Ginzan Hot Springs (Yamagata): A Nostalgic Feeling Onsen Town Reminiscent of the Taisho Period
There is an onsen town in Yamagata prefecture that was the set for Oshin; the worldly famous contents that originated in Japan. Here we introduce the highlights of this nostalgic feeling onsen town. It is a place visited by many overseas tourists.
About the Ginzan Onsen
The Ginzan Onsen is a hot springs town located in Obanazawa of Yamagata Prefecture. There are rows of traditional ryokan (Japanese inns) on both sides of the Ginzan River. These building were built from the late Taisho period (1912, to 1926), to the early Showa period (1926 to 1989) and they are 3-4 storied wooden balcony structures. This was about the time when western influences have been coming in from overseas, so right when things from the West were on trend. The area that spreads before you is not very traditional Japanese; rather it is an eclectic style of Japanese and Western.
The History of Ginzan Onsen
- In the early Edo period: The area prospered as a large silver mine, but at the same time there were those who operated small onsen inns utilizing the small number of springs. The silver mines eventually saw a decline.
- Taisho period: There was a large flood that destroyed the entire area.
- Showa period: They struck the water source that provided plenty of water. With the popularity of western style architecture, the small onsen inns became rebuilt as larger eclectic Japanese and Western style inns.
And it leads to the present.
*History of Japan (Edo→Meiji→Taisho→Showa→Heisei/present)
#1: The Changing Townscape (Noon, Dusk, Night, Snow)
As the Sun Begins to Set, https://www.flickr.com
The Ginzan Onsen has a very different townscape between day and night. Daytime is nice but after dusk is the even more popular timing. The reason is, the area is lit with the gas-lit lanterns, which is extremely rare nowadays; it creates a different atmosphere than illumination from modern LED lighting. The whole town is enveloped in a warm gentle light. If you want to get just the right photo, the best timing would be about 30 minutes before sunset when there is just a little bit of sunlight.
The most famous scene from Ginzan Onsen is the snow filled night scenery. The gas lit lanterns mentioned earlier against the pure white snow…no further explanation should be necessary – gives a boost to the romantic atmosphere.
#2: Free Foot Bath
The Ginzan Onsen has public baths and foot baths other than the ryokans. This free foot bath, Warashi-yu uses the spring water directly from the source, is spacious enough to accommodate many people, and so naturally a highly recommended place. You can sit and relax while gazing at the view of the onsen town.
#3: The Famous Curry Bun
We really want you to try the “Haikara-san no Kari-pan”. Whether it’s after your foot bath or a bite during, do grab it because they only sell as much as they make. It’s an easily recognizable pink building so you should be able to find it right away. Related: 9 Interesting Character ‘Man’ Buns from Japan
#4: A Satisfying Experience No Matter Which Ryokan
There shouldn’t be too many of you who come all the way to Ginzan Onsen just for the foot bath, so we want to recommend some good ryokan… but to be honest, the ryokan that are in this Ginzan Onsen area are all superb. We have to say we recommend…actually all of them. We encourage you to enjoy the onsen at the ryokan of course but also be amazed by the delicious Japanese food.
#5: An After-Bath Stroll
Once you had your bath, you can’t go straight to bed. The appeal of this place is the townscape. So once you have relaxed in the onsen, we invite you to take a stroll. There is a walking path that stretches from the onsen town.
*As winter is considered too cold, the kimono rental is offered only in spring and summer. You can change into them all year round at the ryokan.
The Ginzan Onsen, hot springs located over 10 km into the mountainous areas from the public roads; you will be surrounded by nature and feel the relaxed flow of time. It is a quaint atmosphere of Japan mixed with it a little bit of the West; do experience it for yourself. Information: Map