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Region
Tohoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Yamagata
Population
1,244,040

Yamagata

Winter is coming.

Discover snow monsters and a hidden mountain temple.

Situated in the southwest area of the already remote Tohoku region, Yamagata is bordered by the sea of Japan to one side and mountains on the other.

While the prefecture is most popular as a winter destination, Yamagata offers an abundance of hot springs, mountaintop temples, natural parks and a giant game of human chess vying for tourists’ attention during the rest of the year.

A trip to Yamagata will allow anyone to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the Japanese countryside, indulge in the freshly picked cherries and soak in some of the best outdoor hot springs in the country.

Yamagata City

Yamagata City

Yamagata City in winter

Yamagata City is the prefectural capital and makes a nice home base for exploring the prefecture. It’s big on festivals, both typical and novelty, including the summer Hanagasa matsuri or ‘flower-hat festival’ where groups of dancers perform in flower-adorned straw hats, and the Taro and Beef Stew Party festival held in fall.

Discover the mummies of Yamagata

Where to see the mummified monks in Yamagata, Japan
Kajo Park is one of the biggest attractions in the city that houses Yamagata Castle ruins and also happens to double as a popular cherry blossom and autumn foliage viewing spot. Inside the park, you’ll also be able to visit the Yamagata Prefectural Museum where you can learn more about the prefecture’s long history.

If you’re still up for a little exploring, right next door is Tendo city, famous for producing 95% of the country’s chess pieces. The Ningen Shogi, a giant human chess tournament, is really fun to see if you’re around in spring.

End your trip with a nightcap at one of the many izakayas that are a mere ten minutes walk from Yamagata Station.

Yamadera Temple

Yamadera Temple

Make your way up the 1,000 steps.

One of the most striking destinations in the prefecture is Yamadera Temple. Officially known as Risshaku-ji, this landmark is a spectacular mountaintop temple complex where Basho famously composed one of his most popular haiku. The temple area is vast, covering the whole of Mount Hoju, making for some serious poetic inspiration as you trek around.

The climb to the top takes less than half an hour depending on the pacing and is lined with stone lanterns and a handful of shrines.

Mount Zao 

Yamagata Mount Zao

Watch out for the snow monsters!

A popular tourist spot that can be enjoyed throughout the seasons, Mt. Zao is home to an onsen town and a national park. During the warmer months, make your way through the hiking trails to catch a panoramic view of Okama Crater from afar.

Come winter, Ski through rows upon rows of snow-covered trees known as ‘juhyo’ or ice monsters. Reward yourself with a dip in one of the many outdoor hot springs that populate Zao Onsen for a reasonable price.

Explore this remote, but travel-worthy prefecture through the locations below!

Trivia

Where to see the mummified monks in Yamagata, Japan

Discover the mummies of Yamagata

Worship the dead at these temples featuring Japan’s self-mummified monks.

More

Places to visit

Sankyo Soko Storehouses

A charming historical hotspot showcasing the prosperous former rice trade on the Sea of Japan

Zao Onsen

Zao Onsen

Making stripping worthwhile since 110 A.D.


Yamadera Temple Yamagata

Yamadera Temple

One thousand steps to Yamagata’s most iconic spot.

mount gassan

Tsuruoka

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Tendo City’s Ningen Shogi (Human Chess) and Sakura Festival

A grand battle of human-sized Japanese chess under 2,000 cherry blossoms — a unique event to see while traveling in northern Japan.

The Mummy at Churen-ji Temple

What do The Beatles and a mummy have in common? You can find them both at this Yamagata Temple.


Ginzan Onsen

Mountain onsen village for luxury lovers or budget backpackers.

mummies

The Mummy at Ryusui-ji Dainichibo Temple

Join a Buddhist ritual and see a real-life mummy at this temple in Yamagata


Takimikan

A quick dip for daytrippers in Ginzan Onsen.

Mount Haguro's pagoda.

Mount Haguro

The most visited and accessible summit of the “sacred mountains” in the area of Dewa, an ancient province.


Higashizawa Rose Park

The beauty of 20,000 roses — best in summer and fall!

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