Amid the majestic mountains in Yamagata Prefecture lies a charming hot spring town called Ginzan Onsen. A step towards this enchanting place takes you back to old-world Japan, reminiscent of the popular Hayao Miyazaki film “Spirited Away.” During wintertime at night, the whole town is blanketed with snow, and pathways are lit by glowing lanterns as if you’re in a dreamy movie scene.
Know more about this enchanting hot spring town and discover more things to do in Ginzan Onsen!
Traveling To Ginzan Onsen From Tokyo
There are several ways to access Ginzan Onsen from Tokyo. If you plan to go here by train, getting a JR Pass would be convenient.
Traverse the Tohoku Expressway and take route 47 to Naruko then route 347 towards Ginzan. As tourists, it’s suggested that you rent a car to explore Ginzan Onsen and its surrounding areas. A drive from Tokyo to Yamagata takes approximately five to six hours, depending on the season and traffic conditions.
By Shinkansen and Bus
Take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo. Get off at Oishida Station. Travel time is approximately three hours and 15 minutes. From Oishida Station, you can ride a bus going to Ginzan Onsen for about 35 minutes.
Note: train rides going to Yamagata are fully covered by the All Japan JR Pass, JR East Tohoku Pass, and the JR East South Hokkaido Pass.
Things To Do In Ginzan Onsen and Around
Snap Pictures Of The Beautiful Scenery At Shirogane Park
It’s tranquil and scenic in Shirogane Park, where you can experience a relaxing adventure in any season. It’s famous for the 22-meter waterfall surrounded by lush landscapes that create a breathtaking backdrop. Aside from sightseeing, tourists love to hike and camp out here during summer, while winter is for snow-shoeing.
Address: Obanazawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan
Operating Hours: 24 hours daily
Check Out Various Ryokan
What makes up Ginzan Onsen’s timeless charm are the beautifully designed ryokans that capture a historic ambiance. These traditional Japanese inns were built by renowned Japanese architects, who helped refurbish the ryokans by using modern elements without losing the ryokan’s traditional elements. Here are some of the popular ryokans in Yamagata:
Ginzan Fujiya Inn
One of the most popular ryokans in Ginzan Onsen is the Ginzan Fujiya Inn. This 100-year-old building has been renovated and refined by renowned architect Kengo Kuma.
Address: 443 Ginzanshinpata, Obanazawa, Yamagata 999-4333, Japan
Check in: 3 to 6 p.m. Check out: 10 a.m.
This three-story inn takes you on a nostalgic trip that’ll remind you of Japan’s bygone era. It was established in 1892 and is recognized as a Tangible Cultural Property.
Address: 446 Ginzan Shinbata, Obanazawa City, Yamagata Prefecture
Check in: 2 p.m. Check out: 10:30 a.m.
This hotel overlooking the Ginzan River lies at the center of the onsen town. It was established in the Tenpo Period exhibiting Taisho Romance era. They have two indoor baths namely “Chika Bath of Warmth” and “Kintaro Bath of Coziness.”
Address: 417 Ginzanshinhata, Obanazawa, Yamagata 999-4333, Japan
Check in: 3 p.m. Check out: 10 a.m.
Relax Your Feet In The Footbaths Along The Ginzan River
At the entrance of the Ginzan Onsen, you can enjoy a relaxing footbath at Warashi-yu Foot Bath free of charge. It uses the same hot spring water that the ryokans in Ginzan Onsen have. After a tiring day walking around the onsen town, relax your tired feet in this communal footbath with a view.
Dress Up In Classical Costumes Or Don A Yukata
The old-world atmosphere in Ginzan Onsen makes it the perfect time to dress up and wear a yukata for nice photos with your loved ones. Rent traditional clothing or wear your favorite Spirited Away costume and stroll along the pedestrianized streets of Ginzan Onsen at night for the perfect scenic view of the Ginzan Onsen ryokan.
Relax In An Outdoor Rotenburo Bath
Have you ever experienced an outdoor bath? If not, Ginzan Onsen is the perfect place to do so. Soak in the thermal waters of Ginzan hot spring as you enjoy a relaxing outdoor rotenburo bath with a beautiful view in sight.
Enjoy A Private Kashikiri Bath
Unlike rotenburo baths, Kashikiri is for private use. It’s perfect for people with tattoos who are usually not allowed in public baths because this one’s rented for private use only.
Cruise Down Mogami River
This river that runs through Yamagata Prefecture offers panoramic sights all year round. Hop on a boat cruise and listen to the locals sing and talk about the history of the river, have a taste of delicious bento lunches, and take in the scenic views.
Take A Day Trip To Zao Onsen Ski Resort
Aside from a relaxing hot spring experience, you can also go on a winter skiing adventure in Yamagata. Head to Zao Onsen Ski Resort where a cable car ride takes you to the sloped mountains to enjoy skiing and snowboarding.
Address: Zao Onsen, Yamagata, 990-2301, Japan
Operating Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Experiencing The Seasons In Ginzan Onsen
Ginzan Onsen is an all-year-round destination, so you can visit anytime you’d like– you’re just going to see different views each time you visit. Here’s what to expect if you come during these times.
You’ll see snow-covered Ginzan Onsen when you visit during winter. It’s the best time to visit as a dip in the hot spring baths will definitely give you a relaxing feeling. Don’t forget to wear winter clothes and thermal innerwear as it can get really cold in the mountains!
It’s more romantic to visit Ginzan Onsen during spring, as flowers in bloom line the streets leading to the onsen. It’s the second best time to visit Ginzan Onsen because it’s the time when the town is most picturesque.
You can do so many outdoor activities during summer at Ginzan Onsen. You can trek and visit the Shirogane Falls closer than ever, plus you can even visit the old silver mine before it became an onsen town 400 years ago. Wear warm clothes as it can get hot in the morning, but bring something to cover up at night when it gets cold.
When people visit Ginzan Onsen during fall, it’s usually to see the breathtaking autumn foliage in the onsen town and Moguro River. The weather is just right, so you can freely roam around without it being too humid or cold.
Preparing For Your Ginzan Onsen Trip
On your trip to Yamagata Prefecture’s Ginzan Onsen, make sure to bring all the things you need to ensure a smooth travel experience, such as:
Pocket WiFi or SIM card
For your connectivity needs, bring a pocket WiFi or purchase a SIM card so you can go online 24/7.
Getting a JR Pass can get you to destinations in Japan easily and conveniently. Some of the travel passes you can use that fully cover Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture are the All Japan Pass, JR East Tohoku Area Pass, and the JR East South Hokkaido Pass.
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