Journey to Yamadera: A Blend of Nature and Ancient Spirituality

Journey to Yamadera: A Blend of Nature and Ancient Spirituality


Perched atop a majestic mountain, Yamadera Temple, or officially known as Risshakuji Temple, is not only a spiritual haven but also a hiker's delight in Yamagata Prefecture. Revered as a power spot, devotees and adventure seekers alike make the ascent to this sanctuary, immersing themselves in the serenity that its natural surroundings offer. Nestled within the scenic landscapes of the Tohoku region, the temple also boasts of cinematic fame, being a pivotal location in the hit movie March Comes In Like A Lion.

About Yamadera Temple


Steeped in over a millennium of history, Yamadera Temple stands as a testament to Japan's rich spiritual and architectural heritage. As a venerated site of the Tendai sect, this temple was founded in 860.

As you begin the ascent from the temple's entrance, you will be greeted by the Konpon Chudo. This main hall, crafted from Japan's oldest beech wood, isn't just an architectural marvel but is also recognized and registered as an important cultural property.


On the map, the hiking trail unfolds, leading to viewpoints overlooking the monastery, various temple gates, and the stunning cliffs that characterize this mountain.


This ginkgo tree, with a legacy spanning over a thousand years, bursts into radiant beauty in the fall, a testament to its enduring longevity.


Another highlight of Yamadera is the myriad of intricately designed Buddha statues scattered throughout the mountain. One prominent statue sits centrally in the corridor, where many devotees offer coins as a gesture of merit.


Each statue is distinct, bearing a unique face, and at some points, there are several of them.



This is the entrance to the temple.

Admission fee: Adults: 300 yen / High school students: 300 yen / Junior high school students: 200 yen

Official website: https://www.yamaderakankou.com

The path ahead leads uphill, requiring a 30-minute ascent. This journey involves navigating a lengthy staircase of 1,015 steps, so ensure you wear suitable footwear. Successfully reaching the top is believed to ward off misfortune from one's life.


As you ascend, the grandeur of the place becomes evident through the towering trees, so immense that they often obscure the sky.



The rock cliffs, adorned with intricate patterns rarely seen, are interspersed with grave markers and various other symbols etched into their face. These markings evoke a bygone era, hinting at ancient practices of imprinting signs and designs onto stone.


Scattered throughout are donation boxes. Interestingly, at one of these spots, you'll find a Doraemon figurine hanging, a Pooh bear reclining, and numerous other dolls juxtaposed with ancient statues. It's a whimsical blend of old and new.


At various intervals, small Buddha statues are positioned along the path. As you journey, take a moment to discover and appreciate each one.



Reaching the top, which serves as the main viewpoint, rewards you with breathtaking vistas of the rock formations, complemented by the timeless beauty of Japanese structures. The captivating panorama makes the strenuous climb truly worthwhile.


The Godaido hall, set against the backdrop of the city, is a favorite spot for photography enthusiasts. In spring, the frame is adorned with pink cherry blossoms; come fall, the leaves shift to brilliant hues. Winter drapes the scene in snow, creating a magical vista. However, a winter ascent can be treacherous. If considering a climb during this season, it's essential to assess your capability and choose the right timing.


Additionally, seasonal flowers punctuate the path with bursts of color. As you tread along, make sure to pause and appreciate the diverse flora that flourishes with each changing season.

Recommended Eatery


When visiting a countryside replete with temples, indulging in soba is a must. These regions are renowned for their delectable soba dishes. We highly recommend Taimenseki (対面石), a soba establishment that prides itself on using seasonal ingredients sourced directly from Yamagata Prefecture.


Additionally, one shouldn't overlook Basho Dango (芭蕉だんご), a specialty of Yamadera that is an essential part of the culinary experience.

Opening hours: 09:00–17:00

Google map: https://goo.gl/maps/V3uNh9WPupHhsv1T9

On your next visit to Yamagata Prefecture, be sure to explore and pay your respects at Yamadera. Beyond its abundant natural beauty, the temple radiates an energizing aura that promises to invigorate every visitor.

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