Yamadera is an ancient Buddhist temple complex built into a rugged, steep mountainside, enshrouded in ferns and tall cedars. It is considered a spiritual power spot, and one of the most scenic and celebrated temples in all of Tohoku. Founded by Tendai master Jikaku Daishi over one thousand years ago, Yamadera was the first Tendai temple in northern Japan, and is steeped in both history and lore.
While visitors will undoubtedly enjoy the astounding views and sublime atmosphere, unfortunately English-language signage or information is in short supply. This experience is the only English-language guided tour available, and our goal is to further enrich your visit by elucidating the story of Yamadera, through its monuments, history, and the philosophies of Tendai Buddhism which shaped the temple’s development. You’ll also learn about its most esteemed figures, namely founder Jikaku Daishi, and Japan’s most famous haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, who made Yamadera well known through his poetry.
Event Date(s) Year Round, See Below
Activity Length Approximately 2.5 hours
Activity Time Flexible, see below
Venue Yamadera Temple
Price 4,000 yen
This tour starts in town and follows the pilgrim path up the 1,015 stone steps of the temple. Our first stop will be at the Taimenseki boulder, and then we’ll move on to the glorious Main Hall, the Konponchudo. We’ll pass through Hiei Shrine on our way to the main gate, learning about Yamadera’s Tendai origins in Kyoto.
From the main gate, we begin our ascent into hallowed grounds, past many ancient graves and memorials. The frightening visage of the Ubadou marks a weigh point for pilgrims the stone path, the first crossing between worlds of existence and transcendence. This area is full of ancient stupas, stelae, and gravesites, as well as important monuments to Matsuo Basho and Jikaku Daishi. Surrounded in nature, one can meditate upon the many great spirits who have passed through this forest.
Further up, we’ll pass beneath the grand Niomon gate and the glare of its sentry guardians, and forward into the sub-temple complex where practitioners of escoteric Tendai Buddhism continue their mysterious trainings. We continue to the Okunoin, halls which contain numerous priceless carvings of the Amida Buddha and boddhisatva, as well as other sacred treasures.
Finally, we’ll make our way to Yamadera’s most picturesque structures the Nokyodo, Kaisando, and Godaido, which offers spectacular views of the mountains and valley below. After which, we will head back down to the starting point.
Reservations and Important Notes
-This guide is available year-round and Activity Times are flexible.
- Note that from November to December the temple is open, but the interiors of many of the halls are closed. Still, Yamadera sees its share of winter visitors, as the snow-covered temple is particularly scenic.
- This tour is predominantly outdoors, so please dress accordingly for the weather and wear comfortable shoes or boots. Due to the many stairs, pregnant women and people with serious health conditions should not undertake this tour.
-Please send us a reservation inquiry for availability.
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