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Tsuruoka City

Yamagata Prefecture

A treasure trove of hidden gems.

Blessed with towering mountains, vast open plains, and long stretches of rich coastline, Tsuruoka City is a rural farming city in the vast open plains of the Shonai Region. This is region has an absolute treasure trove of hidden gems to explore.

Located on the coastal side of Yamagata Prefecture, this city spans from the mountains to the ocean and is dotted with dozens of small villages and towns. Despite its official population of over 100,000 people, the actual confines of this city only has about 34,000 residents while the rest of these other communities that have merged with Tsuruoka make up for the rest. The result of this is that Tsuruoka is a very large city with incredible diversity and to an extent can even be thought of as a region of its own.

This city is particularly famous for the legendary Three Holy Mountains of Dewa, Kamo Aquarium, and its unique designation of Japan’s only UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.

Far off the beaten path, a trip to Tsuruoka City is a chance to escape the crowds of tourists in the big cities and even places that were once hidden gems only a few years ago. This region is one of the last beautiful locations in Japan that has yet to be changed by the massive influx of foreign tourism and offers a chance to experience Japan through the many temples, restaurants, and traditional factories that have been run for generations by the same families.

Sakura in Tsuruoka Park

Quick Info

Quick facts

  • Population: 129,000 (2015)
  • A vast city that is made up of many individual towns and villages.
  • Is the only city in Japan designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
  • Home to the Dewa Sanzan (Three Holy Mountains of Dewa) and the sacred journey of rebirth.

Explore Tsuruoka City

From mountain hiking, quiet meditation at Zen temples, to exquisite culinary arts, you can easily spend two to three days exploring Tsuruoka. We recommend waking up early in the morning to explore the nature of Tsuruoka City, and spending the late afternoon and evenings to enjoy the culinary excellence of the world famous cuisine that this region has to offer.

See below for our roundup of some of our favorite things to do and see in this wonderful city.

Tsuruoka City

Tsuruoka City is the UNESCO culinary capital of Yamagata and home of the Yamabushi mountain monks and Dewa Sanzan Mountains.

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Zenpoji Temple

Zenpoji, a temple in Tsuruoka offering visitors zazen meditation sessions, shojin ryori lunches, shakyo experiences, lodging, and more!

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Kamo Aquarium

The Kamo Aquarium in Tsuruoka, Yamagata boasts the largest variety of jellyfish on display of any aquarium in the world.

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Gyokusenji Temple

Gyokusenji Temple is a beautiful temple in Tsuruoka, Yamagata. It features a Japanese garden recognized as a National Site of Scenic Beauty.

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