Yamadera - Risshakuji Temple

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Yamagata Yamadera | Mountain Temple

Yamagata Yamadera | Mountain Temple

Yamadera in the northeastern part of Yamagata City is one of the prominent temples in the Tohoku region, and was founded over a thousand years ago in the year of 860. The temple grounds extend high up a steep mountainside, from where there are great views down onto the valley. Its popular name, Yamadera, literally means "mountain temple" in Japanese. Everywhere in the vast temple area, you can find rock caves and queerly shaped rocks, eroded by wind and water, as well as many other temple buildings. The base of the mountain is located about a five minute walk from the Yamadera train station, and there are dozens of shops and restaurants that cater to the temple's many visitors. There is also a small visitor center just across the bridge along the way from the station to the temple.

During the early Heian Period (794-1185), the Emperor Seiwa sent one of the country's most important Buddhist priests to the country's frontier region in the Tohoku Region. That priest, Jikaku Daishi, founded Yamadera in present day Yamagata Prefecture, which at the time was part of the Dewa Province at the very northern extreme of the national borders.


Yamagata Yamadera | The famous poet Basho

Yamagata Yamadera | The famous poet Basho

Yamadera is also known for a visit by the famous poet Basho, who composed one of his most enduring haiku there. During Basho's journey into northern Japan in the late 1600s he stopped at Yamadera and composed a short poem about the stillness and silence of the area. Nowadays, a statue of Basho and a rock inscription of his famous poem can be found in the lower area of the temple grounds.

Silence, and penetrating into the rocks — the cry of the cicada
Famed haiku poem of Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694) Yamadera Risshaku-ji

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