Located in the Tohoku region and has its border runs along Sea of Japan coast line, Yamgata is an ideal place for you to enjoy your winter break with various events, festivals and many more.
1. Zao ropeway
You can take this ropeway to access Zao Sancho Stations then take a tough walk to reach the Zao Mount. The ropeway is inexpensive and has a mid-way stop that you can take a walk around before going up to the top station. There are great views from area around and it’d be a great experience for children.
2. Skiing in Zao Mountain
After the Zao ropeway, finally you reached the Zao Mountain and get ready for your skiing trip! Above 1400m, the mount was filled with tree ice and snow. So you can ski along with hundreds of these scenery extending into the horizon. They also provide Ski trial lesson for the tourists is working under guide.
If you don’t want to ski, you can still take a ride on the cable car to reach the top to sightseeing, as long as the weather permits. On Zao Mount, there’s a resort, which is also good for snow hike. At night, there’ll be a night safari, and it’s a really amazing place.
You can check out the ski trial lesson at Yamagata Kanko Website.
3. Relax at Zao Onsen
After the skiing, Zao onsen is the best next destination for you, it’s a small town, with hot spring water everywhere. And it takes about 20 minutes or more to get there, and remember to bring a towel (they also sell towel at the counter). One more thing to remember, there’re set of rules for people to get in the onsen, so if it’s your first time travel to Japan, check out the rules beforehand.
You can find out more about tips about entering onsen in this article: Dip Your Toes Into an Onsen in Japan – Best Onsen Recommendations
4. 1,015 steps to Risshaku-ji Temple
This amazing temple is both beautiful and set in an amazing location. Although it was a climb of 1,000 stone steps with various stone craving dotting the landscape, the steps are well worth to see the view from the top. The view is beautiful and has a calming presence, so it’s good if you can tune yourself into the environment.
5. Yamagata Museum of Art
This is a small and focused Art Museum, which usually holds Japanese print making exhibition goes with English explanations of the theme of the print as well as the history of the artist. Its peaceful atmosphere will surely please you in the middle of the winter.
6. Mogami river basyo decent
Having natural scenery surrounding the river shifts beautifully, Mogami river is such a vital natural resource of Yamagata.
The best way to experience Mogami River Valley is to take a trip on the Mogami River Boat. During one hour, you will be able to spend approximately an hour taking in all the sights as you make your way down the river, you can also enjoy a meal on the boat if you make sure to reserve for one in advance. Especially, on this trip, the boatman will sing you a traditional river song.
Mogami Valley Basho Boat ride
999-6401 Yamagata-ken, Mogami-gun, Tozawa-mura, Ooaza, Furukuchi 86-1
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Adults: 1,970yen; Children: 990yen. Groups of 15 people or more: Adults: 1,780yen; Children: 900yen
Mogami River Yoshitsune Adventure Boat Ride
Adults: 1,930yen; Children: 970yen. Groups of 15 people or more: Adults: 1,740yen; Children: 870yen.
7. Cherry picking
Having 70% of the country’s production of cherries, Yamagata is very famous for cherries as well as cherries picking. It’s great to spend weekends in the gardens and orchards picking cherries with your loved ones!
Available in Tendo-shi, Kaminoyama-shi, Nanyo-shi, Higashine-shi and Tsuruoka-shi. Don’t forget to check the weather condition before going cherries picking.
8. Try some Itasoba, the local specialty of Yamagata
Soba is one of the most famous Japanese food and Yamagata has its own style: Itasoba. Itasoba is a style of soba put in a wooden case. The noodles are thick and chewy so that it filled farmers' stomach very much enough for the afternoon work. It is said that soba requires pure clean water to make great soba and thanks to Mogami River, Yamagata has plenty of that! Visit "Soba Street" in Yamagata to indulge into their special soba noodles!
Find out more about Soba Street: Try “Real Soba” at The Soba Street in Yamagata, Tohoku
9. Appreciate the beautiful landscape of Ginzan Onsen
Ginzan Onsen is a small hot spring town by the mountains of Yamagata. The area originally developed for a silver mine, but after silvers got scarce, it became one of the prettiest onsen resorts in Japan. The picturesque buildings along the river will surely amaze everyone. If you can, stay a night here so that you can get to see the view at night. Note that the rooms and the numbers of ryokans here are very limited, so better book early!
Find out more about Ginzan Onsen: Ginzan Onsen, a Must-Visit Onsen in Yamagata
10. Try the best warabi mochi at Koshikakean
Koshikakean is a small Japanese sweet shop quietly located in Yamagata. The building is pretty with 120-years history. As I mentioned in the paragraph of Itasoba, they have a rich resource of clean water. Warabi mochi and other Japanese sweets can be only made at here where they can have the pure water that is necessary.
Find out more about Koshikakean: Koshikakean, The Best Wagashi in Yamagata!