Date published: 28 November 2021
Last updated: 1 September 2022
Yamagata Prefecture is located in northern Japan’s Tohoku region, where the autumn colors begin to appear around the end of October every year.
The natural beauty of the area, where the magnificent mountains are dyed red and yellow, is perfect for setting your heart and mind at ease.
This year, why not relax and stay at a ryokan inn where you can appreciate the spectacular autumn leaves from the privacy and comfort of your room or an open-air bath?
1. Miyamaso Takamiya: 100+ year-old ryokan overlooking the vivid mountains (Zao Onsen, Yamagata City)
Zao Onsen is located at the western foot of the Zao mountain range in the southeastern part of Yamagata City. The long-established Miyamaso Takamiya Ryokan, founded in 1716, is built on a hill in this hot spring resort.
The building is a solid Japanese-style wooden building that’s over 100 years old, and the combination of white walls and bold wood hues is an iconic image.
From Yamagata Station, take the Yamako Bus bound for Zao Onsen and get off at the last stop. From there it takes about 5 minutes to walk to this Yamagata onsen ryokan. Shuttle bus service is also available with a reservation.
“Hinakura” guest room
For private relaxation, the “Hinakura” villa is recommended. This two-story renovated storehouse now serves as a guest house with a serene atmosphere.
There’s a tatami room and a square in-floor fireplace that’s useful for warmth on cold nights or for cooking to experience the feel of a traditional Japanese house.
Like Hinakura, “Rian Sansui” is another relaxing room. It was designed by Kiyoyuki “Ken” Okuyama, an industrial designer from Yamagata who has done work for Ferrari.
The room centers on a concept of “harmony between tradition and innovation” with modern tables and chairs in a traditional Japanese room.
Both Hinakura and Rian Sansui have in-room open-air baths overlooking the vividly colored mountains so you can enjoy a refreshing soak while taking in the beautiful autumn scenery. The best time to see the leaves is from mid-to-late October.
Miyamaso Takamiya has a total of 9 baths. One of the inn’s attractive points is the option to sample so many hot springs, including the semi-open-air “Seseragi-no-Yu” bath, where you can hear the murmuring of the river, the “Open-air stone bath” at the top of an elegant wooden staircase, and the traditional “Open-air tub” bath created by a Yamagata craftsman.
There’s also a private bath if you want to relax with your family or alone, so be sure to reserve a time slot on the day of your stay and enjoy yourself.
International guests who stayed at this celebrated Yamagata onsen inn commented, “The building is beautiful, and the food and service are excellent. The staff are very kind and friendly. The view from the room is good.” Some staff members speak English, so smooth communication is assured, and the entire building is fully equipped with free Wi-Fi.
Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken – Sanitizer installed – Disinfected after each guest leaves – Ventilation measures in place – Coin trays used – Plastic partitions installed – Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature – Limited capacity/increased space between seats – Restricted admission, reservation system in place – Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell – Masks required/temperature check enforced
Takamiya Ryokan Miyamaso
54 Zaoonsen, Yamagata, 990-2301
2. Yumemi no Yado Kanshokan: Enjoy the autumn leaves from the in-room bath (Mogami-cho, Semi Onsen)
Mogami-cho is located in the northeastern part of Yamagata Prefecture and Semi Onsen is located along the Oguni River, a clear stream that flows through the area. Yumemi no Yado Kanshokan, one of the hot spring town’s six inns, was founded in 1867. The Japanese imperial family has even stayed at this venerable inn.
The best time to see the leaves around the inn is from late October to early November and the bright red and yellow foliage on the mountains is clearly visible from the guest rooms and lobby.
To get to Yumemi no Yado Kanshokan, take the Yamagata Shinkansen from Yamagata Station to Shinjo Station. There, transfer to the JR Rikuuto Line and get off at Semionsen Station. It’s about 7 minutes from there on foot, but if you contact the inn, you can also use their shuttle bus. Shuttle service to and from Shinjo Station can be arranged but must be reserved at least a day in advance.
The Shippo Club “Sunset Red Dragonfly” guest room
Among the various guest rooms, the “Shippo Club” rooms are highly recommended. There are seven Shippo Club rooms, each suited to different tastes, like a room equipped with a massage chair, one decorated in warm wood, and a purely Japanese-style room, all featuring open-air bathtubs made of hinoki or porcelain.
The view from the “Sunset Red Dragonfly” room
The rooms’ large windows are another attractive feature, offering a wide view of the surrounding area. In autumn, you can enjoy the red leaves and mountain scenery while getting a sense of closeness to nature from the comfort of your room.
