After having spent an entire week in Tokyo, even if we felt there was so much more to see and discover in the capital, we decided it was time to start our tour of the rest of Japan. We activated our JR Passes and set off north – to Yamadera.
We wanted to see something different, something that had nothing to do with the crowdedness and chaos of the city, still scenic but in a different way, ‘quieter’ and more relaxed, the prime reason why we picked Yamadera.
Yamadera here we come!
Yamadera is served by the JR Senzan Line (which was a good news for us as JR passes’ owners), and being very easy to reach, it can be a day trip if you don’t want to stop over for the night, which in truth we didn’t.
While on the train, as we got closer and closer, we could already see how the landscape was changing from big buildings and traffic jam to small villages, wild nature and mountains. The leaves were starting to change color because the autumn season was starting – what perfect timing! We could see orange, yellow and red patches interrupting the flat green of the woods. Simply breathtaking!
It was a sunny day, warm but not hot, which was great considering we had 1,015 stairs to climb to reach the temple on the top of the mountain. We were ready for the challenge.
After crossing the bridge over the river, the main hall – Konponchudo – located at the base of the mountain, was only around 10 minutes on foot, which was best so as not to get tired straight away, right? 🙂
The actual hike started just a few steps up, so tickets in hand we went for it.
The surrounding around the stepped path is beautiful: immersed into nature, with stone lanterns all along the way and little statues of Buddha every now and then. Yamadera has a peaceful atmosphere that takes away the fatigue of climbing up the stairs.
In the middle-distance, there was something though we could hear on the air, something like a singing echoing down the hill. We didn’t understand what it was until we actually came face-to-face with the ‘singers’. There were a lot of school children that, almost at the same time and very politely, said ‘Konnichiwa’ (meaning hello) to every single person they met on their way down. Impressive manners!
We reached the top taking our time, stopping to take all in (and to get our breathes back of course). The temples in Yamadera are very old and still active (I’m wondering how difficult must be to take all the ‘shopping’ up there when needed, good to keep fit I guess :)).
The view onto the valley below is pretty good from the observatory deck – Godaido – even though we preferred the one from the temples area: same valley but with more depth to it.
Time for the reward
We loved it and we felt we needed a little something to gain our energies back. Along the way we saw people selling local specialties called tama-kon, we heard that those are made from a root and cooked in soy. We thought it was very healthy stuff (apparently fat free) ideal for not making us feeling too naughty or guilty.
Unfortunately it was the only Japanese food we couldn’t finish and we didn’t enjoy, I’m sure the birds appreciated it more.