Attack of the snow monsters!! Zao's must-see winter spectacle!
The Zao Mountain Range is located on the Yamagata-Miyagi border and one of the most famous skiing and snowboarding locations in all of Japan. As if that wasn't enough, it is also a traditional onsen resort area.
In winter however, this part of Japan gets haunted by the ferocious Snow Monsters!
Just kidding, they don't bite! But they are a spectacular winter attraction that you simply can't miss!
The Zao area with its high mountains offers the correct weather and vegetation conditions for the trees to turn into Juhyo, snow monsters: evergreen conifer, fixed strong winds paired with extremely cold water droplets and snow depth of between two and three meters. If all this comes together, usually during the coldest days from late December to the middle of March, only then can the trees transform into majestic snow creatures!
They are best visited during one of the night illumination events during the Juhyo Peak in February - this is when the trees have grown into large-scale snow monsters. The ropeway takes you up to the illuminated snow monster field, which costs around 2600 Yen per person. Tickets should be booked in advance!
The illuminations are held on December 23rdand24th 2017, as well as December 29th 2017to January 5th 2018. From then on, you can see the illuminated snow creatures every Saturday and Sunday until the 28th of January 2018, and from the 29th of January all the way to the 4th of March, the illuminations are being held daily! The snow monster fields start being illuminated at 5pm, with the last ropeway going up to the field at 7:50pm, and the spectacle ending at 9pm.
Make sure you wear winter appropriate clothing (and maybe stock up on some hokkairos!) as the temperatures can easily drop to minus 10 degrees!
You can get to the Zao Hot spring and ski resort area from Tokyo by car, taking the Tohoku Expressway followed by the Yamagata Expressway. Just about 17 km from the Yamagata Zao IC of the Yamagata Expressway, you'll reach the heart of the Zao resort.
Or if you choose to take the train, just hop on the Yamagata Shinkansen and get off at Yamagata station, from where you can take a bus that'll take you to the Zao hot springs in 40 minutes!
If you're making your way to Zao from Sendai, then just take the JR Senzan line to Yamagata station and change to the above mentioned bus!
So don't wait too long, bundle up and go chase some snow monsters!
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