Visit Yamagata Prefecture, in Japan's Tohoku region, and you'll fall in love. Known as "another Japan over the mountains," when the fall leaves in Yamagata start turning colors, this popular tourist destination truly glows with its unique culture, food, and natural beauty.
Yamagata Prefecture is dyed with vivid autumn colors from mid-October to late November, especially in the mountains. People come from all over the country and globe to see the beautiful color-changing foliage. But there's also the stunning scenery from the surrounding valleys and mountain paths, plus the famous onsen hot springs, historic shrines and parks, and more!
Let's look at 10 great spots for fall leaves in Yamagata, where you can enjoy the autumn colors, as well as the best time to see them.

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1. Zao Ropeway: The many shades of autumn foliage seen from up above

Photo credit: Zao Ropeway

In the eastern part of central Yamagata is Yamagata City. Here is where you will find the Zao Ropeway, which allows you to enjoy all the beauty of the four seasons from the sky.
In fall, around mid-October, the thick maples and oaks rich in their characteristic foliage make for a breathtaking sight. You will be able to enjoy a 360° panoramic view of autumn foliage ranging from yellow to orange to brick red.

Zao Ropeway
229-3 Zao Onsen, Yamagata, Yamagata 990-2301
Access: Take the bus from JR Yamagata Station to the Zao Onsen Bus Terminal and walk about 10 minutes. About 20 minutes away by car from the Yamagata Kamiyama IC on the Tohoku Expressway.
・Ropeway hours: 8:30am-5pm (subject to change)
・Fare (round trip): [Jizo Sancho Station] Adults (Junior High School students and older), 3,000 yen. Children (Elementary students) 1,500 yen.
[Juhyo Kogen Station] Adults (Junior High School students and older), 1,500 yen. Children (elementary school students) 800 yen *tax included
・Closed: Open daily (may close depending on weather conditions)

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2. Zao Echo Line: Autumn sky and leaves

Photo Courtesy of Zao Town

The Zao Echo Line, a popular driving course connecting the prefectures of Miyagi and Yamagata, crosses the Zao Mountain Range.
Both sides along this 26km long mountain road are covered with trees, and the bright red leaves of beech and birch reach their peak in mid-October.
On sunny days, the Zao Echo Line is a place where you can enjoy the clear autumn sky, the pleasant breeze, and the autumn leaves that spread in front of you.
Buses operate it too, making it for a delightful sightseeing ride. However, please note that the road will be closed due to snow from the beginning of November to the end of April.

Zao Echo Line
Kuraishi Gaku Kokuyu Chinai, Togattaonsen, Zao-machi, Katta-gun, Miyagi 989-0916
Access: Take the bus from JR Yamagata Station to "Zao Karita Sancho" (the Zao Echo Line is in the tract). 60 minutes by car from JR Yamagata Station.
・Toll: Free (Usually closed from early November to late April)
・Phone:0224-33-2215 (Zao Town Agriculture and Forestry Tourism Division)

3. Ginzan Onsen: Retro hot spring town with a picture-perfect autumnal backdrop

Tanya Jones / Shutterstock.com

Ginzan Onsen, one of Yamagata's most famous hot springs villages, is a popular area rich in a traditional atmosphere, lined with century-old wooden ryokan inns.
From late October to early November, the surrounding mountains are dyed with autumn colors. The vibrant foliage, in combination with the traditional look of the town, creates a nostalgic space.
There is a park in the back of the hot spring town, and one of its highlights is Shirogane Falls, a 22m-high drop that can be seen from the walking path. Enjoy the magnificent waterfalls and the murmur of the mountain stream, while enjoying the autumn leaves in their prime.

Ginzan Onsen
Yamagata Prefecture Obanazawa City Yamagata Large Ginzan Shinhata
Oishida
0237-28-3933

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4. Risshakuji (Yamadera): The splendid harmony of a Japanese temple and autumn leaves

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