During Oshogatsu, I went to Yamadera(山寺) for the first time. Yamadera is in Yamagata city, Yamagata prefecture. It is famous for hard climbing till you reach the top of Yamadera. However, the view especially from Godaido(五大堂) is magnificent to look down the town there. Some more photos from flickr.
Yamadera was founded in 860 by a Tendai priest for Buddhist monks engaged in ascetic practices. Therefore, Yamadera was located in steep place and it is hard to reach the top. It is said that there are about 1000 steps totally in Yamadera. Each step is one worldly passion, so once you go up the one stair, your worldly passion will be vanished.
Before going up 1000 steps, I had a meal near Yamadera station. Since Yamagata is famous for Soba, there are many Soba dishes there. I chose Shoujin(精進) set which is vegetarian diet to pretend one priest.
Yamadera walk starts with Konponchudo(根本中堂) which is national important culture property, and the oldest Japanese beech wooden structure in Japan. At there, Hotei sama welcomes you for people who have sick and chronic diseases by touching the place you have.
On the way, you will find Matsuo Basho’s statue and a stone monument. Basho is an poet in Edo period and known with his book, “Oku no Hosomichi(奥の細道)”. He composed a Haiku here, “Shizukasaya Iwanishimiiru Seminokoe(閑さや巌にしみ入る蝉の声)” which means “stillness, the sound of the cicadas sink into the rocks”
Here, Bashou buried the Haiku in here, so this place is called “Semi zuka(せみ塚)”, mound for cicadas.
I went up very slowly so that I don’t get tired. Then, I reached the top of Yamadera, called “Godaido(五大堂)”. This is a training hall to pray peace in the land, and great an observation platform at the same time.
It was much harder to go down the stairs than go up. However, I had nice exercise there, and I hope it is a good starting of New Year.