Top things to do

Top Choice Buddhist Temple in Yamadera


The 'Temple of Standing Stones', more commonly known as Yamadera, rests atop a rock-hewn staircase weathered over the centuries by unrelenting elements. At the foot of the mountain, guarded by a small lantern, is th…
Top Choice Mountain in Dewa Sanzan


The 2446 stone steps through ancient cedars to Haguro-san's summit (419m) have been smoothed by centuries of pilgrims. The climb, taking up to two hours, passes Gojū-no-tō (五重塔), a beautiful wooden five-storey pagod…
Top Choice Mountain in Dewa Sanzan


Accessible from July to September, Gas-san (1984m) is the highest of Dewa Sanzan's sacred mountains. From Hachigōme (八合目; eighth station), the route passes through an alpine plateau to Kyūgōme (九合目; ninth station) i…
Top Choice Mountain in Dewa Sanzan


Accessible from May to October, Yudono-san (1504m) is the spiritual culmination of the Dewa Sanzan trek. Coming from Gas-san, it's a short walk from the stream bed at the end of the descent to Yudono-san-jinja.
Shinto Shrine in Dewa Sanzan


At the peak of Gas-san is the deeply spiritual Shintō shrine of Gassan-jinja. Before entering, you must be 'purifed': bow to receive the priest's benediction, then brush yourself head-to-toe with the slip of paper, …
Barbecue in Zaō Onsen


The best Mongolian barbecue or jingisukan restaurant in Zaō (there are many) is a sharp operation where diners do the grunt work on plates of raw lamb and veggies. It's good smoky fun, well supported by a drinks men…
Cocktail Bar in Sakata


In business for decades, Kerun is run by an octogenarian Japanese man who whisks up frothy whisky sours from a well-stocked bar that's surrounded by lots of mirrors and booth seating. You can also get lovely filter …
Cultural in Dewa Sanzan


On New Year's Eve, yamabushi perform similar rituals to those of the mountain priests at the Hassaku Matsuri, competing with each other after completing 100-day-long austerities.
Cultural in Dewa Sanzan

Hassaku Matsuri

Yamabushi (mountain priests) perform ancient fire rites throughout the night to pray for a bountiful harvest.
Seafood in Sakata

Sakata Kaisen Ichiba

You can eat at a variety of places at this indoor seafood market or grab some mouth-watering sushi and picnic goodies.