Mt Gessan is one of the three mountains in the Dewa Sanzan group, and is located in Tagawa, Yamagata prefecture.
Mt Gessan is 1984m high and stands almost in the middle of Yamagata prefecture. It lies in the northern part of Bandai Asahi National Park and is a treasure house of nature that includes animals, plants and primary forest like beech.
The name of Gessan ('moon mountain') derives from the fact that it appears to be as enormous as a half-moon. The mountain has always been linked to religion and there is a shrine at the top dedicated to Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto, a brother of the goddess Amaterasu-omikami.
The mountain has also been a place for ascetic training. Many practitioners have visited here to worship Gessan-okami, but most of them have not felt ready enough and have gone back. Their route back is still known as the 'Return of Practitioners' although hikers take this road today. Mt. Gessan is a spiritual mountain with great views and alpine plants.
Momiji River runs down through a valley on Mt. Omoshiro, which lies to the northeast of the city of Yamagata.
A hiking course along the valley enables you to enjoy nature throughout the four seasons, and it is very popular with sightseers.
The valley is especially beautiful between late October and mid November when the leaves turn red or yellow; this change is called 'momiji' and is the origin of the name Momiji River.
The 2km hiking course takes about 40 minutes to walk along slowly. Here and there running into the valley are waterfalls such as 'Wisteria Waterfall' and 'Illusional Dragon Waterfall'. Moreover, there are many unique rocks in the valley such as 'Whale Rock' or 'Treasure Rock'. And there are many strange ones, too.
Visitors can enjoy a variety of views of the river; some parts of the river are broad and some run between rocks. The canyon is also very popular among photographers.
At one point along the Tozawa road in Yamagata Prefecture, a foreign and exotic mood and space suddenly appear then spread over the green mountains. This is the Kouraikan. The Kouraikan is a complex of buildings filled with an exotic mood, which was built to introduce Korean culture and history to Japan, as well as deepen mutual understandings between the people who visit.
The Kouraikan was opened in 1997 as a symbol of friendship between Korea and Tsutsumigawa-shi and to get in touch with the ancient culture of the Korean Peninsula. All kinds of buildings and shops can be found within the Kouraikan, including a product hall that exhibits and sells traditional articles of everyday use. There are also handicrafts on display, a food culture hall introducing Korean food, an ethnic culture hall introducing Korean customs and arts, as well as a Korean garden filled with Korean flowers, such as the 'mukuge' and the 'klein'. Another area is the Norimadan, where the townspeople gather for amusement. All of these facilities help create a real Korean atmosphere.
The Kouraikan exquisitely replicates aspects of Korean history and culture, and shows the fondness and harmonious relationship that Korea and Japan have, at the same time giving visitors a feeling of compassion and excitement.
The Flower-Hat Festival (Hanagasa Matsuri), which takes place in Yamagata Prefecture, is known as one of the four largest events to take place in the Tohoku area. The festival takes place annually in August.
The cry of the dancers in the parade, 'Yassho! Makkasho!', and the spirited beat of the hanagasa-daiko drums can be heard during the festival. It is one of Yamagata prefecture's symbolic summer events and draws over a million visitors.
For a week from August 5th, dancers wear hanagasa hats with artificial safflowers on them (the safflower being Yamagata's prefectural flower), and dance along the main streets (for about 1.2km) of Yamagata city.
The Hanagasa Ondo song, which is sung as 'sorota sorotayo' etc., derives from the 'dotsuki' song, which was sung in the Meiji and Taisho periods in the Murayama area. The basic style of dance is 'typical Japanese dance', however, nowadays the advent of dances for men has changed the form of the 'buyo'. Moreover, elements from Westerns dance forms are added, and the new dance forms are slightly different. For Japanese who love festivals, it is an event that they should definitely join.
Tsuruoka Park lies within the grounds of the old Tsurugaoka Castle, in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture. It is famous for its cherry trees.
The Sakai clan lived in this castle for about 250 years as the Shonai domain head. The park is dotted with the remains of the old stone walls along the moat. An old cedar tree, thousands of years old, reminds you of the castle and its past.
Growing in the park are some 800 of the prettiest cherry trees. The site has been designated as one of Japan top 100 places to see cherry blossom, as well as one of the best places in Yamagata prefecture for cherry-blossom viewing.
There are several different kinds of cherry trees, including: Someiyoshono, Yae Cherry and Weeping Cherry. In the middle of April, they all start to blossom at once.
The cherry trees around the outer moat in the east part of the park are especially beautiful when they are seen reflected in the moat. Mt. Chokai forms the backdrop with the last of the winter snow on its peak. Such scenery makes you particularly savor the nature and romance around you, even though you are not a photographer.
In the cherry-blossom season, many stalls are set up and many visitors come from all over Japan.
Junitaki Waterfall consists of 12 (juni) stages, and is fed by the waters of the headstream of the Aizawa River. It is near the town of Hirata, in Higashida-gun, Yamagata prefecture. It is known as one of the three major waterfalls of Akumi.
The waterfall is situated at the western foot of Mt. Kyogakura and is about 30m high. Each of the 12 stages has a name, such as 'Long-Nosed Goblin (Tengu) Waterfall', 'Snake Waterfall' and 'Riverbank Waterfall'.
Since ancient times, waterfalls have been used as ascetic training places for esoteric Buddhists, who believe that exposure to the water helps to purify the mind and body and enable them to gain spiritual power. Deities like Fudo or Benten are often found enshrined near waterfalls.
In autumn, the leaves around Junitaki turn red, and the combination of their varying colors is very beautiful. In winter, there is a feeling of austerity as the water flows continuously surrounded by white snow.
Yamagata prefecture has about 230 or 10% of all the waterfalls in Japan, making it the prefecture with the highest number of waterfalls in the country.
Shonai Plain is located near the Japan Sea, in the northwest of Yamagata prefecture. It is a very large plain: 100km in the southeast and 40km in the northwest. It is one of Japan's major grain-producing areas and in the Edo period rice for the government came from here.
The reason grain grows so well here is that the big and small rivers that feed into the plain bring pure water. Rivers include the Mogami River, one of the three major rapid rivers of Japan.
Moreover, the the soil of the plain is fertile and suitable for rice production because the temperature difference between summer and winter is larger and the cold winds blow from surrounding mountains.
In autumn, the ripe ears of rice droop and you can see golden ricefields in every direction. There are gracefully flying red dragonflies and golden-ringed dragonflies that are rare in the city.
Big Cedar is a tree in Small-Cedar district, and is near the village of Sakegawa, in Mogami County, Yamagata prefecture.
Although the great cedar tree might look like a couple of trees, it is in fact a single tree standing among paddy fields. Its base is 6.3m in circumference and it is 20m tall. It is said to be more than 1000 years old.
Because it has two big trunks, it is also called the 'Couple Cedar' or 'Marriage-Tie Cedar'. In addition, owing to its resemblance to a tree seen in the movie, 'Tonari-no-Totoro', it has lately gained more fame and come to be called 'Totoro's tree'.
The tree is venerated by the village and a mountain deity has been enshrined at its base.
Usually, a cedar tree tends to grow narrow and high in order to get more sunshine and survive. But, because there has been nothing other than rice fields around the tree, it has leisurely spread out to receive much sunshine.