by Buddy Lindsey


Note/Disclaimer: This is a post that is meant to give a quick overview of some of Yamgata and not full detail of everything. Yamagata is much like a state in the US with a rich past, present, and future to come. I can’t possibly cover everything and getting the tip of everything would be a book.

Name: Yamgata
Island: Honshū
Population: 1,223,000
Capital: Yamagata
Major Cities: Higashine, Kaminoyama, Murayama, Nagai, Nan’yō, Obanazawa, Sagae, Sakata, Shinjō, Tendō, Tsuruoka, Yonezawa


The aboriginal Ezo people once inhabited the area now known as Yamagata. During the Heian Period, the Fujiwara family ruled the area. Yamagata City flourished during the Edo Period due to its status as a castle town and post station, famous for beni (red safflower dye used in the production of handspun silk). In 1649, the famous haiku poet, Matsuo Bashō visited Yamagata during his five-month trip to the northern regions of Japan. Yamagata, with Akita Prefecture, composed Dewa Province until the Meiji Restoration.


There are several festivals in Yamagata every year. The first weekend in August is the largest festival in Yamagata, hanagasa matsuri. Thousands of peopel perform the hanagasa dance at the center of the capital and attracts up to 300,000 spectators. The second festival is in February which is the snow lantern festival. Usually hundreds of candle-lit lanterns light the pathways dug into the snow around Uesugi Shring in Yonezawa. Finally, in Yonezawa also holds the Uesugi Festival to re-enact the battle of Kawanakajima.


The climate of Yamagata Prefecture is characterized by long hot humid summers and long snowy winters. Both spring and autumn are short, the former often cold, the latter often warm, but both quite dry and sunny. Winter temperatures rarely fall below -10C in populated areas; they frequently rise above 30C in July and August. Precipitation falls all year round and the remnants of one or perhaps two typhoons usually pass through between August and October. The winters see heavy snowfall especially at higher elevations, though the Japan Sea coast (Sakata) is milder and has more rain. Snowfall for Shinjo is typical of populated mountaneous areas, snowfall for Yamagata City typical of the valleys. The central mountains around Gassan may see as much as 3000 cm of snow in a season with depths up to 8 metres at higher elevations.

Interesting Facts

Yamagata has to sports teams Montedio Yamagata (soccer) and Pioneer Red Wings (volleyball)
Yamagata has the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
Yamagata Prefecture is also known for its local dialect Yamagata-ben, sometimes thought of as backward sounding and the butt of jokes in other parts of Japan

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