Wakayama: Dai Garan / Danjo Garan

Located in Mt. Koya/ Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture in Japan, Dai Garan or Danjo Garan (壇上伽藍) complex is a monastic complex deep in the mountains of Koyasan. It is also one of the two most sacred sites in Koyasan.

The name Dai Garan came from the word dai which means great and garan which was derived from the sanskrit word samgharama which means "a quiet and secluded place for Buddhist monks to gather and practice".
The Konpon Daito pagoda as seen from behind the Kondo
The Konpon Daito Pagoda as seen from the side
Kobo Daishi Kukai (founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan) began the planning and construction of Dai Garan in 816. The monastic complex consists of several important religious structures like the following:
  • Kondo - This building serves as the main hall of Koyasan and is where many rituals and ceremonies are held. The Kondo was originally called the Kodo or lecture hall. It was constructed in 819 but wasn't finished when Kobo Daishi entererd eternal meditation in 835. The Kondo has been destroyed by fire six times during its history, the last incident being in 1926. The present building was rebuilt in 1934.
Konpon Daito Pagoda
  • Konpon Daito - The building is a fundamental part of Kobo Daishi Kukai's layout of the Garan. It was constructed in 816 but was not completed before Kobo Daishi entered eternal meditation. Construction was completed by Shinzen (Kobo Daishi's disciple and successor) at around 887. The building was destroyed by fire (mostly due to lightning strikes five times and was rebuilt each time. The present building was erected in 1934 ans was last renovated in 1996.
  • Fudo-do - The oldest building at Koyasan. It was first built in 1198 and rebuilt in the late Kamakura period. It is designated as a National Treasure. It was originally in a different location within Koyasan and was dismantled and moved to its present location in 1908.
Other structures in the Dai Garan Complex:
The temple bell
The souvenir shop
Place to purify your hands
Toto pagoda
Historical marker of the foundation of Koyasan
We visited Dai Garan during our visit to Mt. Koya during our 23rd day of stay in Japan. My wife and I did a little snowball fight in the complex but they left me and headed to the parking lot near Kongobuji Temple. I took pictures of the building in the complex and bought some souvenirs in its souvenir shop before meeting up with my family to visit Kongobuji Temple.
Snowball fight!!!
Souvenir photo in the Dai Garan vicinity

Getting there:

Ride the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in Osaka to Gokurakubashi Station at the base of the mountain. Then ride a cable car going up the mountain. You could also drive up the mountain, however take note that your tires should be able to run through slippery roads especially in winter season.

Overall rating


  1. Japan is fairly new to me, and this post is very useful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nice post. The red colour of Konpon Daito Pagoda looks amazing on white snow background

  3. i loved the pics and this is the second mention of Koyasan that i am reading in last two days , i definitely want to visit this site ... did you visit inside the various shrines and buildings . Is there a place to stay at Koyasan

    1. Hi Sumit, I surely did. Regarding places to stay, there are a lot of places that you might want to try out. I particularly would want to try out the temple stay. =)

  4. That site looks beautiful! The snow really enhances the experience, and your snowball fight looked like fun.

  5. The fire red color of the temple amidst the otherwise white surroundings makes it stand out and so attractive. I love visiting buddhist temples. Since they are so tranquil. However I had never heard of this temple. I will visit it when I am around.

    1. You should visit it. It is picturesque regardless of the season. =)

  6. Hey Neil. Nice post! The complex is so beautiful. The bright red stands out against the white snowy background. Its interesting how places like Japan have adopted Buddhism, with references in an indian language (sanskrit). That place has recovered 5 times from a fire, that really is a story now. Is the current design lightning proof with all the modern ways of building in Japan?

    1. Hi Katchu. They try to preserve the old temples as is but it still undergoes regular restorations. I think they already incorporated the lightning proof design with it. =)

  7. What a lovely destination for a holiday. The architecture of the buildings so different that we usually get to see. 12th century building and still standing tall, very impressive. I hope to get to Japan some day.

    1. Japan is the perfect destination if you love historical places. =)

  8. Amazing how old these temples are. We haven't gone to this part of Japan when I went there 2 years ago so I didn't visit this. Kondo is one tough cookie, I mean getting burnt 6 times, that's quite a lot. I wonder why. It's impressive that they keep rebuilding it. Somehow, the temples look more beautiful with snow in it. I'd probably engage someone in a snow ball fight too if I go there in winter haha...

    1. You should visit this place Marjorie. =) It is also nice to visit this place during Autumn. =)

  9. I love the pictures and the pagodas.Did you try building a snowman ?Snowball fighting seems so much fun.How did that building manage to get destroyed by fire and how did it recover ?One thing I really appreciate about the Japaneese is their ability to bounce back from disappointments instead of crying about them and resume normalcy.It was amazing how fast they recovered from the tsunami so soon.

    1. Thank you so much. I wasn't able to build a snowman here though but I did in Mt. Kongo. The Japanese are really good in restoring things. So think even if it gets burnt down 100 times in the future, it would still be reconstructed again and it would still look the same.


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