Koya-San - worth it?
Is it worth going to Koya-san for 1 or 2 nights? Or should I just stay in Osaka. Any food recommendations? What temples have the best accommodations and food? Thansk for the tips.
I would say yes. It's especially refreshing if you've been in busy cities--the air is fresh and depending on when you go, it's not very crowded. I went in December, so it was quite chilly, but the weather would offer a cool respite in summer (though it would also be much busier).
I stayed at Ekoin, primarily because they had an email address for making reservations and they have at least one person who speaks English on-site. The food was good (though not spectacular, but temple food rarely is), the inn was clean, and the morning services were quite interesting (everyone must attend the morning services). Temple food can be flavourless, but I found Ekoin's food to have enough flavour to make it interesting.
As for other restaurants, I had only eaten at one other restaurant in Koya, and it was like a typical Japanese restaurant in a tourist town. The food was fine, but nothing to write home about.
I wouldn't go for more than 1 night, though. There's enough to keep you busy for 24 hours, but I don't know if there's enough for 48 unless you do a lot of hiking.
(And if you're a tourist or coming from outside the Kansai area, you qualify for a special train pass which makes going to Koya more cost-effective.)
I would also recommend Koya-san, but as prasantrin said, one night is enough. We drove there from Osaka and it was a gorgeous drive - but really takes about 3 hours, so you don't want to do there and back in a single day. I've heard the train ride is good as well, though.
Also stayed at Ekoin and really loved the experience. The tatami rooms are beautiful and there were hardly any other people staying there when we went, so very very quiet. The food was beautiful and interesting but not memorable, flavourwise. Much to our surprise and delight, they offered sake and beer for a small extra cost with the meal. I'm going to attach a couple of photos of our dinner (below). Morning prayers were hilarious because when they say 6:30, they really mean 6:30. I was in mid-toothbrushing when a rather serious monk came storming down the hall to announce "MORNING PRAYER MORNING PRAYER!" I dropped my toothbrush, woke my husband and followed him - I was barely dressed. Breakfast was served in our room afterward.
We got to Koya-san around lunch time, checked in, had lunch at a forgettable restaurant in town then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring. Dinner is promptly at 5:30, after which we wandered through the amazing Buddhist cemetery, then came back for a hot bath. A good time was had by all.
One note about the food--they offer you a more expensive meal, or the standard meal. We had the more expensive meal, and I think it was only about Y2000 more than the cheaper meal.
When I went (December 2008), they didn't offer alcohol at all, and in the book that had the rules of the temple, no alcohol (or outside food) was allowed in the rooms.
Also, when I went we could choose the time of our dinner within a certain range (anytime between 5:30 and 7, for example--they ask if 5:30 is OK, and if it's not, you can ask them to bring it later).
Actually we didn't arrange the booking ourselves. Our nephew, who lives in Osaka, made all the arrangements. So I don't know what the options were - I think it cost somewhere around 12,000 yen per person per night for what we had. I have no idea if it was the more expensive meal or not. There didn't seem to be any problem with the alcohol - I believe we may have asked when we checked in and it arrived with the meal. We were there at the end of May.