YAMAGATA SHONAI diversity & premium tour

Savor the fascinating culture,cuisine and scenery of the Shonai region.


  • Dewa old trails and Japanese mountain asceticism

    Dewa old trails and Japanese mountain asceticism

    <Dewa Sanzan Shrine>
    Local worship on the Dewa Sanzan mountains Mt. Gassan, Mt. Haguro, and Mt. Yudono takes place at Gassan Shrine, Ideha Shrine, and Yudono Shrine, respectively. However, the deities of all three mountains are also enshrined at the main shrine Sanjin Gosaiden, or “hall of the three,” on Mt. Haguro. It is said that 1,400 years ago, Prince Hachiko, son of the 32nd emperor, Sushun, was guided by a divine three-legged crow to found the shrine there. Legend has it that a person can be reborn by making a pilgrimage to Dewa Sanzan. The practices of the mountain ascetic monks are those of “death and rebirth”; they allow practitioners to become one with nature and feel its energy flow through the body, and to rediscover one’s self by experiencing the union of man and nature anew. “Shojin-ryori” ascetic cuisine is born of a union between man and mountain: carefully prepared with traditional techniques and ingredients from Dewa Sanzan’s rich natural bounty, it is purifying fare that expresses gratitude to nature. Visitors can partake of shojin-ryori at the Mt. Haguro Saikan temple lodge, as well as in the pilgrim’s lodgings in the town beyond the massive torii gate at the foot of the mountain. Pilgrims stay at both locations, but doors are also open to tourists looking for accommodations or to enjoy a shojin-ryori meal. Dewa Sanzan is home to 4 of the Michelin Green Guide: Japan’s star-rated locations, including the cedar-lined path of 2,446 stone steps up Mt. Haguro, and the oldest pagoda in Tohoku: the 5-story Pagoda of Mt. Haguro, a National Treasure of Japan. It is also popular as a spiritual “power spot.”

    [Dewasanzan shrine] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 40 min. | Dewasanzan shrine


  • Sakata Maiko (apprentice geisha)

    Sakata Maiko (apprentice geisha)

    <Maiko Teahouse Soma-ro>
    This restored traditional restaurant building from the Edo period has been designated an Important Tangible Cultural Property of Japan. At Soma-ro, guests can enjoy dance performances by Sakata maiko and a special “maiko boxed lunch.” There are four varieties of these lunches: multi-course, broiled eel over rice, sushi bowl, and Kinka (a.k.a. Jinhua) pork cutlet. Matcha green tea and Japanese confections are also offered.
    In addition to its amazing hina doll exhibit, historic arts and crafts, portraits, and photographs are also on display at Soma-ro, featured in the Michelin Green Guide: Japan!

    [Maiko tea house Soma-ro] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Maiko tea house Soma-ro


  • Japanese Traditional architecture and garden

    Japanese Traditional architecture and garden

    ①②<Honma Museum of Art>
    To promote local culture, the Honma merchant family, Japan’s greatest landholders, transformed their villa into Japan’s first post-war privately established art gallery. The attached Kakubu-en Garden, designated a National Place of Beauty, is elegantly laid out around a path circling the central pond, framing the backdrop of Mt. Chokai in the distance. Seienkaku, the main building, was made as lodgings for Lord Sakai, the daimyo of the area, to use during his rounds of the territory. It has since served as a guest house for many other dignitaries, including Emperor Meiji. Visitors can enjoy matcha green tea and Japanese confections there as well. These three locations have all earned stars in the Michelin Green Guide: Japan.
    ③④<Chido Museum>
    Located in what was once Tsuruoka castle’s outer courtyard, the former residence of Tsuruoka’s feudal lords, the Sakai clan, is now open to the public as the Chido Museum. Visitors can enjoy matcha green tea and Japanese confections while gazing upon the Sakai’s old-fashioned Japanese garden, designed in the rare shoin style. The former Nishitagawa District Office that served as lodgings for Emperor Meiji on his imperial tour to Tohoku, the old Tsuruoka Police Station (an Important Treasure of Yamagata Prefecture, built in a pseudo-European style common at the beginning of the Meiji era), the historic multi-layered farmhouse of the Shibuya family (relocated from the Tamugimata area of Asahi Village at the foot of Dewa Sanzan’s Mt. Yudono), and other valuable historic structures here are designated Important National Treasures of Japan. The two-story Folkcraft House, built at the end of the Edo Period, holds folk artifacts that tell the story of everyday life in the Shonai region, including a total of 5,350 designated Important Tangible Cultural Folk Properties of Japan spanning 8 categories. Altogether, 6 star-rated entries in Michelin’s Green Guide: Japan can be found here!

    1. Honma Museum of Art
    2. Chido Museum
    [Homma museum of art] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 30 min. | Homma museum of art / [Chido museum] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Chido museum


  • Experience of Japanese history

    Experience of Japanese history

    <Studio Sedic Shonai’s Open Set>
    At the base of Mt. Gassan is a vast movie set where various productions are filmed. It features a fishing village, Edo-period post town, collier’s hut, watermill, and other reconstructed features of traditional mountain settlements. Visitors can experience stage sword-fighting, archery, taiko drumming, and more!

