Yamagata, Japan Oct. 01 Sun 5:07PM
Yamadera (Mountain Temple)
Risshakuji Temple, popularly known as “Yamadera,” (Mountain Temple), was established over a thousand years ago, when a fire was carried from Enryakuji Temple in distant Kyoto and lit in the main hall built here on this remote mountain. The fire burns on to this day.
In the current age this temple complex, composed of many grand gates and buildings passes one climbs the thousand steps up to the summit, is surprisingly accessible, the foot of the mountain being only a five minute walk from Yamadera Station, but the experience and views it provides are far from quotidian.
Although the designation of temple may bring to mind just a single building, the complex is in fact composed of many temple structures, some being built as recently as two hundred years ago (well, recent compared to the ancient main hall), and even a treasure house of rare Buddhist artifacts.
The famous haiku poet Basho visited and spend a night here, and the temple was the inspiration for one of his most famous poems:
deeply still cicada cries sinking into the stone
(閑さや 岩にしみ入る 蝉の声)
A statue of Basho now sits on the mountain, and visitors can also visit a museum about him nearby after climbing down. A charming complex of shops called Fuga no Kuni, where visitors can pick up some souvenirs and get something to eat, is also a very short walk from the station, rounding out the trip nicely.