Yamagata City

The capital of Yamagata Prefecture is also home to the prefecture’s largest metropolitan population. Offering a wide range of activities, cuisine, nightlife, lodging accommodations, sightseeing and historic points of interests, Yamagata City makes a nice home base for exploring the prefecture and the Tohoku region. Yamagata has scenic mountain and ocean views with hot springs steeped with history and culture. It is also where visitors can enjoy regional food and drink, including fruit, wagyu beef, ramen, and locally brewed sake. The Murayama region, where the Yamagata city is, also boasts popular spring towns such as Ginzan Onsen and Zao Onsen. Yamagata city is one of Japan’s premier winter destinations and a hub of winter sports centred around Mount Zao.

Group Attractions

  • Attractions
  • Dining
  • Experience
  • Omiyage

Yamadera

Perched on a mountaintop within the city limits, this temple complex features stunning views. Officially known as Risshakuji, this is said to be where the poet Matsuo Bashō composed his most popular haiku (a traditional Japanese poem consisting of three lines that do not rhyme) when he visited here sometime around the 17th century. The temple area is vast, covering the whole of Mount Hoju. The climb to the top takes less than half an hour depending on the pacing and is lined with stone lanterns and a handful of shrines. Particularly impressive are the spectacular views from Godaido Hall: an observation deck atop a sheer cliff.

Activities: Trekking, Temple visit Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Kajo Park

In the city centre, a ten-minute walk to the northwest of Yamagata Station lies the grounds of Kajo Park. It is one of the biggest attractions in the city that houses Yamagata Castle ruins and also happens to double as a popular cherry blossom and autumn foliage viewing spot. During those seasons, over 1,500 trees come into bloom. It also holds several events throughout the year. Yamagata Castle was a stronghold of the Edo Period. The castle's entrance (Ninomaru East Gate) and the impressive defensive stone walls were restored to their former glory during the renovation. The moat encircles the complex and allows visitors to imagine how the scenery looked during that time in history. Activities: Park visit Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Yamagata Local Museum Bunshokan

Built in 1916, the Yamagata Local Museum Bunshokan is a structure steeped in history with the eye-catching atmosphere of medieval Europe. Modelled on British architecture from the 16th to 18th centuries, the structure is deemed a National Important Cultural Property as a unique building with western-style architecture during this time. It also served as the filming location for the live-action movie and TV drama of the famous manga series Rurouni Kenshin.

Activities: Museum visit Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Yamagata City Local History Museum

This building, which was once used as a hospital, was relocated to inside Kajo Park and then opened to the public as Yamagata City Local History Museum (Old Saisekan Hospital Building). It has been designated as an important cultural property of Japan. It features a quasi-Western style of architecture constructed by Japanese carpenters to imitate Western architecture. The interior decorations are also worth seeing. If you look closely, you can see Western style and Japanese style elements everywhere.

Activities: Museum visit Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Gotenzeki

Located 15 minutes on foot from Yamagata Station, is Gotenzeki. Fresh, clear water runs through this canal, which was built with stones. Old Japanese-style buildings called "machiya" have been replicated and stand alongside this area. There are many shops here, including the traditional craft stores, cafes, and soba restaurants, so this is ideal for a stroll paired with a meal. One of the most famous shops is the Classic Cafe, which sits inside a renovated warehouse built about 80 years ago. Within the cafe's grand space, diners can sample a menu based on local ingredients, including Yamagata beef. (Image via Matcha JP)

Activities: Stroll around, Shopping Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Sankyo Soko Storehouses

Sakata City's Sankyo Soko Storehouses is a vast storehouse for rice. The Shonai region is famous for its high-quality rice production, and it's here that the rice is stored. The complex consists of 12 mud-walled storehouses. The row of keyaki (Japanese zelkova) bonsai trees were planted to protect the rice from sunlight and wind—adding a touch of elegance to the area. The area is also known as the filming location for the popular Japanese TV drama "Oshin."

Activities: Stroll around, Shopping Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Nearby Areas

One 40-minute bus ride from Yamagata Station and you will be on Mt. Zao — a snow-covered volcanic mountain. Home to some of Japan’s best ski resorts, it is a top destination in the snow season.

Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan, and Mount Yudono are sacred to the Shinto religion of Japan and many make pilgrimages there each year. There are various shrines and temples that you can visit, including the famous Five-story Haguro Pagoda or Gojuto Pagoda, a National Treasure of Japan.

Located just below Yamagata City is one of Yamagata’s most famous onsen towns of Kaminoyama. Its seven public baths are open for guests to drop in for a soak. This is a perfect place for luxurious onsen lodging during a trip in Yamagata.

**All images via Tohoku Kanko

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