Largest City

Yamadera Temple

One thousand steps to Yamagata’s most iconic spot.

Built over 1,000 years ago, Yamadera Temple is one of northern Japan’s most picturesque spots and a must-visit destination in the Tohoku region.


Find poetic inspiration at Yamadera Mountain Temple in Yamagata
Yamagata Prefecture’s “mountain temple” as it translates to, can be best enjoyed during the snowy winter, when the nearby mountains are submerged in a sea of white, or during Autumn, when the area bursts into color. Regardless of the time of year, the temple is a photographer’s dream.

From Yamadera station, it’s only a 5-minute walk to reach the base of the temple, where you can then begin your ascent.

To the top

The atmosphere makes Yamadera a spiritual escape.

The ascent up the mountains’ 1,000 steps typically takes between 20-30 minutes. It’s not a difficult climb, but the journey through the forest is half the adventure, with eye-catching shrines and amusing statues placed carefully throughout the venture alongside stone lanterns.

Yamadera TEmple

Photo by: Geomr A view halfway up the temple complex.

Along the way you’ll see many temples and landmarks such as the Mida Hora stone carvings walls, or the Niomon Gate standing a bit further away. Just above it, on your final destination you can find the Kaisando Hall which is dedicated to the temple founder, Jikaku Daishi while a smaller building also known as the Nokyodo Hall.

Once you arrive at Yamadera Temple, midway the steep hill Hoshu-yama, the reward is a stunning view overlooking the Tachiya River, with its verdant mountains and vast neighboring valley.

Yamadera city valley viewed from the Godaido Hall of the Yamadera temple.

Take the path on the right of Kaisando Hall, it’ll take you to the Godaido, a observatory deck where you can enjoy the best view of Yamagata City’s south valley.

On the way back from the temple, lined from the railway station to the temple, there is a long street crammed with souvenir shops offering unique ice cream flavors such as pineapple and sesame, to give you such much needed refreshment after your climb.

Dig Japanese history? Read more on where to find historic gems.

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Find poetic inspiration at Yamadera Mountain Temple in Yamagata


Winter is coming. But so is spring, summer and fall at this rewarding year-round destination.


Things To Know


From the base of the mountain, it costs 300¥ to start your ascent.

How To Get There


Japan, 〒999-3301 Yamagata-ken, Yamagata-shi, Yamadera, 立石寺本坊

By train

The easiest way to go to the temple is to take the train. Yamadera station is served by the JR Senzan line, which connects Yamagata City and Sendai. If you are traveling from Tokyo (2.5hours), it is usually faster to travel via Sendai (40 minutes) to Yamagata station. Yamadera-station is a 20 minute train ride from there.


By bus

Surprisingly, it is also possible to catch the night bus from Tokyo to Yamagata station and then catch the JR train to Yamadera station. However it will take at least 6 hours to get there.

By car

Despite its 5-hour drive from Tokyo, traveling by car is also a very convenient and incredibly cheap way to go to Yamadera temple.

Where To Stay

Sakaeya Hotel
  • Kamata 2-3-16 Tendo-Shi, Yamagata 994-0024
  • 7.4/10
  • 6.5 km
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Shouhakutei Azumaso
  • Kamata 2-2-1 Tendo-Shi, Yamagata 994-0024
  • 8.5/10
  • 6.6 km
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Hotel Route-Inn Tendo
  • Kamata 1-13-22 Tendo-Shi, Yamagata 994-0024
  • 7.7/10
  • 6.7 km
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  • Kamatahoncho 2-2-21 Tendo-Shi, Yamagata 994-0025
  • 7.8/10
  • 6.8 km
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