Yamadera, its official name is Risshakuji Temple, is a temple located in Yamagata prefecture. Yamadera literally means “mountain temple.” As the name describes, Yamadera stands along the steep mountain, and there are 1,015 steps towards the main building “Okunoin.” It is pretty much work to climb such number of stairs in a mountain. However, it turned out to be the best temple I have ever visited.

About Yamadera

Yamadera was founded in AD860 (it’s surprising, over a thousand years ago!) by the priest Jikaku Daishi. Yamadera is also known for a visit by the famous poet Matsuo Basho. He composed one of the most famous poem here in Yamadera.

Basho’s original work is buried here under the stone.

Basho’s original work is buried here under the stone.

Once you get off the Yamadera Station, you will see a map. The map shows the way to the entrance of the mountain and the path is pretty clear, so I think there is no worry to get lost. It’s about 5 minutes walk from the station.

The map of Yamadera and around the area in front of the station.

The map of Yamadera and around the area in front of the station.

You will get to see the mountain instantly as you start walking.

You will get to see the mountain instantly as you start walking.

Walking towards the entrance. There are few restaurants and gift shops.

Walking towards the entrance. There are few restaurants and gift shops.

Such a cute sign!

Such a cute sign!

Once you reach the entrance, the journey to climb 1,015 steps starts.

The sign showing the start of the steps

The sign showing the start of the steps

Climb 1,015 steps to the top of Yamadera

To get an astonishing view from the top, you will have to climb 1,015 steps. There are stone lanterns and Jizo statues in the surrounding forests which make an atmospheric hike and never get bored.

Forests along the way

Forests along the way

Also, there are few sights to stop by. Such as the Basho’s stone introduced above and few others. It takes about an hour to hour half to the top if you walk and stop by such sights.

Risshakuji Temple Hondo

Risshakuji Temple Hondo

Hundreds of small Jizos

Hundreds of small Jizos

Statues like this all around. Never bored to walk around.

Statues like this all around. Never bored to walk around.

Great atmosphere

Great atmosphere

Get the fantastic view at Godaido

After climbing thousand some steps, you will reach a place like a plaza.

A place like a plaza, connected to Godaido

A place like a plaza, connected to Godaido

You will get this famous view of Yamadera here.

Have you seen a picture of this?

Have you seen a picture of this?

Finally, you will reach Godaido Hall. This wooden porch gives you sweeping views of the surrounding mountains.

Godaido Hall

Godaido Hall

Godaido Hall sticks out.

Godaido Hall sticks out.

The view from Godaido Hall. I went there in March so still, some snow left in the town.

The view from Godaido Hall. I went there in March so still, some snow left in the town.

Also, do not forget to visit Okunoin temple at the back. Note that the building is closed during winter so you can not see inside, but accepting visitors.

Okunoin of Yamadera

Okunoin of Yamadera

Climbing Yamadera, Risshakuji Temple was a memorable experience, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my visit to Tohoku. I strongly recommend this place to anyone who visits Yamagata Prefecture.

For lunch, I’d like to recommend visiting Soba Kaido, Soba Street, and taste Ita Soba, a local cuisine of Yamagata.
Check out this article for details:
Try “Real Soba” at The Soba Street in Yamagata, Tohoku