In Yamagata City, there's a temple nestled on a mountain. With over a thousand years of history, Yamadera, which literally translates to 'mountain temple', is also (officially) known as Risshakuji and is located about an hour by train from Sendai station - making it the perfect half day trip.
The main hall of Yamadera is a 5 minute walk from the station but the upper temple grounds, where you'll find stunning views at Godaido Hall, can be found by climbing just over 1000 steps up the mountain.
I love hiking and challenging walks (unfortunately for Kevin who perhaps doesn't love it quite so much) but even if you don't, the views at the top are worth it. But I would make my case that being surrounded by tall trees and fresh air while working up a sweat is also worth it.
Yamadera was definitely one of highlights of my Japan trip and I'd love to return to see how the landscape changes with the season.
Hours: 8am to 5pm
Address: 4456-1 Yamadera, Yamagata-shi, Yamagata-ken 999-3301, Japan
How to get there: 7 minute walk from Yamadera Station (1 hour train from Sendai Station)
✓ Trip covered by JR Pass
Cost: ¥300 entrance fee for upper temple grounds
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