The romantic cityscape of Ginzan Onsen hot springs resort remains unchanged since its birth in the ruinous flood that devastated the area in the beginning of the Taisho era (1912 to 1926). This alone makes it a remarkable location, as very little architecture in all of Japan remains from this brief magical time that is looked back upon with much affection by the Japanese. Ginzan, named after the silver mines of centuries past, has been home to hot spring baths renowned for their medicinal benefits since the Edo era. When the flood destroyed much of the town in 1913, local businesses came together to rebuild hot spring facilities that were even more spectacular than those that had ever existed previously. The fruits of their effort remain for modern visitors to enjoy. In this spirit, city ordinance strives to preserve Ginzan Onsen, and prevents motor vehicles from entering the area.
While Ginzan Onsen is strikingly beautiful in its tradition and grace, it is not cheap. The Taisho-era buildings were an upscaling of a previously humble facility. While there are a number of traditional Japanese ryokan (inns) here, you’re not likely to find any for less than $100 per person per night. That said, you can still enjoy the hot spring baths in these buildings for about $5 and just find a less picturesque hotel to stay in nearby. There are also free outdoor hot spring pools for soaking one’s feet.
The entire area can be explored in a pleasant 15-minute walk. There are a few other points of interest, including an old silver mine and a peaceful little waterfall. Since Ginzan Onsen is surrounded by mountains, enthusiasts may enjoy hiking as well.
Location: Obanazawa, Yamagata
Access: 40 minutes by bus from JR Oishida Station. Get off at the Ginzan Onsen bus stop. Oishida Station is on Yamagata Shinkansen and Ou Honsen (Yamagata-sen).