Embrace a calmer Japan, one of remote tranquil beauty, ancient wonders and sleeping “monsters” nestled in the snow. This month the Japan Centre team uncover one of Japan’s hidden secrets – beautiful Yamagata Prefecture…
A world away from the frenzy of Japan’s megacities, Yamagata is peace personified. If you consider yourself “outdoorsy” and favour hearty romps in the mountains, jaw-dropping scenery, exquisite cuisine and a good long bath to top it all off, Yamagata might just represent your very own Shangri-La.
Yamadera – 山寺
Perched upon the mountainside like a precarious birds nest, Yamadera (translating rather appropriately as ‘mountain temple’) takes some getting to, but we assure you the hike up here is worth it. Founded in 860, the complex of buildings are constructed from beech tree and are as remarkable as the natural environment which surrounds them. It was here that revered poet Matsuo Basho composed the following celebrated haiku:
Ah this silence
sinking into the rocks
voice of cicada
Dewa Sanzan – 出羽三山
Dewa Sanzan refers to “the three mountains of Dewa”, namely Haguro-san, Gas-san and Yudono-san. Visitors hike to each mountain, which represent birth, death and rebirth consecutively. But it’s not just awe-inspiring beauty to be found in this remote region, oh no. It was here in the Churenji and Dainichibo temples that monks practiced the art of self-mummification whilst still living. Gory but fascinating, find out how they did it here.
Mt. Zao Ski Resort – 蔵王温泉スキー場
The premier ski destination in Yamagata, Mt. Zao offers more than just pristine powder ripe for carving. Visitors come from far and wide to ogle at the so called “snow monsters,” a natural phenomena where strong, icy winds carrying cool water droplets let loose against the evergreen conifers, creating surreal creatures on the slopes.
Ginzan Onsen – 銀山温泉
A picture-perfect town featuring traditional ryokan and heavenly onsen. A visit here is all about pottering from hot spring bath to hot spring bath in pursuit of heavenly relaxation. Find out more about the art of onsen with our blog post.
Hanagasa Matsuri – 花笠祭り
One of the most spectacular festivals in the Tohoku region, Hanagasa Matsuri sees over a million visitors flock into Yamagata City to witness a beautiful parade, featuring hundreds of dancers sporting ‘hanagasa’ – a special hat adorned with Yamagata’s signature safflower decoration.
Cherry Picking – チェリーピッキング
Yamagata is known for producing over 70% of all the cherries in Japan. Cherry picking is so adored here that even Emperor Akihito (pictured) made a special trip to Yamagata to get stuck in.
Chitose-Kan Ryotei – 千歳館
Our insiders top-tip from Japan Centre Kaicho Tak Tokumine, this authentic ryotei (premium, traditional restaurant) serves exquisite local cuisine in the city of Yamagata. Visit the Chitose-Kan website here.
For us, Yamagata represents a land of natural highs. If you’re one of the increasing number of people flocking to Japan in the near future, we at Japan Centre heartily recommend getting off the beaten track and getting lost in magical Yamagata.