city in Yamagata Prefecture, Japan

Obanazawa[dead link] (尾花沢) is a city in Yamagata. Obanazawa's main claim to fame is that it has one of the highest snowfalls in the entire world, with over two meters falling in an average winter, and they've even developed a special sharply peaked "flower hat" (hanagasa) to stop snow accumulating on your head.

Understand Edit

Haiku poet Matsuo Basho spent ten days here on his journey along the Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Get in Edit

By air Edit

The nearest airport is Yamagata, which receives flights from Tokyo Haneda, Osaka Itami, Sapporo Chitose and Nagoya Komaki. There are three buses a day to Ōishida Station and Obanazawa City Hall (of which two continue to Ginzan Onsen), taking 50 minutes and ¥1000 (1 hr 20 min and ¥1500 to Ginzan Onsen).

The nearest international airport is Sendai.

By train Edit

Obanazawa is served by Ōishida Station, in the adjacent town of that name, and is served by the Yamagata Line and Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo. Tsubasa trains run eight times a day from Tokyo, with additional trains terminating at Yamagata.

Times and prices are typically as follows:

  • Shinjō (by Shinkansen): 14 minutes and ¥1880
  • Shinjō (by local train): 20 minutes and ¥410
  • Yamagata (by Shinkansen): 35 minutes and ¥2140
  • Yamagata (by local train): 50 minutes and ¥670
  • Tokyo (by Shinkansen): 3 hours 10 minutes and ¥12,670

From Sendai, take the Senzan Line to either Uzen-Chitose (for a local train) or Yamagata (for the Shinkansen); check the timetable to see which is faster. This should take roughly 2 hours and cost ¥1660 (¥3130 if taking the Shinkansen). Taking the Shinkansen via Fukushima may be slightly faster, but will be much more expensive.

On weekends, public holidays and certain holiday periods, the Chiisana-tabi Holiday Pass allows free travel on local and rapid trains in an area stretching to places such as Shinjō, Sendai, Hiraizumi, Kesennuma, Shirakawa, and Aizu-Wakamatsu for ¥2670. If you buy a limited express ticket, you can also use the Yamagata Shinkansen between Shinjō and Fukushima.

By bus Edit

Yamakō Bus[dead link] and Tōhoku Express run the overnight Tokyo Sunrise from Hamamatsuchō, Tokyo Station Yaesu-dōri, Ueno, and Asakusa, taking 7 hours 30 mins and costing between ¥7400 and ¥6600.

Yamakō Bus[dead link] also runs 10 Tokkyū Yonpachi Liner buses a day from Sendai, taking 1 hour 45 minutes and costing ¥1750. These buses can also be used from Shinjō (35 minutes, ¥990).

Get around Edit

See Edit

  • Natagiri mountain pass (Natagiri Toge)
  • Yosen Temple

Do Edit

Ginzan Onsen
Ginzan Onsen in winter
  • Ginzan Onsen hot spring

(Buses run five times a day from Ōishida Station, taking 40 minutes and costing ¥710.)

Ginzan is a very small picture postcard perfect Japanese village along a river with hot spring baths in most small hotels.

The attraction of the town is its physical beauty - a village wedged between hills with a small river gushing through it and a number of quaint bridges strategically placed across the stream every 20 metres or so to connect houses on either side of the river. Famed in Japan because it was used as a set for the internationally popular NHK drama Oshin in the 1980s, Ginzan is a place to visit for a short period in winter when it is spectacularly covered in the metres of snow for which this area of Japan is famed or in summer for hiking in the surrounding hills.

If you visit in winter, you may be lucky enough to attend the New year festivities in mid January - when the small town comes out to celebrate the end of the old year and the incoming new year. Men and boys dress in sumo type apparell and barefeet in the freezing cold around a big bonfire - where last year's decorations are tossed in, and the town and visitors drink sake together.

Ginzan is a charming small town clinging to its history but with younger people resettling there. In winter, there is little to sustain a visit longer than 1-2 nights but it is highly worthwhile to see how the hardy friendly and straight forward rural Japanese live.

Speaking Japanese will assist greatly - though there are groups of Taiwanese who visit and who speak no Japanese.

Buy Edit

Eat Edit

  • Obanazawa beef

Drink Edit

Sleep Edit

  • Shōwakan (Transport from Ōishida Station can be reserved), +81 237-28-2151. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 10:00. Prices start from ¥14,190 (¥8790 without meals).

Connect Edit

Go next Edit

Routes through Obanazawa
AkitaShinjo  N   S  YamagataFukushima

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