What is the Dewa Sanzan Pilgrimage in Yamagata, Japan?
Sanzan is the collective name of Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan and Mt. Yudono in Yamagata prefecture. They are sacred mountains where for generations, Yamabushi (Japanese mountain ascetic hermits) stayed up in the mountains for Shugendo training. Mt Haguro is considered the present, Mt Gassan is the past and Mt Yudono is the future, and it is said that if you take the pilgrimage around the mountains it is the “Trip of Rebirth”.
Dewa Sanzan Pilgrimage Trail to Haguro Sange
Mt. Haguro prays for fortune in the present life. The place that should be focused on the most is the “Mt. Haguro Avenue of Cedar Trees (Suginamiki)” that gained a 3 star rating in the “Michelin Green Guide Japan”. Between the rows of tall cedar trees aged 350-500 years old thickly growing, walk up the 2,446 stone stairs. On the way up, the oldest 5 story pagoda in Tohoku stands along side the trees. It is guaranteed that you will feel solemn.
The 2.1m thick, thatched roof of Sanjingosaiden that stands at the peak of the mountain is impressive. As the name implies, it prays for the three deities of Mt. Gassan, Mt. Haguro and Mt. Yudono. For that reason, if you are pressed for time, then it is possible to visit this one shrine. Don’t forget to try the asceticism food at the Saikan, where the Yamabushi stay, that is famous worldwide.
- Spot name: Sanshingosaiden Shrine
- Year of construction: Unknown
- Festival deity: Ukanomitama no Mikoto, Idewa no Kami
- Spot name: Sanjingosaiden shrine (Mt Haguro)
- Address ： 7 Touge, Touge-ji, Haguromachi , Tsuruoka City, Yamagata 997-0292
- Opening hour：8:00～17:00
- Holiday: none
- Access: Tsuruoka Station → [Shōnai Kotsu Bus (bound for the top of Mt Haguro and Mt Gassan 8th station)] 50 minutes → Bus stop at the top of Mt Haguro ... 5 minutes on foot
- Spot name: Mt Haguro Prayer Place, Saikan
- Address ： 33 Mt Haguro, Touge-ji, Haguromachi, Tsuruoka city, Yamagata 997-0211
- Opening hour：11:00～14:00
- Holiday: None
- Language：Only Japanese
- Credit cards：credit cards accepted
- Access: Tsuruoka Station → [Shōnai Kotsu Bus “bound for the top of Mt Haguro / Mt Gassan 8th station ”] 50 minutes → Bus stop at the top of Mt Haguro ... 10 minutes on foot.
- Remarks: Reservation required for accommodation and meals
The Buddhist Land of Happiness in Mt. Gassan
The 1,984m high Mt. Gassan prays for comfort and crossing over to the other side after death. It is the highest mountain in Dewa Sanzan. At the 8th station, from Midagahara wetlands to the top of the mountain, is the leading treasure trove of alpine plants in Japan. In the summer, over 130 species of lovely flowers such as day lilies and Lysichiton camtschatcensis bloom. This scenery is beautifully mysterious, just like paradise. When you reach the top of Mt Gassan, your soul will surely be purified.
- Spot name: Mt Gassan Shrine
- Year of construction: 593
- Enshrined Deity: Tsukiyomi-no-Mikoto
- Spot name: Mt Gassan Shrine (Mt Gassan)
- Address: 31 Tachiyazawa-honzawa, Shonaimachi, Higashitagawa-gun, Yamagata 999-6609
- Opening hour：5:00～17:00
- Holiday: September 16 - June 30
- Access: Tsuruoka Station → [Shonai Kotsu Bus bound for Mt Haguro Summit / Mt Gassan 8th Station] About 1 hour 30 minutes→ Mt Gassan 8th Station Bus Stop ... About 3 hours on foot ※Bus only runs from July to September.
The Secret Mt. Yudono
Mt. Yudono is the mountain that prays for rebirth. “Mt. Yudono main shrine” is the final stop on the “Trip of Rebirth”. The only that has been made clear is that the large from which releases hot spring water is considered an object of worship. It is a sacred place that warns “don’t speak” and “don’t ask”. Of course, photography is not allowed. Visiting the shrine is not allowed without removing your shoes and having a purification. With the impressive scenery right before your eyes, you will be blessed with new life.
- Spot name: Mt Yudono Shrine
- Year Established: Unknown
- Sacred God: Oyamatsumi-no-Mikoto, Okuninushi-no-Mikoto, Sukunahikona-no-Mikoto
- Spot name: Mt Yudono Shrine (Mt Yudono)
- Address ： 7 Satoyama-ji, Rokujuu , Tamugimata, Tsuruoka, Yamagata 997-0532
- Opening hour：9:00～17:00
- Holiday: Early November to late April
- Access: Tsuruoka Station → [Shonai Kotsu Bus “Tsuruoka Kanko Shuttle Bus”] about 1 hour 40 minutes → Mt Yudono Senninzawa Bus Stop → [Mt Yudono Shrine Main Shrine Bus], from there about 5 minutes on foot ... ※Bus only runs from June - November, only on the first weekends and holidays.
Access to Dewa Sanzan
Dewa Sanzan is a hidden area located deep in the mountains. Since the train does not pass through there, you should take the bus for 1-2 hours from Tsuruoka Station, which is the nearest station to the mountains. It is the best to go to Tsuruoka Station via the Shonai Airport or Niigata Station. You can also take an express bus from Yamagata or Sendai.
However, because Dewa Sanzan is covered with deep snow when it gets cold, Mt Gassan and Mt Yudono are closed and the bus service does not run. If you want to visit the three mountains safely using public transportation, head there in the summer. If you only want to visit Mt Haguro, any season is fine.