My First Autumn Experience at Zao Ropeway and Yamadera Temple at Yamagata Prefecture

Our family migrated last year, December 2019, here in Japan, and had my first winter experience right after our arrival. Before my stay here in Japan turns one-year-old by December, I need to share one more season – the Autumn. Hopefully, happening very soon in our place where every tree’s leaves will turn to gold, reds, oranges, although some of the leaves still in green shades near our place. We anticipated Autumn and had hopes to my husband to check the view of mountains in time for the fall season. I cant wait to see the dramatic change of the leave colors where every leaf is like flowers.

Just recently, my husband granted me my wish to see the autumn. It is October in time for the fall season, where some areas are already undergoing the metamorphosis of leaves color. Although some part of Japan was still early for fall. (Just like in our place). We search for a place where we can see the perfect shades of Autumn. Last weekend, my family and I were able to see the magical autumn season here in Japan. We booked the hotel and planned our route as we went on a road trip for two days, Saturday and Sunday. The weather is a bit cloudy by the morning but cleared up later on, and it was a great start during our trip.

We woke up early and left the house by 7 AM. The place we visited was the Yamagata Prefecture, and a 3 hours drive away from hour house. So we put all our luggage needed for the trip, and we start our journey to Yamagata. We stop by at a convenience store to grab our quick breakfast and continue our route to Yamagata. In Japan, there are many available road stations. You can stop by for snacks or use the comfort room anytime. We did a stopover at one of the road stations we passed by named Oguni machi, Yamagata. We saw a store selling a bowl of hot soup. The store caught our curiosity, so we bought a cup for us and tried it. Yes, it tasted delicious mixed with radish, mushroom, and miso paste to make it tastier. My husband, which is Japanese, never tried a Bear soup ever in his entire life, so this is first time for everyone. It was a fun experience to see the store with the skin of the genuine bear displayed. We took a photo with the Bearskin, of course before leaving the station.

The first road station where we stop.
The first road Station Oguni Machi Yamagata we stop by to buy for food.
Tasting the Kuma soup, if you noticed the thick black bearskin at my son’s back, it is a genuine bearskin upon closer look.
The hot soup is sold at the station with bear meat as the main ingredient plus radish and mushroom.
The price of one cup of soup sold at the station.
The snacks we bought for the kids while on our trip to Yamagata Prefecture also from Oguni Machi station.

The second station we need to get off is for everyone to use the comfort room. From there, we only bought a konyaku ball stick, which is also delicious.

The Konyaku ball stick.

After that, we continue to drive to the mountain, children took a nap, and after one more hour from the station, this view of the mountains showed up. The color of the leaves changes, and the gold color is more dominant than the green leaves.

Yamagata Mountains view.
The Autumn view of Yamagata Prefecture.

We were supposed to visit Yamagata’s viewing deck, but the establishment was closed to our surprise due to the corona pandemic. We just headed to our next destination, which is the Zao Ropeway, one of the famous tourist spots of Yamagata Prefecture.


Riding the cable car gave us a fantastic view of the mountains covered with the leaves’ ripe colors in preparation for the winter. It has 10 km as the most prolonged courses and inclined about 38 degrees. The Zao ropeway is famous in any season, most especially during the winter season. Where the trees of the forest look like a snow monster. The resort has an entrance fee of 3000 Yen for adults and 1500 Yen for seven years old and above while still free for seven years old below.

Zao Ropeway ticket.
Our entrance ticket at Zao Ropeway.

Passengers of the cable car need to wait every 20 minutes for the cable car to arrive down the hills.

Me and my children while riding the cable car.
Riding the Zao Ropeway.
The view just near the pick-up station of the Zao Ropeway.
The view while running the cable car.
Golden view at the Zao Ropeway mountain while our cable car moves.
Arrived at Zincho Sancho  station.
I took a picture at the Kogen Station, which is the second Station of the Zao ropeway.

There are more cable cars at the Kogen station going up the Zincho Sancho Station, the third and final stations.

The ride is so smooth, fast, and the view is so magnificent. We are now going to the last station here, which is the Zincho Sancho Station.

It was 1 PM when we arrived at the last station, which is the highest one, so we urgently went for lunch. By that time, there was a minimal option from the menu as it was past lunchtime already.

The Zao ropeway restaurant at the third station.
The top’s view became so cloudy for a few minutes, and we couldn’t see anything, but luckily, the clouds clear up again.
The ticket and receipt of the foods that we ordered from Zao Ropeway restaurant.
Ordered these foods such as pasta, curry, and beefsteak.

The foods were all tasted delicious. After eating, we went out outside and did a quick trek from the small mountains near the last station.

A Buddha statue at the top of Zao ropeway.
Climbed to the viewing deck and get this fantastic view.
The reddish mountain of Zao ropeway.
I was descending from the summit here.
Back to the last station, which is the Jizo Sancho Station.
There was a bell that we had rung before we left the station. It is said that Buddhist monks and nuns used a bell for meditation practices that send peace and calmness to whoever may hear it.
The view going down from the highest station.
The view we got going back to Juhyo Kogen Station, descending from the highest station.

We enjoyed the terrace view at Kogen station, but we did not go down further as the road descended, which we think is dangerous for our kids.

