Yamagata City

Photo : Yamagata city from JR Yamagata Starion The Seasons of Yamagata Most important among Yamagata Prefecture’s tourism assets is the region’s remarkable natural environment, which blends in with traditional religious culture, folk culture, and cuisine culture to create a unique appeal. Yamagata Prefecture is surrounded by 2000 meter peaks, such as the Iide, Azuma, Asahi and Zao Ranges, along with Mt. Gassan and Mt. Chokai; all of these mountainous areas are designated as either national or quasi-national parks, while the foothill areas have an abundance of natural hot springs. The Mogami River, known as the “mother river” of Yamagata, winds its way throughout the prefecture, lending to create distinct scenery in every locale. Yamagata, with forty-four cities, towns and villages, is the only prefecture in Japan to have at least one hot spring in each and every municipality. Leading hot spring resorts include Kaminoyama, Tendo, Higashine, Akayu, Yunohama and Atsumi, where the visitor will find modern, large accommodations, while the more rustic resorts such as Zao, Shirabu, Onogawa, Ginzan, Hijiori, Akakura, Semi and Yutagawa are set against mountainous or canyon backdrops. All in all, any one of Yamagata’s hot spring resorts will provide the visitor with warm hospitality and the ultimate in relaxation. スクリーンショット 2014-07-23 17.29.59 Photos (from left): Bunshokan  /  Zao hot spring resorts Spring in Yamagata Nature comes awake with the arrival of spring in Yamagata. With high alpine snow pack visible in the distance, ume, cherry, and rape blossoms, followed by in succession by sweet cherry, peach, and apple fruit blossoms dot the countryside. Amidst this colorful backdrop, festivals take place throughout the prefecture, such as the Uesugi Festival in Yonezawa City and the Human Chess event in Tendo City. In addition, the season begins at the spring-summer ski mecca of Mt. Gassan, popular with skiers until the end of July. Spring is also a season to delight the eyes with the bright green foliage of beech and other deciduous trees, and the palate with fresh wild vegetables. Spring in Yamagata is indeed a season of flowers. When June comes along, cherry fruit orchards are filled with tourists and family groups who go to pick and eat their own cherries; in fact, Yamagata produces over eighty percent of Japanese cherries. スクリーンショット 2014-07-23 17.30.03 Photos (from left): Cherry fruit / Soccer teem Montedio Yamagata / Mogami river Summer in Yamagata When summer arrives the green of mountain forests becomes deeper, while the high peaks invite climbers and hikers with brilliant displays of alpine flora. The Sea of Japan is also a popular destination, bringing over one million seasonal visitors to the many swimming beaches. Summer also means festival season. The prefecture’s top festival is of course the Hanagasa (flower hat) Festival which takes place in the capital of Yamagata City over the three days of August fifth to the seventh; one of the four great festivals of Japan’s northeastern Tohoku Region, the Hanagasa Festival has over ten thousand participants, who completely fill the main street of downtown Yamagata as they dance to traditional music. Following the Hanagasa, the Shinjo Festival takes place on the three day span of August twenty-fourth through the twenty-sixth; this festival is the largest parade with floats in the Tohoku Region, and is characterized by the feverish atmosphere of participants and spectators alike who are not quite ready yet to say good-bye to summer. スクリーンショット 2014-07-23 17.31.27 Photos (from left): Mt. Gassan /  Hanagasa festival / Japan sea Autumn in Yamagata In autumn the mountains of Yamagata are dyed into intricate brocades of vibrant color, while visitors flock to tourist spots throughout the prefecture to gaze at the stunning autumn foliage. Starting from near the end of summer, fruits such as grapes, pears and apples, wild nameko and matsutake mushrooms and other delicacies abound. The coastal Shonai region offers the gourmet a wide variety of seafood cuisine, including salmon and sandfish. What’s more, Yamagata is also the “rice-basket” of Japan – visitors to Yamagata in autumn have the chance to taste freshly harvested rice. Photos (from left): Tobishima iland / Imoni nabe festival Winter in Yamagata With the arrival of winter, Yamagata is buffeted by strong seasonal winds from the continent, and snow often falls. However, it is also these meteorological conditions which give birth to the world-famous juhyo (ice coated fir trees) at Mt. Zao, and create the beautiful pure-white scenery of snow-covered mountains and valleys which can only be seen this time of year. In December the major ski resorts of Yamagata open, with Zao Ski Resort, famous for its many slopes, varied terrain and hot springs, being the host to over one million seasonal visitors. In addition, the boat ride down the Mogami River through a snow covered gorge, and the lip-smacking taste of delicious cod stew are only to be found in winter. Photos (from left): Ice monsters at Zao ski resort / Soba noodles Text: Chen