Although this community of 4,000 residents has the usual stores, schools, and offices of any small town, there are no hotels here. The only place you can stay is at a temple, and I strongly urge you to do so.
Japanese who come here have almost always made reservations beforehand, and you should do the same. You can make reservations by calling the temple directly or through travel agencies such as the Japan Travel Bureau (tel. 03/5796-5454; www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp). You can also make reservations upon arrival in Koyasan at either Tourist Association office before 4pm, but I suggest faxing a minimum of 7 days in advance to be sure you can get a space (fax 0736/56-2889), especially during peak travel seasons; include your name, address, phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, dates of stay, and number of people.
What It's Like to Stay at a Koyasan Temple -- Prices for an overnight stay in one of the temples, including two vegetarian meals, range from ¥10,000 to ¥15,000 per person, depending on the temple and room. You may need to supply your own towel and toiletries. Check-in is around 3pm (5pm at the latest) and checkout is at 9am.
Your room will be tatami and may include a nice view of a garden. Both baths and toilets are communal. High-school and college students attending Koyasan's Buddhist university live at the temple; they'll bring your meals to your room, make up your futon, and clean your room. The shojin ryori (Buddhist vegetarian meals) are generally quite good, and because Buddhist monks are vegetarians but not teetotalers (beer and sake are made of rice and grain), alcoholic drinks are readily available at the temples for an extra charge. Meals are at set times. Dinner is at 5:30pm, and because the students must leave for school, breakfast is usually served by 7:30am. The morning religious service is at 6 or 6:30am; you don't have to attend, but I strongly recommend that you do. There's something uplifting about early morning meditative chanting, even for nonbelievers; some temples include sacred fire ceremonies as well.
Below are just a few of the dozens of area temples open to overnight guests (rates are based on two people to a room). They're all located very near the indicated bus stop. All of them have public baths, but none offer rooms with bathrooms.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.