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Nagai City

Be drawn in by the nature, cuisine and experiences Nagai City has to offer.

Tucked away southwest of Yamagata prefecture is Nagai City, where travelers can experience the best of the Japanese countryside. Nagai City, unknown to most travelers despite being very accessible by train, is steeped with tradition and history and offers a large variety of places and nature to see and experiences to do. Famous for its water, nature and flowers, this city is undoubtedly one of the prime locations in the Okitama region. Below, we introduce the top 10 attractions of Nagai City in collaboration with the area’s local tourism association, Arcadia.

Quick Info

Quick Information

  • Nagai City is a small city of only about 25,000 residents spread throughout its open fields and mountains.  


  • The local Yamagata Flower Liner serviced from Akayu Station makes this easy to reach for those riding the bullet train from Tokyo.
  • The train station of Nagai City is Nagai Station.

Top 10 attractions of Nagai City

Kurojiishi Black Lion Masks and Festival

Masks created to be the shape of black lion heads are crafted by local artisans, used in the kurojiishimai dance and are said to have its origins from Nagai City around 1051 to 1062. The black lion masks, called Oshi-sama, are believed to dissuade disaster or misfortune if decorated in a household.  The festival is a traditional Shinto ritual to pray for safe childbirth, fire suppression, warding off evil spirits and child growth. There are around ten shrines in Nagai that participate in the festivities at the same time every year. You can ward off your evil spirits too by visiting Nagai City in late May.


Try out this traditional wooden children’s toy, which has a stick with three cups, a spike on the top and a ball hanging from a string. Nagai is the largest producer of kendama in Japan. The whole city of Nagai has embraced the kendama culture, with establishments offering prizes to individuals who can demonstrate specific techniques on the spot. At SPIKe in Nagai City, you have the chance to try out this seemingly simple, but challenging toy. Although well-known as a toy for children, there are competitors of every age and background challenging it on an international scale- there are also native-speaking English staff at SPIKe! You can even create your own design on your own kendama and bring it back home as a souvenir!

See Natural Beauty: Mifuchi Gorge, Nagai Dam

See and experience natural beauty by visiting these water-based attractions of Nagai. The Nagai dam, used for flood control, water supply and power generation, is very picturesque and falls like a waterfall. This is an excellent photo spot to see the expanse of the dam and see the beautiful blue-green water. Another place to view the dreamy blue-green water of Nagai is the Mifuchi Gorge, able to be explored by kayak in all seasons except winter. Your English-speaking guide will provide you with all the gear you need and will take you through the serene, beautiful narrow gorge.

Flowers: Cherry blossoms, Azaleas and Irises

In Nagai, there are plenty of flowers to appreciate during their prime seasons. One of Japan’s oldest cherry blossom trees located in Nagai City with an age of around 1,200 years old has been designated as a national Natural monument.This path of cherry blossoms can be seen blooming in spring. In the summer, white azaleas and irises color the fields. The iris festival park holds many varieties of irises, one of which being the Nagai Koshu, a variety of iris found only in Nagai City. The azaleas which look like snow can be seen in mid to late May, while the irises are best enjoyed mid June to the end of June.

Sake Breweries

Those specializing in sake know that rice and water affects the quality and taste of sake. Nagai City, famous for its water, draws the precious resource from the Mogami river. The melted snow from the mountains flows into the river, and that soft water runs through the rice paddies, creating the best ingredients for sake to be produced in the area. Sake breweries which have existed for generations are still brewing to this day. Visit these breweries, buy sake from the source and enjoy tasting some of the many varieties of sake they create!

Shoyu Soy Sauce and Miso Factories

Japanese cuisine cannot be complete without the flavors of shoyu soy sauce and miso. Tour a soy sauce and miso factory and learn the process of creating these two staple Japanese ingredients. Soy sauce is made from soybeans, salt and wheat, while miso is made with koji  instead of wheat, which is why these two ingredients are commonly created alongside each other. Start your in-depth journey of shoyu and miso by contacting us to arrange a tour for you.

Historical Architecture

There is a plethora of buildings which can be as old as 300 years presiding in Nagai City. Many buildings designated as National Cultural Property are able to be seen like sake breweries, old residences, storehouses and more. Within those buildings, one that stands out is the Former Nagai Elementary School first school House, built in 1933. After refurbishment, this building used as part of the school is now a place for community, holding events for children, adults and intergenerational and international exchange. Feel the community of the city of Nagai and see the connection of past, present and future while admiring the architecture of the various National Cultural Properties you visit.

Farmhouse cuisine and soba

Ever tried tasting Japanese farmhouse cuisine in a Japanese countryside building, or having buckwheat soba noodles made with flour from the area? Nagai provides travelers with healthy and locally harvested homestyle food, which supports the people of Nagai City. The delicious traditional recipes and fresh food paired with the hospitality of the residents makes you want to eat here more and more.

Kodai-no-oka Jomon Village

The biggest impression of this village are the large whimsical statues reflecting another time- clay dolls and haniwa. The large, human-scale statues allow people to freely touch the plastic-made clay figurines, unlike its real counterparts which are small and fragile. These relics from the Paleolithic, Jomon, Yayoi and Sengoku periods were found at the foot of Nagai City’s Mt. Asahi and are now exhibited in Kodai-no-oka’s ancient hill museum. Those who like the outdoors also have the chance to stay in bungalows at Jomon Village. 


Bicycles are available for rent from a convenient location and travelers can go at their own pace adventuring around Nagai City. Travel with no limits on a solo journey, or opt to ride along with a guide on a guided tour of Nagai, visiting locations which interest you. Breathe in the fresh air while traveling through the city.

Nagai City has so much to offer for any type of traveler, whether it be the nature, cuisine or experiences that draw people in. Choose to travel solo, reserve one of our experiences below or organize your custom-made tour with us by contacting us directly.

Elsewhere in Nagai City

Elsewhere in Okitama