If you're visiting Yamagata Prefecture and have time for only one attraction in your itinerary, be sure Yamadera Risshakuji Temple is on the list. Founded in A.D. 860, this attraction is a popular Buddhist complex that boasts majestic views and ancient architecture. But unlike some of the attractions that can only be viewed at specific seasons, the beauty of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple can be thoroughly enjoyed all-year round.
Spring for new beginnings.
A horizon shrouded in mist, separated by snow-capped mountains and a blushing forest turning green. This poetic scenery might just be why Yamadera Risshakuji Temple was a much-visited spot for Basho Matsuo, one of Japan’s famous Haiku masters. There’s even a stone statue that immortalizes his haiku, which was composed in 1689 on a visit to Yamadera Risshakuji Temple:
Iwa ni shimi-iru
Semi no koe
Calm and serene
The sound of a cicada
Penetrates the rock
Take a hike in Summer.
If you want to truly enjoy the splendor and tranquility of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple, a hike during Summer is a must. The winding paths and 1015 steps may seem daunting, but I promise you that the view at the top will make it all worthwhile.
Till now, I can still remember the breathtaking view of the summer sunlight reflected off the Kaizandou and Noukyoudou, creating a contrast of warmth against the cool greenery of the forest.
Oh, and before I forget. The hike up is believed to be a spiritual experience, and its completion can rid bad luck.
Soak in the colors of Autumn.
You’ve probably heard of cherry blossoms in Spring. But, I bet you haven’t heard of momiji (Japanese maple trees) in Autumn. In my opinion, it’s an equally mesmerizing sight. Just imagine standing at the mountaintop, overlooking the vast landscape draped in vivid hues of red, amber, and green. It’s no surprise why Yamadera Risshakuji Temple is the most-visited attraction in Yamagata Prefecture this time of the year. We even have a name for this tradition of visiting Autumn sites—momijigari!
Seek comfort in Winter’s solace.
Layer on your Winter wear and brave the cold, for the wintery experience of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple awaits you. For me, it was a personal time of quiet reflection. The snowfall accompanied by its silence added a certain sense of tranquility—the higher I climbed, the more I felt the distractions melt away and gave me a sense of peacefulness.
If you too want to experience that, you’ll be glad to know the paths are cleared for both pilgrims and visitors. But be careful though, it’s extremely slippery!
Getting to Yamadera Risshakuji Temple
There are two ways to get to this attraction. You can either take the JR Senzan line from Sendai Station to Yamadera Station (840 yen, around 50 minutes). Or, take the JR Senzan line from Yamagata Station to Yamadera Station (240 yen, around 20 minutes). After alighting, you’ll have to take a five to 10 minutes walk before arriving.
The temple is open from 8am to 5pm. The admission costs 300 yen for adults, 200 yen for children of elementary school age and 100 yen for infants aged four and older.
Name: Yamadera Risshakuji Temple
Address: 〒999-3301 4456-1 Yamadera Yamagata-shi Yamagata
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