2-Day Beauty Trip in Yamagata: Nature, Delicious Food, Fine Wine, and Hot Springs to Beautify Skin
We introduce a two-day itinerary in Yamagata that includes hot spring visits in Ginzan Onsen and Zao Onsen, exquisite cuisine such as Yonezawa beef and unique local treats, as well as shrines with a rich history that are considered power spots.
In the nature-filled surroundings of mountainous Yamagata, you can enjoy gourmet delights, such as Japanese sake, crafted from abundant nature, and famous delicacies like Yonezawa beef.
Another highlight is immersing yourself in the renowned hot spring resorts of Zao Onsen and Ginzan Onsen, representing the “Hot Springs Kingdom of Yamagata”. Embark on a journey of self-improvement to refresh your mind and body!
9:00 Pray for a Safe Journey at the Spiritual Spot, Uesugi Shrine
Let's start your journey at Uesugi Shrine, where the famous Sengoku Period warlord Uesugi Kenshin is enshrined.
It is considered a spiritual spot with various blessings, including good luck and happiness. You will feel excitement while crossing Maizuru Bridge, where a pair of battle flags flutter on the road approaching the shrine.
Just a short walk from the shrine is the cafe Nagomi-tei, offering Japanese-flavored gelato like soy sauce and miso. Be sure to stop by and give it a try!
10:30 Visit the Historic Building of Toko Sake Brewery
After praying for a safe journey, visit Toko Sake Brewery—the largest sake brewing museum in the Tohoku region.
Kojima Sohonten, known as “Toko”, was a sake brewery allowed to operate during the prohibition of alcohol in the Edo Period and during times of famine. You can experience a nostalgic atmosphere in the sake brewing museum. It'll feel like you've slipped back in time.
Of course, tasting and shopping are available! As a souvenir, we recommend buying “Amasake with rice malt”, made from 100% koji rice combined with vegetables or fruit smoothies.
Toko Sake Brewery
11:30 Enjoy the Finest Cuisine in Yamagata: Yonezawa Beef
When you come to Yonezawa, you must try Yonezawa Beef! Have lunch at Tokiwa, a Yonezawa beef specialty restaurant established in 1894. You will be amazed by the exquisite marbling and delicate, sweet-tasting fat characteristic of Yonezawa Beef.
In Yonezawa, many affordable Yonezawa Beef restaurants offer more than sukiyaki and steak! Experience happiness in your mouth that unfolds with every bite.
Yonezawa Beef Tokiwa - Yonezawa Norenkai Association
13:30 Entrust your Thoughts to Cute Rabbits of Kumano Taisha Shrine
The next destination is Kumano Taisha Shrine, famous as a spiritual spot for matchmaking.
While ascending the stone steps towered over by the majestic 900-year-old ginkgo tree, you will come across a dignified main hall and shrine. The carving of “Three Rabbits” on the back of the main hall is well-known among shrine-goers. According to legend, if you find all three rabbits, your wishes will come true, and happiness will follow.
The pink “Yuwai (Binding) Rabbit” contains a fortune slip inside. Take it home and display it in your room. The white rabbits are called “Votive Wish Rabbits”, allowing shrine-goers to write and dedicate their wishes. Each one is handmade, and the sight of the rabbits lined up with different expressions is adorable. The view will surely bring a smile to your face.
We also recommend visiting Shikin-en Sudo Wine Factory, where you can enjoy grape picking and wine-making in autumn.
Kumano Taisha Shrine
Shikin-en Sudo Wine Factory
15:00 Get Beautiful Skin in the Open-Air Hot Springs of Zao Onsen!
After exploring various places and feeling a bit tired, it's time to refresh in the hot springs! Zao Onsen's large open-air bath (Dai Rotenburo) allows you to enjoy the renowned beautifying waters of Zao Onsen. Soak in the hot spring while being embraced by nature, with the soothing waters flowing directly from the source.
Zao Onsen is known for its highly acidic sulfur springs, which are said to increase body moisture and rejuvenate the skin and blood vessels. It also has an antiseptic effect that strengthens and promotes glowing beautiful skin.
