The Mountain Temple, Yamadera The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

The Mountain Temple, Yamadera


2017.12.18

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

When inquiring about sights to visit in Yamagata Prefecture, one of the most heard about locations is Yamadera. Meaning “mountain temple”, Yamadera is the location for what is known officially as Hojusan Risshaku-ji Temple and is arguably one of the most scenic locations in Yamagata and Japan. The name Yamadera is no mistake; the spiritual grounds of the temple spread along the tree-covered trails of Mount Hojusan to the summit at 200 metres high.

  • The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    For the traveler interested in historical spots, Yamadera temple was founded in 860 AD and, as such, has withstood the passage of several eras. From the moment you rub the iconic wooden Buddha (built during the Heian Period) at the Konponchudo Temple, you begin the picturesque walk back through the spiritual history of Japan. There are countless monuments and buildings, with Konponchudo Temple, Nokyodo, and Sanjushoto, all listed as Important Cultural Buildings. One temple that is usually missed on the way up lies within the Ubado Hall. Here Datsueba, a significant mythological Buddhist character, is enshrined and in the past, pilgrims thought of this rocky hall as heaven. These are spread out through the grounds and make the hike to the top an interesting one.

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    For those seeking to explore the natural and scenic spots in the country, Yamadera sure fits the bill. The trail from the Temple Gate at the bottom of the mountain to the Sanjushoto is covered in towering cedar trees and luscious greenery that make the walk up the famous 1,015 steps quite a natural treat. You ought to take it slow here as the incline is pretty steep and the scenery makes it worth breaks to take in your surroundings.

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    For nature lovers, one curious element of the hike is running into the tree stumps that have new trees growing out of them. This is an old practise common in the major shrines and is a means of sustaining the precious forests they sit in.

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The main reason to make the trip over to this part of Yamagata Prefecture lies at the top of Mount Hoju. The impressive and relatively new Niomon Gate with the two “Nio” or guardians of Buddha is the entrance point to the most scenic area of the temple grounds. A few more steps past the gate is all it takes to see the red Nokyodo Hall, where a cave is believed to be the resting place of Jikaku Daishi, the founder of the “Mountain Temple”. During autumn, colourful trees decorate the area and are a bonus to an already beautiful trip.

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    The Mountain Temple, Yamadera

    Past Nokyodo, the Godaido Observation Deck is the culmination point for many of the visitors to Yamadera. How the founders managed the feat of building this wooden terrace on the edge of a cliff is still an amazement to many, and the main attraction to many who come this far up. The view of the town below, across the valley, and of the mountain range in the horizon is worth every one of the thousand steps and the breaths taken to reach it. Beyond Godaido, visitors can choose to make the descent back to town or continue to the Okuno-in, the final temple in the recommended walking tour of Yamadera.

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