Postcards from Yamagata

A few weeks back, we took advantage of a long weekend and made the short shinkansen trip up to Yamagata to stay in a cabin in the mountains with Mrs IKIMASHO’s parents. They live in neighbouring Miyagi prefecture, and so it was a nice meeting point for all of us – made even better by the fact they drove up, meaning we had access to a car for the whole trip. With little to no public transport in this neck of the (literal) woods, a car really is essential to see this part of Japan.

Arriving in Yamagata after dark, we slowly snaked our way up a series of pitch-black mountain roads covered in mist, before arriving at our cabin at the very top. The whole scene reminded me of the eerie opening sequence of The Shining, as the family made their way to the infamous Overlook Hotel. I can’t imagine what would have happened if we had broken down. There wasn’t another soul for miles and miles.

The break itself was one of the most memorable I have had in Japan, or anywhere for that matter. Not because of anything in particular, but mainly because we were just so grateful to have it. With cobwebs and creaking wood, the cabin wasn’t fancy, but rustic and comfortable. We cooked all our own food, played dominoes, watched the sumo, and read books. I didn’t check my email for four days. It really felt like a break.

It rained at night on the day we arrived, and again on our way back to Tokyo, but in between we were treated to clear skies and the sight of snow on the distant mountains. We passed through ‘towns’ that were nothing more than rice fields, and sampled fresh apple juice unlike anything I have had before. On a day trip out to Yamadera – a scenic temple located in the mountains northeast of Yamagata City – we climbed the 1,000 steps to the top, and I was once again reminded of the deep love I have for this country. More trips should be like this one.

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