Yes I hear you. Ginzan Onsen is a beautiful place. Local and Prefecture visitor guides and bloggers consistently recommend Ginzan Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture for its old buildings, picturesque street and hot springs.
But in March as winter slowly moves to spring, snow heavy still on the ground, chill winds and sleet – maybe Ginzan Onsen is a place that can be missed, or atleast ranked 6 on the top 5 places to visit in Yamagata.
Sans a travel partner or prospect of a romantic interlude inside the thin walls of a ryokan, it is a bit dull trudging past the ubiquitous souvenir shops bursting with trinkets and another form of local confectionery. Sure, the stream is lovely, and the night lights are likely to be very pretty. But in less than 10 minutes you get to the snow-blocked end of the main avenue and ask yourself: is that it?
So, my advice? If you are on your own, don’t bother. Find somewhere very similar, more easily accessible, with maybe some longer walks or interesting surrounding landscape. That is of course unless a romantic tryst is bringing you to Ginzan Onsen. And you know what, that will be the only reason I get back there.
The Tsubasa Shinkansen takes 40 minutes from Yamagata to get to Oishida, where a change is made to a fairly uneventful and unattractive bus ride for another 40 minutes that brings you to the edge of Ginzan Onsen. The following points do accurately describe Ginzan Onsen.
- traditionally styled ryokan occupy beautiful three and four story wooden buildings along a picturesque stream criss-crossed by wooden bridges ;
- The town center is a pedestrian zone (except for the constant deliveries by motor scooters and tiny trucks!);
- Visiting in mid-March, the end of winter scenery is enhanced by heavy snow that clings to the rooftops and walkways;
- There are two public baths and a free foot bath;
- A spectacular, 22 meter tall waterfall rushes constantly at the back of the town.