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