“Yamadera” is a famous holy mountain with temples established in Yamagata. It is a popular destination for temple and nature lovers due to its unique location and the stunning view from the temple on the edge of a steep cliff. The picturesque seasonal views of the small local village and its surrounding mountains are also well-known. ‘Yama’ means mountain, and ‘dera’ means temple. As its name suggests, it is really on the top of the mountain (or on the cliff!) and can be seen from the JR Yamadera station. The official name of Yamadera is Rishakuji, a long-standing temple that was built over a thousand years ago. Since ancient times, people have believed that the Yamadera mountain temple's deities could answer to their prayers and end bad relationships. 30 different size still-in-use temples exist in the mountain, and visitors can have access to seven out of them while in this holy mountain.
The temple's entrance is located on the base of the mountain where the famous rock stairs start. These stairs are believed to help visitors to renounce their worldly desires. Each step can be a meditative practice if you decide to follow and take in the traditional ritual of the Yamadera rock stair climbing. There are 1015 rock stairs to reach the top of the mountain where the Kaizan-do temple is located. It can be even seen from the Yamadera station. Kaizan-do is dedicated to worship Jikaku-Daishi, who was the monk that started the Yamadera temple. Apparently, the remains of the Daishi are buried in a gold burial in a natural cave beneath the cliff, where this temple is built. Kaizan-do opens once a year on the 14th of January, on Daishi's birthday.
The most popular route for visitors is to go right to the top and visit Okunoin, and then to come down the mountain while stopping off at accessible temples. The first stop would be Godaido. You can enjoy the view from all over Yamadera, but the view from Godaido is said to be the best. You can overlook the mountain villages as well as the JR Yamadera Station. The spectacular view from the Godaido temple would blow away the tiredness of climbing numerous stone steps.
Each accessible temple has its uniqueness. So take your time to visit them and enjoy their stunning view from the top. At Konpochu-do, which is said to be the oldest beech wood temple in Japan, you can pat and pray to Shofuku-Hotei-Son. He is believed to be the god of longevity, good luck, child conceiving, happy marriage, and economic fortune. At Chusei-in, you can pat the god Obinzurusama on his bald head. Apparently, by patting this god's head, you will recover from illness and will protect yourself from Alzheimer's disease. At Seisou-in, there is a rope that is apparently attached to Amida God. You can make your wish by holding on to this special rope; then, your request might come true! Don’t forget to visit Kinjyo-in, where you spin the large rosary to make a wish. It is believed that you will be healthier, and your request will turn to be true when the rosary spins. How nice! Whether you believe in these holy spirits or not, it would be an authentic and exciting experience for sure.
So, feel the holistic vibe of Yamadera, the mountain temple, where you can enjoy the breathtaking view and a gorgeous nature walk, as well as the place's historical authenticity. The effort of climbing the Yamadera’s rock stairs as well as interesting interactions with the Yamadera temple gods can be a memorable experience for you.
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