Ken Domon was one of the photographers that best represented postwar Japan: a master in the field who established the concept of realism in photography. This commemorative museum, Japan’s first museum of photography, is home to his entire body of work: over 70,000 photographs.
Explore these great things to see and do in Yamagata Prefecture, from savoring its local delicacies such as iwagaki rock oysters and Yamagata beef, to spending a night in a Buddhist temple lodging at the sacred Dewa Sanzan.
Located in what was once the outer courtyard of Tsuruoka (Sakai) Castle, the Chido Museum is a collection of historical buildings from the late Edo, Meiji, and later periods that have been relocated here and now illustrate the history and culture of the area.
With a peak elevation of 2,236 meters and its foot dipping into the sea, Mount Chokai is a beautiful free-standing mountain sometimes called the “Fuji of Dewa.” It has long been revered as the guardian of the surrounding area’s inhabitants.
This art museum was opened by the Homma merchant family in 1947, making it Japan’s first private art gallery to be established in the postwar period. The museum’s main building, called Seienkaku, is the family’s former villa, built in the traditional shoin-zukuri architectural style over 200 years ago.
At the base of Mt. Chokai is Tamasudare Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the Tohoku region. It is said to have been named by Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism, and is popular as a “power spot” because of the negative ions generated by the rushing water.
Let the river carry you away to experience the spectacular Mogami Gorge on this scenic boat ride! Along the way you will get to stop at 120m Shiraito Falls, considered one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan.
These images were carved from andesite volcanic rock deposited in the Sea of Japan by an eruption of Mt. Chokai. In 1864, wishing for the proliferation of Buddhism and the people’s salvation through enlightenment, Priest Kankai, the 21st head of Kaizen-ji Temple of Fukura in Yuza, called for the creation of these holy images.
With a history that dates back to the 17th century, this teahouse in Sakata offers classical Japanese entertainment by maiko (apprentice geisha) in a luxurious setting with gorgeous artwork and Kyoto-influenced architecture.
Held on the third Saturday of August each year, the Akagawa Fireworks Festival is considered by many to be one of the top fireworks events in Japan. It takes place along the banks and riverbed of Tsuruoka’s Aka River, for which the event is named.
The museum presents information about Shonai rice, including the history of rice cultivation, and shows farm tools and other everyday items used long ago. Protected from the sun and seasonal winds by a row of majestic zelkova trees, the storehouses have become a symbol of the city of Sakata.
The five-tiered pagoda of Dewa Sanzan is thought to be the oldest tower in the Tohoku region, with the current structure having likely been built approximately 600 years ago, and the pagoda’s history going back even further than that.
Popularly known as Yamadera (“mountain temple”), this ancient temple was founded in 860 CE by Ennin, a monk of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. It is said that earthly desires blocking you from enlightenment begin to fade away with each step you take up the 1,015 stone stairs on the trek from the foot of the mountain to the temple itself.
Known as “summer oysters,” iwagaki are in season from June to August. They are wild, not farmed, and because they take several years to reach the proper size strict harvest limits are observed.
Although modern in origin, the Yamagata Hanagasa (“flower hat”) Festival is now one of four major festivals of the Tohoku region, featuring some 10,000 people dancing along the streets of Yamagata City in a huge parade. Taking place August 5–7, this matsuri (festival) celebrates the traditional music and dance of the region.
The three sacred mountains of Dewa, known as the Dewa Sanzan, are Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono. Representing birth, death, and rebirth, they have been visited by pilgrims for over a thousand years. At the Mt. Haguro Saikan temple lodge visitors can enjoy a meal of shojin ryori, the monks’ ascetic vegetarian cuisine, and can even stay the night (reservations required).
These hot springs have a long history: they are said to have been discovered in the second century CE. In winter, Zao Onsen Ski Resort is immensely popular with skiiers and snowboarders alike from both inside and outside Japan.
Hiyashi means “chilled,” and unlike the steaming hot bowls of its common cousin, hiyashi ramen consists of chilled noodles in a cold soup. Sometimes you’ll even find ice cubes together with the other ingredients.
Hijiori Onsen is a small, quiet hot spring town nestled at the foot of Mt. Gassen, one of the three sacred mountains of Dewa. It’s said that the hot springs here were discovered by a monk in the year 807 CE, over 1,200 years ago.
This hot spring town in the mountains of Yamagata was named for its large silver mine (ginzan means “silver mountain”) discovered in the early Edo period. Two onsen baths and a footbath are open to day trippers, but consider staying the night for the full Ginzan Onsen experience.
Although less famous than , Yonezawa beef Yonezawa calves are fed barley, wheat bran, corn, as well as coarse feed such as rice straw, and raised to a minimum age of 32 months.