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.
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.
I was homestaying with this cool family; Kaz, Ayako, and Anna.
On only half an hours sleep, I climbed a mountain with a super cool crater lake at the top.
The north of Japan eats a bit of lamb, so I FINALLY got my hands on some and I was a very happy lady.
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.
Day two saw us heading out to an orchard and eating a ton of delicious fresh fruit. Research, you understand.
Then there was a castle and foot onsen.
Then off to an onsen hotel for one of the fanciest lunches I’ve ever had…
…and an onsen, of course. Life’s hard when you’re a travelling reporter.
On my last day in Yamagata City, we took a bus tour on these jazzy little buses.
Yamagata is small, but it’s a really nice little city.
Next up was Haguro and Tsuruoka, on the other side of the prefecture.
I stayed with this lovely lady, Yui, and her boyfriend Dan.
We drove out to see a field of a million sunflowers.
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!
A shrine with plenty of turtles…
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.
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.
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.
That night we drove to Shinjo for their annual festival of floats, and I stayed with the very awesome Kristin and Jeff.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Yamagata, you’re in a whole different top ten for me!