Situated in the southwest area of the already remote Tohoku region, Yamagata is bordered by the sea of Japan to one side and mountains on the other.
While the prefecture is most popular as a winter destination, Yamagata offers an abundance of hot springs, mountaintop temples, natural parks and a giant game of human chess vying for tourists’ attention during the rest of the year.
A trip to Yamagata will allow anyone to truly immerse themselves in the beauty of the Japanese countryside, indulge in the freshly picked cherries and soak in some of the best outdoor hot springs in the country.
Yamagata City is the prefectural capital and makes a nice home base for exploring the prefecture. It’s big on festivals, both typical and novelty, including the summer Hanagasa matsuri or "flower-hat festival" where groups of dancers perform in flower-adorned straw hats, and the Taro and Beef Stew Party festival held in fall.
Kajo Park 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. Inside the park, you’ll also be able to visit the Yamagata Prefectural Museum where you can learn more about the prefecture’s long history.If you’re still up for a little exploring, right next door is Tendo city, famous for producing 95% of the country’s chess pieces. The Ningen Shogi, a giant human chess tournament, is really fun to see if you’re around in spring.
End your trip with a nightcap at one of the many izakayas that are a mere 10 minutes walk from Yamagata Station.
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