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 has a general parking lot nearby the hot spring ryokan where guests can park.
Ginzan Onsen can also be reached from Yamagata City via a local train to Oishida Station and then taking a local bus from the startion.
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 is operated between Oishida Station and Ginzan Onsen.
You can reach Oishida Station via a local train from Yamagata Station, though be aware there is likely not be any English on the trains.
The local bus is called the Hanagasa Bus and departs Oishida Station approximately every 60-90 minutes and only operates 5 times a day. Note that the bus is not covered by the JR pass and costs 720 yen each way.
It takes about 35 minutes for the bus to drive between Ginzan Onsen and Oishida Station.
This bus will stop multiple times between driving between Oishida Station and Ginzan Onsen, so be careful not to get off at the wrong stop or you will be in a very tricky situation.
To verify with the bus driver you can show them this Japanese to ask the following questions.
Is this Oishida Station?
Is this Ginzan Onsen?
See the URL below for the bus schedule.
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 generally 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.
Other Onsen Towns in Yamagata
Ginzan Onsen is just one of many dreamy onsen towns here in Yamagata Prefecture!
If you are not able to make a booking at Ginzan Onsen then you may still be able to book a room at another onsen resort in the hot spring towns linked below.
We highly recommend a traditional onsen route that has been popular since the Edo Period when visitors to Yamagata would first visit the onsen of Mt. Zao then bathe in the onsen of Kaminoyama to treat a variety of skin ailments and to refresh their skin.
The waters of Zao are highly acidic and have a strong exfoliating property which is said to purify your skin while the clear waters of Kaminoyama are soothing and moisturizing to help replenish your skin.