しずかさや いわにしみいる せみのこえ。
Silence, and penetrating into the rocks — the cry of the cicada.
(Haiku by Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694))
(See page 2 for the German version)
As a friend of mine was travelling to Japan, we decided to visit Yamagata Prefecture in northeast Japan for a short trip. I could not take additional days of, but because Yamagata can be reached from Tokyo in a bit more than two hours by Shinkansen, we had enough time for good food (for example for Yamagata’s delicious ‘konnyaku’ on a stick), cozy onsen visits (we were here and here, while the latter onsen with its’ sulfurous water was wonderful for my skin) and even saw two famous sights of Yamagata.
One of them was Yamadera (‘mountain temple’), a place that attracts many tourists because of its interesting array of temple facilities on a mountainside and because of its colorful autumn leaves. Founded in the 9th century by a Buddhist sect, these temples have already inspired the famous haiku poet Matsuo Basho to create new poems (see above;)). By the way you have to climb about 1,000 steps here to find enlightenment, – or to just enjoy the beautiful view from the highest temples!
Besides the colorful Yamadera, we also visited Mt. Zao, which is mostly famous for its ski area, but also known for the ‚Okama‘ Crater and turquoise crater lake that likes to change color, depending on the weather conditions. Actually, we had planned to take the cable car up to Mt. Zao, and then hike for about 45 minutes to the crater, – but the lady at the tourist bureau advised us strongly to not go hiking there, because of the bad weather conditions on that day and our non-existing hiking equipment. And she was right! After a 90-minute bus ride to the crater, at a height of 1840 meters, we were faced with an icy wind and minus 3 degrees..! So we just hopped of the bus, ran to the top, took a few pictures, and then quickly escaped into the resting area nearby in order to get our icy cold hands and faces warm again.
But even if we were not able to go hiking as planned, our Yamagata weekend (the Shinkansen ride alone …!) was really relaxing and definitely worth it!