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October 07, 2006

Yamagata and Zao Onsen (山形・蔵王温泉)

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Surprise! I am back after a month of not writing. I have been really lazy about it recently - mostly because I have been looking for an apartment and that has been boring AND tiring. Hopefully, that is finished.

Anyway, I went up to Yamagata and Zao Onsen this week. It was a very quick trip, just over 24 hours, mostly because the weather was awful. I had hoped to do a bit of hiking, but instead it rained like crazy and I ended up coming home early.

I stayed at Hotel Oak Hill in Zao Onsen, which I highly recommend. The staff is super friendly, the food is excellent (well, except for the steak fried in butter, which was not exactly the healthy food I was looking for!), and the baths were first rate.

This is the view from my room and also the room itself. Very nice.
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Like most places outside of Tokyo, people are very helpful if you stand around and look confused. Fortunately, I am really good at that. But, Zao Onsen was very, very quiet. It was kind of spooky. There were people at the bus terminal and at my hotel, but that was about it.

The hotel was very busy thanks to a busload of people going to see the leaves changing colours. Apparently, this is a very good time to go see that in the surrounding mountains, so I was looking forward to it. Here is what it looked like in town.

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Unfortunately, that is all I got to see because it started pouring rain over night and in the morning conditions were awful. Too wet to hike and too windy to take the cable car. The hotel staff recommended I check out Yama-dera (山寺) instead, which is closer to Yamagata. I considered it, but after 40 minutes on the bus back to Yamagata I opted to hop on the train back home instead.

I killed some time waiting for my train by walking over to the remains of Yamagata Castle. Kind of cool, but 45 minutes in a cold drizzle without an umbrella means I am sick as a dog today. Here are the pictures my suffering produced:

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I am glad I finally got to Zao, although I wish I could have spent some time on the mountain itself. The hotel was brilliant, which made up for it, but four hours each way makes it unlikely I will be going again soon (2h45m - Yamagata Shinkansen; 45m - bus to Zao).

Posted by Kirk on October 7, 2006 12:15 PM