This winter sports paradise is a real "winter wonderland," with clusters of spectacular ice-covered trees.
Zao, located on the Yamagata-Miyagi prefectural border, is a mountain park centered in the Zao Mountain Range. You can enjoy the beauty of nature there, when you visit locations such as the mysterious Okama crater lake, also known as Goshiki-numa (five-color marsh). It is known for its varying water colors which can change several times a day. Also well known is the Zao Shizen-shokubutsu-en (botanical garden), a treasure house of alpine plants. Aboard the ropeway car, you can take a bird's eye view of the whole Yamagata Basin, or enjoy the night view and the starry sky from a lodge or inn.
If you prefer outdoor sports, enjoy camping and trekking among the verdant greens of spring or the scarlet leaves of autumn, take a horse-riding lesson at the International Horse Riding Club at the foot of the mountain, or go paragliding at Bo-daira. In winter, Zao turns into a mecca for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. Descending the slopes through clusters of ice-covered coniferous trees is truly exhilarating!
If you prefer heat to cold, the Zao-onsen Hot Spring at the mouth of Zao National Park is highly recommended. It has long been known as one of the best hot springs to enjoy open-air baths and public hot baths, one of which is a large open-air bath that can accommodate 200 people at a time! As for dining, you can taste dishes unique to this region such as Mongolian barbecue (Jingisukan).
[Rail] 2h 30 min (quickest) to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line, and 55 min by bus from Yamagata Station to Zao-onsen.
[Rail] 5h from Shin-Osaka via Tokyo (JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line) to Yamagata Station by JR Yamagata Shinkansen Line.