Yamadera: The ancient temple on the mountain


Yamagata prefecture is located about 400 kilometers north of Tokyo. This is a wide agricultural region known for its beautiful rice fields sceneries that extend into the valleys. Like most of Japan, it is a mountainous and volcanic land. Therefore you easily find great places to enjoy great quality hot springs (onsen in japanese) and other exceptional natural sites.  


This area is also well-known for its remarkably well-preserved ancient buddhist temple built on the side of a mountain, facing a breathtaking view; the Yamadera. As you could notice, Japan has the advantage of being a country that is enjoyable in every season of the year. Indeed, landscapes vary in an incredible way due to the wide range of plants or trees found in the countryside. However, it might be advisable to visit this temple in the fall, to admire the autumn leaves. The momijis with red leaves mix with yellow and orange maple leaves, bright green firs and Japanese cedars. All that miraculous mixture of colors enhances the beauty of this holy place with its stone stairs brushing the rocky mountainside. In winter, it snows a lot in Yamagata, and this season could also be the opportunity to admire this scenery covered with a white veil of snow.

Its existence dates back to the golden age of Buddhism in Japan. It could be built in the late ninth century, by one of the greatest figures of Japanese Buddhism, Ennin, also known as Jikaku-Daishi, a founder of the Tendai school in Japan. Ennin traveled to China, especially in Zhejiang, in south China. This is where stand Mount Tiantai, whose name inspired this type of Buddhist practice. Few years before he died, Ennin returned to Japan where he shared his knowledge. Constantly evolving, Japanese Buddhism is difficult to summarize in few lines, but the spirit of mutual support, wisdom and kindness toward others are the main focus. Moreother, Japanese Buddhism was able to vary from its Chinese origins and create his own harmony. Yamadera temple describes perfectly this evolution.

The entrance of the temple is located near the Yamadera station, accessible by the JR Senzan line, connecting the city of Sendai on the east coast  and Yamagata. From Tokyo, expect a little less than 3 hours away. When you will arrived in front of the temple, you will face the numerous steps that you will have to climb. Do not be discouraged, because once at the top, you will have the most beautiful views that can be admired in Japan. On the path, you will come across many ancient temples hidden among trees, so take your time to relax and admire the magnificent architecture of the old times, and carved rock walls where meditate statues of buddha for eternity.

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