The most visited and accessible summit of the “sacred mountains” in the area of Dewa, an ancient province.
Far from the chaos of the city, Mount Haguro is an escape with temples, verdant forests and the sweet sound of waterfalls pouring into the deep river.
Mysterious doesn’t even begin to describe the atmosphere in this ancient province of Dewa, which houses the “Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa Sanzan.” The most visited part of it is Mount Haguro, which reaches an altitude of only 414 meters, is located on the edge of the town of Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture. The province itself also stretches to Akita prefecture.
The sacred mountains come with important symbolism. Mount Haguro basically represents the present world’s trouble, Mount Gassan is the past, while Mount Yudono is seen as the future. These three mountains form the “Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa Sanzan,” and are considered the home of two gods: the god of agriculture and the god that protects the Dewa province. Plus, the entire area has several temples and shrines, so its spiritual atmosphere provides a strong mystical touch.
Stepping into the forest at the base of Mount Haguro feels like wandering into a fairytale. From the torii gate at the base of Mount Haguro, pilgrims will start their long ascent to rebirth by reaching the Dewa Shrine up the nearly 2,250 stone stairs. In other words, it’s a great journey to inner peace.
There is something really enchanting about it; maybe it’s the dense forest of 500-year-old cedar trees towering around the hand-carved stone steps leading up to the summit.
Or perhaps, it’s the powerful waterfalls running through the forest alongside five-storied pagoda known as Goju-to. Standing among the gigantic trees is this wooden pagoda built in 937, making it the Tohoku region’s oldest.
On the left you’ll notice that a giant rope is tied around a magnificent 1,400-year-old cedar tree, Jijisugi — the Grandfather tree. This is the oldest tree in the forest. Standing beneath its shadow, with the mist of the waterfall and the scent of the cedar trees, you’ll find yourself truly immersed in the nature of north Japan.
Emerging at the summit of Haguro mountain, Dewa Sanzan Shrine reveals one of Japan’s thickest thatched-roof shrines, designed to brave the snowy winter months. In summer, the mysterious sound of a conch shell being blown like a trumpet, announces the start of the priest’s pilgrimage.