Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Zao Onsen Ski resort and Okama Lake ,Yamagata-Miyagi

Snow Monsters - Zao Onsen Ski resort

Zao, located on the Yamagata-Miyagi prefectural border, is a mountain park centered in the Zao Mountain Range. Visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the mountain ranges , the crater lake and experience the best hot spring baths of this region. When trekking is the main activity during the off winters , Skiing and snowboarding through the so called ` snow monsters` is a welcome holiday during the winters . Okama, in addition to the Snow Monsters of the winter time, is a symbol of Zao. With a height of 1841 meters, Mount Zao is one of the most prominent mountains in the Tohoku Region. Zao has erupted 26 times in the past, with the most recent volcano eruption occurring on February 15th, 1895.
Mount Zao is on the border between Yamagata Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture in Japan and is the most active volcano in northern Honshu. The Mount Zao volcano includes several lava domes and a tuff cone. Out of which Goshiki-dake, which contains a crater lake named Okama. The Okama crater lake also known as the "Five Color Pond" as it changes color depending on the weather. The Zao Okama crater formed by a volcanic eruption in the 1720s. The lake is 360 meters in diameter and 60 m deep. This is the main tourist attractions in the area.

Zao Echoline Mountain drive

Zao Echoline Mountain Route
Zao Echoline offers a spectacular view of the colours of the fall. The drive winds across Mt. Zao range from the East to the West. This was completed in November of 1962 as a mountain pass connecting Miyagi prefecture and Yamagata prefecture. The drive is closed in the winter ,from the beginning of November to the end of April of the following year . The drive along Zao Echoline Drive in fall, the season of beautiful multi-colored leaves, can be enjoyed from the end of September. 

Okama Lake,  Kattadake

Okama Lake, Yamagata- Miyagi Tohoku Japan

Okama is a round crater lake surrounded by the three mountains of Mt. Zao-Kattadake, Mt. Kumanodake and Mt. Goshikidake. Being shaped liked an iron pot,the crater lake gets the name Okama(ironpot). The surface of the lake has emerald-green water and gives a mystic atmosphere, contrasting starkly with the brown and black crater walls. The maximum depth of the lake is measured to be 27.6m, and the circumference 1,080m.Since the lake water is strongly acidic, it is uninhabitable for all kinds of organisms. The temperature drops down to 2 degrees Celsius at a depth of between 10 and 20 meters, after which it has a special kind of thermo cline, from where the temperature rises as it goes deeper. This kind of lake is not seen in other parts of the world. The lake is also known as the "Goshiki-Numa" (lake of five-colors), since it changes to various colors according to the angle of the sunlight. The water flows out of the Southwest section of the lake and turns into a muddy river before running off to the Pacific Ocean, via the north hillside of Sainokawara. 

Snow monsters 

Snow monsters, Mt Zao, Yamagata,- Miyagi Tohoku Japan

The Snow Monsters of Zao are created by the coniferous fir trees of Aomori. Zao’s volcanic wind whips the snow against the tree skeletons in winter to create field after field of jagged sculptures, snowy figures with hunched shoulders and stooped heads. which are called the Snow monsters. A ski slope are carved between these Snow monsters.Skiing through the monsters is a favourite sports in the winter. Visitors could also walk around them and watch and admire their conflicting beauty.

Narcissus flowers Eboshi Ski Ground field 

Narcissus Flowers, Zao Eboshi Ski Resort, Miyagi

Miyagi Zao Eboshi Ski Resort is famous for Narcissus in spring. At the base of Mt. Zao, Miyagi Zao Eboshi Ski Resort slope is covered with 500,000 Narcissus flowers, painting it yellow. This is a spectacular view during the Narcissus Festival that takes place fromlate April to mid-May every year. 

 Kokeshi Museum 

Kokeshi Museum , Zao Miyagi

Togatta Kokeshi were developed mainly in Shinchi in Togatta in Zao-cho, Miyagi Prefecture. The first floor of the Miyagi Zao Kokeshi Museum displays a huge collection of the traditional and beautiful Kokeshi dolls from all over Japan. Also there are around 5,000 wooden toys exhibited according to their styles. There is a demonstration corner and a shop for buying the dolls and toys. On the second floor of the museum, visitors can enjoy the experience of designing a Kokeshi doll, to be kept as a lasting memory of their Toogatta town visit.    


1)Take the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yamagata (2.5 hours) and transfer to a bus to Zao Onsen (40 minutes, one bus per hour). The train ride is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and JR East Pass.

