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Visiting Ginzan Onsen in the Winter

The most beautiful sight of the deep north of Japan.

Of all the breathtaking sights in Tohoku, many flock to see what they think is the most beautiful of all, the sight of Ginzan Onsen covered in snow, warmly illuminated by its classic gas streetlamps. 

With its traditional Taisho Era buildings packed tightly along the river, this small onsen town located deep in the mountains is a dream destination for those seeking the nostalgia of Japan, said to be a a large inspiration in the bathhouse design and town featured in Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away film. 
To learn more about Ginzan Onsen and how to get to it in seasons other than winter, see our full article about it here

We recommend those taking a trip to Ginzan Onsen during the night, especially during winter, should wear an appropriate amount of clothing to keep you warm during your time there. Heavy snowfall is not uncommon, and the average temperature has been recorded to be as low as 23°F (-4.3℃). Account for buffer time in your itinerary, in the case that your bus or taxi moves slowly due to the weather (including but not limited to whiteouts). 

Due to many factors surrounding Ginzan Onsen, transport can be a difficulty to see the glowing onsen town in the evening, especially with no overnight lodgings in the area. To assist the many travelers who decide that this gorgeous onsen town is a must-have in their itineraries, we have all transportation methods you can use during the winter months listed below.

Stay overnight at Ginzan Onsen

For those looking to stay in Ginzan Onsen, it is very difficult (almost impossible) during the winter. If you wish to stay here during the snowy months of December, January, and February then you generally must reserve at least one year in advance to get a room along the main street. 

If you cannot stay at Ginzan Onsen, it is a great day trip from the many hotels of Yamagata City and other charming onsens like Kaminoyama and Tendo Onsen, so you can always just plan a day visit to this onsen town with some of the transport options below

Public transportation

Public transportation options in the area are limited and at the mercy to weather conditions of the day, usually being late or worst case canceled. The small public bus which runs in the area departs from the closest train station only 5 times a day. The limited timetable does not allow for much time to enjoy the famous night illuminated view of Ginzan Onsen. This bus is not covered by the JR pass and costs  ¥1000 yen each way. It takes about 35 minutes for the bus to drive between Ginzan Onsen and Oishida Station. See this website for the bus schedule (Japanese).

The addition of the influx of travelers to Ginzan Onsen every year, makes public transport even harder to be able to ride on. While this is the most cost-efficient option to get to Ginzan Onsen, there are times when it is not able to fit people during peak times in January and February.  There have been instances where the bus becomes full, and 20 – 60 visitors are not able to board the bus, having to wait for up to 2 hours at the bus stop for the next bus. 

Private charter vehicle to Ginzan Onsen

Our recommendation for those coming all the way out to Ginzan Onsen during the winter to see this beautiful onsen town is that they invest in a private charter vehicle to ensure they can have a smooth and safe visit. With reserved transport like this, this will ensure that you will be able to arrive in time to see the twilight glow just after sunset and you will not be stranded at Ginzan Onsen because you cannot miss the bus.

You can have a day-trip visit to Ginzan Onsen via private charter vehicle, at a time of your choice. Your driver will pick you up at your hotel, Yamagata or Shonai Airport, or a train station of your choice and drive you to Ginzan Onsen. The most efficient and cheapest option to ride a taxi is to ride one from Oishida Station. There, you can choose to either enjoy a complmentary private guided walking tour in English, or simply enjoy free time in the onsen town. We can also provide time and access for you to enjoy a hot springs bath in Ginzan Onsen if you like. At the end of your time in Ginzan Onsen, your driver will take you back to your hotel, an airport, or train station. 

We can arrange a round-trip private charter vehicle for you starting from the following prices below:
ishida Station <-> Ginzan Onsen : ¥27,380
Tendo Onsen <-> Ginzan Onsen: ¥48,900

The above prices are including a 90-minute stay in Ginzan Onsen, and is the most cost effective (bar unpredictable public transportation) for groups larger than 2. The convenience of the private charter vehicle can be worth for groups of 2 or less as well.
This service does not include any itinerary (i.e what train/shinkansen to catch) and is just the private charter vehicle booking itself. For those wanting an itinerary, we can offer this service for an extra fee. 