The terrace at Kojen Station.
The terrace at Kojen station.
The terrace view at Zao Ropeway.
We are going down the terrace to see the view.
The trees surrounding the terrace.
The view from the terrace was so beautiful, that’s why I can’t help but ook a picture here. The Colors of the trees are more vibrant when you become closer to them.
Entering the Kogen Station.
We were ENtering the Kogen station to return to the based station. Here the arrival of the cable car was every 20 minutes.
A photo board at Zao ropeway.
Our children love to take a picture whenever there’s a poster something like this.
Descending view from Kogen station.
The view from Kogen station while we descend to station 1.

The Zao Ropeway is surrounded by onsens, too, so you can visit their onsens if you have time. Onsens are said to be an option of indoors or outdoors, depending on which one suits your personality. We arrived at the based station at 3 o’clock, so it’s a little late than we thought. We went to our hotel after Zao ropeway as everyone are tired from the climbed. The temperature at the top of the mountain was 2 degrees.

The Grand Hotel Yamagata

We booked the Grand hotel to stay for one night at Yamagata. The room is clean, well-arranged, and straightforward. No breakfast includes during our bookings, so we bought breakfast on the following day.

Our grand hotel room.
Our family room at Yamagata Grand hotel.
Air purifier from Grand hotel.
Inside the room is an air purifier.
A package of tea from grand hotel.
A complimentary tea inside the room.

It was 4 in the afternoon when we check-in, so we went out again to see the nearby temple and the train station.

The Yamagata temple near our hotel.
The Yamagata temple, just within walking distance near our hotel.
Instructions on cutting a huge rock on the earliest century.
These caught our attention showing how the rock was divided during the earliest century by using another tiny stone to cut a big rock.
The rocks in building the temples.
The real rock is used in building the temples and displayed some spare of it around the temple.

After the temple, we go to the train station just for the kids to see the trains running at the Yamagata line.

Train station at Yamagata.
The Train Station at Yamagata.

After the train stations, we went back to the hotel, and we couldn’t find a restaurant to have our dinner along the road, so we decided to dine in from our hotel restaurant. However, when my husband about to enter, the staff said its fully booked during that time, so we look for another restaurant near the hotel.

The Grand hotel Yamagata.
The Grand hotel of Yamagata.

Not so far from our hotel, we found one that with fewer customers inside. We ordered a menu basically with rice but no available rice when we dine in, so we need to change our order. Come up with the following foods below for our dinner.

DInner at Yamagata.
Ordered pasta instead.
Our dinner at Yamagata.
Yakisoba with sausages and vegetables.

We realized later that it was too hard to find a restaurant at Yamagata. So if you plan to visit here, ask your hotel receptionist to book you for a restaurant in advance before you arrive at the hotel.

Donburi MAguro at Yamagata.
A bowl of Maguro with rice underneath of it. This one makes us a little bit sad as they used old rice and reheated rice that became so hard during repeatedly reheating it.
THe guoza at yamagata for our dinner.
Ordered gyoza too.

The taste of the foods was not that delicious, yet not that bad also. Upon checkout, we noticed that they gave us a discounted price, almost half of the original cost; we didn’t ask anything why and didn’t explain either. After that, we returned to the hotel and went to bed early. The following day, we had a different adventure at Yamagata Prefecture by seeing a temple on the hill’s top. Drive around less than 1 hour from the hotel until we reach the temple.

The Yamadera Temple

The Yamadera temple in Yamagata is a famous tourist spot with 1000 stone steps climb. It was so easy at first, but my legs became so heavy when we are in the middle of the climb. Though our children, the rise was just nothing, like they are just playing in the playground.

Our climb to Yamadera temple.
The start of the climb to Yamadera temple.
The Yamadera temple.
The entrance fee for the Yamadera temple is listed in front.
Wishing statue at Yamadera temple.
Saw this wishing statue going to the temple. It is believed that whoever drops a coin is calling for compassion and a request from the Buddha to protect the coin holder.
Offering a prayer before we go on with our climb.
We dropped a coin and uttered a prayer before we go on to our climb.
The view from the summit of Yamadera temple.
The view from the summit of Yamadera Temple.

We went down to the temple by 11:30 AM and ate at the restaurant just nearby the temple. The parking area for most of the tourists costs 500 yen. After we ate, we moved on to our next place to visit.

The Mogami River Dam Park

Another site in Yamagata that attracts a lot of local tourists. The view is lovely during any season. During our visits, they do have a water show that lasted for less than 10 minutes.

The Mogami river Park.
Water fountain show at Yamagata Mogami Dam Park, reaching the height as high as the mountain.

Since the show is just within 10 minutes, we left the park after and started driving home. We used a different route going home by this time. One of the road stations stopped by one of the road stations and enjoyed the authentic Japanese Soba soup.

Stop by at road station while on the road to our home.
Stop by at the ice cream store for the kids to have some sweet cold snacks.
The authentic soba store at Yamagata.
Then ate at this authentic soba store.
The genuine soba  we ate from our trip at Yamadera.
It was so delicious if time permitted us, we want to go back there again. It was my first time to try this kind of Japanese soba since our migration here. The price of the soba is at 1500Yen

Overall this experience will forever be remembered. My first autumn adventure was great, and we all had fun with my little family. I can’t wish or couldn’t ask for more.