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“Nice walk through the woods with a temple on top.”
Review of Mt. Haguro

Mt. Haguro
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Mt Haguro Pilgrim Walking Tour
Ranked #2 of 101 things to do in Tsuruoka
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 23 July 2014

The walk to the temple by the 2500 odd steps was very nice and peaceful. We did it as a part of dewa sanzan, so we were there early in the morning. We stopped at the nice teahouse half-way up and had some matcha. Then we walked to the top and the temple, which while interesting, is very much a tourist hotspot, meaning that there isn't much holy feeling left. There is also a mandatory 500y/person "cleansing" ceremony before you can enter the temple grounds...

1  Thank Klasu_Hel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"small shrines"
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35 - 39 of 233 reviews

Reviewed 28 June 2014

What's not to like it's a beautiful mountain with enough sites to keep you interested during the steps. The museum at the bottom isn't great if you only speak English however the staff were so amazed to see me that they routed through the whole place to find every English leaflet or guide about the whole mountain they could find does make you feel kind of special.

2  Thank John S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 April 2014

. . . and it's a tall one sitting in the middle of a forest, and all original. I visited this place twice. It best to visit outside of winter if you want to climb the 2000+ stairs. The pagoda is more scenic during winter however, as the area gets a lot of snow. The homes in the area are built 8 feet above ground, with the lower section serving for storage or a garage, to allow for the tall snowdrifts in winter. It's amazing that there are still buses to this attraction during winter, and the path is cleared of snow up to the pagoda.

I did not stay the night at the temple at the top of the stairs, and it's a little known fact to travelers that you can experience a bit of Koyasan way up in Tohoku, right down to the spartan accomodations and vegetarian food. This area of Japan, which includes Sakata and Tsuruoka is generally unknown to most travelers but is a wonderful way to avoid the crowds and bus tours.

The 2nd time I visited Hagurosan was right after a big snowfall, and the place was beautiful with crystalline snow crystals all about and snow falling from the boughs of trees. I was also fortunate to visit Yamadera right after a big snowfall. Both are magnificent winter wonderlands if you are so lucky.

1  Thank DanL917
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 March 2014

My 4th attempt.
1st attempt, I took a bus up the mountain instead of climbing. I was too much of a coward to attempt the snow covered steps.
2nd attempt, earthquake and tsunami had me cancelled my trip.
3rd attempt, I broke my leg and had to cancel the trip.
4th attempt, I finally made it safely to the gate of Zuishin.
I prayed before I crossed the threshold that would mark my first actual climb of Mount Haguro, which represents Birth of Dewa Sanzan.
The steps descend to a few wooden shrines before leading to a red bridge. A waterfall away before I stood before the Five Storey Pagoda 五重塔. This designated National Treasure was built about 600 years ago without using a single nail. It stood quietly, gently surrounded by the ancient forest, graceful and beautiful.
From here onwards, I read somewhere that the steps are scattered with carvings and when spotted will bring you good fortune. However, about 15 minutes into the climb, all I could do was focus on getting my feet to move, one step at a time. The climb was relentless, the ascend was steep and the steps were narrow.
The autumn weather was cold, but I still managed to work up a sweat.
The forest was totally quiet, no sound, not even birds twitter here. However when the wind blows, the forest came alive, rustling and whispering. When the wind stopped, silence reigned again.
About three quarter through the journey, just when I thought my legs would give out, a tea house appeared. A run-down, very old tea house sitting on the side of the steps, at the edge of the mountain. The matcha set is a must. It consisted of 2 mochi, anko and kinako and a bowl of matcha. Maybe I was delirious from the tenuous climb but I thought that was the best mochi I've ever had in my life.
I was even awarded with a certificate with my name written on it for having successfully climbed the 2446 steps of Haguroyama.
From here, it took me another half an hour or so before I spotted the red Tori which signifies the grand shrine is near, meaning the climb would finally be over soon.
A little bit further beyond the Tori, lies my accommodation for the night - Saikan.
Saikan is a temple accommodation that offers very basic but authentic Japanese room and meal service. I highly recommend a night stay here. The room I was allocated was the same as my last trip, at the edge of the mountain. There was no window, only panels of paper sliding doors. Move them out of the way, you would be rewarded with a full view of the woods and mountains.
Just like my previous trip here, I was the only guest. Again.
When darkness descended, it rained, heavily. Dinner was a lonely affair.
A loner dinning alone quietly in the tatami-lined dining hall.
Outside, Two little kitties sought shelter from the rain, sliding their sleek bodies under the wooden planks of the porch.
The rain continue to pour loudly.
I spent the rest of my evening in my room, thinking and penning.
I fell asleep listening to the rattling and howling winds, pattering and splattering rain.
My last conscious thoughts were with the kitties.
I hoped and as I write this, am still hoping they are not strays.
Tohoku is such a beautiful and wonderful place. So much to explore, so much to experience, so much to feel. Such a shame that travelers are avoiding Tohoku because of the radiation.
Morning came, after breakfast I left early to catch the 9:00am bus back to Tsuruoka.
A Yamabushi in his checkered white and blue attire, he was walking briskly ahead. Then he stopped and blowed into his conche shell horn. The long lone sound echoed through the morning chill. Maybe I do not need to spot all the carvings on the steps to be lucky after all.

