Up above a certain quiet town, there is a temple at the top of about 1000 stone steps silently looking over everything. This mountain temple is a destination that rewards those who complete the hike with breath taking views.
The official name is Yamadera Risshakuji Temple, but it is popularly known as Yamadera. The name translates to mountain temple. The structures at the foot of the mountain are referred to as the lower area of the temple grounds. There you can see the Konponchudo Hall, which is the oldest beech wood building in the temple.
Before beginning the arduous climb of stairs, it is best to take this opportunity to admire the statues of Matsuo Basho (famed poet) and his apprentice Sora. Basho wrote a haiku about the temple, which goes “What stillness! The voices of the cicadas, Penetrate the rocks.” The original Japanese text is read as “shizukesa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe” (静けさや岩にしみ入る蝉の声).
Statue of Matsuo Basho
After passing the entry gate, the journey to reach the temple began. The surrounding greenery gave off a sense of tranquility. Cedar trees were everywhere the eyes could see. In attendance were other hikers making the same journey to see the autumn leaves at the top.
Along the path, these small structures and statues can be seen. Many of them are memorials and burial grounds for the dearly departed. The old stone lanterns with faded writing is a testament to the time it has been there.
At the midway point, the steep cliffsides came into view. Further up the staircase, one of cliffsides had memorial inscriptions carved into its’ rock face. It was a sight to behold. Luckily there is a spot where you can sit down and relax while soaking in the environment. Breathing in the cool crisp fresh air, the final ascent marked the location of the Niomon Gate to the upper levels of the temple.
Even after passing the gate there are still more stairs to climb in order to reach the other structures of the temple. For a spectacular view of the area as well as the temple then the Godaido is where you must go next. In order to reach the Godaido, you will be passing by the hall dedicated to the founder Jikaku Daishi.
Climbing the steep steps, you reach an old structure with various talismans pasted on the beams. From the observation deck you can see the town below as well as the mountains painted in autumn colors. Another view to admire is the temple with hues of fall blending in with the structures.
When the exploration comes to an end and the descent down the many stone steps begins, feelings of accomplishment linger as the scenery becomes a memory. Going down the flight of stairs prove to be an easy task, but before leaving the area do not forget to enjoy the popular and famous cherry flavored soft served ice cream.