The Three Mountains of Dewa

North Japan’s premiere location for spiritual rebirth

The Dewa Sanzan

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.

Mt. Haguro

Mt. Gassan

Mt. Yudono

Pilgrim Routes

Learn all you need to know before and during a hike on the Dewa Sanzan.

Stone Steps up Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan that Matsuo Basho would have climbed
Fudomyo'o on Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan


(I Accept)

Read a first-hand account about a unique Yamabushi experience on the Dewa Sanzan by Donny Kimball, Tokyo based digital marketing and PR maverick with a penchant for exploring the lesser known sides of Japan.

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. 

Fudomyo'o on Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan
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. 

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

Explore the Three Peaks

  • Adventure to the Michelin-starred stone stairway, cedar forests, five-storied pagoda and Dewa Sanzan shrine of Mt. Haguro.
  • Encounter your ancestors in the realm of the dead on Mt. Gassan
  • 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.
  • Channel your inner poet and follow Matsuo Basho, Japan’s premiere Haiku Poet, to see why he was so infatuated with Oku, the deep north.
Yamabushi train in the fog of Mt. Gassan of the Dewa Sanzan under the guidance of Master Hoshino
Dewa Sanzan Shojin Ryori at Daishobo, a Shukubo Pilgrim Lodge at the bottom of Mt. Haguro

Savour the Cuisine

  • Savour Dewa Sanzan Shojin Ryori (ascetic cuisine) made exclusively of vegetables from the surrounding mountains.
  • Stay in the former temple, Saikan, or the Shukubo Pilgrim Lodges, famous for Dewa Sanzan Shojin Ryori, and dedicated to serving pilgrims on their spiritual rebirth.

Join the Yamabushi

  • Discover how the three sacred mountains came to be the only location in Japan with a thriving Shinto Yamabushi culture.
  • Join the Yamabushido team on one of their Yamabushi trainings
Yamabushi train on Mt. Gassan of the Dewa Sanzan under the guidance of Master Hoshino
Yamabushi during the Hassaku Festival on Mt. Haguro

Relive the Stories

  • Relive the stories of gruelling training the Yamabushi undertake in the name of salvation for the people.
  • Learn why Buddhist monks strove to become Sokushinbutsu Living Buddha or Buddha Mummies through a process of self-mummification.

Get Reborn

  • Take part in the sacred rituals and events of the Dewa Sanzan, such as the Flower Festival, the Hassaku Festival, or the Shoreisai Festival on Mt. Haguro.
  • Embody the Haguro Shugendo philosophy of Uketamo and get reborn in a Dewa Sanzan pilgrimage of rebirth.
Master Hoshino during waterfall meditation on the Dewa Sanzan

Experience the Dewa Sanzan

Fudomyo'o on Mt. Haguro of 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

Zenpoji Temple Monastery near Yutagawa in Tsuruoka

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. Let the Megurun team guide you on a Zen experience.

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.

Discover another side of Yamadera with an experience by Megurun, the team behind the Yamabushido programs.

The utter silence… 

Cutting through the very stone

A cicada’s rasp 


-Matsuo Basho 

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.

Learn all about the best ways to access the Dewa Sanzan with our Ultimate Guide to Accessing the Dewa Sanzan article.

Yamabushi train on the stone stairway of Mt. Haguro of the Dewa Sanzan

Insider information and updates on

The Dewa Sanzan

Scroll to Top