Culture & History
Join mountaineering monks on these sacred, snowcapped peaks
A coating of snow on Yamagata Prefecture’s sacred and secluded Dewa Sanzan mountains amplifies their mystery. Dewa Sanzan is made up of Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono and is a subject of worship for a hybrid mountain worship called Shugendo. Mountain monks called yamabushi incorporate hiking through the mountains and communing with nature through meditation as part of their ascetic practices. They visualize the peaks as representative of death (Mt. Gassan), birth (Mt. Haguro) and rebith (Mt. Yudono). In winter only, Mt. Haguro is accessible via a 2,466-step staircase. This path leads through a snow-covered cedar forest, past a five-story pagoda, and up to the summit where Saikan Ryokan serves traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine known as shojin ryori. Visitors can have an introduction to the practice of yamabushido training with Master Hoshino, a 13th-generation yamabushi priest, who runs the Daishobo pilgrim lodge at the base of the mountain.
How to get there
Mt. Haguro is a one-hour bus ride from Tsuruoka Station in western Yamagata Prefecture. Tsuruoka Station is around two hours by train from Niigata Station or by express bus from Yamagata Station.