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May 21, 2019

Yamadera: Yamagata's Gorgeous Mountain Temple


Gallery - Yamadera


Yamadera: Yamagata's Gorgeous Mountain Temple photo    

    As a significant part of our Golden Week plans for 2019, my family hiked up the 1015 steps of Yamadera temple. The temple itself dates back to 850 AD and is fantastic for those capable of making the trek up the mountain.

    Because the bulk of the steps are broken into small sections interspersed with great greenery, ancient carvings, and the occasional grave, the walk itself doesn't feel as daunting as some similar paths to holy places that present themselves only as stairways to heaven.

    Another great thing about this trek was the handrails installed on many of the nearby surfaces to aide those of us who need a bit of a boost but without sticking out like a sore thumb in every picture.

    The greenery was outstanding, with huge and healthy trees older than my home country reaching so far into the sky, spread out enough that one could not miss the forest for the trees. In these spaces between, various old stone elements waited to be found, like only barely camouflaged Easter eggs. Turn one way and there are plant and life, growth springing forth in ways that it isn't always easy to see in more urban landscapes. Turn the other way and stare into the face of a statue that has been meditating on that path long enough to let rain and snow erode their features, muting the specifics to a kind, calm blankness. For those who love old temples and long hikes with stairs, this is paradise.

    Going in the morning in Spring was a good idea as we beat the crowds and the bugs as well as the heat. Our zen calmness was still occasionally disrupted by a child having a temper tantrum, but most of our trip was equal parts comfortable and beautiful.

    Every few hundred steps, a small sign will mark how far you have come and how far remains to the top of the hill, sometimes with great incidental scenery.

    Sometimes a lovely off-shoot would present itself, a place to stop to the side and collect your thoughts or breath as need be. Of these, the halfway point was the largest and most beautiful, with one side of the walk breaking off to a short path in front of a rock-face covered in small rectangular flat places, each with script carved inside and tiny bits of silvery metal gleaming in the sunlight. Upon closer inspection, I found the glittering element to be one yen coins, places in every nook and cranny that would hold their weight. It was not entirely unlike walking into a travel brochure with the kind of pictures you would swear to be doctored in some way.

    Most of the hike up the mountain went by without me noticing more than how beautiful the scenery was. Then I caught sight of the entrance to the main temple area and knew we were almost there. Up just a little further was the main complex, a breath-taking array of well-kept ancient buildings and sculptures, with still-blooming cherry blossoms being whisked into the wind around us.

    Walking around the complex brought more lovely views of the valley below as well as more statues and buildings. If you're looking for a place to take some great pictures of old, beautiful Japan, this might be the place for you.

JTsuzuki

JTsuzuki

A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


6 Comments

  • BlueButterfly

    on May 21

    Ah I really love this place. The huge green surrounding mountains make the temple area so unique for me. Especially if you go there in the morning or on a very humid day, the morning fog wraps everything in a mystical atmosphere.

  • JTsuzuki

    on May 21

    @BlueButterfly The morning fog sounds like an amazing photo op. The day we went was a little less humid, but still gorgeous.

  • YokoLostinJapan

    on May 22

    We are planing to go there this summer - and I am actually scared of all the steps. But I am looking forward to it. Thank you for the impressions.

  • JTsuzuki

    on May 23

    @YokoLostinJapan If 1015 steps sounds like a lot, try to get in 5000-6000 steps every other day for a couple weeks beforehand. It helped me build up my endurance enough that my legs weren't jelly till I was back at bottom of the mountain. There are places to take a break every few hundred steps, too, if preparatory training isn't possible. It is gorgeous! I hope you have a wonderful time!

  • YokoLostinJapan

    on May 23

    @JTsuzuki Actually I am rather the person who is searching the next escalator when I see stairs *laugh* But probably I should take more stairs within the next week.

  • JTsuzuki

    on May 24

    @YokoLostinJapan I'm about the same with stairs. Just waking around a bunch helps get your muscles ready, even without stairs.