The nearest airport is Shonai Airport, from which shuttle buses run to Tsuruoka (30 minutes, ¥740).
Tsuruoka is on the JR Uetsu Line which runs along the Sea of Japan. The Nihonkai night train passes through Tsuruoka -- its southern terminus is Osaka, and its northern terminus is Aomori.
From Tokyo, Tsuruoka is reachable in as little as four hours by taking a Joetsu ShinkansenToki or Max Toki service, changing in Niigata to one of several daily Inaho limited express trains (¥12,760). Taking local trains from Tokyo is silly, because the overnight bus is comparable in price and faster.
Shonai Kotsu runs an overnight bus, the "Yuhi Express", from Shibuya and Ikebukuro in Tokyo to Tsuruoka. It takes about 8 hours from Shibuya to Tsuruoka at a cost of ¥7540 one way, ¥13,570 round trip.
Chidokan (致道館), 馬場町１１−４５ (Just SW of Tsuruoka Park, opposite the traffic light.), ☎ +81 0235-23-4672. Tu-Su 9AM-4:30PM, closed Dec 29-Jan 3. This clan school, for samurai children, was built centuries ago by Sakai Tadanori. It's the last of its kind in the region.Free. (38.72615,139.826431)
Shonai Shrine (荘内神社), 馬場町４−１ (In the ruins of Tsuruoka Castle in Tsuruoka Park.), ☎ +81 0235-22-8100. This shrine was built to honor Lord Sakai Tadatsugu and three of his contemporaries.(38.728303,139.824286)
Zenpo Temple (善宝寺), 下川字関根１００ (A 20 minute drive from Tsuruoka Station. Located just west of Highway 38, 2.7km north of the Highway 112 junction.), . This temple, founded in the 1200s, is known for its five-storied pagoda. There are several other temple buildings, too.(38.772762,139.767103)
Tsurunoyu (鶴乃湯), Honmachi 2-chome 4-21 (Take bus to Minami-Ginza (南銀座), then walk 10 min). Mo-Tu,Th-Sa 3PM-9PM. Movie buffs will want to detour to this little neighborhood bath, which was one of the key settings of the Japanese Oscar winner "Departures" (Okuribito). They've been operating more or less unchanged since opening in 1941.¥300.
Tsuruoka's claim to culinary fame is dadacha-mame (だだちゃ豆), the local variant of the popular snack edamame. The appearance and taste resembled peas in the pod, and many are surprised to find out that this, too, is actually made from soybeans.
Obako Shokudo (おばこ食堂), 日吉町６−１１ (3 blocks south and 1 block east from Tsuruoka Station), ☎ +81 0235-22-6307. 11AM-7PM. This ramen shop has standard flavors of ramen. Its specials include cold chuuka and seafood ramen.¥700-1,500. (38.735302,139.834271)
Washington Hotel. Standard-issue business hotel with cubicle-sized rooms, located right next to the train station.¥7,000.