Serene and Mysterious Mount Koya, Japan

Serene and Mysterious Mount Koya, Japan

Nestled between eight mountain peaks in Japan, Mount Koya was once home to just one Buddhist monastery. The area, known locally as Koyasan, has since grown into a small, tranquil town with about 120 temples.

This is one of the few places in the world where temple lodging is considered a norm rather than an offbeat adventure. At least 50 of the area’s temples offer private rooms to Japanese and foreign tourists. They typically cost between $100 to $200 a night, including breakfast and dinner.

Staying at a temple is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in local culture and traditions. You will have a chance to stroll in beautiful, dreamlike gardens, take part in prayers, and learn about the ancient roots of the Buddhist monks’ traditional lifestyle.

Originally chosen for its resemblance to a lotus plant, this remote location is best reached by the Nankai Electric Railway, which departs from Namba Station in Osaka. The journey takes about two hours, or one and a half hours by express train.  The final ascent up the mountain involves a scenic five-minute cable car ride.

Osaka is the best place to fly to if you’re planning to explore the mysteries of Koyasan. There are two airports in city, but you’ll probably fly into the new Kansai International Airport . The older Osaka International Airport is primarily used for domestic flights.

AAdvantage Miles and the oneworld alliance

Japan Airlines is the only oneworld member who offers nonstop service to Osaka from the continental U.S. Flights depart from Los Angeles. The following oneworld alliance members also fly to Osaka:

  • Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong or Taipei
  • Hawaiian Airlines via Honolulu

Although Qatar Airways isn’t a oneworld member, it is an American Airlines’ partner. It offers flights to Osaka via Doha.

Please note, you will have to call to book in most cases, since only Hawaiian Airlines can be booked on AA’s website. Don’t forget to ask the call center to waive the $25 phone booking fee.

Buddha statues and gravestones at Mount Koya
Buddha statues and gravestones at Mount Koya

Round-trip tickets cost:

  • 65,000 miles in economy
  • 100,000 in business
  • 125,000 in first

If you fly between October 1 and April 30, you can get an economy round-trip ticket at the Off-Peak rate of 50,000 miles.

MileagePlus Miles and the Star Alliance

The following Star Alliance members fly to Osaka:

  • United via Los Angeles or Guam
  • ANA via Tokyo
  • Asiana Airlines via Seoul
  • Eva Air via Taipei
  • Lufthansa via Frankfurt
  • Shenzhen Airlines via Fuzhou or Wuxi, and, starting in July, from Beijing or Shenzhen
  • Singapore Airlines via Singapore
  • Thai Airways via Bangkok
  • Turkish Airlines via Istanbul

United is the only member with direct flights from the U.S.

Round-trip tickets cost:

  • 70,000 miles in economy
  • 150,000 in business
  • 220,000 in first

Okunoin Temple in Koyasan
Okunoin Temple with Graveyard Area at Koyasan (Mt. Koya) in Wakayama

SkyMiles and the SkyTeam

The following SkyTeam members fly to Osaka:

  • Delta via Guam or Honolulu
  • Air France via Paris
  • China Airlines via Kaohsiung, Tainan or Taipei
  • China Eastern Airlines via Beijing or Shanghai
  • China Southern Airlines via Dalian or Guangzhou
  • KLM via Amsterdam
  • Vietnam Airlines via Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City

Round-trip flights cost:

  • 70,000 miles in economy
  • 140,000 in business

First class tickets can’t be purchased with SkyMiles.

Buying tickets to Osaka with AAdvantage miles will get you the best prices. If you fly coach, you’ll only save 5,000 miles in the high season, but flying between October and April will save a tidy 20,000 miles with Off-Peak rates. The saving’s only get better with premium seats. First class on oneworld partners costs 95,000 miles less than on MileagePlus carriers.