I participated in the “Air & Rail Solo Trip Media Tour” sponsored by the Shonai Airport Utilization Promotion Council. The purpose of this tour is to convey that the Shonai region in Yamagata Prefecture is a highly convenient place to fly from Tokyo and Haneda, and that it is a healing place for solo trips. Let’s deliver a pattern that literally became a healing journey.
After an hour by ANA flight from Haneda, I got off at “Oishii Shonai Airport”. The early morning flight departs at 7:05, but there are many advantages in that you can arrive in Shonai early and have ample time to plan your trip. ANA makes four round trips a day to Shonai Airport from Haneda, and because it is located between Sakata and Tsuruoka, it has good access to the city.
From the plane window, I could see Mt. Chokai on the border with Akita Prefecture, and the vast Shonai Plain in front of me. The Shonai region of Yamagata Prefecture is a treasure trove of nature blessed with ingredients from the sea, mountains, and villages. In addition to traditional foods such as shojin ryori, there are a large number of local indigenous crops (crops that have long been rooted in Shonai and are only grown in Shonai).
First of all, I was invited to Dewa Sanzan Shrine on Mt. Hagurosan five-storied pagoda, a national treasure, stands among the cedar trees at the entrance to the approach to Mt. Haguro, Ichinozaka. Said to be the oldest pagoda in the Tohoku region, it is said to have been built by Taira no Masakado, and the current pagoda was rebuilt about 600 years ago. In the morning light, I was so moved that my soul was suddenly shaken by its majestic appearance.
After eating Yamagata’s famous ball konnyaku at the Hagurosan rest house, we proceed to Dewa Sanzan Shrine, which stands at the center of the Hagurosan summit. When I forgot the daily hustle and bustle with the sunshine and the refreshing breeze, the Sanjin Gosaiden, which has a distinctive thick thatched roof, caught my eye.
Dewa Sanzan is a general term for Mt. Haguro, Mt. Gassan, and Mt. Yudono, and the largest shrine in Japan that enshrines these three gods is the Sanjin Gosaiden. . The thatched roof is said to be 2.1m, the thickest in Japan. Gassan Shrine is located in the center, and Yudonosan Shrine and Dewa Shrine line up on the left and right. The current shrine was rebuilt in 1818, and the Kagami Pond in front of it has been worshiped since ancient times as the “Mysterious Pond,” and is carefully protected by the people of Shonai together with the Sanjin Gosaiden. It’s been here.
A little before the summit of Mt. Haguro, there is the “Saikan” of the Mt. Haguro shrine. It was originally one of the three pioneers of Mt. Haguro, “Kazou-in”, and a worship facility for monks still exists inside. Currently, the general public can also stay here, not for training purposes, and you can also enjoy Buddhist cuisine. All ingredients are harvested from local mountains. Not only is it the ultimate in local production for local consumption, but it also has the meaning of purifying yourself from the inside by eating the crops grown in these mountains.
This time, we had the Shojin ryori “Suzufuzen” in the altar room, which was used as a place of prayer for Yamabushi training, and in the room of the imperial messenger who entertained court nobles from Kyoto. It is the ultimate detox food rich in local nutrients, such as sesame tofu and ankake, which is made with great care, and chrysanthemum seaweed rolls, and gassan bamboo shoots and dried persimmon tempura. There was more volume than I imagined.
Next, I was taken to JA Tsuruoka’s Shonai Sand Dunes Melon Market. Shonai is a sand dune area facing the sea, and melon cultivation is thriving. Tsuruhime, Tsuruhime Red, and Andes melons from Shonai Sand Dunes were just in season. It is said to be popular as a gift. From the first day of my trip to Shonai, I have been able to enjoy many of the blessings of Shonai, and I am already revitalized.
After being filled with delicious melons, we headed to the Tsuruoka City Kamo Aquarium, home to the Jellyfish Dream Museum, which boasts the largest number of jellyfish exhibits in the world. There is a jellyfish research institute inside the museum, where jellyfish and other fish that inhabit the Shonai sea are displayed. You can forget the time and look at it. Jellyfish Dream Theater is a super popular spot that looks great on social media.
Our accommodation for this day is the long-established “Tsukasaya Ryokan” in Yutagawa Onsen. Yutagawa Onsen is said to have been a hot spring resort for the Sakai family, the feudal lords of the Shonai domain, and as an entertainment district for those visiting the Dewa Sanzan Shrine for about 1,300 years. Among them, Tsukasaya Ryokan has been loved for many years as an informal hot spring inn founded in 1870, and the current owner is the 10th generation. While soaking in the free-flowing hot springs, I was healed by the homely smiles of the owner and the proprietress, and it was a relaxing time.
Meals are made with plenty of native vegetables, and you can enjoy local cuisine made with seasonal ingredients such as sashimi made from fresh seafood caught in the Sea of Japan and branded meat called Yamabushi Pork. I also enjoyed Iwagaki oysters, which are in season in July. The sake tasting set (3 types, 6 types, 10 types) that allows you to fully enjoy the sake that the owner of Tsukasaya Ryokan is particular about is very popular. Yamagata Prefecture is one of the best sake-producing prefectures in Japan, and among them, there are 18 sake breweries in the Shonai region. Only Japanese sake with deep taste. Needless to say, I fell asleep comfortably after eating.