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Ginzan Onsen

Step Into Ginzan Onsen: A 'Spirited Away' Encounter

Ginzan Onsen is an Onsen town in Yamagata prefecture off the coast and towards the inland. Its name means "silver mine hot spring". In the wintertime there is deep mountain snow in the valley surrounding the shinkansen tracks making for a beautiful, photo worthy ride into Yamagata from Tokyo.

Silver Springs and Snowy Vistas

Step Into Ginzan Onsen: A 'Spirited Away' Encounter

The town is a secluded hot spring town nestled in the mountains, where in the winter the scenery is enhanced by heavy snow that perches on the rooftops and alongside the walkways, while in the warmer months ryokan( hotel guests) are more likely to to be out strolling around town in traditional summer Yukata robes.

From Silver Mining to Soothing Waters

Step Into Ginzan Onsen: A 'Spirited Away' Encounter

Ginzan's economy grew due to silver mining and eventually transitioned into tourism when it opened dozens of hot spring resorts and ryokan along the central river that runs through the town.

The mountains that surround the town yield hot spring water that is used in the private hotels and public baths along the central causeway in the city center.

Nostalgia by Gaslight

Step Into Ginzan Onsen: A 'Spirited Away' Encounter

The center of town is a pedestrian only district and as night falls the streets are lit by gaslight giving it a nostalgic feel.

In the wintertime Ginzan Onsen receives heavy snow and the far side of town a 20-foot waterfall emerges from the mountain landscape close to the 500 years old permanently closed silver mine.

Architectural Time Capsule

Step Into Ginzan Onsen: A 'Spirited Away' Encounter

There are no modern buildings within the town and the architecture was constructed during the Taisho era (early 20th century) using bare timber framing and white plaster, however, lately new stylish ryokan, while keeping in style with the era, have begun to crop up.

Public Baths and Architectural Marvels

Along with the ryokan which are traditional 3 to 4 story accommodations located along the river within town are two additional public bath houses one in which was created by famed Japanese architect Kuma Kengo, who designed the National Stadium in Tokyo.

In addition, many of the town"s Onsen (Hot springs) Ryokan open their baths to non-staying guests during daytime for an additional 500-1500yen with most featuring historic indoor baths.

A Journey to Tranquility

Access to Ginzan Onsen requires riding a bus (departing every 20 minutes or taking a short taxi ride from Oishida Station located on the JR Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo.

Noteworthy facts about Yamagata prefecture and Ginzan Onsen

  • The region's Kokeshi suppliers and woodworkers date back generations and are very popular souvenirs to bring home as a keepsake.

  • Watermelons and Rice in Yamagata are delicious due to the fact of long running winters and deep snows.

  • The region is prized for its beef, if you're feeling adventurous try the horse meat!

  • Ginzan Onsen is famed for its possible connection to the Studio Ghibli film ''Spirited away'' a film set in a town not quite that dissimilar to Ginzan Onsen and is directed by Miyazaki Hayao.