Visiting Yamadera in winter? No problem as long as you wear the right shoes and warm winter clothes!
This "Mountain Temple" is one of Yamagata Prefecture's most famous landmarks and it is exactly what the name promises - a temple in the mountains. There are several temple structures located at the foot of the mountain and on top, and a long flight of stone steps lined by stone lanterns connect them.
Famous 17th century poet Matsuo Basho visited Yamadera too, although in warmer season, and he promptly penned a haiku about the voice of cicada. There is even a memorial stone to Basho by the entrance to Yamadera.
The icy winter landscape only adds to the natural beauty of this place, although the ascetics of old who sat in meditation in one of the caves carved in the rocks will have had other things on their minds. In recent years Yamagata has become known as a mecca for Shugendo and this spiritual tradition is well alive around the Dewa Sanzan mountains, yet here in Yamadera there don't seem to be anymore ascetics these days.
Walking up the stone steps deeply covered in snow is quite strenuous but it is an unusual winter experience with some spiritual flair. You have to bring good boots to make it up the icy path, and there is no option of wara booth like you have in winter on Haguro-san. Here is another account of a fellow writer about his visit and how he conquered Yamadera in winter.
If you happen to go on a skiing holiday to Zao Onsen in winter and you need a break from the slopes and the famous "Snow Monsters", then take time out for a half-day trip to Yamadera. A visit to Yamadera in winter is a great choice on your Yamagata Winter Adventures itinerary!
Find out more about Yamadera Temple.