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In 860, Hojusan Risshakuji was built as a branch of Enryakuji temple on Mt. Hiei. Here, Tendai Buddhism has been taught for more than 1,150 years. This place is commonly called “Yamadera” which means mountain temple in Japanese. It was also a place where the famous haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, wrote haiku. It has been told that you can cleanse your desires as you walk up the long stairs that lead to the temple. As the name “Yamadera” indicates, it is located on top of the mountain, so it is not easy to reach. Yet when you arrive at the top of the hill, you won’t be disappointed.
- 4456-1 Yamadera, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata
- Contact No.
- 7-min walk from Yamadera Station on JR Line to arrive at the temple entrance
- Opening Hours / Holidays
- 8:00 - 17:00
Open all year round
- Official Website
- Time Required
- 2.5 hours
- Admission fee
- Mountain entrance fee: 300 yen
※ Some information is displayed in Japanese and machine-translated English, which may not be accurate.
For the latest information, please check the official website for each spot.
So many things to see!
As the name “Yamadera” suggests, the temple is placed on top of the hill. Therefore, there are in total of 1,015 stairs from the bottom to the top of the hill. Several mounds and small temples are located on the way. It would be great to take time to climb the stairs while enjoying the great views.
1,015 stairs on this spiritual mountain path
From the temple gate, stone-stairs covered with moss lead you to the main building. The whole place is spiritual where Buddhist monks are trained. In fact, the whole mountain is considered as an important place for spiritual training. There are 1,015 stairs before reaching the top. If you are not athletic, take time to climb the stairs while enjoying the beautiful view.
Great view from Godaido Hall
You can look over the whole Yamadera from Godaido Hall, situated on the edge of the cliff. Here, you can capture the best view on this mountain. It feels as if you are flying in the air and the mountains on the opposite side seem so close to you.
Konponchudo is a main hall of the entire temple. It is the oldest building, made of Japanese beech. It is also nominated as a national important cultural property. Inside the hall, the eternal flame of Enryo-ji on Mt. Hiei has been brought here 1,200 years ago. Therefore, you can take a look at the flame that still burns today.
Although many people call it Okuno-in, its real name is Nyohodo. The statue of Buddha lies here. It is said to be the statue that the Buddhist priest, who built this temple, was carrying around in China. In the Hall of Grand Buddha on the left side of Nyohodo, a 5-meter-high, gold Amidanyorai – the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light – is placed. Many religious people of all sects of Buddhism visit here to appreciate it.
The founder of Risshakuji, Jikaku Taishi Ennin rests in the Kaizando. As a result, a wooden statue of the priest lies here. In fact, monks offer meals and burn incense for him every morning and evening even today. His remains are buried inside the gold coffin, located inside the cave just under the hall.
Unique view of autumn leaves in Tohoku
Yamadera is made of strange-looking rocks. Therefore, it is the only place where you can see rocks surrounded by beautiful autumn leaves. Because fall passes very quickly in Tohoku, you should come and see its beauty while you can.
Statue of Matsuo Basho
Travelled around many places in Japan while writing haiku, Japanese Haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, has written one haiku here in Yamadera. Halfway up to the 1,015 stairs, you will see the Basho’s haiku engraved on a stone next to his statue.
Yamadera’s specialty: Tama Konnyaku
You will see many tea rooms with the aroma of “Tama konnyaku” wafting on the way to the temple gate. “Tama konnyaku” became a specialty of this place, after the founder of this temple, Einnin Washo, brought konnyaku (paste made of konjac) from China as a medicine. Round-shaped konnyaku is cooked inside a soy-based soup. It is a perfect snack after climbing up all those stairs.