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Just a short train ride from Sendai city, Yamadera literally means ‘mountain temple’ which is a descriptive name for this atmospheric temple complex clinging to the steep mountainside. Founded in 860, you’ll have to climb 1,015 steps cut into the side of a mountain to reach the Okunoin, the heart of this mountain temple complex. The climb is kept interesting with many shrines and artifacts to observe along the way up and rewarded with spectacular views of the countryside valley down below.

Before or after your climb be sure to spend some time in the village at the foot of the cliff, where you will find tiny local shops, restaurants, and plenty of vendors selling “miso-dango”; Yamadera’s local specialty (chewy rice cakes covered in a spicy miso paste and grilled over charcoal).

Tohoku’s most famous visitor the haiku master Matsuo Basho wrote these lines on visiting Yamadera:

Ah this silence

sinking into the rocks

voice of cicada.