Yamadera, or officially Risshakuji Temple, locates in northwestern Japan’s Yamagata prefecture. The temple sits on a mountainside, and is known for its breathtaking views.
Keep reading to learn about Yamadera’s history, sights to see and more!
Approach to Yamadera
Risshakuji Temple, commonly referred to as Yamadera (literally meaning “mountain temple”), locates in the prefectural capital of Yamagata City. It was established in 860 by the monk Ennin.
In the temple grounds, there is an uphill stone path that has 1,015 steps. Going up each of these steps is said to eradicate one’s worldly desires one by one.
Poet Matsuo Basho
The temple is also famous for being mentioned in poet Matsuo Basho’s works. Basho was a famous haiku poet of the early Edo Period (1603 – 1867).
There are several halls in Yamadera. Here is an introduction to all of them.
Konponchudo is Yamadera’s main hall. The one standing today was built in 1356, and is a remake of the original.
It is the oldest building in Japan that is made from beech, and is designated as an important cultural property.
Inside, a wooden statue of the deity Yakushi-nyorai is enshrined. The statue is said to be made by Ennin himself.
Semi-zuka, meaning “cicada mount”
Sixty years after Basho visited Yamadera, his disciples built semi-zuka in his honor. It is said that a book of his poems is buried under semi-zuka.
Many poets and writers, inspired by Basho, visited Yamadera. Throughout the temple, there are stone tablets with poems written by those Basho-inspired writers.
Kaizando is dedicated to Ennin. His remains are stored in the natural cave located under the hall.
A wooden statue of Ennin is enshrined in the hall. Though it is usually closed to the public, it opens once a year on January 14, which is the anniversary date of Ennin’s passing.
View from Godaido
To the upper right of Kaizando is Godaido, another hall. From the stage of the hall is a stunning view of Yamadera Temple.
Okuno-in locates at the end of the 1,015 step-temple approach. Inside is a 5-meter tall golden statue of the Amida Buddha.
A statue of the deity Obinzuru-sama can be found in Chusei-in hall. Obinzuru-sama is said to grant you with a long life. It has been believed that patting its head will give one immunity to diseases.
Seasonal Sights at Yamadera
Throughout each of the seasons, the sights at Yamadera are breathtaking.
Spring at Yamadera
Spring arrives in northwestern Japan around late April. This is when the cherry blossoms on the mountains are in full bloom.
The cherry blossoms surrounding Yamadera have a faint pink tint to them. It is a great season to hike, since you can enjoy the cherry blossoms while climbing up the mountain.
Matsuo Basho’s famous cicada haiku was written in the summer at Yamadera. Summer at Yamadera is cool and serene, and you can hear the cicadas all around you.
Autumn at Yamadera
Yamadera in the autumn is an especially gorgeous sight. The leaves on the mountains change colors every November.
The fall colors of the trees compliment the rocky mountain surfaces very well. Fall is a great season to visit and walk around Yamadera.
Winter at Yamadera
Yamagata is prone to heavy snowfall in the winter. The snow creates a scenic, dreamy view at Yamadera. The view of Kaizando in the winter is especially unforgettable.
Praying at Yamadera
There are some halls at Yamadera where you can pray while directly touching the deity statues.
Praying at Konponchudo
In Konponchudo, you can find the statue of shofuku-boteison.
If you have a certain part of your body that you want to heal, rub the same body part of the statue. This is said to heal your illness or injury.
Yamadera has it all, from fascinating views to spiritual powers.
Yamadera is about a 30-minute drive from Yamagata Station.
Or, you can take the JR Senzan Line (for Sendai) from Yamagata Station to Yamadera Station. It is about a 20-minute train ride.
Inspiring Visitors for Centuries
Yamadera is a temple that has captivated visitors throughout history. Even today, you will be surprised by its amazing views and peaceful ambience.