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Japan

Highlights  -  Places of Interest

Mount Gassan (月山) is the highest of the Three Mountains of Dewa (together with Mount Haguro and Mount Yudono ) in the Yamagata prefecture on the main Japanese island of Honshu. The Gassan Shrine stands at the mountain's summit, 1984 meters above sea level. The Dewa Sanzan mountains boast of having the oldest history of mountain worship in Japan, where ascetic devotees called Yamabushi pay reverence, and even today wear the traditional white robes and diadem. Of the three, only Mt. Haguro is accessible throughout the year. Mt. Gassan is closed from early autumn to early summer, while Mt. Yudono is closed from autumn to spring.

As Mount Gassan is situated in one of the snowiest areas on the Japan Sea coast, you can enjoy skiing even in summer from April to July. Downhill skiing while looking out over the beautiful landscape from the slope in summer is wonderful. Some people enjoy skiing lightly dressed. There are many different ways to enjoy the mountain, such as snow trekking from January to early April, snow and fresh, green beech trees from May to June, about 350 kinds of unique flowers and other alpine plants from June to August, and fall leaves from September to October. The mountain is lower than 2000m but you can encounter many alpine plants and see a breathtakingly beautiful vista from the peak. Due to heavy winter snowfall, the mountain and shrine are inaccessible for long periods of the year. Gassan, which in Japanese means "Moon Mountain", lives up to its name in winter, when the snows cover it and give it the appearance of the moon.

Mount Haguro (羽黒山) is 414 meters high and surrounded by a dense cedar forest that starts at the Zuishin-mon Gate. There are 2,446 stone steps that lead to the mountain top. Beyond this dark, shaded stairway, you can see a striking five-story pagoda that rises up towards the sky, one of Japan's National Treasures. Sanjingo-saiden Shrine, which enshrines gods of all three sacred mountains, sits near the top of Mt. Haguro. It has a 2.1-meter-thick thatched roof, and the interior is completely covered with Japanese lacquer, a sight that is well worth seeing.

Mount Yudono (湯殿山) The 1500-meter mountain has an awe-inspiring ambience and its shrine is considered to be a kind of inner sanctum. In fact, Yudono-san is so sacred that one is neither to talk nor hear of what happens inside the shrine. Admission to the shrine in the mountain is allowed only after removing your footware and receiving a ritual.  Like Gas-san, Yudono-san closes during the winter months, although it is still feasible to visit in poor weather thanks to its road access. Because Yudono-san is the mountain symbolizing rebirth, it is typically the final Dewa Sanzan shrine visited by pilgrims after Haguro-san (birth) and Gas-san (death).

 

 


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