Zao Onsen Dai Rotenburo (Large Open-Air Bath) *Closed during the winter season
16:00 Bring Home Hot Spring Souvenirs and Cool Down with Instagram-worthy Drinks
After warming your body in the hot springs, take a stroll along the nostalgic Takayu Street. At the first-ever hot spring themed souvenir shop in Japan, “Zao Onsen Yutabiya Takayudo”, you will find over 300 stylish items to enhance your enjoyment of hot springs and the surrounding town.
One recommended item is the hands-on souvenir experience called “Kokeshi Art”. You can draw and create a one-of-a-kind original kokeshi doll.
Another recommendation is to enjoy a photogenic soda from TAKAYU Onsen Parlor during your explorations. The carbonated beverage will feel refreshing to your freshly bathed body.
18:00 Soothe Fatigue from Your Journey while Experiencing Yamagata's Nature
After a fulfilling first day, end your excursion with JURIN, a resort themed around “Living with Trees and Bonfires”. The hotel offers an attractive, expansive view that changes seasonally, allowing you to indulge in luxurious moments while gazing at the beautifully colored scenery outside your window.
For dinner, you can choose from a selection of grilled brand beef and Yamagata's local delicacies at the semi-buffet, which is cooked over a bonfire. This delightful option assists in healing your travel fatigue and prepares you for the next day.
11:00 Buy Special Items Selected from a Unique Perspective
On the second day, start by visiting the popular spot GEA by Sato Seni, a knitwear manufacturer.
The renovated space was initially 100-year-old stone storehouses used as factories, making it very stylish! They have a collection of items, including Yamagata crafts, curated by their consumers’ unique desires.
After shopping, take a little break with a soda float topped with gelato at GEA Restaurant 0053, which is in the same establishment.
13:00 Indulge in the Flavors of a Long-Established Restaurant that Uses Local Ingredients for Lunch
For lunch on the second day, visit Kiyoi, a long-established specialty shop for wheat gluten established in the Edo Period and operated by Bunshiro Fu.
Surprisingly, the menu solely consists of the “Rokufu Kaiseki Gottsu” course. The chewy and unforgettable texture of the 100% domestically produced wheat gluten (*) is a delightful experience.
With dishes showcasing gluten from appetizers to desserts, this course menu embracing the versatility of gluten and local ingredients will make you appreciate the deliciousness of this grain.
*Steamed foods made from gluten extracted from wheat flour.
Rokutafu Kaiseki Restaurant Kiyoi
14:45 Surround Yourself with a Sweet Fragrance and Embrace Elegance
After lunch, head to Higashizawa Rose Garden, which boasts one of Japan's largest gardens and the only rose garden to be certified among the “Top 100 Fragrant Landscapes” by the Ministry of the Environment.
Within the vast grounds, over 20,000 roses from approximately 750 varieties worldwide are in full bloom. The garden is adorned with romantic spots, including the Rosebell, which is said to bring happiness when rung by two people.
How about taking commemorative photos against the backdrop of colorful roses? The Rose Festival is also held during the peak blooming seasons in spring and autumn.
Higashizawa Rose Garden
17:00 Stroll Through a Nostalgic Hot Spring Town
Conclude your journey with the romantic aesthetic of the Taisho Era at Ginzan Onsen. In this hot spring town, wooden ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) line both sides of the Ginzan River. Gas lamps are lit as dusk falls, creating a nostalgic ambiance that exudes a sense of old Japan. It's even reminiscent of the setting in the animated film “Spirited Away”.
Explore this atmospheric hot spring town at your own pace and immerse yourself in escapism. The town has a cafe and dining place called Izu no Hana, where you can find iconic Yamagata specialties such as soba noodles and photogenic sweet treats like soba parfait. It's also highly recommended as a resting spot during your stroll.
Ginzan Onsen is filled with nostalgic charm, providing a perfect way to end your journey.
The stores and locations featured in this article have been chosen by MATCHA’s writers. Their inclusion is not intended as a promotion of any specific stores or establishments within Tokyo and Yamagata Prefecture.
Sponsored by Yamagata Prefecture / Tokyo Metropolitan Government
MATCHA's promotional account for corporate and local government advertising. We aim to provide useful information to our readers in an enjoyable manner.