Once at Tokyo station we caught the 10:00 Tsubasa 133 Shinkansen at track 21. Once on the train I noticed that the electronic signage was showing the wrong stations - argh! Have we got on the wrong train?! Where were we going?! After asking a conductor it transpired that there were 2 trains together that would split along the journey. The car we were in was the back of the train that was going all the way North and we needed to leave the train to get on the front train which was going to Yamagata. So we walked the length of the train from car 3 to car 10 so that we could get off and back on again as quickly as possible at the next station. Once back on the train we walked from car 11 to cars 16/17 to the unreserved seats... of which there were no 2 seats together (Tsubasa Shinkansen is seemingly smaller than West Japan Shinkansen as there are only 2x2 seats). Our suitcases wouldn't fit in the luggage rack in the corridor so we had to take up a full row of 4 seats when they became available.
The journey from Ueno to Yonezawa was very scenic; it felt like we were right up in the clouds at some points, then through low valleys with steep mountains either side of us.
We caught the 14:56 Senzan Line to Yamadera to go to the temple of 1000 steps (Risshakuji Temple) which was a 20 minute journey. On arrival at Yamadera station we lightened the load of the one bag and put the other bag in a locker (¥300 for a few hours). Then it was about a 10 minute walk to the base of the temple and then a 2 minute walk through the grounds to the entry fee booth (¥600 for two adults). There were very few non-Japanese people climbing the the steps & it took about 40 minutes to climb to the top for us (moderately unfit late-20s-year-olds) and thankfully there are platforms to rest and take photos along the way which were very much needed as I am definitely not a stair master.
**Stretch before climbing!**
There were 14 shrines open/accessible on this day (some were closed off with scaffolding and sheeting) most of which we saw on our climb as well as what I can only describe as 'money trees' - lots of ¥100 coins forced into the bark of particularly old trees at platform levels. The views from the top were breath-taking, though there are beautiful views the whole way up/down.
It took 20 minutes to go down the steps; the route down to road level brings you out at a different point to the entrance of the temple. From here you can go left or right to go over a bridge to take you back to the station (we went right but I suspect left could be quicker). The trains are once/hour in either direction E.g. Arrive 15:14 heading towards Sendai; Depart 17:13 heading towards Yamagata.
Once back in Yamagata we checked into the hotel and rested for an hour or so before heading out to MaxValue Supermarket around the corner to get dinner. Surprisingly not much choice of ready made food that needed no cooking. We ended up buying two noodle pots to add boiling water to at the hotel, battered chicken bites, baguette, sandwich for M and apple juice/water. The noodle pots were actually pretty good considering it was complete guesswork as to what flavours we'd picked up, especially good with baguette dipped in!
Standard showers before bed and then much needed sleep.