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Regions of Japan

Hokkaido Tohoku Hokuriku
Shinetsu
Kanto Tokai Kansai Chugoku Shikoku Kyushu Okinawa Islands SAPPORO TOKYO NAGOYA OSAKA FUKUOKA FURANO KUSHIRO AOMORI SENDAI FUKUSHIMA NIKKO HAKONE SADO TAKAYAMA KANAZAWA ISE KYOTO NARA HIROSHIMA NAGASAKI KAGOSHIMA NAHA
Hokkaido
Hokkaido
  • Hokkaido
Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush Japan's great white north offers wild, white winters and bountiful summers—a haven for dedicated foodies, nature lovers and outdoor adventure fans seeking an adrenaline rush
Tohoku
Tohoku
  • Aomori
  • Akita
  • Iwate
  • Yamagata
  • Miyagi
  • Fukushima
Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan Fearsome festivals, fresh powder snow and vast fruit orchards—the rugged territory of Tohoku offers a new perspective on travel in Japan
Hokuriku Shinetsu
Hokuriku Shinetsu
  • Niigata
  • Toyama
  • Ishikawa
  • Fukui
  • Nagano
An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare An easily accessible slice of rural Japan offering unrivaled mountainscapes and coastlines, endless outdoor adventure and amazing ocean fare
Kanto
Kanto
  • Tokyo
  • Kanagawa
  • Chiba
  • Saitama
  • Ibaraki
  • Tochigi
  • Gunma
Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife Jump from the neon glow of Tokyo to Gunma's mountain retreats, Kamakura's cultural heritage and the Ogasawara Islands' exotic wildlife
Tokai
Tokai
  • Yamanashi
  • Shizuoka
  • Gifu
  • Aichi
  • Mie
Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan Hallmark attractions such as Mt. Fuji and Takayama coexist with major cities and famous heritage in the center of Japan
Kansai
Kansai
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Shiga
  • Hyogo
  • Nara
  • Wakayama
The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara The Kansai region is one of contrasts, from the glittering lights of Osaka and Kobe to the cultural treasures of Kyoto and Nara
Chugoku
Chugoku
  • Tottori
  • Shimane
  • Okayama
  • Hiroshima
  • Yamaguchi
Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower Welcome to Japan's less-explored western frontier, where the weather is warmer and the pace of life is slower
Shikoku
Shikoku
  • Tokushima
  • Kagawa
  • Ehime
  • Kochi
Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving Island-hopping, cycling, soul-warming spiritual strolling and red-hot dancing—the island of Shikoku gets you up and moving
Kyushu
Kyushu
  • Fukuoka
  • Saga
  • Nagasaki
  • Oita
  • Kumamoto
  • Miyazaki
  • Kagoshima
The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky The southern island of Kyushu is home to hot springs, rugged geography, undeveloped beaches and volcanoes ranging from sleepy to smoky
Okinawa
Okinawa
  • Okinawa
Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings Fly to Okinawa and discover a distinct island culture born of subtropical sun, white sand, coral, mangrove jungles and the age of the Ryukyu Kings

Snow monsters, a village of foxes and an active volcano

Zao is a nature lovers' paradise, sandwiched between Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures in Tohoku, the northeastern region of Japan's main island, Honshu. Attractions include “snow monsters,” a village of foxes, hiking and skiing in the mountains, or just relaxing amid the natural beauty.

Don't Miss

  • Get close to dozens of foxes at Zao Fox Village
  • The "snow monsters" of the mountains
  • The "lake of five colors" caldera of the volcano

How to Get There

The Zao area can be accessed easily by JR train from either Yamagata City or Sendai.

Public transportation is best from the Yamagata side, where buses or a train and shuttle will take you to your destination. From Sendai, take the Senzan Line 75 minutes to reach Yamagata Station. Zao's Fox Village is a 20-minute taxi ride from JR Shiroshi or JR Shiroshi-Zao train stations.

Zao in the winter

Zao is famous for its large ski resort, which opens from late December to the end of April. The 17 slopes, dozens of lifts, two ropeways, and a gondola are enough to entertain even multi-day winter sports enthusiasts.

A ski school and snowshoe trekking options are perfect if you're not confident on the slopes. For the ultimate après-ski relaxation, unwind in an open-air bath to enjoy the snow while soaking in the heated therapeutic water.

Zao's snow monsters

Each winter a unique natural phenomenon gives birth to juhyo, the famed “snow monsters” of the Zao Mountains. Airborne water droplets freeze to the mountain trees, then snow and more freezing build up these alien forms.

Ski right through the snow monsters on the upper slopes, or take an evening tour of the illuminated snow monsters on the Nightcruiser, a modified snowmobile.

Things heat up in the spring

In late April, the snow melts enough to reopen the Echo Line to head up to the higher peaks of the Zao Mountains. Until late May, the road is flanked by the amazing site of ten-meter-high walls of snow.

Outside of winter, hiking becomes the primary activity. Ask anyone in Tohoku and they will recommend Zao Okama for exhilarating hikes and beautiful mountain scenery.

Peer into an active volcano

Zao Okama is the caldera of an active volcano. The name comes from its breathtaking lake shaped like an “okama,” or cooking pot. Accessible by bus from the Yamagata side of Zao, the crater lake is 27 meters deep with a 1,000-meter circumference. You can't walk down to the water's edge, but you can view the lake from a distance.

The lake is also known as “lake of five colors.” The water changes color according to the intensity of daylight, ranging from deep emerald to bright turquoise.

Run with the foxes

Zao Fox Village located on the Miyagi side of Zao is open all year. One hundred animals and six types of foxes call this mountain retreat home. You'll find foxes freely roaming around, lounging, and pestering you to give them fox snacks sold at the gift shop.

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