Cherry blossom season is here again, and I’m gearing up for my annual pilgrimage to Yuza, a small town on the Sea of Japan at the base of Mount Chokai. The pink flowers, the gentle curve of the river, the hanging koi fish decorations blowing in the wind, the blue sky – all of it makes for an idyllic scene.
The Okama crater of the Zao volcano is accessible by bus, by car, and on foot. Okama wows from any angle, but approaching it on foot is a rare opportunity to experience the radical transformations caused by a volcanic eruption.
Sunsets alone along the Sea of Japan, or Nihonkai as it’s called in Japanese, make getting there well worth the effort, and the cycling and camping it offers make it more than well worth it.
To enjoy winter properly, one must get into the snow. Literally. Here in Japan’s northeast, it’s been snowing since December, which means there is now enough accumulation (reaching over 5 meters) to start building things with snow.
Winter is upon us, and the distinct phenomenon of the juhyou or “snow monsters” of Mount Zao in Yamagata prefecture are not to be missed as one of Japan’s top winter wonders.
If you’re coming to Yamagata for the International Documentary Film Festival, to go skiing in winter, or cherry picking in early summer, most highlights of the city itself are within a 15-30 minute walking distance of Yamagata Station.
Tohoku’s mountains are ablaze with autumn color earlier than the Kansai or Kanto regions, giving hikers and “leaf peepers” a perfect jump on the season.
Depending on where you begin, a cedar-lined 1.7 km path (2,446 steps to be precise) leads either to the main shrine (三神合祭殿) at the summit, or to Gojunoto, a five-story pagoda that is registered as a national treasure.
Officially called Risshakuji (temple of standing stones), the training ground for monks of the Tendai sect was founded here over eleven centuries ago.
And there’s no better place to enjoy sakura than in Japan’s northeast, where you can take in the blooms with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Ginzan Onsen is a hot spring village named after “Nobesawa Silver Mine” that prospered at the beginning of the Edo era.