There are open-air men’s and women’s baths that flow directly from the hot springs’ source. Your bathing experience is further heightened with a seasonally changing view of the adjacent Japanese garden.
The spring is a sodium/calcium-chloride/sulfate hot spring, said to be effective in the treatment of cuts, joint pain, and arteriosclerosis.
Yumemi no Yado Kanshokan is also known for its delicious cuisine. Delightful dinners are made with locally-grown ingredients. In April and May, wild vegetables and char are in season, and mountain yams have the spotlight in November.
Overseas guests noted, “Friendly and helpful staff. The dinner was very nice, and we ate a variety of local foods. The open-air bath overlooking the garden was also great.” The inn’s staff are kind and happy to assist, should you encounter any problems.
If you want to enjoy sightseeing and autumn leaves nearby, try “Mogamigawa Funakudari.” You can slowly float down the gently flowing Mogami River and admire the mountains dyed in red, and the autumn leaves reflected on the surface of the river are superb.
It’s about 40 minutes by car from Yumemi no Yado Kanshokan. By train, it’s about an hour in total from Semionsen Station to Shinj Station on the Rikuuto Line, then transfer to the Rikuusai Line and get off at Furukuchi Station. From there, it’s an 8-minute walk.
Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken – Sanitizer installed – Disinfected after each guest leaves – Ventilation measures in place – Plastic partitions installed – Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature – Limited capacity/increased space between seats – Restricted admission, reservation system in place – Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell – Masks required/temperature check enforced – Restrictions on room service (entry) for staff
Ohori 987, Mogami, Yamagata, 999-6211
Semionsen Station Rikuuto Line）
7 minutes on foot
Vacancy search, reservation
Check with our partner site as the latest rates, rate details, and guest room requirements may vary.
3. Senkyo no Yado Ginzanso: Enjoy the autumn atmosphere in a retro hot spring town (Ginzan Onsen, Obanazawa City)
In Obanazawa City in northeastern Yamagata, you’ll find Ginzan Onsen, a hot spring resort symbolic of the prefecture.
Ginzan Onsen is surrounded by mountains and consists of a row of wooden inns built from the end of the Taisho era (1912–1926) to the beginning of the Showa era (1926–1989).
The beautiful retro atmosphere makes it a popular spot for both domestic and international tourists, so you’ll see plenty of people walking around town with their cameras in hand.
To reach the resort in about 35 minutes, take the Ginzan Hanagasa bus from JR Oishida Station and get off at the final stop.
Located in front of Ginzan Onsen bus stop, Senkyo no Yado Ginzanso is a hot spring inn nestled in the mountains a bit away from the rest of the town.
You can enjoy the autumn scenery when the surrounding mountains are blanketed in red from late October to early November.
The inn boasts a spacious open-air bath surrounded by greenery. In autumn, the mountains are vividly colored, and you will be enthralled by the beautiful scenery that spreads out in front of the bath.
Bathe while listening to the babbling of the clear Ginzan River and the chirping of wild birds, relax your mind and body, and enjoy the feeling of being one with nature.
Shintokan guest room with semi-open-air bath
If napping in the tub suits your tastes, stay in a private “room with a semi-open-air sleeping bath.” The Japanese-style room’s bath is made of cypress and features large windows, so you can still enjoy the surroundings but with an added sense of privacy.
While not a natural hot spring, the bath can be set to match the spring’s temperature, and a built-in monitor can provide entertainment during prolonged bathing.
The spring contains sulfur, sodium, chloride, and sulfate and is said to be effective for relieving gastrointestinal illness, neuralgia, and fatigue.
Satisfied international guests have said of their stay, “The open-air bath where you can feel the changing seasons through fresh greenery, autumn leaves, and snowy scenery is great. The retro Japanese atmosphere of the hot spring town is also wonderful.” The friendly and courteous staff are yet another positive point.
Health & Safety Measures
Indoor disinfection measures taken – Sanitizer installed – Disinfected after each guest leaves – Ventilation measures in place – Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature – Limited capacity/increased space between seats – Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell – Masks required/temperature check enforced
Ginzanshinhata 85, Obanazawa, Yamagata, 999-4333
Sodesaki Station Ou Line）
Along with soothing hot springs and delicious meals, the fall colors give Yamagata’s foothills a special charm. Consider getting away to the autumn delights of Tohoku the next time you need some full-body rest and relaxation!
Text by: Shoe Press Co., Ltd.
*The information in this article is accurate as of October 2021. Please check official websites for the latest information.
English translation by Gabriel Wilkinson
*This information is from the time of this article’s publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.