2)Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Sendai and transfer to a bus to Zao Onsen (100 minutes, two buses per day, seat reservations required, operates in winter only). 

3)During the winter season, there is one daily overnight bus from Tokyo (Shinjuku Station) to Zao Onsen. The one way journey takes about eight hours and costs 4500 yen. Round trip tickets are available for 8000 yen. In the opposite direction, from Zao Onsen to Tokyo, the bus runs during the daytime. Seat reservations are mandatory.

Mt.Zao More Photos

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Enoshima Island : Beach with Variety of Water Sports and Attractions

Enoshima is a small island, about 4 km in circumference, at the mouth of the Katase River, which flows into Sagami Bay in Japan. Benzaiten, the goddess of music and entertainment, is enshrined on the island. The island in its entirety is dedicated to the goddess, who is said to have made it rise from the bottom of the sea in sixth century. Enoshima was the Olympic harbour for the 1964 Summer Olympics. Enoshima is now the centre of Shōnan, a resort area along the coast of Sagami Bay. Adjacent to some of the closest beaches to Tokyo and Yokohama, the island and the nearby coast are the hub of a local resort area. 

Enoshima Aquarium 

Enoshima Aquarium educates and entertains upon the aquatic life of the Sagami Bay and the Pacific There are many highlights, such as the "Big Sagami Bay Tank," in which a school (about 8,000) of sardines swim and undulate, the "Deep-sea Corner," which is making the first attempt in Japan to breed deep-sea creatures over a long period, and the entertaining shows staged by dolphins and whales. 
Adult 2000Yen, high school student :1500Yen, Elementary: 1000Yen, Child(3Yers above):600
Working time : 9AM - 6PM
3-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
10-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

URL: Enoshima Aquarium

Enoshima Benten Bashi 

Enoshima Benten Bashi Bridge was built in 1891. This is a wooden bridge of 389m in length. Befor e this bridge was constructed people used boats or piggyback styled manpower to cross between Kastase beach and Enoshima Island when the high tides occurred. 

Enoshima Yacht Harbour 

Enoshima Yacht Harbour is the first athletic Yacht harbour in Japan and was built for the 18th Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. Around 1000 yachts are moored here and the harbour is alive with people who enjoy sailing . There are also other facilities like `Turban Shell Island, Tide Pool and more at the and along with these visitors can also enjoy the sight of the sailing yachts and atmosphere of the harbour. 

15-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
20-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Bronze Torii Gate 

The bronze Torii Gate that stands at the entrance of the Enoshima was rebuilt in 1821.It is designated as the cultural asset of Fujisawa City. The names of many donors are written on both sides of the columns and this provides an insight into the extent of people`s faith in religion during the Edo Period.The God of Enoshima is drawn on the table t of the Torii. The entry through this gate takes the visitors to a busy shopping street that ends up at the steps of the Shrine. 

Grave of Kengyo Sugiyama 

The grave of Kengyo Sugiyama is a common place of visit here. Kengyo Sugiyama , whose real name was Waichi Sugiyama was a famous acupuncturist of the Edo Period(1603-1867). He acquired a high position when he was able to cure the 5th Edo Period Shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, from his illness. It is said that his techniques were given to him by Benzaiten. He donated a three-storied Pagoda to express his gratitude to the Goddess. He is known to be connected with the Goddess. 


Fukuishi , or the Lucky stone , as it is called soon after W aichi who happened to be blind had tripped over this stone he found a bamboo rode with a pine needle inside. It inspired his acupunture technique and brought him success. It is said that if you find something around this stone, you will have good luck. That is why this stone is called Fukushi Lucky stone 

Enoshima Shrine, Hetsunomiya 

This shrine actually consists of three separate shrines, Hetsuno-miya, Nakatsuno-miya and Okutsuno-miya . Each shrine is dedicated to one of the Goddesses of the Sea. The main shrine Hetsunomiya enshrined Tagitsu-hime-no-mikoto .This majestic building was built in 1206 by a Buddhist monk , Ryoshin, and rebuilt in 1976. 

