Steer away from the overwhelming crowd and the well-worn tourist sites in Japan’s traditional hotspots and make your way to Yamagata for an interesting diversion, remote beauty, and an authentic taste of Japan.
A picturesque prefecture situated just an hour flight away from Tokyo, enclosed by the Sea of Japan to the west and mountains to the east, Yamagata is often overlooked by international travelers. Here, we outline some of the best activities you can enjoy at Yamagata so you can make the most of your trip.
Traverse amongst the "snow monsters" in Mount Zao
You don’t have to travel far to find some truly magical landscapes. A hugely popular skiing area sitting at the border of Yamagata, Mount Zao is where you will discover some of the most unique natural formation you can find on earth.
Visit the area in winter to catch a glimpse of the Juhyo Forest. More famously known as the ‘snow monsters’, it is an enchanting sight created when powder snow engulfs the forest, transforming the fir trees into fluffy piles of snow. If skiing outside and braving the cold is not your idea of a jolly holiday, you can still return for the beauty that comes with each distinct season, whether it’s cherry blossom or fall foliage.
Appreciating the world of geisha in Somaro Maiko Teahouse
Indisputably one of Japan’s cultural highlights, Geisha performance has garnered much curiosity and interests at home and abroad. If you would like to take a peek into the mysterious world of geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha), catch them at Somaro Maiko Teahouse.
Dates back to the Edo Period when Sakata prospered as a major port town, Somaro Maiko Teahouse is the quintessence of Japanese hospitality. It serves up daily maiko performance alongside the classical Japanese fare. Decorated with authentic artwork created by revered Taisho Period artist Takehisa Yumeji, the lovely teahouse retains its timeless charm, and it surely appeals to those in search of ancient Japanese aesthetics.
Soak in Yamagata's famed thermal water
Onsen is a ubiquitous part of Japanese iconography. In Yamagata, you will find the country’s best hot spring town, including the atmospheric Ginzan Onsen. Conveniently connected to Tokyo via flight, Ginzan Onsen draws in hundreds of local visitors every year with its old-fashioned charm and natural springs.
Once you step inside the charming town where lines of gas-lamp light up the main street, you will feel as if you have stepped into a movie. The highlight of Ginzan Onsen is its scenery. Nestled in the mountainside, Ginzan Onsen is surrounded by rolling powdery mountains and snow-covered trees. Pamper yourself against the backdrop of the pristine and calming Ginzan River, which flows through the center of the village.
Learn the history of Sakata at Sankyo Soko
Hide away in a tranquil setting with an abundance of lush zelkova trees, Sankyo Soko makes a soothing refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. Constructed in 1893 by the Sakai family of the Shonai clan, this warehouse complex in Sakata has been renovated into the Shonai Rice Museum to showcase the city’s history as a rice-shipping port. To this date, the architecture still retains that Edo period aesthetics, which make it an unmissable site for architecture enthusiasts and history buff.
Savor Japan's best sake at Hatsumago
A trip to Japan is never completed without a sip of its finest sake. A delicate yet complex rice wine liquor, sake has steadily become the drink of choice amongst connoisseurs and mainstream audiences alike.
Among the bevy of sake offerings in Japan, Hatsumago from the Yamagata region has proven itself to be the best in its field. For over a century, Hatsumago has been crafting and perfecting their own type of sake with the traditional Kimoto-brewing method and an unwavering commitment to quality. In 2019, the brand was crowned the best in the prestigious International Wine Challenge (IWC) sake competition for two consecutive years. If you’re heading to Yamagata, be sure to sample Hatsumago’s hearty creations and explore its brewery. While you are there, make sure you visit Kura Tanbo Kan. This museum exhibits the history and process of sake brewing. Visitors can even taste various kinds of sake here.
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