Yamadera literally means ‘Mountain Temple’, and that’s exactly what Yamadera is. The full name is Risshakuji (立石寺, Standing Stone Temple), but Yamadera’s far more commonly used. Some 1200 years old, it’s one of the coolest temples to visit in all Japan with an upper area accessed via a steep half-hour climb up the mountain. The hike’s well worth the effort, with rewarding views across the valley from some beautiful hillside temple structures.


View from Yamadera

Yamadera is located in Yamagata Prefecture, part of Japan’s northern Tohoku region. Matsuo Basho visited Yamadera in his Narrow Road to the Deep North journey, and it was here that he sat on a rock and penned one of his most famous haiku:


Iwa-ni shimi-iru

Seeping into the rock
Cicadas’ cry




It’s also a famous spot for the autumn colours from late October to mid-November (these pics in late October, a little before peak):


Autumn colours at Yamadera

Autumn colours at Yamadera

The hiking trail starts on the other side of the small town from Yamadera Station on the Senzan Line from Sendai to Yamagata and is easily visited as a day out from either city.

Statues at Yamadera


To get there simply ride the Sanzen Line to Yamadera Station from Sendai Station (1 hour) or Yamagata Station (20 minutes); once you disembark at Yamadera Station, Yamadera itself is up the mountainside on the far side of the small town. Just follow the signs (or Google Maps) and it’s about a 10-minute walk from the station to the entrance gate.

For more places to visit in the Tohoku region see here

For more Japan posts see here, and see my Japan overland guide here

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