Yamagata Days

From Tokyo I was sent to Yamagata, to find out what great stuff there is to do up there. I was told that Yamagata is in the “top ten prefectures that nobody cares about” so I figured it would be a pretty quiet two weeks.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

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This was the first thing I saw when I jumped off the bus, and even though it was 5am, I felt pretty good about it.

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I was homestaying with this cool family; Kaz, Ayako, and Anna.

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On only half an hours sleep, I climbed a mountain with a super cool crater lake at the top.

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The north of Japan eats a bit of lamb, so I FINALLY got my hands on some and I was a very happy lady.

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Last on the agenda was a pottery school and shop, which had some beautiful pieces that I was very tempted to buy.

Bed was amazing that night.

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Day two saw us heading out to an orchard and eating a ton of delicious fresh fruit. Research, you understand.

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Then there was a castle and foot onsen.

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Then off to an onsen hotel for one of the fanciest lunches I’ve ever had…

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…and an onsen, of course. Life’s hard when you’re a travelling reporter.

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On my last day in Yamagata City, we took a bus tour on these jazzy little buses.

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Yamagata is small, but it’s a really nice little city.

DSCN4679 DSCN4715We ended the day with a walk up Yamadera, a temple built into the side of a mountain.

Next up was Haguro and Tsuruoka, on the other side of the prefecture.

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I stayed with this lovely lady, Yui, and her boyfriend Dan.

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We drove out to see a field of a million sunflowers.

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And checked out a museum and traditional Japanese garden.

But the best bit was eating s’mores and watching a movie that night. Much needed chill out time!

DSCN4982The next day we visited a samurai school…

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A shrine with plenty of turtles…

DSCN5024A Catholic church famous for its black Mary…

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And a candle shop, where I got creative and painted a candle.

Dinner was a Mexican food night with a group of Yamagata JETs. Very weird having some of the same conversations in Yamagata as I did in Kagawa.

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The next day was kind of a Yamagata orientation with the JETs and we did some fun stuff! We took a boat ride down the Mogami River with this cool singing guide.

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Then, after a rushed lunch at a fancy restaurant, we went to a very old Japanese restaurant to see a traditional Maiko (geisha trainee) dance.

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That night we drove to Shinjo for their annual festival of floats, and I stayed with the very awesome Kristin and Jeff.

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I spent a whole day hanging out in Shinjo, seeing the festival and having cocktails in the boot of a car with those crazy kids, and it was great!

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The next day I was in Tendo, a city that’s famous for shoji (Japanese chess), and they really ran with the theme, with shoji pieces all over the place! I got to make soba noodles and paint a giant chess piece with Derek, a Yamagata CIR, so I was pretty happy.

DSCN5948After that I headed to Ginzan Onsen, a small onsen town which is named for the old silver mines nearby. I did a tour of the city with Derek, and the lovely Nao from the tourist office.

DSCN5996I spent the night in a really nice, old ryokan which meant a hot bath, a fluffy futon and this amazing dinner in my room.

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Next was Obanazawa, a city famous for the Hanagasa festival in which people dance with these flower bedecked straw hats. I spent the whole day at the festival taking photos and hanging out with Nao, and slept in another gorgeous ryokan.

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Finally, the last leg of my journey was back to Haguro, where I got to sleep in the most amazing hundred year old Japanese-style farmhouse and climb a mountain.


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Yamagata, you’re in a whole different top ten for me!

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