15 Best Things to do in Yamagata | Bucket List Ideas | Attractions | Activities

The list of awesome things to do in Yamagata knows no limits, with the prefecture offering many holiday ideas that are as just as massive as the region itself. Natural landmarks like the Mogami river, Yura coast, and the revered trio mountains of Dewa Sanzan, with each representing the past, present, and future, usually spearhead the wishes of many who journey here, continually turning heads with impressive nature, intriguing legends, and rich histories.

For lovers of Japanese martial arts, there are also plenty of things to do in Yamagata. Home to samurai establishments honed in the image of Hayashizaki Shigenobu, the pioneer of Iaido, you’re guaranteed a peek in to well-preserved samurai swordsmanship. Pottery enthusiasts, meanwhile, will have their hands full with classes while winter sports lovers will have great fun across famous ski resorts such as Zao that ensure your winter is anything but cold!

More wonderful things to do in Yamagata also entail a night out dining under the stars, diving with pelagic fish off Yura coast, and hot spring baths across famous onsens. Please fasten your seat belts as we take you on a rollercoaster of the Yamagata’s best offerings!

1. Meander across fairytales in a Mogami River boat tour

Herald by many as the mother river of the Yamagata prefecture, Mogami river breathes beautiful life and color into the plant life wherever it flows. It makes for the perfect cruises!

最上川舟下り 戸沢藩船番所 (Boat Trips Down the Mogami River)
Enjoy the Colorful Seasonal Nature Scenery of Mogami River on a Boat Tour!
Tozawa, Yamagata

2. Master the ways of the soil with ceramic pottery

Pottery may be a forgotten art to some, but Yamagata’s Tendo city and Shirataka town treasure this heritage that has been passed down centuries. Join classes for the ultimate courses in molding and more!

山寺焼  ながせ陶房
Enjoy Ceramics Pottery Experience on Your Way to the Famous Sightseeing Spot in Yamadera!
Yamadera, Yamagata
深山焼 深山工房つち団子
Beginner-Friendly Pottery Experience Using an Electric Wheel!
Shirataka, Yamagata

3. Explore your martial arts fantasies in Murayama

Murayama city is treasured as the cradle of Iaido and authentic samurai and martial arts experiences in general. Be part of private training sessions and amazing sword displays in a Hayashizaki shrine!

村山市観光物産協会
Practice the Japanese Martial Arts Iaido in a Real Samurai Experience at Hayasizaki Iai Shrine
Murayama, Yamagata
村山市観光物産協会
Authentic Samurai Experiences Including Iaido Performance Demonstration and Sword Practice in Murayama City, Yamagata!
Murayama, Yamagata

4. Diving with pelagic fish in Yura

Yura coast is famous for the Sea of Japan and the magical sunsets over it. Divers can also enjoy spending time with anchovies, sea breams, colorful trout, and salmons in an expansive underwater world!

一般社団法人 東北海洋スポーツ普及協会
Learn the Skills to Obtain an Open Water Diving Certification (Minimum 2 Days Course)
Tsuruoka, Yamagata

5. Paragliding Yamagata: Endless beauty from the sky

A paragliding experience in Nanyo shows you the world of green plains and wonderful architecture shadowed by clouds that are almost at your fingertips. Shirataka’s beautiful landscapes are also on the menu!

ソアリングシステム パラグライダースクール
Enjoy the Superb Views of Nanyo Sky Park on a Tandem Paragliding Flight Experience!
Nanyo, Yamagata
トントンとんびパラグライダースクール
Tandem Paragliding Flight Experience from an Altitude of 500m with an Experienced Instructor!
Shirataka, Yamagata

6. Zao onsen ski resort: Family fun awaits

A hot spring resort village that’s always great to visit no matter what time of year, Zao onsen ski resort offers fun gondolas, snow-laden skiing, and racecourses with ice monsters!

DONTEN SNOW
Have fun on a Snowboarding adventure at Zao Onsen ski resort! Recommended for families, couples, and solo travelers
Zao Onsen, Yamagata City, Yamagata
一般社団法人上山市観光物産協会
Night Tour: Dive into snowy roads, ride Zao Ropeway and enjoy the snowy forest night views of Zao onsen ski resort - Departure from Kaminoyama Onsen
Zao Onsen, Yamagata City, Yamagata
一般社団法人上山市観光物産協会
Afternoon Tour: Dive into snowy roads, ride Zao Ropeway and enjoy the snowy forest views of Zao onsen ski resort - Departure from Kaminoyama Onsen
Zao Onsen, Yamagata City, Yamagata

7. Winter fun at Dondendaira Snow Park

A snow park with something for the whole family! Dondendaira is a hidden gem for snow park enthusiasts, with banana boat rides, snowmobile tours, and gigantic slides for all ages!

