In the very centre of the Tohoku region lies Ginzan Onsen, a small town whose main feature is its picturesque street of traditional guest houses each home to its own natural hot spring baths. The wooden Taisho and Showa-era buildings line the trickling Ginzan River which meanders through the town all the way down to the Shirogane Falls and the old silver mine which earned the town its name Ginzan, translating to Silver Mountain. Tranquil and traditional, Ginzan Onsen invites guests to relax in its healing waters while discovering a lesser-known pocket of Japan.
For fans of the classic Ghibli Studio’s animated film Spirited Away, you’ll be happy to hear that Ginzan Onsen is said to be like stepping into Chihiro’s world. Numerous onsen ryokan (hot spring inns) line the main street which is lit with gas lamps at night time. Located in the very east of Yamagata Prefecture, the onsen town’s charm draws visitors to bathe in its natural hot springs which have been celebrated for centuries among locals and, in more recent years, visitors from further afield. While it is recommended to stay overnight at one of the town’s pretty three-storey ryokan for the full experience of onsen and multi-course kaiseki dining, there are also three affordable public onsens around town for visitors not staying overnight: Shiroganeyu, Kajikayu, and Omokageyu, the latter also available to hire out privately.
Off the main street is the silver mine which is found nestled away in Shirogane Park. The silver mine flourished during the Edo Period and, although no longer in use today, is to thank for the discovery of the hot spring water that now sources the dozen or so ryokan around the town. Those curious to take a look can slip inside the entrance of the cave which is accessed via Shirogane Park found in the south of the town. Take a look around yourself or join a 30-minute comprehensive tour that takes you a little further into both the mine and the history. The park is also home to two impressive waterfalls amidst a backdrop of mountains which include the nearby, must-visit Yamadera temple.
A sight to behold in every season, Ginzan Onsen’s scenic street fills up with yukata and wooden sandals during summer, cherry blossom in spring, colourful hillsides in autumn, and a thick layer of fluffy white snow in winter. The food also changes with the seasons with specialities including soba noodles, soba flavoured ice cream, special Ginzan Onsen tofu, and the upper class kaiseki cuisine which is one of the best ways of trying out a range of delicious and unusual dishes, most commonly found included in the price of a stay at a traditional ryokan.
Ginzan Onsen Overview
NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR