Koyasan University is founded on the teachings of Kobo Daishi Kukai (弘法大師空海, 774–835), the great Japanese Buddhist monk and founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan.

Shingon Buddhism is a form of the Esoteric Buddhism that originated in India and was brought to Tang China. It was brought from Tang China to Japan in the Nara and early Heian periods, subsequently disappearing from China. The lineage of Tang Esoteric Buddhism has been preserved only in Japan to the present. Shingon Buddhism is related to the Vajrayana transmitted to Tibet from India but with a separate transmission lineage, and it is only in Tibet and Japan that Indian Esoteric Buddhism remains a living tradition. Shingon Buddhism is thus a unique development of Indian Esoteric Buddhism as transmitted from India to Tang China and then to Japan, where is has been studied and practiced for twelve centuries. Indian Esoteric Buddhism itself is a theoretical and practical development of Indian Mahayana Buddhism, and shares the same ideals and goals as Mahayana Buddhism.

Kukai spent many years of his life meditating and teaching at Koyasan, deep in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula in modern Wakayama Prefecture. Kukai emphasized the importance of education both in his writings and his deeds, having founded the first academy in Japan offering universal education. Koyasan University takes up and continues Kukai’s tradition by providing education and training to all in both Buddhism, including the training of Buddhist priests, as well as various related secular topics.

Koyasan University was founded in 1886, making it one of the oldest universities in Japan. Koyasan University developed into a modern university within the traditions and learning of the Buddhist training center founded by Kukai at Koyasan in 816, and so in a broad sense the roots of Koyasan University extend back over twelve centuries. Koyasan itself is registered as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, and is one of the few universities in the world to be situated within a World Heritage Site. With its extensive and rich history located in verdant natural surroundings, Koyasan University offers both modern academic training in a full range of Buddhist topics and fields, along with traditional studies of Shingon Buddhist doctrine and training in Shingon practice in order to make significant and timely contributions to global society and improvement of the condition of all beings everywhere.

The year 2015 marked the 1200th anniversary of the founding of Koyasan by Kukai, and the year 2016 marks the 130th anniversary of Koyasan University. On these auspicious occasions, Koyasan University reaffirmed its commitment to education and instruction in all forms of Buddhism and related disciplines, and extends a warm welcome to students of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities to study at Koyasan University.

Curriculum Overview

A full range of Buddhist topics, canonical languages, and areas of study are taught at Koyasan University, with a focus on Shingon Buddhist thought and practice as taught by Kukai and the many past master teachers of the Shingon Buddhist tradition. Areas of study include (note that the medium of instruction is Japanese throughout):

  • (1) Studies of the classical works of Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism, with anemphasis on the writings of Kukai but not limited to that.
  • (2) Extensive education in the canonical and literary languages required for the field of Buddhist studies, including Classical Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Classical Chinese,and also Classical Japanese.
  • (3) Asian culture including Japanese and Chinese literature, history, thought, and art as rooted in the perspectives of Buddhism.
  • (4) Modern applications of Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism in the form of pastoralcare, spiritual care, and so on.

Koyasan University is also actively engaged in various volunteer projects, and encourages its students to make use of these opportunities to examine ways in which Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism can make contributions to society.

Academic Overview

Koyasan University offers highly personalized instruction in small-sized classes in the following programs:

(I) Undergraduate Programs

In Japanese only. Four-year programs leading to the B.A. degree in one of the following two Departments.

(I.1) Department of Esoteric Buddhism (密教学科 Mikkyo Gakka)

The program offers courses and academic guidance in Esoteric Buddhism of all historical periods and geographical locations, along with in-depth studies of Buddhism of all schools. Mastery of Buddhist languages, detailed textual studies, and methodology are emphasized.

(I.2) Department of Humanistic Anthropology (人間学科 Ningen Gakka)

Transfer Admissions

Transfer admissions into the third year of an Undergraduate Program are welcomed for those who have completed at least two years of university education.