どんでん平スノーパーク
★ 2023 Winter ★ `{`Opening day 1/14`}` (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only) Dondendaira Snow Park|2 hours unlimited winter fun
Iide Town, Nishiokitama District, Yamagata
どんでん平スノーパーク
★ 2023 Winter ★ `{`Opening day 1/14`}` (Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays only) Dondendaira Snow Park|6 hours unlimited winter fun
Iide Town, Nishiokitama District, Yamagata

8. Hijiori onsen: Baths like no other

Hot spring bathing is more than just about taking baths; it’s a relaxing practice with deeper meaning spanning into culture and spirituality. Your stay in a hidden mountain village at Hijiori onsen will open your eyes to many pleasures!

株式会社インアウトバウンド仙台・松島
Stay Overnight at a Traditional Hot-Spring Inn in a Hidden Mountain Village and Indulge in a Traditional Course Meal of Authentic 'Shojin Ryori' (Shinto Vegetarian Cuisine)
Okura, Yamagata

9. A Tendo trip for your taste buds

Hitting the headlines for its special beef and seafood, Yamagata’s Tendo is another exquisite location for a tasty tour. You’ll be wowed by special sukiyaki and wagyu tempura, not forgetting two very popular brands of native sake!

株式会社インアウトバウンド仙台・松島
Indulge in a Tasting Set of Wagyu (Yamagata Beef) and Pair with Two Varieties of Delicious Local Sake!
Tendo, Yamagata

10. Enjoy priceless mornings at Yamadera temple

Watch as the sun greets the landscapes with gentle rays that glitter across the wet leaves at sunrise from a wooden promenade that provides a beautiful screen in nature’s living room. Yamadera temple promises magical mornings!

株式会社インアウトバウンド仙台・松島
Enjoy the Fresh Morning Air and Beautiful Views of Yamadera & Climb 1000 Steps to Serenity at Hojuzan Risshaku Temple!
Yamadera, Yamagata

11. Jellyfish and holy mountains in Tsuruoka

Tsuruoka city is the place to be for an unforgettable heritage anatomy of Japan. Visit the three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan before stopping over at the Kamo aquarium for viewings of 50 different types of Jellyfish and more!

12. Learn noodle-making tips for your recipe book

Speaking of noodles, you can also delve behind the curtains and into the kitchen as you unlock the secret to the best foods with bucket wheat noodle-making experiences in Okura village!

ふるさと味来館
Soba Noodle Cooking Class in the Countrysides of Yamagata!
Okura, Yamagata

13. Discover the secret to great wasabi in Okura

Natured by spring water and extremely nutritious soil, wasabi from Okura village offers waves of freshness and rich taste. Aside from indulging a treat, you can also be part of the harvesting and processing!

大蔵わさび
Wasabi Farm Tour and Wasabi Harvest Experience in the Clear Air and Beautiful Scenery of Okura Village
Okura, Yamagata

14. Feed the spirit with a visit of Mount Haguro

One of the three sacred mountains of Dewa, Mount Haguro towers above its siblings on account of visits and popularity. It might symbolize today’s troubles, but the fresh air and spiritual nature around ooze only tranquility and beauty!

15. Get cozy with comfort at the Ginzan onsen

As the cold season gradually sweeps its way across Japan, Ginzan Onsen grows more appealing by the day. It is famous for hot spring baths and picture-perfect hiking trails in extraordinary scenery!

Frequently asked questions

QAre there any good things to do in Yamagata?

AThere are so many things to do in Yamagata that you’d need several months to experience them all. The most popular entail;

• Tempura and Sukiyaki tours

• Iaido classes and martial arts

• Zao resort skiing and onsen holidays

• Yonezawa beef outings

• Yamadera farm tour involving vegetable harvesting

QWhat is Yamagata famous for?

AYamagata is home to the three holy mountains of Dewa Sanzan, namely Mount Yudono, Gassan, and Haguro. The prefecture is also famous for its cherry blossoms in springs and the more than a millennium old Yamadera temple that is shrouded in gorgeous vegetation in autumn.

QWhat can you do in the outdoors of Yamagata?

AWith winter on the horizon, perfect weather, great seas, and beautiful landscapes all around, there are many incredible outdoor things to do in Yamagata. These include:

• Zao resort skiing

• Dondendaira Snow Park

• Mogami river cruises

• Wasabi farm tours

QDoes Yamagata have any good winter activities for visitors?

AWinter is the perfect time to hang out at Zao ski resort as you’ll get to experience skiing across monster-looking, snow-covered trees. Ginzan, Zao, and Hijiori onsens also offer nice warm baths and hikes that are desirable in winter and throughout the year as well.

QAre there any good kid-friendly activities in Yamagata?

AIf you’re traveling with family, Yamagata has no shortage of kid-appropriate activities. You all can enjoy:

• Kamo aquarium visits

• Zao ropeway rides

• Pottery classes

• Mogami river tours in a beautiful gorge

• Skiing Zao ski resort, which is famous for its ice monsters or juhyo

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