan station”, surrounded during your stay by the playful room design.
“Koya” room for 4 guests, remodeled from the crew break room
Next, I checked the other room Koya. This room was originally the crew waiting and resting room. It is a wider room than Tenku, with a size of 44 square meters and two double beds for a maximum of 4 people.
Directly ahead you can see the table and chair
When you open the door, directly ahead you can see and sense the past from the Taisho era aesthetic of the table and chairs in the open space. A stool, with the same design as the Tenku room furnishings, reinforces the Taisho era atmosphere. A rarely seen toggle switch is stylish, even though I could not tell if it is an actually used one or something from when the room was remodeled. You can feel the shared attention to detail in the design of the rooms.
“Koya” whole room
The Koya room preserves the walls and several pillars of the original architecture. The pillars have aged to a rich color with some scratches and visible joints from which you can feel their history. It might be fun to imagine how the room and pillars were used when the station staff stayed.
Pillar inscribed with history
You can see the Koyashita station platform from the window
Of course the Koya room window is also original equipment of the station building. From here you can see the rails and even as far as the station platform. There is no need to worry about the trains being so close that they will disturb your sleep, since ear plugs are one of the supplied amenities.
Ear plugs are included in the amenity goods
The Koya room too is decorated with a variety of train equipment. This room also includes a baggage rack and hanging straps but with a two person seat along the wall. I highly recommend that you check out the old plates placed around the room. The pictured name plate reading “東急車輌 (Tokyu Railcar)” is one of the many that are hidden throughout the room, such as on the closet door and the bedside.
One of the plates attached in the room
The Koya room utilizes the large size to create a space with a relaxing design. While imagining the former crew waiting for their next train or taking a nap, you can luxuriously enjoy watching the trains and passengers pass by.
For breakfast, try the “Rice Ball Stand Kudo” at the next station
At the station building hotel, “Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji”, there is no reception counter, but you will receive a nice present from which you can feel the hotel’s hospitality. That present is a ticket, placed in every room for the guests to find.
Commemorative ticket for “# Stayed at the Station Building Hotel”
If you look over the ticket, you would notice it says “Commemorative ticket for your # staying at the Station Building Hotel”. You will also see a roundtrip train ticket to the neighboring Kudoyama station, and a breakfast ticket for “Rice Ball Stand Kudo” for your breakfast. These are gifts from the hotel. The train design of the tickets is so clever! What kind of rice balls can we eat? Let’s leave the hotel and go to Kudoyama station.
The station’s colorful ceiling with Japanese washi paper
Actually the “Rice Ball Stand Kudo” is another facility developed as part of the Nippionia project. In November 2019, at the same time as the renewal of the Koyashita Station Building, the Kudoyama station building reopened after renovations. Just as Koyashita station was, Kudoyama station was a key point and popular pilgrimage route to Koyasan because of the beginning stone marker for the Choishi Pilgrimage Route.
“Rice ball Stand Kudo” opened as a part of the Kudoyama station building’s renewal. You can have a rice ball made from Kudoyama rice, cooked in a traditional rice pot together with local Wakayama products for a unique “Wakayama taste”.
“Rice Ball Stand Kudo” and station sign
Included with the breakfast ticket are two rice balls and a cup of miso soup with pickles. The plain salted rice ball lets you enjoy the natural flavor of the delicious pot-cooked rice. The other rice ball will be packed with a different ingredient depending on the day. This time, I asked a female staff member what she recommended and I asked for the two kinds I preferred. I ordered one rice ball made from black rice with rapeseed blossom and miso walnut paste, and another with black rice seasoned with sesame salt.The shop uses seasonally available ingredients and the selections change daily. Trying new seasonal varieties every time you visit is a fun point to enjoy.
Three rice pots lined up to cook rice
While the rice balls were being made and brought to my seat, I walked around the renovated station building.
Inside the station building there were several free spaces. Of course you can use the areas as rest spaces, or sit where you desire to eat the rice balls that you bought at “Kudo”.
One of the open spaces had a train door attached to the building
When I was trying to find a seat, I discovered a building with a train door in a corner of an open free space that looked like a deck. When I walked into the colorless metal building, I found another train door! This building looked like it also had a unique design using retired train parts, just like Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji.
As you proceed ahead, you see another train door
When I opened the door, I found a red velvet chair surrounded by a wall of elegant wood, that emanated a nostalgic look.
The interior had a certain warmth
Inside the building, there was a vintage signal control panel which you are allowed to touch. It would be great fun to visit with children.
Signal control panel in the back of the building
While I was walking around in the station building, the staff brought me the freshly made rice balls.
Compared to white rice, the black rice ball had a plump texture and I could feel each grain of rice one by one. The black rice with rapeseed blossom and miso walnut paste had a combination of sweet and salty taste while the rapeseed blossom’s bitterness accented the flavor. The sesami salt rice ball was simple, but the salt complimented the sweetness of the black rice. It was my first time to have this taste and texture in a sesame rice ball.
right/ black rice with rape blossom and miso walnut paste left/ black rice with sesame salt
Koyasan train access
There are several ways to get to the sacred place of Japanese Buddhism, Koyasan, which spreads in the heart of Wakayama’s mountains. Here, I will introduce how to get to Koyasan by train.
Enjoy the landscape from the special train “Tenku”
When you go from the Osaka area to Koyasan, you will depart from Hashimoto station in Wakayama and then transfer at Gokurakubashi station to head to Koyasan station.
”Tenku” operating on the tracks (Photo: Nankai Electric Railway Co., Ltd）
From Hashimoto Station to Gokurakubashi Station, I recommend using the Nankai Railway Koya line special train “Tenku”, operated by Nankai Electric Railway.
”Tenku” reserved seats (Photo: Nankai Electric Railway Co., Ltd)
“Tenku” is an all reserved train. The train cars have wide windows from which you can enjoy the natural scenery while traveling to Koyasan. You would have a fun time with the seasonal flowers while passing through many tunnels while viewing the dramatic natural landscape. This is a perfect start to the journey to Koyasan for people who are on a pilgrimage in search for themselves.
Get to Koyasan directly by cable car
Koyasan cable car climbing an incline (Photo: Nankai Electric Railway Co, Ltd)
Once you ride the “Tenku” train and get off at Gokurakubashi station, there is only one more station to Koyasan.
For the final stretch, take the Koyasan cable car which directly climbs the mountain. The total length is about 800 meters and the elevation gain is 328 meters, similar to the height of Tokyo Tower, in only a quick five minutes. You will feel the sacred atmosphere of Koyasan.
Recommended spots around Koyashita station and Kudoyama station
Finally, I will introduce several highly recommended sightseeing spots you should visit when you arrive at Koyashita or Kudoyama station. Each place is easily accessible from its nearest station, so why not stop by during your visit?
Special Koyasan experience staying at the Station Building Hotel
While preserving its Taisho era history, the station hotel “Nipponia Hotel Koyasan Pilgrimage Railway - operated by Kirinji” was remodeled as a new base for sightseeing Koyasan. For visitors who also enjoy trains, the unique design utilizing retired train equipment will be a certain source of satisfaction.
The experience staying at the station building, either before or after visiting Koyasan, will provide you with a special, meditative time to relax. Together with Koyasan, why not also enjoy the rich nature and the spiritual power of esoteric Shingon Buddhism in the attractive town, and walk around Koyashita or Kudoyama stations?