Blessed with towering mountains, vast open plains, and long stretches of rich coastline, Tsuruoka City is a rural farming city in the vast open plains of the Shonai Region. This is region has an absolute treasure trove of hidden gems to explore.
Located on the coastal side of Yamagata Prefecture, this city spans from the mountains to the ocean and is dotted with dozens of small villages and towns. Despite its official population of over 100,000 people, the actual confines of this city only has about 34,000 residents while the rest of these other communities that have merged with Tsuruoka make up for the rest. The result of this is that Tsuruoka is a very large city with incredible diversity and to an extent can even be thought of as a region of its own.
Far off the beaten path, a trip to Tsuruoka City is a chance to escape the crowds of tourists in the big cities and even places that were once hidden gems only a few years ago. This region is one of the last beautiful locations in Japan that has yet to be changed by the massive influx of foreign tourism and offers a chance to experience Japan through the many temples, restaurants, and traditional factories that have been run for generations by the same families.
Population: 129,000 (2015)
A vast city that is made up of many individual towns and villages.
Is the only city in Japan designated as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy.
Home to the Dewa Sanzan (Three Holy Mountains of Dewa) and the sacred journey of rebirth.
Sakura in Tsuruoka Park
The vast mountain ranges of the Dewa Sanzan
From mountain hiking, quiet meditation at Zen temples, to exquisite culinary arts, you can easily spend two to three days exploring Tsuruoka. We recommend waking up early in the morning to explore the nature of Tsuruoka City, and spending the late afternoon and evenings to enjoy the culinary excellence of the world famous cuisine that this region has to offer.
See below for our roundup of some of our favorite things to do and see in this wonderful city.
Click on the "learn more" button to see each location in detail.
Also check back more as we continue to update this article with new activities and places to explore.
The highest of the Dewa Sanzan and the mountain of the afterlife. This mountain has snow on it year round and makes for a full day ascent over wetlands, open fields, and up to the shrine at its peak.
The Kamo Aquarium
This aquarium located right on the ocean hosts the most diverse display of jellyfish in the world in its sleek and beautifully designed facility. It also has one of the most famous Yamagata restaurants located inside of it!
A serene zen temple at the base of Mt. Haguro with a stunning Japanese garden that has been designated as a national treasure of Japan. You can enjoy traditional wagashi tea here and even practice Zen buddhism here.
Experiences and Tours
Explore deeper with special experiences that have been made in collaboration with the locals of Tsuruoka City. This includes culinary courses made with local farmers and chefs and spiritual experiences with the Yamabushi mountain monks on the mountains here in Tsuruoka.
You may also see our full list of experiences here in Yamagata Prefecture here.
Experiences in and around Tsuruoka 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 Tsuruoka City.