(II) Graduate School

In Japanese only. The Graduate School program offers highly personalized instruction and academic guidance leading to the M.A. and the Ph.D. degrees in the fields of Buddhism or Esoteric Buddhism, covering India, Tibet, China, Japan, and so on.

Training and study for the Shingon Buddhist priesthood may be done concurrently with any of the above programs by interested students.

Electives include Chinese calligraphy, Siddham calligraphy, Chinese classics, Buddhist psychology, and many other courses of related interest to the core areas of Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism.

Note that all the above programs are given in Japanese only. Please see the Japanese web pages or inquire in Japanese at regarding the full details of the tuition fees, applications, deadlines, and so on.

International Admissions


International students who have completed at least twelve years of education and are sufficiently proficient in Japanese are encouraged and welcome to study at Koyasan University in any of its academic programs. The medium of instruction in all courses and programs is Japanese, and Japanese language proficiency is required of all students as demonstrated by the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) or equivalent. There are currently no courses or programs taught in any language other than Japanese at Koyasan University

JLPT N1 level is required for Graduate School admissions.
JLPT N2 level is required for Undergraduate transfer admissions into the junior year.
JLPT N3 level is required for Undergraduate admissions into the freshman year.
In certain cases an equivalent level of demonstrated Japanese proficiency may be accepted.


Upon formal acceptance into a program of study, Koyasan University will assist in the process for acquiring a student visa.


Scholarships are available for outstanding international students, please inquire.


Dormitories for both men and women are available, please inquire.

Please contact Koyasan University in Japanese at for all details of application procedures, entrance exams, fees, schedules and so on.

Training for the Shingon Buddhist Priesthood

Training for the Shingon priesthood is also available at Koyasan University’s dedicated facilities, Daibodai-in Dojo. The major steps in this training follow.

(1) Ordination (得度 Tokudo)

This is a ceremony for entering the Shingon Buddhist priesthood as a novice. In Buddhism, ordination comes at the beginning of the training, not at the end. A formal master (shiso) is required, who must be the abbot of a registered Koyasan Shingon-shu temple willing to take the applicant on as a formal disciple. With the approval of the master the applicant may receive ordination at the master’s temple, or at the ordination offered through Koyasan University.

(2) Precept Reception (受戒 Jukai)

The moral precepts required of a Buddhist priest are given in a three-part ceremony held over three days either at Koyasan University or through Kongobu-ji temple.

(3) Four-part Intensive Monastic Training (四度加行 Shido Kegyo)

Shido Kegyo consists of instruction in and the intensive practice of four kinds of deity yoga and various other ancillary practices, requiring over 100 days of full-time and live-in monastic training for completion. It is an absolute requirement for a Koyasan Shingon-shu Buddhist priest. Shido Kegyo at Koyasan University is taught in the Chuin-ryu lineage and conducted at the Daibodai-in Dojo training facility on campus. The trainees must live in the attached Hakuun-ryo Dormitory during this period, in which all contact with the outside world is forbidden. During Shido Kegyo the entire day is spent in highly structured and intensive Buddhist practice and meditation. At Koyasan University this training is divided into two sessions of over 50 days, each offered during the spring (mid February to late of March) and summer (early August to late September) breaks. The Koyasan University Shido Kegyo program is open only to matriculated students and alumni.

(4) Dharma Transmission Abhisheka (伝法潅頂 Denbo Kanjo)

After satisfactorily completing the three previous stages, the student may apply to receive the formal transmission of Dharma in an important initiation ceremony called Denbo Kanjo. This ceremony is also offered through Koyasan University each once a year. Denbo Kanjo is required to receive further advanced training at Koyasan University or elsewhere and engage in its practice. Those who have received Denbo Kanjo at Koyasan University and have completed certain designated courses may also apply for clerical rank through the main temple at Koyasan, Kongobu-ji temple.

The above are not included in the tuition fees. Additional fees for each are required. Please inquire in Japanese at for further details including requirements, fees, applications, deadlines, and so on.