It isn’t every day that you get to hike up a mountain to see a temple nestled in the clouds. But, that’s exactly what I did during a brief trip in July to Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture in the northern Tohoku region of Japan! In the few days I spent in the city to meet a new friend and explore the area, I experienced enough to make it feel like a nice mini-vacation!
I did not immediately rush to Yamadera (literally, “Mountain Temple”) near Yamagata when I first arrived in Sendai, of course. Apart from hanging out and sampling the local cuisine–most notably gyutan, or beef tongue!–I made sure to do a little personal exploring of a random shrine or two. No matter how many temples and shrines I visit, I am always surprised at the various ways they are built into an otherwise bustling area. Little pockets of peace and reflection among typical city life provide a calm area to walk around in, even if you aren’t all that spiritual.
Sometimes architects of shrines and temples design some neat optical illusions into approaches, such as at Sendai Toshogu, where the entrance stairs are normal-sized going up, but look like giant steps coming down.
With a little bit of time left before meeting back up with my friend I headed over to Sendai Mediatheque, an interestingly-designed glass building that sports multiple steel spirals that shoot through the entire building. Some of these contain staircases and even elevators. The center is a cultural hub that includes a large library, and dedicated studio floors that house multiple galleries of photographs and paintings.
The following day was definitely the main event. Only an hour’s train ride from Sendai, Yamadera and its 1000 steps to the top promised an enticing view that called my name. When we got off the train, however, it was soon apparent the trek would be very, very rainy.
So, after stopping by the closest convenience store, I bought a tiny umbrella barely big enough to cover my head and camera for the shots I dared to make in the rain. My friend joked that it was a kid-size umbrella, but honestly, everything in Japan feels kid-sized while living here. 🙂
Hiking inside a pouring rain cloud is an experience I won’t soon forget. Apart from the eerie and foggy atmosphere, the super-cool air made the trek upwards a bit more comfortable than a sunny summer day. With each step up, the view got better and better.
Just a few more steps up and we reached the very top. With the rain dissipating, at least the walk down wasn’t as slippery!
As I also used this trip as another way to test out my Laowa 105mm T3.2, I learned that photographing little, moving things like a small family of cats is no small feat in low-light.
They are usually moving and playing around…
…Hanging out by their lonesome…
…Or trying to eat some flowers!
Cute little felines aside, the view back at the train station looking back up at Yamadera provided a nice sense of scale for the trek and experience as a whole. I’m sure a nice sunny day with blue skies would have proven just as beautiful, if not more. However, hiking up Yamadera in the rain made it a much less crowded and relaxing day. In fact, while hanging out in Godaido Hall near the top enjoying the view for about 30 minutes, we only saw about six other people come and go! Almost had the whole mountain to ourselves!
That’s all for this post, guys and gals, thanks for dropping by! With a bit of planning, short vacations such as these during 3- or 4-day weekends across Japan are very possible thanks to compact business hotels and cheap long-distance busses! Who knows how many other trips I can make while here, though I know I’ll be headed back to Sendai soon! As always, have a great day!