One thing you should not miss when you are in Japan is soaking in a Onsen (温泉, Japanese hot spring). Ginzan onsen in Obanazawa city, Yamagata prefecture is one of the best Onsen area in Japan. The geothermal heated water found about 400 years ago. Originally the area was silver mountain mining area. The word “Ginzan” in Japanese 銀山 literally means silver mountains. In the old days silver used to be more expensive than gold, that is why in Japan are called with the word ‘Ginza’ usually is a luxurious place. To go to Ginzan Onsen you could use JR Yamagata Shinkansen bound from Tokyo to Oishida station and take a bus to Ginzan Onsen.
It was raining when I came to Ginzan onsen. But the wooden buildings and bridges were so beautiful. And if you want to try something new, in front of the alley you could find a hakama (袴) rent shop. Hakama is a traditional Japanese clothing, wear on top of colorful and pretty kimono.
The alley full of stores (from cafe, tofu, barber shop, to souvenir shops); ryokan (Japanese style hotel usually also had private onsen); and also lots of feet hot bath you can try for free. By the end of the alley you will find a 22 metres waterfall. Further upside, the silver mining which used to be the main point of the area is still open for tourist. Some parts of the mining opened except on winter and early spring. However since we were already too tired and it was late we did not go to the old mining area.
When the suns out, the scenery was so breathtaking. An alley full of wooden houses lit up by the gas lamp. At 7 pm they will perform “Hanagasa dance” or Flower hat dance. The playful and cheerful music combine with dynamic and energetic dance movement. Everyone out from the stores and hotels wearing their yukata, make me feels like in a japanese old movie. I am in love with the ambience of this alley.
The area also famous as the filming spot of Japanese drama “Oshin”. In the stories, here is where Oshin’s mother works. One day Oshin visited her mother and the mother give her a kokeshi (Japanese wooden doll) as a remembrance of her. You can find lots of kokeshi dolls in the stores there. You might want to give it to someone important to you as well 😉