On Hojusan Risshakuji Temple (Yama-dera)
Hojusan Risshakuji Temple, also known as Yama-dera, is a leading tourist spot in Yamagata Prefecture. Yama-dera was founded by Jikaku Daishi in 860 A.D., well over 1000 years ago. The whole mountain is the temple compound, and Konpon Chudo in particular, the main building of the temple, which is the oldest temple building made with beech trees in Japan, is designated as an Important Cultural Property of Japan.
The temple has been well known not only to people in Yamagata Prefecture but also across Japan. From the old days it is believed to be able to break bad relationships. It is also well known that an observatory called “Godai-do” offers a spectacular view, where you can arrive only by climbing up well over 1000 stone steps.
Access to Yama-dera
Yama-dera is located in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, and the nearest railroad station is Yama-dera Station. Information: Map
– It is about 20 minutes by train from Yamagata Station.
– It is about 50 minutes by train from Sendai Station.
– It is about 30 minutes by car from Yamagata City.
Parking area is available for a fee at 300~500 yen per day, but going by train is easier.
I Have Climbed up over 1000 Stone Steps!
In order to see the breathtaking view from the Godai-do on top of the mountain, we will go through this “San mon” and must climb up as many as 1015 stone steps to its end point at “Oku no in” inner sanctuary. It is believed that we can rid our lust and impurity by climbing up the stone steps one by one. Even women and children can go up and come down within 2 hours.
I have finally arrived at “Oku no in”, the destination. My lust and impurity must have been cleansed.
“Nokyo-do” contains precious hand-copied sutras and Jikaku Daishi is enshrined in “Kaizan-do”. How it is built on precipitous cliff is truly amazing. And we can pass this side to go to “Godai-do” observatory that affords the best view from Yama-dera.
The magnificent view from “Godai-do” can be experienced only by those who climbed up the steps. You can enjoy different faces of the view depending on the season, including the foliage in the fall and snow covered scenery in the winter.
Sightseeing Highlights You Shouldn’t Miss
No.1 Matsuo Basho
Matsuo Basho, the famous haiku poet of Japan, also visited this place and made the famous haiku.
“The stillness-soaking into stones cicada’s cry”
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When Matsuo Basho visited this place, perhaps the mountain must have been wrapped in a deeper tranquility than it is today.
No.2 Kame no Ko Ishi (Turtle Shell Rock)
Turtle-shaped rocks are believed to be a symbol of longevity from ancient times. When we offer coins with our names written on them, our wishes are believed to come true.
Tama konnyaku (ball-shaped konnyaku), commonly known as Tama-kon, is a Yamagata specialty food that has a deep-rooted relationship with Yama-dera. It is said that Tama-kon was popularized by Jikaku Daishi, the founder of Yama-dera. Nowadays Tama-kon is a common food generally eaten by people of Yamagata Prefecture. As it is consumed in order to store energy before climbing up the mountain, it is also known as “Chikara konnyaku (energy konnyaku)”. Tama-kon boiled in soy-sauce flavored stock is exquisite.
I would recommend climbing up first thing in the morning. Yama-dera, surrounded by silence without a single soul to pass by, is truly mysterious. In addition, by climbing up the steps in silence, we can probably face ourselves better. When you visit Yamagata Prefecture, please climb the Yama-dera, and try refreshing yourself physically as well as mentally.
Also, it might be a good idea to visit Jakushoji Temple after breaking off a bad relationship at Yama-dera, as Jakushoji is known to tie a good relationship.