Enoshima Shrine, Nakatsunamiya 

The shrine which enshrines Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto, was built by Saint Jikaku in 853. It was rebuilt in 1689, and the present building completed its remoulding in 1996. Visitors will find many stone lanterns donated by Kabukiactors on the grounds which indicate the prosperity of the pilgrimage to Enoshima in these days. 
15-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
20-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Shrine, Okutsunomiya/Happo Nirami no Kame 

Okutsunomiya which enshrines Tagirihime-no-mikoto and used to be called Otabisho, was the place where the Goddess resided to avoid the heat during the summer. On the ceiling of the Shrine gate you can find the picture of the Happo Nirami no Kame ( Turtle glaring in all directions). It is a masterpiece of Hoichi Sakai , artist of the Edo Period, and a curious art worker as it seems like the Turtle is always looking at you , no matter from which ever direction you watch it. 
30-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
35-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Benzaiten 

Enoshima Benzaiten is one of the three major Benzaiten statues in Japan .She is also popular as the only women among the `Seven Gods of Good Fortune`. People enshrined the eight-armed Benzaiten statue to pray for the victories in the battles during the Kamakura Period( 1192-1333). During the Edo Period(1603-1867), they changed the virtue of the Benzaiten and started to enshrine the two armed Benzaiten statue to pray for the improvements in artistic and musical skills. 
15-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
20-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Kodama Shrine and Shinpei Goto Stone Monument  

Gentaro Kodama (1852-1906) who was the Viceroy of Taiwan and steered Japan to victory in the Russo- Japanese War, was established here in 1921, and people have prayed here for victories in battle ever since. This building was built of Hinoki , which was a gift from Taiwan.The Torii gate and t Komainu ( statues of the guardian dogs)were made from stones brought from Taiwan. There is a stone monument with a poem inscribed by Aritomo Yamagata (Soldier, politician) and stone from Mt.Nirei (a famous battlefield in China) on the grounds. Shinpei Goto Stone is alos found here . Shinpei Goto was a civil administrator of Gentaro Kodama whi worked in Taiwan. 
15-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
20-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden  

Samuel Cocking Garden also known as Enoshima Tropical Plants Garden, is a small botanical garden on the small island of Enoshima .The garden was constructed with the theme of internationalism in relation to Mr. Cocking who built a private garden during the Meji Period (1868-1912). It featured a greenhouse (660 m²) in which he collected tropical plants. This original greenhouse was destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake. In 2002, during reconstruction work, its brick foundation and original heating plant and boiler were discovered. In April 2003, a restored greenhouse was opened as part of the new garden. 
20-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
25-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Sea Candle (Observation Lighthouse) 

Visitors get a delightful 360- degree panoramic view of the island to the South, Mt Fuji to the West and the Miura Peninsula to the East from the observation tower which is 59.8 m high, 119.6 m above sea level. After the sunset the tower is a cascade of different colours and this is a fantastic sight for the visitors. 
In the "Enoshima Samuel Cocking Garden" 20-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
25-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Daishi 

This is a branch temple of Koya-san Saifuku-ji in Kagoshima. Akafudo , a red faced statue in the main hall is about 6m high. Some beautiful chinese, embroidered works of the Buddhist art are on exhibit here. 

20-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
25-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Ryuren no Kane 

Ryuren no Kane , is also known as the Bell of Dragon`s Love and was built in the honor of the legend of a heavenly maiden and a dragon with five heads in Enoshima Engi(Legend of Enoshima). Many people visit here to ring the bell and pray for eternal love. 
25-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
30-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 


Chigogafuchi was named in relation to the story that Shiragiku, who was a servant (Chigo) of Sojo-in (temple) killed himself by jumping into his abyss. The evening glow from here on a clear day is beautiful and has been designated as one of the fifteen selected scenic places of Kanagawa prefecture. 

30-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
35-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Iwaya Cave 

Enoshima Iwaya Cave eroded by the constant waves for a long period is composed of two caves. In the cave ,the Japanese print , Ukiyoe, of Enoshima and the objet d` art of the dragon in the legend among the others are displayed withearthly music and light. 
130-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
35-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Jakko –san Ryuko-ji 

Jakko-san Ryuko-ji is the one and only holy HONZAN (Main Temple) in the Nichiren Sect.
This was built in 1337 by Nippo-Shonin at the site of TATSUNOKUCHI execution place, which is the most well-known among Nichiren-Shonin's four difficult times (YONDAI HONAN). At the rear , visitors can spot a five storied Pagoda rising up into the air .This is the GOJU-NO-TO . There are many fascinating buildings to see like BUSSHARITO(white stupa where the bones of Buddha are enshrined), Shoro-do (Bell Tower with the `bell of longevity) and more. 
7-minute walk from Katase-Enoshima Sta. (Odakyu train line)
3-minute walk from Shonan-Enoshima Sta. (Shonan Monorail line) 

Enoshima Island and BeachPhotos