Why This Tiny Mountain MUST be on Your Japan Itinerary

The heavenly haven of Haguro-san in Yamagata Prefecture

Kiwi Yamabushi
Japonica Publication


Haguro-san’s stone stairway among its deep cedar forest.
The stone stairway among the cedar forest of Haguro-san. Photo by Kiwi Yamabushi.

Of the thousands of mountains in Yamagata, the prefecture literally made of mountains, one peak emphatically stands out from the rest.

Abode of yamabushi (mountain ascetics), and centre of spiritual journeys in Japan for over a millennium, Haguro-san (Mt. Haguro) is a small mountain that those on a spiritual journey, history buffs, hikers, nature-lovers, and plain Japanophiles alike are sure to love.

Haguro-san and The Dewa Sanzan: Mountains of Rebirth

Haguro-san’s grandfather cedar with ceremonial straw rope and white tassles in the foreground. Then, the National Treasure Five Story Pagoda blends into the forest in the background.
Haguro-san’s Grandfather Cedar and the Five Story Pagoda during the summer. Photo by Kiwi Yamabushi.

Dewa Sanzan is the collective term for the three sacred mountains in the former Dewa Province, modern-day Yamagata Prefecture: Haguro-san, Gassan, and Yudono-san.

Since ancient times, anyone who traverses these three peaks is overcome with a feeling of euphoria akin to being ‘reborn’. Over the centuries, these three mountains built a reputation as ‘mountains of rebirth’, and climbing the three peaks became the ‘Journey of Rebirth’.