Situated in the north-eastern part of Yamagata Prefecture, Shinjo is a town of 40,000 people known for its tremendous snowfall. During the winter, when the town is transformed into a mountain of snow piled deeper than two meters, the people of Shinjo spend their days shoveling and ploughing. When the harsh winter subsides and spring comes to Shinjo, the citizens celebrate the changing seasons with an event called the Kadoyaki Festival, where they eat Pacific Herring (which they call Kado in their local dialect). In summer, they parade grand festival floats around town to celebrate their Shinjo Festival, which started 260 years ago. In fall, they hold a festival to fly traditional kites. Shinjo Station is the terminal station for the Yamagata Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo and Yamagata, letting more people than ever to bask in the welcoming glow of these festivals. Visitors will delight in seeing the magnificent festival floats or the beautifully decorated kites.
Yamagata Prefecture is known for producing Japan’s best cherries. When the fruit ripens in June, cherry farmers start work at the dark hour of 4 a.m. to bring in their harvest. They carefully hand-pick the cherries one at a time and ever-so-gently, place them in bamboo baskets called biku so as not to harm a single one. One by one, the harvested cherries are then carefully sorted by size and color, taken that same day to markets and shops, and displayed as Asatori Sakuranbo, or Morning-Harvest Cherries. The cherries are exceptionally popular across Japan as a gift of early summer.
The book Yamagata wo Iku (“Going to Yamagata”), Rediscover Yamagata is not your ordinary guide book.
There are no advertisements or marketing blurbs. In a series of articles, nineteen people with an attachment to the area simply present the things they love about the prefecture. They introduce their area of interest in their own personal way, and these interests span a wide range of categories. Instead of focusing on popular stores or well-known products, they introduce such things as out-of-the-way coffee shops, quiet shrines, undiscovered craftsmen, and old hot spring hotels. This book is a collection of anecdotes and personal narratives about an aspect of Yamagata each writer believes deserves to be known.
This book was created on the occasion of the first Michinoku Art Festival Yamagata Biennale, held in 2014. It was produced as part of the festival preparations with the aim of helping those who would be visiting Yamagata to discover what was special about the prefecture. For readers with a love of art, culture, and design, the article writers hoped to introduce a Yamagata that was deeper and more authentic than the Yamagata found in a typical travel guide. This is a guide book for people interested in discovering Yamagata, written by those who love Yamagata.
Sagara dolls have been made by many generations of the Sagara family of Yonezawa city, Yamagata prefecture since 1790. These dolls can take on many forms, but here we have a “Child Holding a Sea Bream.” In Japan, the sea bream is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune, and this particular doll embodies the hope for a child’s good health and future happiness. (Takashi Nakamura)
Kokeshi dolls are said to have originated around 1800 in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, in hot spring districts known for their healing properties. The craftsmen of these densely wooded and mountainous regions fashioned bowls, trays and other household goods out of wood, and the dolls they crafted out of leftover wood scraps are believed to be the first kokeshi dolls. Visitors to the hot springs bought these dolls as souvenirs, contributing to their spread throughout Japan.
At the entrance of a japanese temple, there is a gate called the Sanmon gate.This gate is guarded by two “Niouzou” Buddhist guardian spirits.
Their purpose is to prevent enemies from entering the temple.They are always a pair, one on the right side of the gate and one on the left.One’s mouth is open , the other one’s mouth is closed.Usually they have muscular bodies and angry expressions.
However, Niouzou at Yakushido Temple is different.He has an angry face but he is almost cartoonish.His body is not muscular, but sagging like an old man.He is a very atypical Niouzou. (Takashi Nakamura)
On the path leading to Satonomiya-Yudonosan Shrine, you will find a reclining bronze statue of the “negai ushi,” or cow deity. This deity is known as a god of fertility, safe childbirth, and other deeply held ambitions. People visiting the shrine will touch the statue of the cow deity, which is believed to help such desires come true.