    [Studio Sedic Shonai’s Open Set] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 60 min. | Studio Sedic Shonai’s Open Set



  • Seasonal flowers

    Seasonal flowers

    ①<Churen-ji Temple>
    This beautiful temple is framed by the gorgeous shimekake cherry blossoms on its 200-year-old trees in spring. The founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kobo Daishi, was said to have meditated under these trees; the shimekake blossoms have a mystical charm, blooming white and then gradually turning pink before they fall. The window of opportunity to see these unique shimekake blossoms is from early- to mid-May. Churen-ji features beautiful coffered ceilings, which appear to mysteriously change as one looks from different angles, and an impressive wooden bell hanging on the front of the main hall. It also has enshrined the mummified remains of the monk Tetsumonkai-shonin. All 4 of the above have received stars in the Michelin Green Guide: Japan!
    ②<Gyokusen-ji Temple>
    With the flora painting its environs distinct colors each season, Gyokusen-ji is sometimes called “The Flower Temple.” It is famous for the colorful variety of decorative plants that bloom there, including primrose, rhododendrons, and maple trees. Visitors can also enjoy matcha green tea and Japanese confections at the temple.
    ③<Domon Ken Museum of Photography>
    Ken Domon was one of the photographers that best represented post-war Japan: a master in the field who established the concept of realism in photography. Domon, who was once called the “demon photojournalist,” is now known by name worldwide. This commemorative museum, Japan’s first museum of photography, is home to his entire body of work: over 70,000 photographs. With the beautiful scenery of Mt. Chokai and the hydrangeas lining Lake Ken nearby, the visual harmony between the building and nature gives the museum itself an artistic feel. Michelin Green Guide: Japan awards it two stars.

    1. Churen-ji Temple
    2. Gyokusen-ji Temple
    3. Domon Ken Museum of Photography
    [Churen-ji temple] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 50 min. | Churen-ji temple / [Gyokusen-ji Temple] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 30 min. | Gyokusen-ji Temple / [Domon Ken Museum of Photography] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Domon Ken Museum of Photography


  • Mountain Trekking

    Mountain Trekking

    <Mt. Chokai>
    With a peak elevation of 2,236 meters and its foot dipping into the sea, this beautiful free-standing mountain is sometimes called “the Fuji of Dewa.” It has long been revered as the guardian of the surrounding area’s inhabitants. Presently, it is a nationally designated Historic Site and Quasi-National Park, and is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains. At Mt. Chokai’s base near Sakata City is Tamasudare Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Tohoku. It is said to have been named by Kobo Daishi, founder of Shingon Buddhism, and is popular as a “power spot” because of the negative ions generated by the rushing water. At the base near the town of Yuza lies Maruike-sama Pond, filled entirely by water from natural springs. Its whimsical emerald-green color shifts subtly with the light.
    ※Please prepare sufficient equipment when you climb the mountain.

    [Odaira-tozanguchi trailhead] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 60 min. | Odaira-tozanguchi trailhead


  • Experience of Nature

    Experience of Nature

    <Mogami River Boat Ride>
    Let the river carry you away to experience the spectacular Mogami Gorge on this scenic boat ride! Its course passes by Shiraito Falls, one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. Hearing the ferrymen’s unique commentary and well-polished renditions of sailing songs is also a highlight. In winter, kotatsu boats equipped with heated table seating keep passengers warm, so the cruise can be enjoyed year-round.
    Mogami River Port, where passengers disembark, is a duty-free shop.

    [Mogami ricer boat ride] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 50 min. | Mogami river boat ride


  • Jellyfish


    <Kamo Aquarium>
    Most notable about this aquarium is its 5-meter tank, the largest circular tank in the world, and the countless jellyfish swimming in it. The variety of jellyfish here is the greatest in the world, and is documented in the Guinness World Records.
    Kamo Aquarium is a popular Shonai tourist spot, beloved by visitors from both inside and outside the prefecture! The aquarium is replete with other attractions as well, including trained sea lion shows and seagull-feeding. The view at sunset from the neighboring lighthouse is also highly recommended.

    [Kamo Aquarium] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Kamo Aquarium



  • Iwagaki (Japanese Rock Oyster)

    Iwagaki (Japanese Rock Oyster)

    <Iwagaki (Japanese Rock Oyster)>
    These are also called “summer oysters,” as they reach their peak flavor at the height of summer. The most delicious way to eat these rock oysters is raw; they’re delicious with lemon juice or just plain. The instant you place one in your mouth, the taste of the ocean floods your senses: a mellow sweetness, then savory. It almost feels like eating the sea itself. Iwagaki can be enjoyed at the Sakata Fish Market, Shonai Tourist Souvenir Center, and Roadside Station Chokai Furatto. They are in season during July and August.
    <Roadside Station Chokai Furatto>
    Winner of the first annual Tohoku Roadside Station Award, this station offers a variety of amenities including fast food, souvenirs, a ramen restaurant, and a bakery. The grilled fish sold by the fishmonger is especially popular, with patrons waiting up to an hour on weekends and holidays to get their hands on some. Iwagaki, Japanese rock oysters, are available in summer.

