Yamadera (山寺) is a beautiful temple located in Yamagata prefecture of Japan. The name literally means “mountain temple” in Japanese. It has a long history dating back all the way to 860 during the Heian Period in Japan. The temple is known for being the place where the famous Japanese poet Basho visited and composed one of his fabulous haikus!
Perched high on the mountainside, the temple ground offers a gorgeous view into the huge valley below. Although it’s wonderful all year round, Yamadera is especially a famous location for autumn leaves viewing for people in the Tohoku region of Japan.
I have been living in Sendai, a city just an hour away from Yamadera. You’d think that since I have been exploring all over Japan, I would have made it to Yamadera sooner. But see, I’ve been waiting for the best time for a visit! Last weekend, I finally organized a day trip for myself and several other expats to this scenic destination.
It was a wonderful hiking trip. We enjoyed colorful fall leaves, old Japanese temple, fresh air, and delicious food.
For nature lovers exploring the Tohoku region of Japan, you will definitely like Yamadera very much. A very easy day trip to take from Sendai or Yamagata City, this little gem has a lot to offer.
Yamadera Temple in Yamagata, Japan
– Day Trip Guide
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How to get here
Yamadera is less than a 10 minutes walk from Yamadera station. To get to Yamadera station is very easy. Take the JR Senzan Line from either Yamagata City (240 yen one way, 20 minutes travel time) or Sendai (840 yen one way, one hour travel time).
Here is the entrance of Yamadera station.
Once you get out of the station, there is a map that tells you all the major sites around the area.
→ The JR train comes once every hour so plan your travel accordingly.
→If you are coming from Tokyo, the best way is to get to Sendai first. Sendai 1.5 hours from Tokyo by Shinkansen bullet train.
→With the purchase of a Japan Rail Pass, you can enjoy unlimited travel on Shinkansen and JR trains. A wonderful investment for exploring in Japan!
The Best Time To Visit
The temple is beautiful all year round. But if your goal is autumn leaves viewing, the best time to go is around early November. That’s when the leaves are at their best colours!
Yamadera temple hours
8:00 to 17:00
(Open everyday year round)
300 yen for the upper area of the temple
What to expect
Once you get out from Yamadera station, go straight and just follow the signs to the entrance of the Yamadera hike trail. It’s only a 10 minutes walk, but it’s already very beautiful along the way.
Look at this stunning little path! One for the Instagram!
There are many little shops and restaurants. This shop is selling some interesting flavoured ice creams. Salt milk and soysauce?!
Here you have arrived at the bottom of the entrance to the hike.
Get up the stairs to the lower area of the temple ground. You can visit Konponchudo Hall. The hall hosts many Buddha statues and a flame that is said to have been burning since Yamadera’s foundation.
Right outside the main hall, you can also buy good luck charms, fortune telling tickets, and pray for good health!
To get to the upper area of the temple ground, visitors must go through this gate and pay a small fee of 300 yen.
You will get a little ticket like this.
The ascent to the top is a stone path of about 1000 steps. Depending speed, generally it takes about 30 minutes. Enjoy the fresh air through the forest.
Keep going up and up!
And you will be rewarded with an awesome view at the top!
“ah this silence / sinking into the rocks / voice of cicada”…Just picturing Basho being here all alone when he made this poem…Some pretty serene stuff.
The ultimate view you will get is at the Goisando Hall, an observation deck at the top that will let you see the whole valley below! Breath taking sight!
Once you get back down from the hike, try some local specialties like Yamagata soba noodles, imoni stew, or konnyaku potato!
For relaxing those shaky legs after the hike (oh they will be tired, trust me!), head to the Sakunami Ichinobo Onsen on the way back to Sendai. It’s a very nice hot spring hotel with gorgeous outdoor baths. You can also stay overnight for the ultimate rejuvenating experience.
Plan your Japan trip in 4 easy steps
Book A Flight: Find the cheapest flights on Skyscanner, my go-to search engine.
Read up on the best advice: Love a good old fashion guide book. Suggested reading: Lonely Planet: Japan Travel Guide
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Want to know more cool off the beaten path places in the Tohoku region? Check out: