Lounging around in a comfy yukata kimono, eating delicious gourmet cuisine, ready to slide into a hot spring at a moment’s notice – there’s nothing quite like the luxury of a hot spring inn, or ‘onsen ryokan’. Yamagata Prefecture is rich in historic hot spring inn communities, some hidden away in remote alpine regions, and others within an hour of Yamagata City.
A favourite hot spring destination for its vintage early twentieth-century townscape is Ginzan Onzen, 40 minutes from Ōishida Station on the JR Ōu Main Line in the north of Yamagata. The magnificent scenery around this town makes it a magical place to stretch out in an outdoor hot spring bath (rotenburo), listening to the murmuring of the nearby river, and watching steam waft into the air. Refreshing and revitalising for skin, the spring waters of Ginzan Onsen are a pretty crystal blue, and flow forth direct from the ground at steaming temperatures in the vicinity of 60 °C; they are comprised of minerals such as sulphur, sodium, chloride, and leave skin smooth and glowing.
After a hot spring bath, join other inn guests in yukata to stroll through the historic heart of town, and soak up the heritage of one of Yamagata’s most memorable hot springs.
The perfect place to enjoy the flavours of Yamagata
When it comes to meals, hot spring inns specialise in fresh and seasonal local ingredients – typically serving breakfast and dinner in a traditional style of cooking known as ‘kaiseki’. Beautifully presented, it showcases small dishes that present a variety of colours, flavours and textures to stimulate the palate. Especially in winter, Yamagata specialises in hearty foods like nabe hotpots, which pair well with sake rice wine from the prefecture’s many small but excellent breweries.