THE DEWA SANZAN

The Three Mountains of Dewa

North Japan’s premiere location for spiritual rebirth

MT. HAGURO

Where the troubles of the present world are overcome

MT. GASSAN

Where we encounter our long-lost ancestors and atone for past misgivings

MT. YUDONO

Where we come face-to-face with our future selves

Discover the Dewa Sanzan

Discover a new you

For millennia, thousands upon thousands have flocked to the Dewa Sanzan in search of spiritual transformation, the chance to start again, the chance to be reborn. Now it’s your turn.

Discover the Dewa Sanzan

Stone Steps up Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan that Matsuo Basho would have climbed
Explore the Three Peaks

Explore the Michelin-starred stone stairway, cedar forests, five-storied pagoda and main shrine of Mt. Haguro, encounter your ancestors in the realm of the dead on Mt. Gassan, and come face-to-face with your future self at the object of worship on Mt. Yudono

Follow in the Footsteps

Follow in the footsteps of Kukai, the Buddhist monk responsible for bringing Esoteric Buddhism to Japan, and Matsuo Basho, Japan’s premiere Haiku Poet, to see why he was so infatuated with Oku, the deep north.

Savour the Cuisine

Savour Dewa Sanzan Shojin Ryori (ascetic cuisine) made exclusively of vegetables from the surrounding mountains and stay in the Shukubo Pilgrim Lodges dedicated to serving pilgrims on their journey.

Meet the Yamabushi

Discover how the three sacred mountains came to be the only location in Japan with a thriving Shinto Yamabushi culture.

Relive the Stories

Relive the stories of gruelling training and learn about why Buddhist monks strove to become Sokushinbutsu Living Buddha or Buddha Mummies.

Get Reborn

Take part in the sacred rituals and events of the Dewa Sanzan, such as the Flower Festival or the Shoreisai on Mt. Haguro  and embody the Haguro Shugendo philosophy of Uketamo and get reborn in a Dewa Sanzan pilgrimage of rebirth.

The Dewa Sanzan

Pilgrimage of Rebirth

The ancient Japanese regarded all mountains as sacred, a belief passed down from generation to generation. Yamabushi mountain ascetics bravely ventured into the Dewa Sanzan and emerged with a fresh vigour akin to being reborn. Thus, traversing the Dewa Sanzan became known as a pilgrimage of rebirth, the mountains themselves the mother’s womb. 

Mt. Gassan of the Dewa Sanzan seen from the sky in the winter

Three Sacred Peaks

Nestled in the Tohoku Region between inland Yamagata Prefecture and the Shonai coast on the Sea of Japan, the Dewa Sanzan is the collective name for the three sacred mountains of Dewa; Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono, the location for the pilgrimage of rebirth for over 1400 years.  

A Trip Through Time

Mt. Haguro represents the present and the salvation of the current world’s hardships. Mt. Gassan represents the past or the afterlife where the ancestors reside and where we atone for our wrongdoings. Lastly, Mt. Yudono represents rebirth or the world of the future where we come face to face with our future selves. 

Sanjingosaiden Shrine at the top of Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan in Autumn

Spiritual Awakening

It is believed that Buddha’s mantras are projected onto the Dewa Sanzan, so navigating them means to learn and embody their secrets. From the founder, Prince Hachiko, who in 592 journeyed to the sacred peaks in the hope of salvation for the people, to Kobodaishi, commonly known as Kukai, the monk who brought Buddhism to Japan, and of course Matsuo Basho, Japan’s most prominent Haiku poet, millions have been attracted to the Dewa Sanzan in search of a spiritual awakening for centuries. 

Drama

AT EVERY TURN

Mt. Haguro

Mt. Gassan

Mt. Yudono

Mt. Haguro

Where the present world’s troubles are overcome

With its stone stairway and five-storied pagoda situated amongst the hundreds of towering cedars and the thickest thatched roof in Japan at Sanjin-gosaiden Shrine, Mt. Haguro is a definite must-see. 

