Having come so far, when I got to Yamadera I was relieved that there was not much snow there and getting off was feasible. I hadn't heard of Yamadera till recently, I was looking at somewhere to stop off on the way back, and came up with it, though beyond being a temple mountain, as the name suggests, I had little idea of what was actually there. It was well worth the stop.
Not all temples are created equal.... and actually in Japan although temples are omnipresent, they feel very closed. Compared with a church or a Thai temple where everyone is welcome and can participate and where there is an active and defined avenue to learn more about what goes on there, I often get the feeling from Japanese temples that anyone is welcome - but only as an observer. Yamadera was the same in this respect. There was no space inside a building set aside for people there to pray, as far as I could see there was little information about Buddhism as a religion (either in Japanese or English ), as though it was already self contained, though there was historical information but in Japanese only. I did see a monk but he was absorbed in a book between selling entry tickets. Yamadera seems to be a place for Buddhist ascetics, and there was an area higher up the mountain off limits to non ascetics. There were some inaccessible little huts on the mountainside, that reminded me of the 'tree houses' at the Santi Asok temple in Bangkok that were home to ascetic monks. It's something I know very little about, and something I should ask Lily's friend Kazuo san; he is one of the few people I have met in Japan that has knowledge of Buddhism.
But as a historical, architectural site it was impressive. Particularly the view across the valley and up to the mountains. For anyone with a wish to see off the beaten track Japan that is relatively accessible, this is it.
Yamadera: the steps up
A commemoration stone dedicated to someone who achieved a high rank in the armed forces during the Russo Japanese war
Kaimyo boards - when Japanese Buddhists die they typically are allocated a new name for the afterlife.
I'm struggling with the writing on this, but it fits with the ascetism of the temple.
Yamadera: Graffiti on the walls of the look out building...... multilingual graffiti
Yamadera: Beyond here is for ascetics only
Little huts are visible here, I imagine the caves also are used for ascetic practice.
Yamadera: Hiking courses nearby.... maybe in the summer...