Tohoku might have been hot earlier this month, but dang was it picturesque. Yamagata prefecture especially. It’s not very high on most tourists’ itineraries but I think it deserves to be considered by travelers who have done the usual suspects (Tokyo, Kyoto, Japan Alps, Hiroshima).
You’ve probably guessed by now from previous posts here and here that my family are big hikers, even our three-year-old. So despite the mercury pushing some pretty unbearable temperatures, we still wanted to head out to Zao Onsen to hit the trails. This hot springs resort is more known for its ski trails and onsen (NOT that enjoyable in summer) but in summertime you can take the ski lifts to the top of the hill and enjoy a short hike on the trail system.
We passed on the pricey ropeway (¥2500 per person round trip) and opted instead for the barely-off-the-ground chair lift (¥700 per person one way) on the eastern side of the park. This delivered us practically to the edge of the Okama Crater, which you can see in the picture:
The color of the water in the crater lake supposedly changes up to six times a day depending on the position of the sun. I can’t tell you that I noticed many changes but I can say for certain that this lake is beautiful from all angles. I know. We practically hiked around the perimeter to make sure. Hands down, I count this among one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in Japan in six years.