A depiction of Sakata City during the Edo Era (image provided by The Honma Museum)

Yamagata City

Hirashimizu

Quietly nestled down in the shadow of Chitoseyama Mountain on the eastern edge of Yamagata City, just a stone’s throw away from the bypass, pachinko parlors and car dealerships is a little village known as Hirashimizu.

Hirashimizu is a quiet place, a narrow valley between mountains with a little stone-walled creek running through the middle, and little plank bridges leading to individual houses. Here also, owing to the iron-rich clay of the nearby mountain, a centuries-old pottery tradition continues to this day. While the numbers have diminished over time, several pottery kilns operate to this day, producing some extraordinary earthen wares. Shichiemongama is probably best known of the surviving kilns, and it’s showroom is packed with all kinds of covet-worthy articles. The Shichiemongama style combines a certain corporeal roughness gliding seamlessly into a lustrous, gradient glaze. You can also try your own hand at the craft, and take a class in their workshop.

Next to Shichiemongama is Kusakida Kobo Kameya, a shop specializing in silks, washi (traditional Japnese paper), and other articles naturally dyed with plants cultivated in nearby fields. The store also sells beautiful dyed mayudama, or “cocoon jewels”, used in New Year’s decorations to bring good luck and a bountiful cocoon harvest in the coming year. An enormous variety of flowers and plants grown year round, including the famed benihana, or deep-red safflower, to which Yamagata’s biggest summer festival, Hanagasa Matsuri, is dedicated. (Note that the store is closed to the public from December 25th to the end of February.)

Just a block up from Shichiemongama you’ll come across a fantastic little sake shop called La Jomon. It’s worth taking a few minutes to explore this store, as the proprietors offer a beautifully curated selection of Japanese sake, as well as drinking snacks, with an emphasis on Yamagata-made selections. La Jomon partners with different local breweries to produce unique small-batch sakes that exhibit all the qualities that make Yamagata sake so famous.

Next to Shichiemongama is Kusakida Kobo Kameya, a shop specializing in silks, washi (traditional Japnese paper), and other articles naturally dyed with plants cultivated in nearby fields. The store also sells beautiful dyed mayudama, or “cocoon jewels”, used in New Year’s decorations to bring good luck and a bountiful cocoon harvest in the coming year. An enormous variety of flowers and plants grown year round, including the famed benihana, or deep-red safflower, to which Yamagata’s biggest summer festival, Hanagasa Matsuri, is dedicated. (Note that the store is closed to the public from December 25th to the end of February.)

Experiences

 

Hirashimizu also has a special ceramics and sake tasting experience that you can take part in during your visit.  This tour is run by multiple shops here and local guides here in Yamagata.  

Learn more here

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