TIME­LESS JA­PAN

Take a trip from Tokyo to Ya­m­a­gata pre­fec­ture for a unique cul­tural es­cape.

DestinAsian - - GOOD TO GO -

Sit­u­ated in the south­west­ern cor­ner of the To­hoku re­gion, Ya­m­a­gata is a hid­den gem wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. Though eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from Tokyo by air or aboard the Ya­m­a­gata Shinkansen— which whisks pas­sen­gers there in un­der three hours—it re­mains lit­tle-known to most over­seas vis­i­tors. Those who come are re­warded with a cul­tural and spir­i­tual jour­ney into a moun­tain­ous heart­land dot­ted with hot springs and his­toric towns, where the Ja­panese tra­di­tion of liv­ing with na­ture comes to the fore. Start­ing from Tokyo’s bustling street mar­kets, the route to Ya­m­a­gata is a pil­grim­age that stirs the soul, al­low­ing for un­for­get­table en­coun­ters with an­cient faiths, Shonai tra­di­tional cul­ture, and rus­tic cui­sine. An hour- long flight from Haneda to Shonai Air­port, the north­ern gate­way to Ya­m­a­gata, al­lows for a bird’s- eye view over the rice fields of the Shonai Plain and the neigh­bor­ing Sea of Ja­pan. Touch­ing down, trav­el­ers are now within easy reach of sev­eral ma­jor sights. Moun­tains have long been revered in Ja­panese cul­ture as dwelling places of the gods. Des­ig­nated a Ja­panese her­itage site in April 2016, the Dewa San­zan are three sa­cred peaks revered by fol­low­ers of the Shugendo branch of Shin­to­ism. Mount Haguro is the only one ac­ces­si­ble through­out the year, thanks to a path of 2,466 stone steps lead­ing to the sum­mit, where the San­jin- Go­sai- den tem­ple ven­er­ates the moun­tain spir­its. Nearby, a sub­lime mon­u­ment stands among the Ja­panese cedar ( sugi) trees on Mount Haguro’s slopes. Said to be the old­est pagoda in the To­hoku re­gion, the Five- sto­ried Pagoda is a des­ig­nated na­tional trea­sure that has with­stood six cen­turies of wind, rain, and heavy snow. The first pagoda on the site was built much ear­lier, by the samu­rai Taira-noMasakado in the 10th cen­tury. You can also soak up sweep­ing ocean views at Yuno­hama

on­sen, a tra­di­tional hot- spring vil­lage that has ex­isted for the past 1,000 years. From the open- air baths, vis­i­tors can take in a glo­ri­ous sun­set over the Sea of Ja­pan, ranked as one of the top 100 in the coun­try. The se­lec­tion of ho­tels and ryokan here al­low for am­ple time to en­gage in wa­ter sports and other ac­tiv­i­ties, leav­ing you with a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of this lit­tle- known re­gion. A se­lec­tion of 360- de­gree vir­tual re­al­ity videos can be found at to­hokuand­tokyo.org/vir­tu­al­tour/ For more in­for­ma­tion, visit to­hokuand­tokyo.org

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