Roots of Japan

Yamagata

Yamagata is a unique area where visitors can enjoy both the ocean and mountains and where distinct regional cultures remain even today.The area is easily accessible, either by the Yamagata Shinkansen or via the two airports, Yamagata airport and Shonai Airport.Let's take a look at Yamagata's best tourist attractions and top spots to see cherry blossoms and autumn colors.This prefecture is packed with interesting places to visit!

Yamagata has an approximate area of 9,325㎢ and an estimated population of 1.09 million people.Since Yamagata faces the Sea of Japan, it has a Sea of Japan climate, like neighboring Niigata and Akita prefectures.Although 90% of Yamagata is in a heavy snowfall zone, winters are actually mild, which means that the snow melts easily.Summer is often surprisingly hot and humid, with sweltering heat at night, too.During summer especially, the region can be hit with extreme heat, due to the foehn phenomenon.

Yamagata is an enchanting area where you can enjoy both ocean and mountains.
Make sure you have enough time to travel around enjoying the distinct regional cultures of this unique prefecture.Here is our list of the top ten attractions in Yamagata. Of course, there are many more to be found throughout the prefecture.
1/ Risshakuji Temple (Yamadera)
2/ Ginzan Shirogane Park
3/ Kosugi no Osugi (Totoro Tree)
4/ Zao Ropeway
5/ Kajo Park
6/ Lina World
7/ Lake Tokura
8/ Kamiyama Castle Ruins
9/ Uesugi Shrine
10/ Kumano Taisha Shrine

Yamagata's famous Risshakuji Temple is a must-see.This spot, also known as Yamadera, is a popular destination for many tourists.The path up the mountain has more than 1,000 steps, which takes time and energy. But this doesn’t hold back the stream of people who visit this special place known for its spiritual energy. “Kosugi no Osugi”, a tree said to resemble Totoro from the movie "My Neighbor Totoro” is also worth seeing!If you’re traveling through Yamagata with kids, we recommend stopping by Lina World.It’s the largest amusement park in the Tohoku region, with a wide range of attractions for all to enjoy.

While having fun exploring Yamagata, no doubt you’ll find yourself wanting to enjoy some time in a local hot spring, or onsen.Yamagata has many!Stay at an onsen resort where you can unwind and relax by soaking in a hot spring at night.It's the perfect place to ease the fatigue of the day away.Here are some of Yamagata's best onsen:
1/ Zao Onsen
2/ Ginzan Onsen
3/ Hijiori Onsen
4/ Yunohama Onsen
5/ Onogawa Onsen

We’ve only listed five here, but of course Yamagata has many more onsen resorts throughout the prefecture.There are so many, it’s hard to choose!Zao Onsen is a hot spring town lined with nostalgic and old-fashioned Japanese inns.You can enjoy soaking in high quality onsen water, as many of these inns have their own private source of spring water on the property.Hijiori Onsen, which is known as being in an area of heavy snowfall, is an onsen resort that dates back some 1,200 years.At the Hijiori morning market, you will also enjoy finding a variety of fresh produce.

Next, let’s take a look at some of Yamagata’s popular festivals.If any of these festivals or events catch your interest, you could plan to visit around the same time.
1/ Shinjo Festival
2/ Yamagata Hanagasa Festival
3/ Yonezawa Uesugi Festival
4/ Fire Festival of Atago
5/ Tsuruoka Tenjin Festival (Monster Festival)

Various festivals are held throughout the year, not only in summer.The Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is one of the five major festivals in Tohoku.Around 10,000 performers make their way down the main street of Yamagata city, performing some amazing dances.Spectators are welcome to join the “walk-in” dance at the end of the parade!Tsuruoka Tenjin Festival (Monster Festival) at Tsuruoka Tenmangu Shrine, honors the god of learning, Sugawara-no-Michizane.On the day of the festival, adults and children walk about as different kinds of “ghosts”.How about adjusting your schedule so you have the opportunity to join in with one of Yamagata's many unusual festivals!

Next, let’s look at some of the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms and autumn colors.If you visit Yamagata in spring or autumn, you might like to add some of these places to your itinerary.Come and enjoy the beautiful scenery!First, here are the top 5 places to see cherry blossoms:
1/ Kajo Park
2/ Matsugasaki Park
3/ Oyama Park
4/ Mogami Park
5/ Mamigasaki Sakura Line

In Kajo Park, you can see 1,500 cherry trees bloom amongst the ruins of Yamagata castle and the Ninomaru Moat.The trees along the moat are illuminated in the evening, creating a romantic atmosphere to enjoy the blossoms at night.It’s would be the perfect spot for a date night!The road running alongside Mamigasaki River is lined on both sides with cherry blossoms.So, you can drive through a tunnel of blossoms!If you are planning to travel through Yamagata by car, take the “Sakura Line” so you can enjoy the cherry blossoms as you drive.

Next, here are some of the best spots to see autumn colors.Come and see Yamagata’s colorful autumn foliage!
1/ Mt. Omoshiro Momiji River Valley
2/ Namegawa Onsen
3/ Jimbo Citizens Forest
4/ Otaki Park
5/ Yamadera

The popular tourist spot, Yamadera, is also an amazing place to see autumn colors.However, be aware that Yamadera will be crowded around the autumnal equinox.At Otaki Park, enjoy beautiful autumn colors alongside a powerful waterfall.
It has been gaining popularity recently as a secret spot with spiritual energy.While you are in the area, stop by and see the nearby Old Judas tree, a giant tree that has been designated as a Natural Monument.

Finally, let’s take a look at Yamagata’s local cuisine.It’s a prefecture with food to warm the body and soul.So, make time to enjoy the local cuisine while you are out exploring.
1/ Kasu Jiru (sake lees soup)
2/ Imoni (potato stew with meat)
3/ Shonai-sasamaki (sticky rice with bamboo leaf)
4/ Bero Bero Mochi (stick-shaped non-glutinous rice cake)
5/ Natto-jiru (miso soup with fermented soy beans)

The unusually named Bero Bero Mochi is stick-shaped mochi made from non-glutinous rice.As soon as you drop torn off pieces of this mochi into a hot pot dish it becomes soft and it has its own unique texture.Natto-jiru is a type of miso soup with dissolved natto, or fermented soy beans.This thick miso soup includes ingredients such as, tofu, thin slices of deep-fried tofu, wild vegetables and dried taro.Natto-jiru is the perfect hearty soup to warm you up.Give it a try!

While reading about Yamagata's best tourist spots, popular onsen and interesting festivals, did you come across some places you would like to visit?While it is known for lying in a heavy snowfall zone, Yamagata is really quite a warm area.Visitors can enjoy both the ocean and mountains and there are many ways to enjoy the different seasons throughout the year.Make your trip to Yamagata even more amazing by adding a visit to a hot spring and be sure to enjoy the local cuisine.

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.