[Feature] Yamadera! Visit of a power spot
The three most famous temples in the area in and around Yamagata City can be connected like a triangle.
Risshakuji Temple, known as Yamadera, is located in Yamagata City and is famous for dissolution of bad relationships.
Jakushoji Temple, known as Wakamatsu Kannon, is located in Tendo City and is famous for matchmaking
Finally, Jionji Temple in Sagae City is famous for rejuvenation.
Worship courses of these three temples which each have their own benefits are often featured in various magazines and pamphlets.
This time we would like to introduce the power spot of Yamadera that is known for dissolving bad relationships and bringing in good ties.
Yamadera is a temple of the Tendai sect that was founded by the priest Ennin, known as Jikaku Daishi, at the request of Emperor Seiwa in 860.
Officially, it is called Hojusan Risshaku-ji Temple.
In his representative work “Narrow Road to the Deep North” the haiku poet Matsuo Basho leaves a description of Yamagata:
“ah this silence / sinking into the rocks / voice of cicada”
You can feel the scene of Yamadera that Basho felt in the silence of the premises that contrast with the sounds of the cicada in summer.
This scene can be felt by visitors even today as it fascinates people through its timelessness.
2. Current Yamadera area
I’ve climbed Yamadera several times, but it feels different now!
Before the COVID-19 epidemic, it was very crowded with overseas tourists, but now there are none, and it is not crowded on weekdays and holidays either, so I was able to enjoy sightseeing with peace of mind.
Even in places where the stone steps were so narrow that before we could barely pass each other, I was able to proceed without waiting.
I remember that the parking lot were always full no matter where I went, but this time I was able to park smoothly nearby the temple entrance. Furthermore, where I stopped, the parking fee, which used to be 500 yen, was now 300 yen*.
Depending on the parking lot, there are places where the parking fee is free if you eat in, so check it out!
* The amount is as of the time of this article
* The amount will vary depending on the parking lot
3. Departure for Oku-no-in
By the way, when I hear Yamadera, I imagine a perfect mountain climbing style, but I went with sandals and skirts that I’m used to wearing!
Of course, it will be slipery on rainy days, so please be careful. Don’t forget drinks and towels!
If you go up the stairs through the entrance marked “Mountain Entrance” you will see the Konpon Chudo temple, a Nationally designated important cultural property, in front of you.
It is said to be the oldest beech wood building in Japan, and the wooden Yakushi Nyorai sitting statue, which is said to have been made by the priest Ennin, also known as Jikaku Daishi, is enshrined in its hall.
In addition, the Eternal flame, which was moved from the Hieizan Enryaku-ji Temple 1200 years ago, is still burning inside.
First of all, we will visit here and then head to the Oku-no-In area.
It is customary to stroke the Hotei-son statue enshrined at the entrance.
・ 1015 stone steps
Head from the Konpon Chudo temple to the temple’s entrance.
You will pay an admission fee at this gate.
The admission fee is 300 yen for adults (high school students and above), 200 yen for junior high school students, and 100 yen for elementary school students and younger (4 years old and above).
You will need to climb the 1015 stone steps to reach the Oku-no-In area.
Time required is about 90 minutes for a round trip.
As you climb the stone steps, you will find a divine atmosphere with thick trees.
Looking around, many Jizo-sama seemed to be watching over us.
From the trailhead to the summit, we will walk along various stone steps, such as stone steps with different stride lengths, stone steps with a width where people can barely pass each other, and steep slopes.
It makes me feel as if I’m practicing, but the scenery and the air around me pushes me forward, and I never get tired of it, and my legs move steadily!
・ Mountain shop
It’s a little closer to the destination Oku-no-In, but I decided to stop by the mountain shop.
Inside you can find cold drinks, key chains, Yamadera original t-shirts and other souvenirs.
I bought cold drinks.
It’s a shop that is appreciated by worshipers as if they had arrived at an oasis.
・ Kokeshi doll letter
When I asked the shop for recommended souvenirs, he told me that the kokeshi doll letters are fun.
With a kokeshi doll letter, you can write a message on the rolled paper inside the kokeshi doll, indicate a destination and put a stamp on the doll letter to finally post it from the mailbox on the mountain.
Stamps are sold at the shop, so it’s interesting to send them to your friends or yourself as a memorial.
When you receive a cute kokeshi doll letter, it will be memorable for the rest of your life.
I was talking to the shop tenant and he said that the postman would show up soon.
I was surprised that he climbs the stone steps every day quite dashingly!
Except for holidays, he walks up the stone steps every day on rainy days and windy days.
What a feat!
・ Arrival at Oku-no-In
I rested a little then headed for the Oku-no-In area.
There are 160 steps to there from the mountain shop.
The area I arrived at was open, with a peek at the rock surface, a few buildings and the Great Buddha Hall, giving all a solemn atmosphere.
In front on the right side is the Oku-no-In temple while the golden Amida Nyorai statue with a height of 5 meters is enshrined in the Great Buddha Hall on the left side.
The sign said, “By climbing more than 800 stone steps to Oku-no-In, you will be able to get rid of your worries and be happy.”
Certainly, my feelings were refreshing, and I felt that all the worries I had in the past were blown away.
4. Superb view
・ Kaisando / Nakkyodo
Go back a little and head towards the Godaido.
Speaking of Yamadera, this view.
This is the scenery you often see in pamphlets.
In front of it is a hall called Kaisando, which enshrines Ennin, and the red building on the left is called Nokyodo and houses sutras.
Take a photo with the mountains behind these building.
I think this place is great, so it is highly recommended to come up this way too.
Climbing to the right of Kaisando, behind it, you will find the Godaido hall, which offers a spectacular view of Yamadera built on a precipitous cliff.
Everyone will look up at the top of the mountain before climbing Yamadera, but the temple that rises above the cliff is the real pleasure of Yamadera.
It is said that it was built 30 years after the opening of the mountain as a dojo where the Five Great Myo Kings were enshrined.
The view from here is just superb. The scenery that only the climber can enjoy will spread in front of your eyes.
The scenery that changes from spring to summer, autumn and winter will make you want to visit again and again.
Now, after enjoying the beautiful scenery, slowly descend the mountain.
5. Yamagata specialties
I came down to the trailhead safely.
Near the trailhead, there are rest areas selling Yamagata’s famous tama konnyaku (konjac balls) and souvenirs.
Yamadera calls them power konjac.
You can strengthen yourself before climbing, or you can recover your strength after descending the mountain!
Please try konjac, which is the power of soy sauce soup stock.
When you come down to the foot of the mountain, there are many souvenir shops, and you can’t decide where to eat.
This time, I went to Fumotoya to have their famous geso-ten zaru-soba.
Geso-ten is a tempura of squid tentacles and is quite famous in Yamagata!
At this shop, I was able to enjoy their delicious flavor with very elegant and tasty soba noodles, and it filled my stomach.
It was a treat!
The closing times of the temple and shops around Yamadera are currently set earlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be sure to check for changes in time before you go.
Yamadera can still be enjoyed throughout the various seasons, such as spring and autumn, and summer with cicadas!
I mentioned at the beginning that it requires about 90 minutes to go up and down, but when I wanted to be healed by time and space, I felt that it was a spot where I could spend hours.
It is a good place to enjoy family time with children or parents, men and women of all ages.
Come and visit Yamadera where you can move your body moderately, interact with nature, pray for peace, and refresh yourself from the gloomy days of the pandemic. (^^ ♪)