Before we visited Yamadera we spent the day in Matsushima in Miyagi prefecture. It was an amazingly beautiful seaside town about an hour away from Sendai on the train, that is famous for it's fresh Oysters, many islands and a number of rather fabulous red bridges. Matsushima got hit by the tsunami in 2011 (although the town says that the islets slowed down the tsunami a lot) and all around the town there area a lot of sobering reminders to how high the water got and the damage it caused.
Early in December we took a short day-trip to Yamadera Temple in Yamagata prefecture. The temple area is said to be about 1000 years old, with the oldest remaining building being about 400 years old. The temple is built on to the side of a mountain that you have to walk up (it's not too strenuous to reach the top), but it presents amazing views across the valley from the top.