Yamadera is a beautiful small town nestled at the base of a mountain, on the Yamagata Prefecture side of the Miyagi-Yamagata border. It’s located in the Tohoku region of northern Japan, on the main island of Honshu. In Japanese, yama means “mountain” and o-tera means “temple” – the town of Yamadera gets it’s name from the temple of Risshakuji (also commonly called Yamadera) which is scattered all over the mountainside from the base of the mountain to the top. During our Christmas-New Year trip to Japan, I visited Yamadera again with family.
And this particular track gets it’s name from the temple mountain. This piece reminds me of the seemingly-neverending stairs and that relaxed, free state I find myself in as I climb the 1050 steps that lead from the entrance to the very top of the mountain. The stairs lead one on a winding, meandering backwards and forwards past prayer-halls, small shrines, small Buddhist statues and prayer wheels. When you finally get to the top, you can see an amazing view spread out beneath you.
I always enjoy visiting Yamadera. I find the walk and the effort of climbing the stairs allows my mind to drift, becoming contemplative. Once at the top it’s exceedingly quiet, especially in winter when snow dulls the sound of the rare train passing. There is a very calm, ancient spiritual feel to the place and it never fails to rejuvenate and refresh the creative wellsprings.