Sample itinerary:

Depart Tokyo 12PM – Arrive at Oishida 3:15 PM

3:15 PM Transfer via private charter vehicle (35m)
3:50 PM-5:20 PM Sightseeing at Ginzan Onsen
5:20 PM Transfer via private charter vehicle (35m)
5:55 PM Arrive at Ōishida station

Depart Oishida 6:58 PM  – Arrive in Tokyo 10:24 PM


You can send an inquiry for your private charter vehicle below. After we receive it, we will confirm the price and booking with you, then check with our partners and send you a booking confirmation email at least 3 days before your desired date. Please note this form does not confirm the availability or reserves it straightaway.

Tendo Onsen to Ginzan Onsen Bus Trip

Tendo onsen is accessible with a short taxi ride or a leisurely 20 minute walk from Tendo station. From Yamagata Station, it is a simple 40 minute train ride to Tendo station. The tree-lined canals and cobblestone paths of Tendo onsen compliments the snowy dazzling scene of Ginzan Onsen. 

A bus service offered by our partners can allow visitors to visit two onsen areas in one day. We recommend booking a Tendo Onsen accommodation and bus service as a set with us, so that you can take the bus service from the Tendo Onsen area to Ginzan Onsen, which takes around one hour. After arriving at Ginzan Onsen from Tendo Onsen, stroll through the town, be mesmerized by the gorgeous town, warm up in a cafe and use the street’s public footbaths (bring a towel to dry your feet!) and buy souvenirs before arriving back to Tendo Onsen to enjoy your dinner and relaxation at your accommodations booked by us. With this you can enjoy the different atmospheres of both onsen areas.

Securing lodging in the Ginzan Onsen town is near impossible during the peak period of December, January and February, we recommend a day trip and staying at another charming accommodation like Tendo Onsen in Yamagata.

What's Included

  • A bus service is offered by our partners; we arrange your booking with them. 
  • Shuttle bus fees
  • We can help with booking a hotel in the Tendo area if requested.

Bus Schedule

3:30PM Bus pickup at Hohoemi no Shuku Taki no Yu
3:35PM Bus pickup at Azuma-so
4:45PM  Arrive at Ginzan Onsen. Freely stroll around.
6:10PM Depart from Ginzan Onsen
7:25PM Drop off at Azuma-so
7:30PM Drop off at Hohoemi no Shuku Taki no Yu
Bus trip ends


Round-trip Ticket:
Adults: 9200 yen per person
Elementary school students: 4600 yen per person
Infants (3 years old and under) using seats: 2300 yen per person
Transaction fee per booking: 500 yen

Experience Availability

Friday, December 1, 2023 – Thursday, February 29, 2024
*Exclusion dates: 12/31, 1/1, 1/2, 1/3

Average Duration

approx. 4.5 hours

Meeting Location

Hohoemi no Shuku Taki no Yu or Azuma-so in the Tendo Onsen area

Minimum number of participants on one day

1 person

Maximum number of participants on one day

30 people

Important notes

Experience availability may vary. Reserve to confirm availability.
Snow is expected from mid-December. We suggest you dress appropriately for the weather.

You can send a booking inquiry for your experience below. After we receive your inquiry, we will confirm the booking with our partners and send you a booking confirmation email at least 3 days before your desired date.
Please note this form does not confirm the availability of an experience or reserves an experience straightaway.

To see access options to Ginzan Onsen for seasons other than winter, see our full article about it here

Rental car to Ginzan Onsen

Due to its remote location, there are few public transportation options to reach Ginzan Onsen. Typically most locals will drive a car, and while our rental cars are available, we highly recommend other transport due to the vast amount of snow.  Our providers also have a period of time in winter where they do not rent their cars out due to the danger the snow poses in the prefecture.

If do you choose to go by car, there is one parking lot you can use at the Taisho Romankan during the winter period. From there, you will need to take a short 5-10 minute ¥500 round-trip shuttle bus from there to Ginzan Onsen- it is dangerous to get to the town otherwise.

The shuttle bus operates:

[Winter (December to March/April) operating hours] 9:00AM– 6:00PM
[New Year’s holidays] 9:00AM – 5:00PM
[Normal operating hours] 8:30AM – 6:30PM

You will need to call the shuttle bus through the intercom at the hot-pink sign with a digital screen. See more information here. (Japanese)

To learn more about Ginzan Onsen and how to get to it in seasons other than winter, see our full article about it here

Cancelation policy

Our general cancelation policy for our taxi and bus trip reservations is below. Cancelation fees may vary according to exceptional circumstances. In cases of cancelation due to acts of god such as weather or bus mechanical failure we will refund customers in full.

10 business days before date of experience

15% of total price

5 business days before date of experience

50% of total price

3 business days before date of experience or same day

100% of total price