Enjoying pleasant flavors while cherry picking and going back in time at Ginzan Onsen.
After getting on the Yamagata Shinsansen train at Tokyo station, you know that you are in Yamagata Prefecture about two and a half hours later when you suddenly see the mountain range suddenly appearing through the train window. It is pleasant to just sit there looking at the thickly-green mountains and trees, but the stations along the railroad tracks are also sights not to be missed. The post-houses at each train station from Yonezawa Station, which is the first stop in Yamagata Prefecture, up to Kaminoyama-Onsen Station are filled with the imagination of the local people. The pointy-roofed Takahata Station, for example, was named after the hometown of the children’s book author Hirosuke Hamada, who was known as the Hans Christian Andersen of Japan. There are natural hot springs on the premises so travelers can stop over and take a break on their journeys.
Yamagata has four distinct seasons and is richly endowed with nature, but the best time of the year to visit is from June to early July. It is because that is when cherry picking season comes in Yamagata.
Yamagata is the land of cherries, producing 70 percent of all the cherries in Japan. There are sightseeing orchards all throughout the prefecture where freshly-picked cherries can be enjoyed. Cherry picking in greenhouses starts in April, but picking them in the refreshing breezes and sunshine make them all the more delicious. The fruit that is picked fresh from the branches has a subtle tartness to its sweet flavor that you can’t get enough of.
If you would like to go cherry picking by Yamagata Shinkansen, Higashine City, where “Sakuranbo Higashine” Station is located, is the place to go. It is one of Yamagata’s leading production areas and home to the famous “Sato Nishiki” brand cherries, which is known as the king of cherries. There are over twenty sightseeing orchards in the city and their fees are reasonable at just 1,500 yen per hour for adults. Also, do not miss the chance to try treats such as cherry softies and cherry ice cream, which can only be enjoyed during this season!
Relax and spend the night at Ginzan Onsen after a fulfilling day of cherry picking. Many of the famous hot springs resorts in Japan are located in Yamagata and Ginzan Onsen is one the most popular ones among them. Take one look at the townscape and you will know why. The rows of three-layer and four-layer wooden western-style inns make you feel as if you somehow went to a hot springs resort in Japan a hundred years ago. A short trip back in time for an atmosphere of unique interiors where western styles are fused with Japanese tradition, Kote-e (drawings made with plaster, trowels, and other tools for covering walls) signboards, and gas lamps that light the streets in soft orange is an experience not to be missed.
Address:Ginsan Onsen, Ginzan Shinbata, Obanazawa-shi, Yamagata-ken
Access:By “Ginzan Hanagasa-go” bus from Oishida Station on the JR Ou Main Line departing from Yamagata Station
Visiting the sets where Oshin took place and reliving memorable scenes.
It is said that Oshin is the most well-known person abroad from Yamagata. Yes, she is the heroine in the television drama “Oshin”, which has been repeatedly broadcasted in 68 countries and regions including of course Asian countries, and moved many people to tears. A film adaptation was also released in 2013.
Visiting the shooting locations of Oshin is an activity that can only be enjoyed during a trip through Yamagata. There are over ten shooting locations in the prefecture, but the most recommended ones are two certain places in Sakata City. They are the Former Abumiya Residence, which was the model for the Kagaya, where Oshin served when she was a little girl, and the Sankyo Soko Storehouse, where the scene when Oshin was reunited with her mother Fuji took place. The area around the Sankyo Soko Storehouse is perfect for strolls with its line of Japanese zelkova trees and nine white-walled earthen storehouse-style structures standing next to each other. A storehouse that was built in 1893 still serves as a storehouse today.
Shonai Eigamura Open Set is a studio where sets that have been used in movies and television dramas are kept, and is open to the public. On the spacious grounds are various areas such as farming villages and post stations, and visitors can see sets depicting the home where Oshin was born, along with mountain cabins. At the sister facility, the Shonai Eigamura Museum, visitors can see up close the interior of a mountain cabin set and props that have been used in movies such as lucky charm pouches and harmonicas.
