When to travel?

With the strong and cold wind from Japan Sea, the ocean side may have heavy snow in winter.  Inner part of the prefecture may have a different feature, with less rain and mild weather.

Best season: Apr-Nov
Winter activity: Jan-Mar
Cherry blossoms: Apr
Foliage: Oct-Nov

Events / Festivals

Feb: Kurokawa noh (黒川能), Tsuruoka 鶴岡
May: Uesugi festival (上杉祭), Yonezawa 米沢
May: Kurojishi festival(黒獅子まつり), Nagai 長井
Aug: Yamagata Hanagasa festival (山形花笠まつり), Yamagata
Aug: Shinjo festival (新庄まつり), Shinjo 新庄
Dec-Mar: Zao silver thaw festival (蔵王樹氷まつり), Zao 蔵王

Touristic spots

Capital: Yamagata (山形)

Yamagata city can be accessed from Yamagata Airport within 30 minutes.  Unlike other cities, the capital is not located at the coast side but in the center of the prefecture.  This is why the access to the mountain side, where many touristic spots are available, is so easy.

Mizu no Machiya (水の町屋), there are so many water canals in the city along with Japanese traditional buildings.
Bunshokan (文翔館), a building constructed 1916 as a governmental house.
Momiji park (もみじ公園), Momiji is a type of tree that turns into red in foliage.

Tsuruoka (鶴岡)

Tsuruoka has the second largest population in Yamagata.  It has flourished as a capital in Edo period, with a big castle and this is the reason we can still see traditional Japanese culture in this city.  The city is also surrounded by a huge rice field, which makes it easier for tourists to enjoy great gourmet.

The city is also surrounded by mountains where Buddhist monks practice, it is nominated as the National Park of Bandai Asahi (磐梯朝日国立公園).

Mt. Haguro Five storied pagoda (羽黒山五重塔), which forms a part of National Park and also a National Treasure.
Mt. Gassan (月山), one of the three sacred mountains in the area.  The others are Mt. Yudono and Mt. Haguro.

Yonezawa (米沢)

Yonezawa is a home for well-known Uesugi family, as well as the beef which is considered as the best quality of Japan.  The city still has so many historical places to see.  If you really would like to see Samurais in action, visit during the Uesugi Festival in May.

Earl Uesugi mansion (上杉伯爵邸)
Uesugi festival held in May.

Sakata (酒田)

Sakata is a small town located close to the border of Akita. The town was once a wealthy port when cultivated by nobles, although now we cannot see that momentum in the town. The town still shows its bright history, especially around Sankyo warehouse(山居倉庫) area. There are few souvenir shops available, and is showing the handmade crafts, too.  You may try Japanese sake tasting if you like.

Sankyo warehouse (山居倉庫群).
The town was once a wealthy port.

Risshakuji temple (立石寺)

Driving from Yamagata city for 30 minutes, you can reach the symbol of Yamagata.  Risshakuji is a temple built on the summit of the mountain, on the cliff.  The temple is also known as Yamadera (山寺), a mountain temple.  The temple is said to have been built back in 9th century, and this is surely the one that you have to visit in Tohoku area.

Built in 9th century, on the cliff.

Mogami gorge (最上峡)

This is the place where you can feel 4 beautiful seasons in Japan.  Cruising down the river on the boat, you may see cherry blossoms, fresh green leaves, foliage and snow.  The river is one of the three rapid streams in Japan.

Mogami river (最上川).

Zao (蔵王)

Zao is a mountain between Yamagata and Miyagi, so we can access from both prefectures.

During wintertime, we can see a world-class silver thaw (樹氷) at Yamagata side.  There is no other place where we can see the same phenomenon.

Mt. Chokai (鳥海山)

Mt. Chokai sits between Yamagata and Akita prefecture, which is as high as 2236 meters.  With the perfect shape of the mountain, it is also called as Dewa Fuji (出羽富士).  The mountain is an active volcano and is offering great view.

Mt. Chokai with rice field.
The shape is similar to Mt. Fuji.

Ginzan Hot spring(銀山温泉)

If you are planning to come over to Tohoku, this Ginzan Hot spring could be your number one priority.  After the dusk especially, the hot spring adds more nostalgic and emotional ambiance with orange lights.  Ginzan Hot spring has a history for more than 600 years, and it is known as the stage of TV drama Oshin (おしん), which was broadcasted all over the world.

Nostalgic view of Ginzan Hot spring.