The Secluded Hot Spring Town of Ginzan Onsen
Featuring one of the most beautiful winter views in all of Japan, Ginzan Onsen is a picture perfect hot spring town nestled in the mountains in the deep countryside of Yamagata Prefecture. With its beautiful Taisho-Era wooden buildings, streets lit by gas lamps, and a magnificent row of luxurious bathhouses, this location is like walking through a scene from Spirited Away.
Beautiful year-round, Ginzan Onsen stands as one of our top recommendations for sightseers visiting the Tohoku Region and is an absolute must see location during the winter.
It is at its most beautiful when it is covered in snow during the winter months.
The silver mine and forest path are not accessible during the winter due to snow.
Free to explore.
See below for lodging information.
Ginzan Onsen can be accessed via a special bus that operates in January and February.
A rental car is also advisable for this countryside region.
Explore one of Japan's most beautiful onsen towns
Originally obtaining its name from the silver mine located near the back of this town, Ginzan Onsen translates out to Silver Mountain Hotsprings and was founded over 400 years ago when it thrived off of its silver production.
After its mines shut down, the town rediscovered itself as a premier hot spring resort by designating an entire portion of its town to over a dozen bathhouses that still stand today.
With their wooden frames and white plaster walls, these buildings preserve the elegance of their Taisho Era (1912 to 1926) architecture and are romanticized through the many dramas this town is featured in.
The nostalgic and warm feel that visitors often praise this town for is also thanks to the gas street lamps that give this town a soft glow.
Ginzan Onsen also features a 22 meter waterfall located at the back of the town. There is also a short hike into the mountains behind the waterfall that leads to a section of the silver mine that you can still enter today.
Note that this hike and the silver mine is inaccessible due to heavy snow during the winter months and early spring. A small trade off for the beautiful winter view you can enjoy.
To those wishing to enjoy the natural hot spring water, take note that a majority of these hot spring resorts are only for guests spending the night.
However, there are three public baths that you may enter. (Shirogane, Kajikayu, and Omokageyu)
Getting to Ginzan Onsen
Ginzan Onsen is located on the inland side of Yamagata Prefecture and about one hour away from Yamagata City.
Due to its remote location, there are very few public transportation options to this area and we must point out that having a personal car is by far the best way to get to this hot spring.
There is however a local bus line that operated from Oishida Station. You can reach this small station via a local train from Yamagata Station, though be aware there is no English available on these countryside bus lines. UPDATE: This bus line may have been cancelled as we cant find it online.
There is also a special roundtrip bus from Tendo Onsen operated during January and Febrary.
Staying at Ginzan Onsen
Due to its extreme surge in popularity among Asian tourists, staying at Ginzan Onsen can be difficult to outright impossible to stay at depending on the time of the year.
If you wish to stay here during the snow months of December, January, and February then you must reserve at least one year in advance to get a room along the main street.
Ginzan Onsen is an easy day trip from the many hotels of Yamagata City, so you can always just plan a day visit to this onsen town while basing yourself in the capital of Yamagata Prefecture.
You may alternatively stay at Tendo Onsen where they have a special bus service that runs between these two onsen towns in January and February. Hotels in Murayama City have also begun to start up their own special bus services to and from Ginzan Onsen that are free for guests of their hotel.