Zao Onsen

Zao: A Paradise for Skiing, Hot Springs, and Snow Monsters


japan is a country known for its stunning landscapes, rich culture, and unique traditions. Among its many attractions, Zao stands out as one of the most popular destinations for skiing, hot springs, and encounters with snow monsters. Nestled between the mountains of Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures, Zao offers a wide range of experiences throughout the year. From skiing and snowboarding in winter to forest bathing and trekking in the green season, Zao has something for everyone. In this article, we will delve into the wonders of Zao, exploring its natural beauty, cultural festivals, and healing hot springs.

Zao Onsen: A Haven of Healing Waters

Zao Onsen is renowned for its mineral-rich water, which has been cherished for centuries for its healing properties. The waters of Zao Onsen are said to relieve fatigue, beautify the skin, and promote overall well-being. The discovery of these healing waters dates back to 110 AD, making Zao Onsen a place of historical significance. Visitors to Zao can immerse themselves in the soothing waters of the hot springs, rejuvenating both body and mind.

The Beauty of Zao’s Snow Monsters

One of the highlights of visiting Zao is witnessing the phenomenon of snow monsters. These “snow monsters” are actually trees coated with ice and snow, creating an otherworldly spectacle. The unique weather conditions in Zao result in the formation of these snow monsters, making it a truly magical experience for visitors. The best time to witness this phenomenon is during the snowy season, when the trees are transformed into ethereal creatures. Zao’s snow monsters have become an iconic symbol of the region and attract visitors from all over the world.

Skiing and Snowboarding in Zao

Zao is not only famous for its hot springs and snow monsters but also for its excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities. The ski resort in Zao is renowned for the number and quality of its runs, catering to both beginners and experienced skiers. With a variety of slopes and courses, Zao offers endless hours of fun on the snow. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice, Zao’s ski resort has something for everyone. Additionally, night skiing is also available, allowing visitors to enjoy the slopes under the stars.

Exploring the Green Season in Zao

While Zao is primarily known as a winter destination, it also offers a plethora of activities during the green season. Hiking, cycling, trekking, and mountain climbing are popular outdoor activities that allow visitors to immerse themselves in Zao’s natural beauty. The lush greenery, fresh mountain air, and picturesque landscapes make Zao a paradise for nature lovers. For those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation, forest bathing is a must-try experience. Scientifically proven to boost the immune system and lower blood pressure, forest bathing allows visitors to connect with nature and find inner peace.

How to Get to Zao Onsen

Zao Onsen is conveniently accessible from Yamagata Prefecture. The easiest way to reach Zao Onsen is by taking a 40-minute bus ride from Yamagata Station. Buses depart hourly, providing a hassle-free journey to Zao Onsen. If you’re coming from Sendai Station, you can take the Senzan Line for approximately one hour and 15 minutes to reach Yamagata Station. From there, you can catch the bus to Zao Onsen. The transportation options to Zao Onsen are well-connected, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable journey for visitors.

Hot Springs: A Source of Healing and Beauty

Apart from its natural beauty and outdoor activities, Zao is also known for its hot springs. The hot springs in Zao have high levels of sulfur, which are believed to have therapeutic benefits for various ailments. Soaking in these hot springs can help alleviate muscle pains, chronic skin diseases, and even high cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition to their healing properties, the hot springs of Zao also have beautifying effects. The water is known to rejuvenate and strengthen the skin and blood vessels, giving visitors a more youthful and healthy appearance. With numerous hot springs available, visitors can choose from a variety of options, ranging from private baths in hotels and ryokans to public bathing facilities and foot baths.

Public Baths and Foot Baths in Zao Onsen

For those looking to experience the local culture and traditions, public baths and foot baths are a must-try in Zao Onsen. Public baths offer a simpler and more affordable bathing experience. Visitors may need to bring their own towels or bathing goods, and some baths may not be staffed, requiring visitors to place their entrance fees in collection boxes. The three public baths in Zao Onsen are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, providing ample opportunities for visitors to relax and unwind.

Foot baths, also known as ashiyu, are a unique feature of hot spring towns in Japan. Zao Onsen offers three foot baths where visitors can soothe their tired feet for free. These foot baths are open year-round, with two of them accessible even during the winter season. Taking a leisurely stroll through the town and stopping at a foot bath is a delightful way to experience the local culture and take a break from exploring.


Zao is a captivating destination in Japan that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and healing hot springs. Whether you’re a ski enthusiast, a nature lover, or someone seeking relaxation, Zao has something to offer. From the enchanting snow monsters to the rejuvenating hot springs, Zao is a place where visitors can immerse themselves in the wonders of nature and find solace in its healing waters. With its convenient transportation options and diverse range of activities, Zao is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best of Japan’s winter wonderland and beyond.

Address And Maps Location:

Yamagata-shi, Yamagata-ken

Find Location And Direction On Google Maps

Subscribe, follow