Ginzan Onsen: The Japanese winter hot spring town


This is the quintessential Japanese winter hot spring town you have always imagined. The word “nostalgia” might as well have been created for this place. Though nestled deep in the Japanese mountains, it is relatively accessible by public transportation. Once you’re prepared for the snow and cold, you should definitely visit.

[Day 1]

Tokyo 10:00
↓ Yamagata Shinkansen (Tsubasa No. 133 bound for Shinjo)
Ōishida 13:16
↓ Shuttle bus from the inn (about 40 minutes)
※ If the inn does not have a shuttle bus, use a local bus or taxi
★ Ginzan Onsen 14:10
~ Check-in and explore ~
★ Night view
~ Dinner, hot spring bath, and overnight stay ~

[Day 2]

~ Breakfast and check-out ~
Ginzan Onsen 10:30
↓ Shuttle bus from the inn (about 40 minutes)
※ If the inn does not have a shuttle bus, use a local bus or taxi
Ōishida 11:10
↓ Yamagata Shinkansen (Tsubasa No. 140 bound for Tokyo)
Tokyo 14:48

The journey begins with choosing your accommodation.
☆ Links to inns
Due to the popularity of the hot spring area, making reservations at the last minute is difficult, especially for weekends. If you really want to visit without a reservation, it is possible to use a bus or taxi, but it will be more challenging.

Take the Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to “Ōishida Station.”
△ How to ride the Shinkansen? → (URL: How to ride trains and Shinkansen)
Although you can purchase snacks on the train, it’s fun to explore the various shops at Tokyo Station and buy your favorite items before boarding. Also, note that there are no shops between Tokyo Station and Ginzan Onsen, so be prepared.

Make sure to be ready to disembark before arriving at “Ōishida Station” as the stop is brief. It is recommended to line up at the exit before the train arrives. Once you safely get off the train, wait for the inn’s shuttle bus. Pickup times vary by inn, and some may require reservations in advance, so confirm this when booking your inn. After a 30-minute bus ride through the snowy landscape, you will arrive at your destination, “Ginzan Onsen.”

Ginzan Onsen is a hot spring town lined with inns and shops along the river. Although it’s already a compact hot spring town, winter limits the areas you can walk, making the exploration area quite small. Take your time visiting each shop, checking out souvenirs such as “Kokeshi” dolls, which are traditional good luck charms from northern Japan, or enjoying some curry bread. However, be cautious not to eat too much as dinner time approaches.

The most beautiful time is after sunset. In winter, sunset occurs around 16:00 to 17:00. Set your dinner at the inn for 18:00 and enjoy the stunning scenery until then.

Warm your chilled body with delicious Japanese cuisine and a soak in the hot spring, then spend a quiet night. Unfortunately, there are no shops open at night. The nearest towns are quite far, and even there, no shops are open at night. Embrace the peaceful night, either by closing your eyes or soaking in a footbath available even late at night, and leisurely enjoy the serene winter in the Japanese mountains.

The next morning, as you depart from the inn, the sight that was right in front of you last night will seem like a dream, presenting a completely different scene. You’ll be amazed at the difference made by the sunlight or gas lamp light. This scenery is a treasure only for those who stay overnight at Ginzan Onsen.

Take the inn’s shuttle bus back to “Ōishida Station.” Once you board the Shinkansen, it’s a straightforward journey back to Tokyo. If you still have time, consider enjoying other winter activities in Yamagata Prefecture.


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