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Yamadera Temple

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Yamadera Temple
Yamadera Temple Hondo and Okunoin

Yamadera Temple is a magnificent mountain top temple in the Yamagata Prefecture.  Yamaga prefecture is located in the Tohoku Region.  Yamadera Temple is also known as Risshaku-ji.  JR Yamadera Station, which is a station on the JR Sanzen Line is the gateway to this magnificent temple.  JR Sanzen Line runs between JR Sendai Station and JR Yamagata Station.  If you are commuting from Tokyo, you can take a Shinkansen to get to either JR Sendai Station or JR Yamagata Station and then transfer to a train to JR Yamadera Station.  The Temple's ground level gate is about fifteen minute walk from JR Yamadera Station.

Yamadera Temple Seals

Yamadera Temple was established by the Buddhist priest Monk Jikaku Daishi Ennin (who was responsible for establishing many temples in Tohoku Region such as Motsuji and Chusonji Temples) in 860 AD in response to the imperial edit of then Japanese Emperor Seiwa.  This temple belongs to the Tendai Sect of Japanese Buddhism.  It is said that Monk Ennin put particular effort to make construction of this temple to make it exceptional.

During the Kamakura Era (1185-1382) the temple became the center of the Tohoku Buddhist culture and enjoyed a boom period when more than 300 monks and more than 1000 devout resided at the top and bottom of the mountain.  Although during the Japan's feudal period (1450-1600) the mountain was razed by the fires of war and temporarily fell into a decline, in the Edo period (1615-1868) the temple officially received much recognition from the Shogunate and once again saw prosperity.  Presently Yamadera Temple has within it's precincts a 1,155,000 square meter area of natural cliffs and mountains, with more than 40 temple buildings distributed throughout; the temple offers much information about the history of Buddhism since the early Heian era (794-898), and is a fine representative of the sacred places of Japan.

Yamadera (Risshaku-ji) Temple Map
Map showing enormity of the Yamadera Temple Precincts

It takes about 40-60 minutes walk to get to the top of the mountain to the Main Worship Hall (Hondo) from the Gate at the foothill of the mountain.  There were several small temples scattered all of over the mountain on the way to the top.

In the Hondo are enshrined first, the main image of a seated figure of Yakushi Nyorai (the Buddha of healing and main worshiped Buddha of Tendai Sect) said to be a work of Monk Jikaku Daishi himself along with Bodhisattvas and Bishomon (a God of Wealth).  Also kept in the temple is a flame brought to Yamadera Temple when it opened, this flame having been started from the flame that was carried to Kyoto's Mt. Hiei from China by the Monk Dengyo Daishi Saicho.  After more than eleven hundred years the flame still shines as Fumetsu-no-Hoto (the Undying Light of Buddhism). 

Monk Jikaku Daishi Ennin's final resting place is in the Okunoin, behind the Hondo.

Here is a video of this magnificent Temple:

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