The climb up Mt. Haguro begins in Haguro Center, at the red Zaishin Gate (Zaishin-mon), then goes up 2,446 or so stone steps to the summit. The strenuous ascent cuts through ancient cedar trees that rise to dominate the sky. You'll pass a 14th-century pagoda sitting alone in the forest. A tea shop, open from April through November, is at a perfect stop to take in the view. The trail is just over 1.7 km (about 1 mile) in all, and it may take you an hour to reach
the 414-meter (1,400-foot) summit with its thatch-roof shrine, Dewa-Sanzan Jinja. You may happen upon one of the mysterious ceremonies held there—the initiation ritual of a yama-bushi (a "mountain warrior" who seeks power from ascetic practices and close bonds to nature) lasts nine grueling days, and it is said that if an apprentice wants to complete his training he must first prove that he can engage and destroy an imaginary demon. Up to nine buses a day make the 35-minute trip to Haguro Center from JR Tsuroka Station, many going to the summit for an extra cost (in July and August there are early-morning buses on weekdays). It is possible to stay overnight on the mountain at the temple-lodge of Sai-kan, which is attached by a long stairway to the Dewa-Sanzan Jinja.