Encased by the Sea of Japan to the west and mountains to the east, Yamagata offers visitors a chance to experience many aspects of Japan in one place. Along the coast sit the fascinating port cities of Tsuruoka and Sakata, while deep inland is Zao Onsen, an area also home to some of the least-known ski slopes in Japan. Scenic valleys and lush farmlands are scattered throughout the area, offering some of the best cherries and rice available, among many other products.
Yamagata Prefecture is accessible via train from Tokyo. Alternatively, you can fly to Sendai Airport and take local trains into the area.
The JR Yamagata Shinkansen serves Yamagata and connects Shinjo in the north of the prefecture with Tokyo (two and a half hours). To fly from Tokyo or further afield, the nearest major airport is in neighboring Sendai Prefecture. The JR Senzan Line connects Sendai City and Yamagata City (90 minutes).
Large swings in temperature between night and day in Yamagata give these watermelons a higher sugar content and great...
Imoni is a beef and vegetable stew common in Yamagata Prefecture. Imoni combines thin slices of beef, taro root, konn...
Akebi, the fruit of the chocolate vine, is only in season for two weeks at the beginning of fall. Known as the Prince...
Cherries were introduced to Yamagata in 1876, and the prefecture now produces 70 percent of all Japans cherries. Yama...
One of the three main brands of Japanese beef, the rich flavor and marbling of Yonezawa beef is the result of a long-...
Zao Takayu Dolls
Although kokeshi dolls are found all over Japan, their design varies significantly. The first dolls were made in Zao,...
Uetsu Tilia-Bark Textiles
Uetsu shinafu is one of Japan’s three oldest textiles. Plainly textured, durable and water-resistant, this fabric mad...
Tendo Japanese Chess Pieces
A player’s rank determines moves in shogi, the Japanese version of chess. With similar shapes, kanji lettering make t...
The cold lingers and spring doesn't get into full swing until early-mid April when the cherry blossoms make an appearance. If you're planning to view the blooms lit up in the evening, dress warm.
Summer is the best time to taste the area’s prized cherries and join the locals in the numerous festivals held across the prefecture. August is peak festival season.
Festivals continue into fall with harvest-related events like the Imoni potato festival. Leaves turn early from late September attracting hikers to eastern Yamagata's picture-perfect mountain gorges.
Ski, snowshoe, visit the "snow monsters" of Yamagata at their peak in early February, or retreat from the cold at a traditional hot spring resort. Although cold, Yamagata remains lively in winter.