Yamagata (山形) is the prefectural capital of Yamagata prefecture.
Yamagata Airport (IATA: GAJ) in Higashine is the nearest airport. It has domestic flights from Osaka (Itami), Tokyo (Haneda), and Nagoya (Komaki Airport). Flights directly to Yamagata can be very expensive. Sendai has flights from more airports and is typically significantly cheaper, so it is recommended to fly into Sendai and then travel by train to Yamagata. From Sendai Airport Station to Yamagata Station it takes a little over 2 hours and costs ¥1680.
The Yamagata Shinkansen zips from Tokyo to Yamagata in 2:45 at a cost of ¥10,690, and continues onward to Shinjo. From Fukushima onward the Shinkansen travels on an ordinary track and thus at ordinary speeds.
Kintetsu Bus operates a night bus to Yamagata from Osaka (Tennoji Station) and Kyoto (Kyoto Station's Hachijoguchi exit) for ¥13,300 (one-way)/¥24,000 (roundtrip) from Osaka or ¥12,800 (one-way)/¥23,100 (roundtrip) from Kyoto.
Most of the town is centered around the JR station in the middle of town. Yamagata has a bus route, taxis, and bicycles for rent. Most of the most popular tourist destinations have bus routes that run to various areas around town.
Yamako Bus timetables can be found here.
- Yamagata Castle (山形城), ☎ +81 23-641-1212. 5AM-10PM. A reconstruction of the original castle built with wood for greater authenticity. The castle was built with a moat, gates, baileys, and palace structures but it never had a donjon. Efforts are ongoing to rebuild each part of the former castle. The site is listed as one of the top 100 castles in Japan.
- Mogami Yoshiaki Historical Museum (最上義光歴史館), 1-53 Omotecho, ☎ +81 23-625-7101. Mogami Yoshiaki was a former daimyo of the Dewa Province. Yamagata City was established under his rule. The museum includes exhibits about the city's history in addition to those about Mogami.
- Yamagata Prefectural Museum (山形県立博物館), 1-8 Kajo-machi. A museum with exhibits of historic artifacts from Yamagata Prefecture. It is home to the famous "Jomon Goddess" (Jomon no Megami), a ceramic statue of a goddess forged in the Jomon Period. For Japanese history buffs, it's worth a visit just to see this object. The prefecture's famous pilgrimage shrines (the Dewa Sanzan) and temple (Yamadera) also have informative exhibits. In addition to the historical exhibits, the museum also has displays on the local culture, rocks and minerals, and flora and fauna.
- Bunshōkan (文翔館). 9AM-4:30PM. A large structure constructed during the Taisho Period after British Renaissance architecture. Free.
- Yamagata Museum of Art (山形美術館 yamagata bijutsukan). 10AM-5PM. The museum's permanent collection contains works by Kichiro Hasegawa, Matsuo Basho, and Claude Monet. ¥500.
- Kyōdokan (山形市郷土館). Built in 1876 as a hospital, it's known for its unique architecture. It was registered as an Important Cultural Property in 1966.
- Seifū-sō (清風荘). A historic building with a nice garden. Viewing the garden is free, but you can have tea within the building for a fee.
- Museum of Yamagata University (山形大学附属博物館). 9AM-5PM.
- Yamadera Goto Museum of Art (山寺後藤美術館 yamadera goto bijutsukan). A European art museum. ¥800.
- Yamadera Bashō Museum (山寺芭蕉記念館), ☎ +81 23-695-2221. The famous poet, Matsuo Basho, stopped here on his journey through the Tohoku Region. The museum gives information about him, his travels, and the poems he wrote here at Yamadera. ¥400.
- Karamatsu Kannondo (唐松観音堂). One of the 33 temples of the Mogami pilgrimage. It juts out of the mountainside overlooking the surrounding area.
- Yamagata Prefectural Arts and Literature Museum (山形県芸文美術館 yamagataken geibun bijutsukan), Nana Beans 6F, ☎ +81 23-615-6860. 10AM-6PM. Displays of local art and calligraphy.
- Yamagata Traditional Kokeshikan (やまがた伝統こけし館 yamagata dentō kokeshikan), Nana Beans 5F. The Kokeshikan has displays of old kokeshi and explanations of the various types of kokeshi. Visitors can also try painting their own kokeshi dolls. ¥300 to paint your own kokeshi..
From the JR station in the middle of town, there are free buses that will take you over to a decent amount of the local non-touristy shopping. JusCo has a bus that runs up until 4pm each day that visits the eastern Yamagata location. Central to the JR station, there is a wealth of local shops, department stores, book stores of all kinds. The main street that runs from the JR station has several side streets as well. Upon a recent visit (2006), there were many shops that catered to all your basic needs, though very few were designed or meant exclusively as tourist destinations. There are very few chain stores in downtown Yamagata, though the skirts of town have a few chain stores like Joy (hardware), Super Denkodo (electronics), JusCo (giant supermarket), and a Toys R Us.
Yamagata is known for its ramen. The specific type said to originate here is hiyashi ramen which is characterized by its cold broth. As such, it's especially popular in the summertime, although you can eat it year-round.
- Ryushanhai. A Yamagata ramen restaurant.
- Gran Rock (カフェレストラングランロック). 11AM-8:30PM. Their signature dish is the Omurice, but they also serve Yamagata beef burgers, pizza, and a variety of pasta dishes.
- Uchoten Ramen EVOLUTION (有頂天らーめんEVOLUTION). A ramen restaurant serving its own original ramen dishes, as well as normal ramen, gyoza, and other foods.
- Takefuku (竹ふく). 11:30AM-3PM. A popular soba restaurant.
- 50s Cocktail Bar Cool (50's cocktail's bar クール). 7PM-3AM Mon-Thurs, 6PM-4AM Fri-Sat, 7PM-1AM Sun. A bar that looks like a 1950s American diner.
- Ride 4 Style, ☎ +81 23-687-0721. 7PM-3AM. A sports bar.
Nearly every hotel in the city is located around Yamagata Station.
- Hotel Limoges (ホテルリモージュ). Rooms from ¥3700.
- Toyoko Inn Yamagataeki Nishiguchi (東横イン山形駅西口), ☎ +81 23-644-1045. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 10AM. Singles from ¥4500.
- Hotel Alpha-1 Yamagata (ホテル・アルファ－ワン山形). Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Singles from ¥3800.
- Hotel Route Inn Yamagataekimae (ホテルルートイン山形駅前). Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 10AM. Singles from ¥6050.
- Yamadera, the Mountain Temple, is nearby and the main tourist draw in these parts.
- The holy mountains of Dewa Sanzan are within striking distance of Yamagata.
- Mt Zao hotsprings and ski resort, famous for the formation of Juhyo (ice and snow encrusted pine trees, sometimes called snow ghosts) is a 45 minute bus ride
- Sendai - Capital of Miyagi Prefecture
|Routes through Yamagata|
|Shinjo ←||N S||→ Kaminoyama-Onsen → Akayu → Takahata → Yonezawa → Fukushima|
|Akita ← Obanazawa ←||N S||→ Kaminoyama-Onsen → Akayu → Takahata → Yonezawa → Fukushima|