The first November weekend of 2014 me and Nevena decided to travel to Mount Haguro one of the 3 sacred mountains of Dewa in Yamagata Prefecture.
The three mountains, Haguro san, Gas san and Yudono san symbolise birth, death and rebirth in the Buddhist and Shinto religions and are usually hiked together.
We were planning to visit the 3 mountains, however, since it was already November, Gas san and Yudono san were already closed for the winter season. Despite this we decided to still visit Haguro san.
Bus from Sendai to Tsuruoka station and the Tsuruoka station
To get there we had to take a bus from Sendai to Tsuruoka and from there a second bus from Tsuruoka to the base of Haguro san. Both of the bus trips through the Japanese countryside were beautiful and absolutely recommended.
Bus to Haguro san
The bus takes you through the countryside
Finally we got to the base of Haguro san. At the entrance you can find a tori signalling the beginning of the trail.
Base of the mountain and the start of the trail
The path was exhausting but easy to climb, with a total of 2446 steps. It’s common in these trails to meet elders and young kids. No one in this nation in lazy or out of shape.
The stone steps and the 5 storey pagoda
Along the path we saw some small shrines and some charming traditional Japanese Nature which allowed us to take some very cool pictures.
10 minutes after you start at the base you can find the famous 5 storey pagoda built in 937 is currently a National Treasure.
Accommodation along the way
At some point I have the idea of finding a small traditional building that provided temple style lodging. It’s so amazing that you can find a place to spend the night in a place so beautiful as this.
Finally the top
Finally, we reached the top. There were some buildings and even a museum but everything was already closed. We must have got there almost at 5 pm at at that time of the year it was already getting dark.
The beautiful hall of the temple
I remember discussing with Nevena how not amusing it would have been to be stuck there in the pitch dark of the Japanese winter, so we were hurrying a little at this point!
Our sweets for this trip
There was a little shop still open and there we bought our cake souvenirs for this trip. Some chocolate small cakes with a Haguro san themed package.
After that we took the bus back to Tsuruoka station and then back to Sendai.
To visit the sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan plan your visit ahead since Gas san and Yudono san are closed for most of the year. Best time to visit will be between July and the beginning of October.
People often start with Haguro san the most accessible and also the only one open throughout the year. Note that even if it’s open, during the Winter season the stone steps can be covered in ice and slippery.
Visiting the Dewa Sanzan its commonly done from Tsuruoka station and to get there we took a bus from Sendai that cost us around 30 dollars one way.
To get to Haguro san you can take a bus from Tsuruoka station and exit when you see a red tori gate. It will cost around 18 dollars round trip.
To get to Gassan 8th station, you can either take a bus from Haguro san, costing around 15 dollars one way, or directly from Tsuruoka station costing 28 dollars, also one way.
Yudono san is a little trickier to access. Through public transportations, you can catch a bus 3 times a day only on weekends, from Haguro san and will cost around 15 dollars one way.
Please note that busses will only be there during the hiking season and that prices, schedules, busses can vary, so it’s best to check at the local tourist offices in Tsuruoka or Yamagata city.
What would I do differently
There isn’t much to regret here, it was just bad timing that Gas san and Yudono san were already closed for hiking.
As for suggestions, I think that if I was really into a spiritual getaway or an adventure with a comfortable schedule I would love to do the 3 mountains in a single go, finding lodging along the way.
This was our Saturday travel and on the following Sunday we did something I really wanted to do. We visited one of the towns devastated by the Tsunami in 2011, Ishinomaki.
Hope you’ll come back, じゃねー