Dewa-sanzan is the collective name for the three holy mountains of Haguro-san, Gas-san and Yudono-san.
The mountains gained their holy status over 1,400 years ago after the son of the reigning Emperor made a pilgrimage to the area to practise severe aesthetic religious exercises which later became the founding principles of Shugendo Buddhism.
This type of Buddhism is an ancient blend of esoteric Buddhism, Chinese Taoism and Shinto deity worship and is practised by the Yamabushi mountain priests, who link their religious practises strongly with the nature of the mountains. To become a Yamabushi one must endure many rites of passage, including meditation, hiking, wrestling, food deprivation and other forms of self-denial that bring one closer to nature.
The Yamabushi are easily recognisable from their distinctive garb of checked overshirts, billowing white trousers, straw sandals and small, peaked hats. They can also be heard from miles off by sounding their conch-shell trumpets.
The monks are now scattered all over Dewa-sanzan and you will most likely catch a glimpse of one scurrying up the mountain or at one of the many temples in the area.
Dewa-sanzan is best explored over a number of days as there are some arduous climbs, but if your time is more limited then hike up to the top of either Mt Haguro or Mt Gas-san, both of which are around two hour ascents.
Suggested itinerary featuring Dewa-sanzan
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Map of Dewa-sanzan
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Places near Dewa-sanzan
- Tohoku 56 miles away
- Matsushima 64 miles away
- Kakunodate 79 miles away
- Tazawako 89 miles away
- Nyuto Onsen 94 miles away
- Nikko 128 miles away
- Towadako & Hirosaki 142 miles away
- Yudanaka 152 miles away
- Noto Peninsula 162 miles away
- Hakuba 173 miles away
- The Japanese Alps 179 miles away
- Matsumoto 195 miles away
- Tateyama 196 miles away
- Tokyo 199 miles away
- Kamikochi 202 miles away
- Takayama 225 miles away
- Kamakura 225 miles away
- Kanazawa 228 miles away
- Hakodate 229 miles away
- Shirakawago 231 miles away
- Hakone & Mount Fuji 237 miles away
- Tsumago 244 miles away
- Izu Peninsula 259 miles away
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Ideas for experiencing Dewa-sanzan
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Dewa-sanzan, and which use the best local guides.
Dewa-sanzan is the collective name for the three holy mountains of Haguro-san, Gas-san and Yudono-san. The mountains gained their holy status over 1,400 years ago after the son of the reigning Emperor made a pilgrimage to the area to practise severe aesthetic religious exercises which later became the founding principles of Shugendo Buddhism.View details