As soon as I arrived in the dorm, I was told that there was another Portuguese there. Then one day when I was in the living room on the sofa a girl entered, our eyes crossed and immediately we knew. We exchanged “Olá!” and “I knew you were the other Portuguese from the moment I looked at you!”. We laughed and from that moment on a friendship was formed.
We both had something in common, we wanted to see more of Japan! So we started talking with people who had been there for a while and we learned there were some spots nearby we needed to check out.
One of them was Yamadera and so we decided to visit the following weekend.
Yamadera is a temple in Yamagata prefecture that is, as most things usually are in Japan, on a mountainside.
We woke up, packed light and went to Sendai station, not sure if walked or cycled but we got there. We always checked before but still buying tickets and leaving was complicated every time.
Looking for the correct train platform
In Japan you pay transportation by distance, meaning you get to a machine to buy a ticket and you have to choose the amount of money you want to spend on a specific journey. Some machines already have values shown by places but still, price would be the most common.
At that time google maps would still tell you the average price of a journey – functionality I am not sure why it’s gone – In Japan this was specifically helpful. Before each travel we would check the amount we would later have to choose on the machine for a ticket.
Our train tickets
So we payed for our ticket and proceeded to find the correct platform, boarded the train and chatted endlessly.
And here comes our train
We took the Senzan line which is incredibly beautiful. At some point the train went through really narrow paths with only dense green around.
The lush green of Yamagata
Finally we got to Yamadera station and we decided to do something that would be common in all our travels, we followed people. Rule number one when we are in a place where we don’t understand the language and cannot read or talk, we follow. Every time we eventually got there.
Well I was travelling with a very hungry girl and she needed feeding by the time we arrived. So our first stop was a restaurant really close to the station, this one: 山形蕎麦の焔藏 山寺店, a soba restaurant. Here at this place we learned our second lesson: When you cannot read and menu is in a foreign language you master the technique of confidently random pointing.
The soba restaurant and on the left a little shop inside the restaurant with traditional food
Well, here it meant that we chose the most amazing cold soba. When it arrived, we had absolutely no idea of how to eat it. Luckily, Vera was watching people and figured out we were supposed to put the seasonings in the sauce and then dip the soba into the sauce.
Zaru Soba served with wasabi, leek and mentsuyu
I have to say that from that day, one of my favorite foods in Japan is cold soba, better than ramen in my opinion (sorry ramen fans).
Temple hunting and Mountain climbing
Food part over, we had a mountain to climb. We passed the souvenir shops but decided to leave them for later. From then on we climbed and climbed and climbed.
The entrance, a shop for temple charms, part of the temple and statues found along the pathway
It was September and weather was still really hot and humid. It was so hard to climb those stairs all the way up, we were passed by kids, super moms carrying kids, old people… We were in bad shape back then and they were in really good shape. 7 months later I was much better too!
A beautiful view!
During the climb up, me and Vera we met the most courageous Japanese boy. Kids have much more confidence to talk to foreigners I would say. He picked up a bug and was showing it to us really proud! His parents were probably thinking, here are two foreigner girls climbing to our sacred temple and our boy is showing them a bug. They were a cute family the bug was kind of gross but the boy had real social skills!
Well at the top was the temple and the beautiful views of the little town at the foot of the mountain.
View from above
When all was seen and photographed we started to climb down, we passed the souvenir shops, grabbed some cute souvenirs and bought ourselves a nice package of delicious sweets.
Manjū sweets. Filled with a red bean paste called anko
I can say, it was such a success that we decided that every time we traveled anywhere we should maintain this tradition.
So as I wrote before, to reach Yamadera, you catch the Senzan line to Yamadera station, it will take you around 1 hour to get there from Sendai.
map of Yamadera
There are several restaurants, the first one from the station was the one we tried. There are also souvenir shops along the road to Yamadera.
Yamadera is best and thus a famous destination in Autumn to see the wonderful red and yellow and orange foliage in Yamagata.
Temple location on the ticket
Any questions? Leave them in the comment section I will try to answer.