Koyasan, Japan

Retreats are often moments of personal time that we don’t often do enough for ourselves. When we planned our trip to Japan, a mountain retreat was instantly on our itinerary. On our memorable Japan trip, we took a few days to travel up to the secluded mountain of  Mt. Koya to stay at one of the Koyasans and the experience was amazing.

Koyasans are buddhist temples that offer overnight stays. While there, guests are welcomed into the daily lives of monks. Meals are all vegetarian and we were given a small glimpse into monk lifestyle. We even attended the daily meditation and prayers, which after a while, learned that sitting on the floor for an hour is a lesson in both mental and physical stamina.

The menu at the Koyasan’s are simple, vegetarian, fresh, clean and pure. Full of delicately steamed vegetables with whole grains and light soups, the meals left us feeling so refreshed and cleansed of the strains of daily city life. Although the meals were simple, the attention to detail in presentation, preparation and respect to each individual ingredient made each course seem like a work of work. Eating this meal was a fine example of how  eating a small quantity of well prepared foods is more satisfying than eating a huge quantity of bad food.

The town, high up in the lush mountain, was cool and foggy, very reminiscent to the beautiful still paintings of rural Japanese mountain life. The trees are lush and the streets are quite, dotted with beautifully constructed buddhist temples nestled quietly in all the greenery.

It’s hard to not be a transformed person after a visit to Mt. Koya.The long trek up the mountain by train was worth the trip and we look forward to returning again. Soon!

– Diane and Todd

Evening dinner at the Koyasan

misty fog surrounds the temples

daily chores at the temple

main town of Mt. Koya


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Veronica of Muy Bueno Cookbook

    Every picture made me feel like I was there, so serene and peaceful. I once lived in Mainland Japan and Okinawa and had the opportunity to travel throughout Japan and several islands surrounding the tropical island of Japan…I still miss it…the people, the food, and above all the serenity. Arigato

  2. Naoto

    Lovely post, but to refer to the temples as ‘koyasans’ sounds a tad awkward, and is incorrect; Koyasan literally means ‘Koya mountain’ in Japanese.

    Do you happen to know the name of the temple where you stayed?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Thanks for the correction. We know just enough Japanese to be dangerous, but often not correct. 😉

      The temple we stayed at was Rengejo-in. We booked the reservation through the Japanese Guest House website.

  3. Claire

    Beautiful pictures, really want to go to Japan.

  4. Arudhi@aboxofkitchen

    Beautiful pictures! I always think that Japan has a very interesting culture with the temples and shrines that give us the serenity and peaceful feeling and places like Shibuya or Harajuku that are so full of energy and freedom. Quite a contrast, but that` may be the charm.
    Looking forward to reading your next post on trip in Japan!

  5. Ann

    Great post! I miss Japan. How did you book the koyasan?

    1. White on Rice Couple

      We found it and booked online. Crazy how the modern world can help connect us to a seemingly timeless place.

  6. Sila

    The town and the monastery looked so peaceful and calm.
    Very nice portrayal of the place and the experience.

  7. Stephanie M at Together In Food

    This post made me feel so nostalgic for the year I lived in Japan. You captured perfectly the serene moments, filled with wabi sabi beauty, that I felt so lucky to soak up while I was there (of course, after your workshop I’m also trying to guess where the light was!). I also love your line about how eating a small quantity of well-prepared food is so much more satisfying than eating a large quantity of bad food. Completely agree!

  8. Priscilla - She's Cookin'

    So serene and beautiful. I’m half Japanese and have never been, but it’s at the top of the travel list. Your photos have such a zen quality – love it!

  9. meat loves salt

    looks so peaceful and serene. bookmarking this for a someday trip to japan. thanks!

  10. Maria @ Scandifoodie

    We visited Koyasan just a few weeks ago, it was snowing and cold, but ever so peaceful! It’s truly a beautiful, serene place and I loved it!

  11. Dana Zia

    Beautiful!! You guys should do a calendar. Seriously! I’d be the first in line to buy it. I have loved watching your evolution over the last few years. Stunning. Keep up the good work guys.

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