Yamagata might not be on the tourist trail, but that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of places to see!
This mountain temple complex is only about 40 minutes by local train. Perched on rocky outcrops the main temple is home to a 1,000 year old sacred flame this temple was made famous by the haiku poet Matsuo Basho.
Mt. Zao is famous for two things, its ski-slopes and its sulphorous hot spring baths. In the summer, its a great place for hiking and campling and you can escape the heat of the valley below. In autumn its a noted spot for seeing the fall leaves, whilst in winter its home to snow monsters, bizzarely shaped natural ice sculptures formed by the action of snow and freezing winds on the trees.
From Murayama take a train to Yamagata city and then a bus to Zao village. By public transport making an overnight stay on the mountain would be the best way to enjoy all on offer.
The three holy mountains of Dewa (the old name for Yamagata) comprise of Gassan, Yudonosan and Haguro san home to a unique fusion of Shinto and Budhism. Each Mountain has its own distinct character, but all three are host to thousands of pilgrims each year and to the aesetic Yamabushi, mountain priests who undergo harsh training in the forests and mountains of this area.
There is limited public transport to these mountains, for the adventurous only!
This picturesque onsen village is situated in the neighboring town of Obanazawa and might remind you of the film 'Spirited Away'. The old silver mine at the end of the gorge is open to visitors
from Spring to Autumn. Public baths cost from 300yen.
Busses run to Ginzan onsen from Oishida train station.
A ten minute walk from the guesthouse, this is the biggest rose garden in Northern Japan. With thousands of blooms its an impressive sight in Summer and Autumn when the roses are in flower, whilst monkeys and antelope deer can often be seen in the area.
The Mogami river is the third longest in Japan and in the past was a major trade route. Listen to the traditional boatmans songs as you cruise down river through scenic gorges. Access is by train (changing once at Shinjo), and a 5 min. walk from Furukuchi station.
Just 20 minutes by train, the Hiroshige museum in Tendo City is well worth a visit to see some fantastic Japanese woodblock prints.
Whilst in Tendo why not enjoy one of the many hot spring baths, or watch craftsmen make the Japanese chess pieces for which Tendo is famous.
Despite half the town being destroyed by fire 30 years ago the port town of Sakata on the mouth of the Mogami river retains many of its historical gems, such as the geisha house Soumaro, the rice warehouses and rice museum of Sankyo Sokyo and the historic residences of merchants and Samurai. You can also take the ferry from Sakata to the tiny island of Tobishima, or visit the nearby 16 Buddhas. If you can find all 16 Buddhas, carved into the rocks by the sea, your wishes are said to come true.
A short walk from the Geisha house of Soumaro is a small temple home to the remains of two Buddhist priests who mummified themselves alive. Unique to North Japan, Yamagata is home to the vast majority of Japanese mummies, and two of the best preserved are viewable here. Come and hear the gory tale of how and why they mummified themselves alive!
Sakata is a comfortable day trip from Murayama by train (about 1 and a half hours one way) and bikes are available to borrow for free in Sakata station to explore the city with.
The prefectural capital, Yamagata-city is a 40 min train ride direct from Murayama. A former castle town, the remains of the old castle is well known for it's cherry blossom.