Yamagata prefecture (山形県, yamagata-ken) was located on the sea cost side of Tohoku area. It is facing the sea of Japan which make it used to be important area for marine trading from northern part of Japan to Kyoto and Osaka. I was went to Sakata City by 2,5 hours bus from Sendai. To go there you can take a highway bus for about 5950 JPY round trip) from Sendai or Shinkansen to Yamagata then take JR train to Sakata city.
Sakata city was blessed with abundance of natural beauty as well as historic sites. The first thing I see was Sankyo warehouse (山居倉庫) which is rice storage built on 1893. 12 wooden storage houses lining up with Zelkova trees become a symbol of Sakata city. The warehouse located on a small “island” in the middle of Monogami River. The sankyo “Island” is a filming location for a famous japanese drama/movie ‘Oshin’. About 5 minutes walk from sankyo ware house I find a shrine that will bring you a good luck. Since Sakata city was a marine trading port, the shrine was famous for those who about to go sailing. I spotted a cute small torii gates (red shrine gates) there.
The good luck shrine and lion statue
Another 5 minutes walk from the shrine, I passed the Old Honma family houses. Honma family used to be the richest family in the Area, even richer than the feudal lord.It is said long time ago there were a big fire in Sakata. People have to destroy their houses to stop the fire except Honma family house since the construction were built so fire would not easily destroy the main building they also could afford water to stop the fire. Another historical residency was only 10 minutes walk from Honma Family house, which is Abumiya family residence. The house used to be a trading center of Sakata. Every merchant ship going to unloads the goods there. There were also a big japanese garden inside the house. The trading ship used to brought rice from Sakata (Yamagata rice were known as the best quality in Japan) and bring back stones from all places to ballast the ship. Those stones was then put on the roof of the Abumiya residency. You can see the roof covered in stones from all over the world. Abumiya family was the leader of “the Band of 36” which is a name given to 36 powerful merchant family founded by 36 Samurai. The entrance fee for Abumiya residence was 320 JPY for adults and 210 JPY for children.
old Honma House and Abumiya Residence
After historical residency visit, I go to Somaro to see Maiko (Geisha apprentice) performance. This is the first time I see Maiko dancing. And is it not famous for nothing. I was so hypnotized by their dance. During the dance they singing “obaite, obaite” which means” which means “you can come”. Every single move of the maiko looks like dancing. After that I got the chance to take a picture with the maiko! Somaro used to be a high-class restaurant which only people from certain classes could enter. Every dining room very well designed. On the right season you can see a sakura and plum-tree blooming at the same time side to side. Unfortunately it is already out of sakura blooming season when I came. The cushion for customers to seat was recycled from the Geisha kimono.
About half an hour bus trip from the Somaro, the last tourism destination I visit this day was Kamo Aquarium. The Aquarium opened from 9 am-5 pm with 1000 JPY admission fee for adults and 500 JPY for children. Kamo aquarium was famous for their Jellyfish collection. They have 50 different species of jellyfish and every single of them was so beautiful. Jellyfish was my favorite sea creature. I could stay and stare a them for more than 10 minutes. My favorite jellyfish in kamo aquarium was andon kurage (carybdea rastonii) which emmit a LED like color everytime they move and also the “jellyfish Dream Theater” which is a 5m dimeter aquarium filled with 2 thousand aurelia jellyfish floating around. I also spotted a pre-wedding picture hangged on the wall, It was a quite unique idea to took a pre-wedding picture on aquarium. But I might love to take one with the enchanting jellyfishes as well.
To end the tiring yet super fun day I stayed at onsen ryokan (Japanese style hotel), Hotel Mankoen. It is located next to the beach and I had fresh seafood including crab as my dinner. The hotel has a big indoor and outdoor onsen (Japanese hot bath). This is the first time I experience an outdoor onsen, if only it is not cloudy it will be perfect taking a hot bath under the star after a long day. I had so much fun at Sakata city!
Find more about the places I visit on their official website, here’s the link: sankyo warehouse, somaro maiko, abumiya residence, kamo aquarium . Some of the website contains information in Japanese only, you might need to activate auto-translate from google chrome.