Hakusanjima Island

Shonai Region

Map of Shonai
Yamagata Prefecture

Shonai Region

The Shonai Region is the coastal front of Yamagata Prefecture and has played an important role historically, spiritually, and culturally not just in the shaping of Yamagata but for Japan as a whole.

During the Edo period, Shonai prospered as both a major seaport along the Kitamaebune trade route as well as a samurai stronghold. Shonai was also significant as a pilgrimage site as the Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa are even today considered to be one of the holiest sites for the Yamabushi and Shugendo practitioners. 

While samurai swords and trade boats may be a thing of the past, the Shonai Region is still flourishing thanks to its unrivaled fishing and agriculture industries. Must-try delicacies include Shonai Persimmons, Atsumi Turnips, Dongara Soup, Mugikiri Udon,  and Shojin Ryori.

Cities in the Shonai Region
Kamo Aquarium


During the days of the samurai, Tsuruoka was one of the most powerful domains and concentrations of military power in all of Japan. However, after the Meiji Revolution, Tsuruoka’s samurai traded Swords for Hoes and took up agriculture which is what it is famed for today.

Due to the incredible freshness and unique culinary genius behind Tsuruoka’s cuisine, in 2014, Tsuruoka was named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, and today is a must-stop for foodies! Tsuruoka is also unique for its Yamabushi culture and Jellyfish Aquarium.


At one point in history, Sakata was the richest city in all of Japan, thanks to the flourishing Kitamaebune Trade System Thanks to this vast trade network, today Sakata has many distinctive cultural elements, such as Maiko Culture, which are typically not found in northern Japan.

In addition to its breathtaking views of natural wonders such as Mt. Chokai and Tobishima Island, Sakata offers some of the finest seafood in all of Japan and is chalked full of historic landmarks.

Shonai Machi

Shonai Town

Not to be confused with the region of Shonai itself, Shonai Town is a quaint place that is absolutely flushed with nature and good people.

Home to the summit of Mt. Gassan, the fertile plains of Shonai Town make it one of the top producers of grain, and hot springs can relax weary muscles after a long and arduous day of hiking. For those looking for a bit of a thrill, Shonai Town is also home of Tohoku’s largest racing cart course, which is set against the backdrop of an impressive cascade of mountains and rice fields. While it may be small, Shonai Town is worth a visit and will help you understand Yamagata culture from the heart.

The 16 Buddhas of Yuza


In the summer, the beaches of Yuza are a popular spot for locals to take a dip and cool down, as the summer heat in Yamagata can prove to be unforgiving at times.

Sitting at the base of Mt. Chokai, the tallest mountain in all of Tohoku, Yuza has a stern calmness to it as it proudly boasts magnificent scenes of unrivaled scenery. There are a number of good hiking spots tucked away in the surrounding mountains, and cultural sites such as the 16 Buddhas of Yuza make it an attractive site to stop, especially if you are driving to Akita from Yamagata.



The Akamogami River flows down the middle of Mikawa, blessing the surrounding area with fertile lands that produce light, fluffy and bountiful rice.

Since Mikawa is very flat, it is popular for cycling, and as you pedal adjacent to the vast fields, you can take in the surrounding mountain views. Agricultural products other than rice that Mikawa is known for are mushrooms, melons, and green onions. Mikawa is also where the only Aeon Mall in all of Shonai is located.