Immortalised by the itinerant haiku master, Matsuo Bashō, in The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1689), Yamadera (山寺), meaning 'mountain temple', is home to some very special temple buildings. The town was founded in AD 860 by priests who carried with them the sacred flame from Enryaku-ji near Kyoto, believing that Yamadera's rock faces were the boundaries between this world and the next. Supposedly that flame remains lit to this day.
The village's main attraction is the temple of Risshaku-ji, and a steady stream of tourists and pilgrims arrive daily to scale its 1000 steps. While it's possible (though precarious) to visit Yamadera during winter, a visit in the warmer months will be more enjoyable.