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Photo By: Steve Csorgo
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Sankyo Soko Storehouses

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

By Steven Csorgo

The picturesque Sankyo Soko Storehouses sit at the heart of Sakata, a portside city on the Sea of Japan in Yamagata Prefecture. It is famous for its seafood and legacy as an essential stop on the kitamaebune, an illustrious shipping route along the Sea of Japan active during the Edo and Meiji periods.

Opened in 1893, the storehouses were designed by a master carpenter from nearby Tsuruoka under the order of the Shonai Domain to hold rice, a specialty of the Shonai region, between shipping. Surviving multiple disasters, including the 1894 Shonai earthquake, they remain in remarkably good shape and were still used for rice storage until 2022.

Built on ancient wisdom

Photo by: Steve Csorgo Rows of zelkova trees line the back of the storehouses.

The complex comprises 12 wooden (originally 14) storehouses built on an intersection between the Niida River and Mogami River near the port of Sakata. They were constructed with triangular double roofing to protect the rice from humidity and heat, aided by skylights and ventilation windows.

Behind the storehouses is a scenic cobblestone walkway lined by 150-year-old zelkova trees, which burst into dazzling autumn colors in late October. These trees were purposely planted on the west side of the storehouses to shade the rice from the afternoon sun and to help block the harsh winds that often blow from the Sea of Japan. In 2021, the Sankyo Soko Storehouses were registered as a National Historic Site.

Discover local history

Photo by: Steve Csorgo The Sankyo Inari Shrine is tucked away between two rows of storehouses.

While you can’t enter most of the storehouses, its rustic Edo-era aesthetics make for stunning photos, while the relatively untouched architecture is sure to please history buffs. After exploring the grounds, visitors can shop for local delicacies, sake, traditional crafts and more at Sakata Yume no Kura, which was tastefully renovated from the storehouse closest to the car park.

After-dark light ups

Sankyo Soko Storehouses

Photo by: Steve Csorgo The view of the illuminated storehouses from the Sankyo-bashi Bridge.

The furthest storehouse from the front also holds the Shonai Rice History Museum, where you can learn more about rice and regional history through informative dioramas, panels, tool displays and more.

Also on the premises is the charming Sankyo Inari Shrine, the retro wooden Sankyo-bashi Bridge (a great vantage point to photograph the storehouses), and the restored kokai-bune antique boat by the dock.

The Sankyo Soko Storehouses are also lit up from sundown until 10 p.m., making for dazzling scenery worth sticking around for.

Things To Know

Hours and fees

It is free to enter the grounds of the Sankyo Soko Storehouses and ¥300 (adults) for admission to the Shonai Rice History Museum.

The Sankyo Soko Storehouse grounds are open 24 hours, and the Shonai Rice History Museum and Sakata Yume no Kura are generally open between 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

For something delicious to eat nearby, head to the casual restaurant Tobishima in the Sakata Port Market for a well-priced and high-quality kaisendon (seafood bowl).

How To Get There


By train

The Sankyo Soko Storehouses are a roughly 22-minute walk or 6-minute taxi ride from Sakata station, accessible on the JR Uetsu Main Line.

Where To Stay

Wakaba Ryokan
  • 2-3-9 Honcho (1-3-Chome), Sakata-shi, Yamagata, 998-0043 Japan
  • ¥5,500 - ¥18,260
  • 4.36/5 (632 reviews)
  • 0.3 km
Tsukino Hotel
  • 1-10-20 Saiwaicho, Sakata-shi, Yamagata, 998-0023 Japan
  • ¥10,440 - ¥23,040
  • 4.47/5 (551 reviews)
  • 1.3 km

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