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.
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.
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.
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.