    [Roadside Station Chokai Furatto] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 40 min. | Roadside Station Chokai Furatto


  • Saké


    Shonai is one of Japan’s leading rice-producing regions, and where delicious rice is found, so is fine saké. The top-prize category in the Annual Japan Sake Awards includes a lineup of Shonai brews each year, and the region is also home to some of Japan’s most popular drinking spots. The 18 breweries that are the pride of Shonai turn high-quality rice and pristine water from the region’s rich natural environment into fragrant and delectable saké. Partake at onsen and the Sankyo Rice Storehouses’ Sakata Yume-no-Kura Souvenir Shop, and enjoy the unique flavors of Shonai saké brews, each with a rich personality.
    <Sankyo Rice Storehouses (Sakata Yume-no-Kura Souvenir Shop)>
    An impressive row of 150-year-old zelkova trees lines the path around these rice storehouses, active for over 120 years. Inside the Yume-no-Kura building, one will find a full array of local Sakata goods, a café and restaurant, and exhibits about Sakata’s history. The Sankyo Rice Storehouses are also a great one-stop-shop for visitors to enjoy Japanese saké; it’s no surprise that this destination appears in the Michelin Green Guide: Japan!

    [Sankyo Rice Storehouses(Sakata Yume-no-Kura Souvenir Shop)] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Sankyo Rice Storehouses(Sakata Yume-no-Kura Souvenir Shop)


  • Dadacha-mame Soybeans

    Dadacha-mame Soybeans

    <Dadacha-mame Soybeans>
    An indispensable part of summer in Shonai, dadacha-mame are said to be the most high-quality and delicious edamame in the world. Both sweet and savory, with a characteristically pleasant fragrance, just boiling these will fill the room with a sweet aroma. Once you take a bite, you won’t be able to stop! Heaping plates of dadacha-mame have been known to disappear in an instant. When dadacha-mame samples were passed out at Expo Milano 2015, a world exhibition in Italy, they were an instant hit, with patrons exclaiming: “I definitely want these; I’ve never tasted anything like them!” and “I think this flavor could really catch on in Italy!” Partake of dadacha-mame at onsen in Tsuruoka City, or Shonai restaurants. They are in season from July to the beginning of September.
    <Shonai Tourist Souvenir Center>
    Every year, this souvenir center tops the list of Japan’s best gift shops as ranked by experts. A huge array of souvenirs, exclusive items, and marine products can be found here. Open 365 days a year, the center also offers a dining area with fast food, seafood, and Japanese cuisine. In the summer, customers can enjoy iwagaki, Japanese rock oysters.

    [Shonai Tourist Souvenir Center] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Shonai Tourist Souvenir Center


  • Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork Cutlets)

    Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork Cutlets)

    <Tonkatsu (Breaded Pork Cutlets)>
    Because of the taste and quality of Shonai’s pork, it is counted among the three most delicious varieties produced in regions north of Kanto. The other two it stands with, Hiraboku-sangenton and Kinka (a.k.a. Jinhua) pork, are arguably luxury brands.
    Hiraboku-sangenton and Kinka pork are delicious as barbeque, shabu-shabu, or as part of any dish, but tastiest as tonkatsu. The snowy pork fat has a light yet savory flavor, and the meat is both melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy. Tonkatsu is available in Tsuruoka City and Sakata City, and at Maiko Teahouse Soma-ro.

    *Tonkatsu is available at Hirata farm (restaurant) in Shonai airport terminal.


  • Sakata Ramen

    Sakata Ramen

    <Sakata Ramen>
    Sakata Ramen is a famously fierce competitor in the world of high-class ramen nationwide. Come lunchtime, one will see numerous long lines of patrons waiting to eat. The broth is comprised of a light soy sauce base with dried sardines, kombu (kelp), and other seafood. Sakata Ramen restaurants are so particular about their noodles that more than 8 in 10 of them make their own noodles fresh in-house!

    [Mangetsu(Ramen restaurant)] Shonai Airport | By car approx. 20 min. | Mangetsu(Ramen restaurant)


Yamagata Spot Map


Flight Schedules


Tokyo(Haneda) → Shonai

Airline Flight No. Departure Arrival
ANA NH0393 06:50 07:50
ANA NH0395 10:55 11:55
ANA NH0397 15:55 16:55
ANA NH0399 20:10 21:10

Shonai → Tokyo(Haneda)

Airline Flight No. Departure Arrival
ANA NH0394 07:10 08:15
ANA NH0396 08:50 09:55
ANA NH0398 12:50 13:55
ANA NH0400 17:50 18:55

*The timetable is updated as of Jan 2016. For details please go to ANA official website.

Shonai Visitors Association


19-1, Sodehigashi Yokoyama Mikawa-machi
Yamagata Prefecture Japan


+81 (0)235-68-2511

Store Hours

Mon - Fri: 8:30 am - 5:15 pm
(Closed: Sat, Sun, and Holiday)


Shonai visitors association HP


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