3  Thank bakatori
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 14 September 2013

This place really is out in the middle of nowhere - we arrived at Tsuruoka by train, and caught a bus to Haguro Centre, right at the trailhead. There is a small restaurant nearby, so we grabbed something to eat to prepare ourselves for the climb up.

At first it was pretty easy going. The woodlands here are pretty magical. There are a lot of shrines and bridges and buildings on the way up, and please take a moment to admire the 5 storey pagoda - it really is impressive!

As you climb the steps, some have been carved with various pictures and symbols. I think if you find them all, you are granted a wish. To be fair, I was concentrating much too hard on getting my legs to move and missed all but a few. At the halfway point there is a tea house with a nice view overlooking Tsuruoka. They serve great tea and sweets here, which is gratefully received at that particular juncture! I was passed a plate with a couple of mochi rice cakes and stuffed them into my mouth so fast that the proprietor felt inclined to ask me if I was alright!

We were also asked for our names, and certificates were filled out for us to prove that we were climbing up the hard way. Hooray! We finally reached our destination after a few hours of slow, slow uphill walking - Haguro Saikan.

I wish this place was listed on trip advisor so that I could alert everyone so as to the accommodation that is offered here. It's not the cheapest accommodation ever, but it's a fantastic experience.

On this particular night, we were the only two people staying there. The building is very old and impressive, but the interior is tastefully decorated and even had a modern TV. The bathroom left a lot to be desired, however, but it was hot water so can't complain too much! Bring a towel, though, as the only towels available here are tiny tiny onsen towels from a vending machine. I made do. Breakfast and dinner was included, and as Haguro Saikan is temple lodging, consisted on strange vegetarian Buddhist food... and a token fish. Ha ha. We weren't sure what most of the items were, but there were some petals, some roots, some jellified items, and tofu...

Saikan is linked to the main temple complex on Mt Haguro by a crazy corridor staircase, and each morning you can go and pray with other pilgrims. We got up early and reached the door between the lodging and the temple hall. It was pretty dark and there was a sign warning us to keep quiet. We slowly opened the door and popped our heads round. There was one other guy sat down waiting for prayer to begin, so we walked in and sat at the back. He noticed us and urged us to come forward and sit next to him. Then began the most surreal ten minutes of my life. There was drums and chants and spirit-warding stick-waving, we followed the other pilgrims lead in bowing when appropriate, and after the ceremony was complete, he asked us to come with him and followed him out into a corridor where we were each given a small sip of sake. It was almost like taking communion!

After morning prayers we left to explore the rest of the temple complex atop Haguro - it's a strange fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism, like a lot of Japan to be honest. The strangest thing there, though, were the many labelled geta sandals that were just left on a building that ironically had a sign on it saying 'no shoes'. I still haven't figured out why this was done.

There are a few shops on the top of Mt Haguro to grab some souvenirs and snacks, as well as bathroom facilities. We caught the bus back down to Tsuruoka from here.

2  Thank Maccath
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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