Former Abumiya Residence
Address:Nakamachi 1-14-20, Sakata-shi, Yamagata-ken
Open Hours:9:00 to 16:30
Regular Holidays:Mondays from December to February (the following day when it falls on a national holiday), New Year holiday season, *Open every day from March to November
Access:6 mins. by car from JR Sakata Station
Sankyo Soko Storehouse
Address:Sankyo-machi 1-1-20, Sakata-shi, Yamagata-ken
TEL:0234-24-2233 (Sakata Tourists and Products Association)
Access:About 5 mins. by car from JR Tsuruoka Station
Studio Sedic Shonai Open Set
April 26 to September / 9:00 to 17:00
October to November 24 (scheduled) / 9:00 to 16:00
*Last admission is until one hour before closing time for all events
It is basically open throughout the entire period, but some areas will be restricted during
shootings of movies and TV dramas.
Shonai Eigamura Museum
Address:Matsugaoka 29, Matsugaoka, Haguro-machi, Tsuruoka-shi, Yamagata-ken: Silkworm Raising Room No. 5
TEL:0235-62-2134 (For inquiries)
Open Hours:9:00 to 17:00
Regular Holidays:Open every day when the museum is open to the public. *Closed during the winter season / Mid-December to late March
Access:About 20 mins. by car from JR Tsuruoka Station
Discovering unexpected seasons and scenery in Yamagata, and topping it off with a local dish.
Whether it is in the snow-covered winter, springtime when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, or in autumn when the rice plants and trees turn yellow and red, the scenery in the northern district of Yamagata has a whole new face depending on the time of year you visit. There are even regions that change on a weekly basis depending on the season or climate. That is what it is like in the mountainous area of Zao in southern Yamagata. Just after the lingering snow and cherry blossoms could be seen together at the end of May, the same spot is covered with green when June comes.
Zao is famous for its soft rime in the winter, and the “Okama” crater lake, which changes its appearance with the climate, is another one of its symbols. Depending on how the sun shines down on this lake, which was formed by a volcanic eruption, it changes into five different colors – from a bright emerald green to a bluish green, and green tinged with yellow. The appearance that the mountains of Zao and the Okama crater lake will show you is all a matter of luck. But one thing is certain – you will not be disappointed at what you find!
You may want to finish off your journey in Yamagata with bowl of cold ramen noodles. This may come as a surprise to some people, but cold ramen noodles have a certain deliciousness that you can’t find in hot ramen noodles. The main feature is the plentiful chicken broth flavored with soy sauce. It is a local Yamagata dish that stimulates the appetite with its cold refreshing soup.
Yamagata has the highest population of ramen lovers in Japan, and data shows that the people of Yamagata eat over twice as much as the average Japanese citizen. Having ramen noodles at a soba shop when going out to eat with family, and having ramen noodles delivered when having friends over is the Yamagawa way. Be sure to try these much-loved ramen noodles for a memorable meal on your trip to Yamagata.
The first Shinkansen resort train makes its debut! Fun events will also be held!
From June 14 to September 13, 2014, Yamagata Prefecture and JR East will present in collaboration the Yamagata Destination Campaign, which introduces the appeals of Yamagata. In addition to being able to pick cherries filled with sweetness and experiencing various other events held throughout the prefecture such as Japan’s grandest cherry festival during the festivities, visitors can enjoy ceremonies such as the unveiling of Buddhist statues that are rarely shown to the public. Furthermore, the resort Shinkansen “Toreiyu”, which is enjoyable just for the ride alone, will start to run in July. Two regular flights from Haneda Airport to Yamagata Airport have been added and flights from Nagoya Airport have started. If you plan to take a trip to Yamagata, this summer is your chance! You will be sure to have great experiences and create many wonderful memories.