The Three Mountains of Dewa
North Japan’s premiere location for spiritual rebirth
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.
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 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. 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.
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.
Experience 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.
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.
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 Dewa Sanzan are located in the middle of Yamagata Prefecture in the northern Tohoku Region of Japan.
Learn all about the best ways to access the Dewa Sanzan with our Ultimate Guide to Accessing the Dewa Sanzan article.
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