A depiction of Sakata City during the Edo Era (image provided by The Honma Museum)
The Port City of Sakata
The historic port city of Sakata was once a major port city that serviced domestic trade with the rest of Japan during the Edo Period hundreds of years ago. During this time, the richest family of all of Japan called Sakata home and the streets of downtown Sakata were lined with merchant homes and a bustling entertainment district for the many merchants and government officials that did business here.
This remnants of this bygone era of prosperity can still be seen in the many historical museums and sightseeing spots throughout this city. Sakata has also continued to produce some of the finest rice and sake in all of Japan which you can enjoy throughout the city.
Sakata is a port city that prospered thanks to its perfect position where the massive Mogami River flows into the ocean. This allowed it to service the river boats that brought in rice and safflower (flowers used for dying various products red) from inland Yamagata as well as various products from the Shonai Region. From the late 1600s, boats lined the Mogami river to load cargo onto the Japan Heritage Kitamaebune ships. These ships serviced the major cities of Japan including the new capital of Edo (modern day Tokyo) and its huge need for rice that enriched this entire part of Japan.
This city is also located next to Mt. Chokai and its vast network of spring water and waterfalls.
This includes waterfalls that you can drink from and hikes that take you through the vast beech forests at the base of this beautiful mountain.
See below for some of the many things to see and do in the port city of Sakata.
Population: 105,000 (2015).
Prospered in the Edo period (1603-1868) due to its position as a major port for booming rice and safflower trade.
Had a vast entertainment district with many high end restaurants and maiko and geisha dancers.
A major producer of high grade rice and sake.
This region has the highest consumption rate of ramen in Japan.
The Ken Domon Museum of Photography
A Special Note For Cruise Passengers
Visitors arriving via cruise ship will land at the Northern Sakata Port.
This deep water port is located far away from the city center. Walking is highly discouraged, you should instead take a taxi or look into the cruise shuttle bus to reach the downtown area and its attractions.
Please refer below to an aerial map of the port area.
Also see more about what you can see and do during your stay on Sakata Port's instagram account @sakataport and following the hashtag #sakataport.
A shuttle bus is the only form of public transportation that operates from the port and only picks up and drops off at one location in the downtown area. It costs roughly 1,000 yen for a roundtrip fare. Taxis are also available from the port.
Relive the history
The villa of the Honma Gardens once used by samurai lords and even the emperor
The influence of Sakata's merchant history can be felt strongly all throughout the city. If you want to see what life was like during the prosperous years, look no further than Abumiya, The Honma Historical Residence, or The Honma Art Museum and adjacent Seienkaku Mansion.
For those looking for a walking tour of the city, please see our walking guide.
Get immersed in the local culture
Take a walk around Sakata and it's plain to see that trade on the Kitamaebune ships was by no means a one-way affair. It was common in those days to entertain guests with food, Sake, and Geisha, and this led to several Japanese-style restaurants and Geisha houses to be established in the city, of which Somaro and The Sanno Club still maintain that olden day charm. Sakata's culture is also heavily influenced by the nearby Dewa Sanzan, as can be seen at Kaikoji Temple, and the Ken Domon Photography Museum and Sakata Festival provide another glimpse into this city's uniqueness.
An aerial view of Sakata City
Aside from its historical highlights, Sakata also has many other attractions for visitors to enjoy!
Feel free to contact us with any questions or reservation requests that you may have.
Experiences in and around Sakata City
Experience the culture and beauty of Yamagata on a deeper level through special experiences that we have made in close collaboration with the local residents of this lively northern city.
Some of our experience include hiking up the steps of Yamadera, Yamagata culinary courses, bar hopping tours, and many others.
Please see our newest booking website called Tour Yamagata for a full list of experiences available during your visit to Sakata City.
See additional information about Sakata City on the official city website!