 

Mt. Haguro is the location of the Shukubo pilgrim lodges built in the 1600s specifically for those making a pilgrimage on the Dewa Sanzan. In its heyday, this village hosted more than 3 million pilgrims annually, providing not only lodging, but a place for pilgrims to change into the traditional Shiroshozoku garments and purify their bodies by eating the Shojin Ryori ascetic cuisine before heading out on their pilgrimage of rebirth.   

Oh what sweet delight …

The cool fragrances of snow

In southern valley

  

-Matsuo Basho at Mt. Haguro

Mt. Gassan

Where we meet our ancestors and atone for past misgivings

From the mist-covered Midagahara marshlands, to the rocky mountain paths over ice and snow, the 1,984m (6,509ft.) Mt. Gassan is the tallest of the three Dewa Sanzan. 

 

When we die, it is said that our souls spend an arduous 33 years training, starting in the lower-lying mountains such as Mt. Haguro, until eventually reaching the top of Mt. Gassan where we turn into gods. 

 

As such, Mt. Gassan is the metaphoric border into heaven where we can meet our deceased ancestors, and represents the world of the afterlife. 

Mt. Yudono

Where we come face-to-face with our future selves

Mt. Yudono is home to the most sacred part of the Dewa Sanzan, the object of worship in Mt. Yudono Shrine. So sacred, in fact, that there is an age-old rule forbidding any mention of it. 

 

Mt. Yudono was also the training ground for the Sokushinbutsu. Otherwise known as Buddha Mummies or Living Buddha, Sokushinbutsu are self-mummified monks that sacrificed their lives to leave evidence of reaching enlightenment in the current world, and in the hopes of providing salvation to the people. 

The unspeakable, 

Sleeves wet at Mt. Yudono, 

By the mountain foot 

-Matsuo Basho

Experience the Dewa Sanzan

Authentic Yamabushi Training on the Dewa Sanzan

Join Master Hoshino, the 13th generation Yamabushi Master of Daishobo Pilgrim Lodge and the Yamabushido team as they embark on a Haguro Shugendo-style pilgrimage of rebirth on the Dewa Sanzan.

Nearby Locations

five-story pagoda, five-storied pagoda, five storied pagoda

Zenpoji Temple

Tsuruoka City

Zen monks have been training in Zenpoji Temple for over a millennium. Dedicated to the ocean, the temple is home to one of Tsuruoka City’s five-storied pagodas, the only city in Japan to have more than one, illustrating the strong spiritual beliefs of the townspeople. 

 

Zenpoji Temple is dedicated to the worship of the ocean, as opposed to the mountains, and contains a shrine where two dragon gods reside, with dragons traditionally symbolising water in the east. 

 

The temple offers Zen experiences such as meditation and calligraphy, and guests are also welcome to stay there.

Temple at the top of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple, Yamagata, Japan

Yamadera Temple

Yamagata City

Yamadera is a picturesque temple hanging on the precipice of a cliff founded over 1,000 years ago. Notable for its views, a climb up the 1,015 steps is akin to climbing up to paradise.

 

Matsuo Basho didn’t originally plan on visiting Yamadera Temple, however, when questioned multiple times on whether he had been there, it was obvious he simply had to go. 

 

And it is a wonderful thing he did, for he phrased a Haiku that succinctly encapsulates the essence of the Japanese.

The utter silence… 

Cutting through the very stone

A cicada’s rasp 

 

-Matsuo Basho 

Dewa Sanzan Access

READ MORE: The Ultimate Guide to Accessing the Dewa Sanzan

The Dewa Sanzan are located in the middle of Yamagata Prefecture in the northern Tohoku Region of Japan.

  • The Dewa Sanzan are served by Shonai (SYO) and Yamagata (GAJ) Airports, or Sendai Airport (SDJ) in Miyagi Prefecture.
  • Each of the Dewa Sanzan can be reached by road.

Insider information and updates on

The Dewa Sanzan

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