I’ve always tried to avoid traveling in the cold winter months due to my intolerance for frigid temperatures, however I realized just how beautiful this season really is when I made a trip out to Yamagata this past February. The main attraction that I wanted to see was Risshaku-ji Temple (Yamadera temple), a large temple that sits on top of a steep cliffside. I took a 1 hour train from Sendai, before reaching Yamadera station, and then a 20 minute walk to the entrance of the temple.
If you’re planning to visit during the winter, you can rent some snow boots at the ticket gate. However, I would suggest bringing some ice chains for your shoes, if you can. They wrap around the soles of your shoes to give you some grip while walking on the ice. And yes, there was a ton of ice.
Once I reached the top, I was rewarded with beautiful, serene views overlooking the valley. I’ve never felt so at peace until that moment. The air was calm, and it was so quiet that I didn’t hear anything except for my own breath. At that time, my appreciation for the winter months grew tenfold….
… Until I got back to my ryokan, took off my pants, and realized I got ice burn all over my legs. Remember to dress warmly!