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Getting there & away

The JR Senzan line connects Yamagata with Yamadera and Sendai (kaisoku ¥1110, one hour 21 minutes). The JR Ōu Main line runs south to Yonezawa (futsū, ¥820, 45 minutes) and north to Ōma-gari for connections to Tazawa-ko and Akita (kaisoku ¥2520, three hours 18 minutes).

The JR Yamagata and Tōhoku shinkansen lines connect Yamagata with Yonezawa (¥2060, 36 minutes), Fukushima (¥3110, 1¼ hours) and Tokyo (¥11, 030, two hours 51 minutes).

Travellers to Tsuruoka are advised to take the bus via the Yudono-san Hotel (¥2150, 1¾ hours). Buses start from the Yamakō bus terminal (stop 4) on Ekimae-dōri; most buses stop at Yamagata station before leaving town. There are frequent buses from Yamagata to Zaō Onsen (¥800, 40 minutes). Do not confuse Zaō Onsen with nearby Zaō, as the latter has no connection to the fabled baths.

Frequent highway buses run to Sendai (¥800, one hour) and two buses run daily to Niigata (¥3500, 3¾ hours). A night bus to Tokyo (Asakusa, Ueno) departs at 11.40pm (¥6420, six hours). Reserve in advance for a cheaper Tokyo-bound bus with Orion Tours (; 022-224-8541; www.orion-tour.co.jp; ¥4500), which goes to Shinjuku and other locations.