Japan // Northern Honshu //

Yamagata and around

Few tourists make it to YAMAGATA (山形), a large, workaday city ringed by high mountains, and those that do are usually just passing through. Apart from a couple of engaging museums, Yamagata’s prime attraction is as a base for visiting nearby Yamadera’s atmospheric temples, and Zaō Onsen, which provides excellent opportunities for summer hiking and winter skiing, and is known for its beguiling “snow monsters” – fir trees engulfed in wind-sculpted ice and snow. In early August (5–7), the city turns out for its major festival, the Hanagasa Matsuri, during which yukata-clad women wearing flowery hats perform a slow, graceful dance, making this otherwise unexciting city a worthwhile stop.

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