Have you heard of Ginzan onsen? Ginzan onsen (銀山温泉), literally means “Silver Mountain Hot Spring”, is a beautiful hot spring town in Yamagata prefecture, which is in the Tohoku region of Japan. There are countless onsens in Japan, but I would like to say, Ginzan Onsen is one of the prettiest onsens.
What is Ginzan Onsen
Ginzan Onsen is a small hot spring town by the mountains of Yamagata Prefecture. Because the onsen town is in the middle of the mountain, it is kind of hard to reach, like normal vehicles are not allowed to enter the district and have to park a bit away, because the roads are too narrow.
The area originally developed for a silver mine, but after it ended the role, it became Japan’s prettiest onsen towns with historic ryokan lined up along the river.
The ryokans are all three or four-story wooden structure, adding prettiness and nostalgic feelings to the scenery.
It is said that the famous academy award winning animation “Spirited Away” got inspiration from the scenery of Ginzan Onsen. Also, the famous known Japanese drama “Oshin” used here for location shooting too.
Things to do at Ginzan onsen
The town of Ginzan Onsen is pretty small. Walking from side to side takes only about 30 minutes. Most of the buildings along the river are ryokans, however, there are some souvenir shops and cafes and restaurants to have a rest.
There is a public foot bath and you can dip your toes for free. There is a 22-meter waterfall at the back of town, and old silver mine is also walkable during spring and summer.
And of course, if you are here, I strongly recommend staying a night at a ryokan. All the ryokans have a small number of rooms, and some of them don’t allow children to stay. So you can spend a quiet night. Many of the ryokans have private onsen which gives you some relaxing time.
You can enjoy kaiseki cuisine (a full-course Japanese dish) for dinner if you stay overnight.
After dinner, you will get to enjoy the beautiful night view of the town of Ginzan Onsen. The town gets much prettier at night, with the lights reflecting to the river.
In winter, the scenery is enhanced by the heavy snow on the rooftops and walkways. The best time to see is January to February, but be prepared to the coldness!
How to get to Ginzan Onsen?
By train, take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo to Oishida Station. If you are staying at any ryokan, they usually offer a ride directly to the ryokan. Try asking for a ride. If you are just visiting, buses depart for Ginzan Onsen every 60-90minutes. It costs 710 yen for one-way trip.
If you are able to drive, the area around Ginzan Onsen is better to explore by car. The public transportation here is not so convenient and train comes only every 60 minutes or so. Rental car outlets are available at stations along the Yamagata Shinkansen, such as Mirayama, Shinjo, Yamagata, as well as at Yamagata Airport.
As I mentioned earlier, you can not drive into town, and have to park at a 5-10 minute walk outside the town center.