Located in the Tohoku Region of northeastern Japan, Yamagata has an abundance of natural beauty and is well known for agricultural products such as rice and cherries. The prefecture is also known for its ubiquitous hot springs, a source of pride for each town and village. When visiting Tohoku in the nineteenth century, English travel writer Isabella Bird described it as "an Asiatic Arcadia" (an unspoiled, harmonious wilderness), and Edwin Reischauer, US Ambassador to Japan in the 1960s, is said to have referred to Yamagata as "the other Japan – the other side of the mountain." The natural beauty from those times, as well as the down-to-earth kindness of the people remain in Yamagata to this day. It may just be that people from wherever in the world they hail will find Yamagata to be a hometown close to their heart. Jump on the JR East train for a trip to Yamagata, and discover all the great attractions it has to offer.
For an unforgettable trip, go to Tohoku, one of Japan's most mesmerizing regions!
Find out the best tourist sights, breathtaking nature spots, amazing hot spring, ski resorts and more in these model course videos!
This is where Uesugi Kenshin, warlord of the Warring States Period and founder of the Yonezawa Uesugi clan, is enshrined. After being burned down in 1923, the shrine was rebuilt. Uesugi-jinja Shrine is a popular among people making their first visit to the shrine in the new year, getting married as a venue, praying for safety and making other wishes or prayers.
(Take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen to Yonezawa Station. It is approximately 10 minutes by bus.)
A holy land for mountain worshippers, Mt. Hagurosan is the front gateway to the Three Mountains of Dewa. In addition to a five-story pagoda that is a National Treasure, the area has many Important Cultural Properties of Japan and historical sites.
(Take the JR Uetsu Line to Tsuruoka Station. It is approximately 30 minutes by car.)
Running alongside a row of Japanese zelkovas are 12 storehouses more than a century old but still used for storing grain. A museum/gift shop is located on the premises, as is a Shonai historical archive.
(Take the JR Uetsu Line to Sakata Station. It is approximately 15 minutes on foot.)
Located in the great outdoors, this studio is used for filming movies and is open to the public.
(Take the JR Uetsu Line to Tsuruoka Station. It is approximately 35 minutes by car.)
This attractive hot spring town recalls to mind an era of times past. In the evening, gas lights give off a warm light, creating a mystical atmosphere. A café at the entrance to town has old-fashioned clothes for rent for those wanting a more authentic experience.
(Take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen to Oishida Station. It is approximately 30 minutes by car.)
With footbaths and four communal bathhouses, Akayu Onsen is a popular town for people to go "spa hopping." As the town is surrounded by many orchards, picking cherries, grapes and other fruit is a popular activity for enjoying the natural goodness of the area.
(Take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen to Akayu Station. It is approximately five minutes by car.)
This mountain peak straddles the border between Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures. It is filled with natural major points of note such as Crater Lake at the top of Mt. Katta-dake and the alpine plants that grow in profusion in the Zao Natural Botanical Garden.
(Take the Yamagata Shinkansen to Yamagata Station. It is approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes on the Zao Katta Sancho bus.)
Located on the mountainside of Zao Peaks, this hot spring features highland spring water approximately 800 meters in altitude. Boasting one of the largest skiing areas in the country, Yamagata Zao Onsen Ski Resort is also located here. Whether you want to visit the Zao Highlands or the crater, or get out a bit more and go to Yama-dera Temple, Zao Onsen is an excellent sightseeing base.
(Approximately 35 minutes by car from JR Yamagata Station)
Maikos are geishas-in-training, and the maikos of Yamagata are trained in local traditions that include dancing, singing and playing the Shamisen, skills that they perform at venues in the city.
Transmitted from Kyoto by boats during the Edo Period, the tradition of the maiko continues on in Sakata. Refined establishments in Sakata feature maiko performances and excellent cuisine.
Counted as one of the three great regions for producing wagyu, Yamagata produces Yonezawa beef, a sublime way to enjoy steak, sukiyaki, beef pickled with miso and sake lees, stew or any other beef dish.
Producing 70 percent of Japan's cherries, Yamagata is truly a "cherry paradise." To eat a freshly picked cherry in the great outdoors of Yamagata is a sublime pleasure.
Developed in Yamagata Prefecture, this brand of rice debuted in 2010. Characteristics of Tsuyahime include large, prominent grains, a beautiful white shine, excellent flavor, a pleasant smell and glutinousness (stickiness), also a desirable trait in white rice. It can be enjoyed in restaurants and inns throughout the prefecture.