Early morning departure from Tokyo station towards Yamadera, Yamagata about 3.5 hours away from Tokyo. For anyone who is traveling to towards Yamagata/Sendai do take note of your shinkansen tickets as the train is actually 2 8 carriage train being connected together as the carriage would be separated when arrive in Fukushima so do take note of the name of your train else you would end up like me in the wrong carriage with the right number as I thought I can cut through by walking inside the train.
Yamadera is a scenic temple located in the mountains northeast of Yamagata City. The temple grounds extend high up a steep mountainside, from where there are great views down onto the valley. The temple was founded over a thousand years ago in 860 as a temple of the Tendai sect under the official name Risshakuji. Its popular name, Yamadera, literally means “mountain temple” in Japanese.
During the early Heian Period (794-1185), the Emperor Seiwa sent one of the country’s most important Buddhist priests to the country’s frontier region in the Tohoku Region. That priest, Jikaku Daishi, founded Yamadera in present day Yamagata Prefecture, which at the time was part of the Dewa Province at the very northern extreme of the national borders.
To reach the upper area of the temple grounds, visitors must hike up a trail that leads up the mountainside. The ascent takes about 30 minutes and begins after the Sanmon Gate, located a couple minutes’ walk from the main hall, where a small entry fee must be paid.
The stone path up the mountain has about 1000 steps, which might make the approach difficult for some visitors. There are stone lanterns and small statues in the surrounding forest along the way that make for an atmospheric hike.
Near the top, the route passes by the massive Mida Hora rock, which is shaped like Amida Buddha. Shortly after, visitors will reach the Niomon Gate, built in the 19th century and one of the temple’s newer buildings, from where the upper temple area begins.
Past the Niomon Gate there are many temple buildings at various points along the mountainside. The area is open and affords wonderful views out into the valley, in contrast to the lack of views along the ascent through the forest
Past the Kaisando Hall there are more stairs that lead up to the Godaido Hall, an observation deck with the best views onto the valley below. The building dates back to the early 1700s and extends out over the cliff.
青葉亭 S-PAL B1F１丁目-１−１ Chuo, SendaiAoba Ward, Miyagi Prefecture 981-0964, Japan