Home to Yamagata's Hanagasa Matsuri, Bunshokan and downtown nightlife.
Nanukamachi street, known to locals as Nanokamachi, used to be the bustling main street of Yamagata City, however, suburban flight from the city center thirty-odd years ago has quietened it down a bit compared to its peak. Still, the road continues to host Yamagata’s biggest festival parade, Hanagasa Matsuri, as well as many other festival events throughout the year. It’s also home to a few of Yamagata’s most interesting landmarks, great soba, and Yamagata City’s only Yokocho drinking alley. There are also several hotel accommodations along the street, making it both a worthwhile sightseeing area as well as a convenient hub when staying inside the city.
七日町 Yamagata, 990-0042
A great place to start exploring Nanukamachi street is at the Yamagata Marugotokan Beni No Kura, a well-preserved complex of Edo Period storehouses that are now home to two restaurants, a small souvenir shop that specializes in local crafts, and a free museum. You can trace some of Yamagata’s storied history in the Benibana trade here, as these Kura once were used to store the highly valued commodity before it was shipped down the Mogami river to Shonai and on to greater Japan. Benibana, a rich, red dye processed from the safflower plant, used to be Yamagata’s chief export and made the domain both rich and powerful. Handmade soba and tempura are served inside the restaurants. Behind the Marugotokan (on the side opposite Nanukamachi), you can browse a beautiful little farmer’s market as well and see what seasonal varieties of produce currently stock the shelves.
Next, stroll down Nanukamachi until you reach the Gotenzeki on your right side, a row of quaint shops and restaurants nestled behind a sublime little stream that reaches the city, all the way from the mountains. Of particular interest is Casa, a boutique purveyor of ceramics and other wares designed by Ken Okuyama. Born in Yamagata, Okuyama is a world-renowned industrial designer, whose claim to fame includes not only designing the Enzo Ferrari but also perhaps the most luxurious passenger train ever built. You can learn more about Okuyama and see prints of his incredible designs inside the store.
Grab a roasted or Macha tea-flavored soft-serve cone from the parlor out front of Gotenzeki, and then head to your next destination, the mammoth Bunshokan building at the end of the road. The Bunshokan is Yamagata’s original prefectural office, now renovated and converted into a free museum. The building itself is a fine example of Taisho-era European Renaissance architecture that was once in vogue in Japan. The Bunshokan also happens to house the second oldest clock in Japan, which must be wound by hand every five days.
As the evening comes, you don’t have to go all the way to Sendai to find a good drinking alley; the Hottonaru Yokosho features twelve tiny izakayas crammed into one small area. The Yokocho is located just one block east of Nanukamachi. Walking down from the north (the direction of the Bunshokan), just turn left at the Family Mart and look for the orange lanterns at the gate. These rustic izakaya are so small you may even end up sharing a table with a few locals, and their proximity makes them perfect for an impromptu pub crawl.
Leaving Yamagata Station, walk down the main street leading from the front of the station until you reach Nanukamachi street. Take a left, and you will soon be at the Marugoto Beni No Kura.
The drinking alley is another 10-minute walk northbound up the street (one block east of Nanukamachi), and the Gotenzeki shops are just one block past that (back on Nanukamachi).
The Bunshokan will be visible at the end of the street.