Tsuruoka (鶴岡) is a city in Yamagata.
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.
From Tokyo, Tsuruoka is reachable in as little as four hours by taking a Joetsu Shinkansen Toki or Max Toki service, changing in Niigata to one of several daily Inaho limited express trains (¥12,760).
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.
Tsuruoka City has an official website in English that you can check to get around the city and discover hotels, restaurants and hot springs.
The city also has an official Japanese website which is very exhaustive in terms of Tsuruoka's cultural heritage.
- 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) edit
- 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) edit
- 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) edit
- Kamo Aquarium (クラゲドリーム館), 今泉字大久保657-1, ☎ 0235-33-3036, . 9AM-5PM. This aquarium displays the largest number of jellyfish of any aquarium in the world. If you are feeling a little adventurous try the jellyfish ice cream in the gift shop. The aquarium can be accessed by bus from Tsuruoka Station. ￥1000 adults. edit
Festivals and Events
- Akagawa Fireworks: Held along the Akagawa River in August. It is ranked by some as one of the top 5 fireworks displays in Japan. It's impressive and a fun way to spend a summer evening with friends.
- 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. edit
- Oyama New Sake and Brewery Festival. This festival is held in mid-February. Local sake breweries give out samples of their newest sake of the year. Tickets are sold beforehand and generally sell out on the day they become available. Other similar events are held around the Shonai region in the month of February. edit
Tsuruoka has been registered by the UNESCO as the only Creative City of Gastronomy in all Japan in 2014 for succeeding in preserving and transmitting through centuries a variety of more than 50 foods and meals called Zaijû sakubutsu 在住作物 ("ever existing food"). 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.
The city is also well-known for "Shôjin ryôri" 精進料理, a meal course traditionally consumed by Yamabushi monks (Mountain monks practicing shugendô 修験道). Shôjin ryôri is entirely vegan, no animal product is used and Dewa Sanzan's vegetables called Sansai 山菜 are largely used in this type of cuisine.
Places where you can eat Shôjin Ryôri :
- Saikan (斎館), Haguro machi Touge 7 (On your left just before the big red Torii at the top of Mount Haguro), ☎ +81 0235-62-2357, . 11AM-2PM. ¥2,160-3,240. (38.6996933,139.9758798) edit
- Gyokusenji (玉川寺), Tamagawa-35 Haguromachi (Take the bus to Mt Haguro from Tsuruoka station, get off at Ootori stop, have a 15 min walk to Gyokusenji temple), ☎ +81 0235-62-2746, . 11AM-2PM. Ask the price by phone. (38.710996,139.9404468) edit
- 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) edit
- Washington Hotel. Standard-issue business hotel with cubicle-sized rooms, located right next to the train station. ¥7,000. edit
- Dewa Sanzan. The three holy mountains of Shugendo.
- Yurihonjo. Explore Yurihonjo, a city in SW Akita Prefecture.
- Sakata. Port city to the north of Tsuruoka.