Yamadera: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey

Every step that we took felt like a spiritual journey as our spirits communed with nature; and nature kept blessing us with its beauty.

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With our barely rested bodies and our more prominent dark circles around the eyes, we had to wake up at 9 in the morning to catch the 10:30am Shinkansen train to Yamagata prefecture. I honestly had very little idea on where we're going but I didn't care. I was just happy to have a respite from Tokyo and to be in the company of someone whose main advocacy is to capture life through his lenses.  

After the almost 3 hours bullet train ride (costing about 10,000 yen), we arrived at Yamadera station with our reinvigorated spirits courtesy of the long nap we just took. We had a choice to either go to Ginzan onsen town or hike on a hill in Yamadera. The autumn colors and the wind blowing cool breeze reminded us of what one of our icons once said, "sometimes the right path is not the easiest one." Thank you Pocahontas for inspiring us to hike.

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When we reached the foot of Mount Hojusan, we had doubts whether the 1000 plus steps on top of the hill will be worth the climb but we soldiered on. The Yamadera or the mountain temple was the first (and also the main attraction) of many sacred places found on the hill. Every step that we took felt like a spiritual journey as our spirits communed with nature; and nature kept blessing us with its beauty. 

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As the altitude became higher, breathing started to feel like it was a chore. The temperature was 15 degrees celsius but droplets of sweat kept creeping out of our pores. If not for the many stops we had to make to marvel at the surroundings and take photographs, we would have loss consciousness. 

Thinking about it now, maybe going up the mountains was  suppose to nourish our spirits because the difficult hike reminded us of the tribulations in life and the magnificence that surrounded the mountain brought to mind that no matter how difficult life gets, we all just have to stop for a while; breath; think about the many little reasons why life is beautiful; and then move forward.  

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ACCESS: From Tokyo station, take the Shinkansen Tsubasa 131 train to Yamagata station (around 2 and a half hours). From Yamagata station, transfer to the JR Senzan line and get off at Yamadera station. The foot of Mount Hoju-san is 5 minutes walk away.

BEST VIEWING: We went to Yamadera temple October 28, 2017 and the colors were just approaching peak. The best views of maple trees would be from early to mid November.