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Discovering Yamagata: Anime Expo Special Edition Tour

Food, culture, and fun in the mountains of northeastern Japan

Surrounded by the misty green mountain ranges of northeastern Japan, Yamagata City is the capital city of Yamagata Prefecture and home of its largest metropolitan population. Known throughout Japan for its high-quality rice, fruit, and other produce, Yamagata is also brimming with traditional crafts and cultural activities, rich history, and plenty of sightseeing points of interest. On this specially crafted tour, take your pick of a 4-day 3-night or 3-day 2-night plan to hit the sightseeing highlights of Yamagata City and nearby areas, including hands-on cultural experiences, the chance to taste local specialties, a visit to the mysterious mountain temple Yamadera, and a stay in a hot springs village near the beloved Mt. Zao.

Tour at a glance



We can also provide the following options for an additional fee:

Minimum number of participants

2 participants

Maximum number of participants

Please inquire as experience availability depends on number of participants


4 days, 3 nights tour: From ¥168,000 + tax per person (based on a 2-person plan estimate)

3 days, 2 nights tour: Please inquire

Tour Length

4 days, 3 nights
OR 3 days, 2 nights

Tour availability

Year-round, please inquire

Tour Start/End Location

Yamagata Station

Important notes

Dietary Restrictions:

Day 1: Exploring Yamagata City through Food and Drink

Day 1 Tour Highlights

Arrive at Yamagata Station and meet your English-speaking interpreter/guide. Drop off your luggage at the night’s accommodations and walk through the city to your first experience. 

Try your hand at making wagashi (traditional Japanese confections) under the instruction of a local master. Learn about local culture while kneading the sweets into shapes that have special meaning in the Yamagata area.

Enjoy a yakiniku lunch course featuring high-quality Yamagata wagyu beef, then take a tour of one of Yamagata’s most famous sake breweries. Learn how sake is brewed, why Yamagata sake is considered one of the best in Japan, and have a chance to sample and buy some local sake at the conclusion of the tour.

Bid farewell to your guide, and have free time to explore the city on your own. Find dinner in one of the many restaurants and bars around town and soak in the city’s atmosphere.

Return to your hotel near the station and relax.

Attention Anime Otaku!

Yamagata City is the setting of the classic anime film Only Yesterday made by Studio Ghibli and directed by the legendary Isao Takahata. Yamagata Station appears in the scene where Taeko and Toshio first meet in the film—as well as in other popular TV anime series, such as Level E.

Day 2: Culture and History in Yamagata City

Day 2 Tour Highlights

Have a leisurely breakfast at your hotel, then head out into the city for more exploration. 

Enjoy a free morning walking or cycling to points of interest in Yamagata City with your interpreter-guide.*

Visit Yamagata Prefectural Folk Museum (Bunshokan), a historic brick building evoking the Taisho era and filled with luxurious decorations and furniture. An English-speaking guide is available with advance notice.

Explore the ruins of Yamagata Castle and surrounding park, and enjoy tasting dondonyaki (a famous street food in Yamagata, like a savory pancake), yakisoba, or other street foods.  

Stop for lunch at one of the many ramen establishments in the city. Yamagata City consumes more ramen than any other city in Japan, and is known as a “Holy Land of Ramen” thanks to the incredible and delicious variety to be had.  

In the afternoon, enjoy a tea ceremony experience. Under the instruction of a local master, observe the preparation of a perfectly brewed cup of matcha tea and attempt to prepare one on your own.

Stroll through a traditional Japanese-style garden with plenty of fantastic photo opportunities,  featuring a pathway around a central koi pond and a picturesque tea house.

Stop by some shops to check out the local crafts, then part with your guide and spend the rest of the evening shopping and wandering in the downtown area of Yamagata City. 

Have a dinner of your choosing in the station area, then return to your hotel to relax and prepare for the next day’s adventure.

*Various hands-on cultural and cooking experiences also available. Please inquire for more details. E-bike rentals are also available for transportation around the city.

Attention Anime Otaku!

Yamagata Bunshokan was used as a set for the filming of the highly-acclaimed live-action Rurouni Kenshin films.

NOTE: For the 3-night 2-day plan, the sample itinerary shown here as Day 1 and Day 2 will be condensed into a single day, with one guided experience.

Day 3: Ancient Temple in the Mountains

Day 3 Tour Highlights

After breakfast at your hotel, catch a morning train to ancient Yamadera, a Buddhist temple founded over 1,000 years ago. Meet with a local guide at the station, and walk together into the tranquil mountain town.  

Learn about the history and spirituality of Yamadera and the area while hiking the 1,015 steps up to the main hall of the temple. If you are feeling especially adventurous, take a longer route by trekking on a tranquil back pathway to the Mine no Ura Tarumizu Ruins, a natural spot of spirituality and beauty behind Yamadera*

After your hike, enjoy a lunch of soba noodles (a specialty of Yamagata Prefecture) and try some local specialties and sweets in town, and part with your guide.

Transfer via train back to Yamagata City to pick up your luggage and catch a bus to Zao Onsen, where you will check in to your traditional ryokan inn accommodation. 

Have a magnificent kaiseki course dinner, explore the onsen village area by foot, and enjoy a night of relaxing in hot spring baths

* This option must be arranged in advance

Attention Anime Otaku!

Yamadera was used as the stage for the shogi match in the climax of the live-action adaption of March Comes in Like a Lion.  

Day 4: Magnificent Nature at Zao

Mt. Zao

Day 4 Tour Highlights

After breakfast at your ryokan inn, take a last dip in the hot springs and meet up with your guide to spend a day exploring the Zao area.

Take the ropeway to the upper station and hike the remainder of the distance to the summit to see the magnificent crater-lake in summer or autumn, or enjoy the hoarfrost-covered trees that form into strange shapes known as Snow Monsters in the snowscape of winter. 

Collect your luggage, and return to Yamagata Station via bus. Bid farewell to Yamagata City (…for now!) and catch the train on to your next adventure. 


You can send a booking inquiry below. After we receive your inquiry, we will confirm if we can accommodate your group and tour dates and contact you from there. 

Cancellation Policy

Our cancellation policy for this tour is below. Cancellation fees may vary according to exceptional circumstances. 

21 days or more before date of tour

No penalty

20 days to 8 days before date of tour

20% of total price

7 days to 2 days before date of tour​

30% of total price

1 day before date of tour

40% of total price

Day of the tour

50% of total price

After start of tour or no-show

100% of total price