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Yonezawa (米沢) is a city in Yamagata, Japan.


Yonezawa may be an unassuming rural town today, but it was once a grand castle town home to the Uesugi clan (上杉氏 Uesugi-shi), one of the most powerful families during Japan's Muromachi and Sengoku periods (14-17th century). The Uesugi had an epic, centuries-running feud with the Takeda clan of Kai (Yamanashi), but they made the mistake of choosing the wrong side in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600) and as a punishment were reduced to irrelevance by the following Tokugawa shogunate, retaining only a scrap of land around Yonezawa. The castle was flattened in 1873 by order of the Meiji government, but the moat remains the focal point of the city, with Uesugi Shrine built on the castle ruins to commemorate the clan.

The Uesugi-Takeda feud provided rich fodder for NHK's historical drama Tenchijin (天地人), set in the closing days of the Sengoku era. The year-long drama's broadcast in 2009 was the biggest thing to happen in Yonezawa since 1600, and the entire town is liberally festooned with banners, statues, souvenirs and more commemorating both the actual figures and their TV versions.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Yonezawa is on the Yamagata Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Yamagata. There are hourly departures from Tokyo, with the trip taking just over 2 hours and costing ¥10,000.

Yonezawa can also be reached via the JR Ōu Main Line from Fukushima to the south and Akita to the north.

Get around[edit]

Yonezawa is surprisingly spread out, and the train station is on the wrong side of the river a good two kilometers away from the city core. If you're not in the mood to walk, grab one of the infrequent buses, almost all of which head to the city (ask for Uesugi Jinja).

See[edit][add listing]

Do[edit][add listing]

While central Yonezawa has no hot springs, there are seven within easy striking distance, the best known being Onogawa Onsen (20 min by bus) and Shirabu Onsen (50 min by bus).

Buy[edit][add listing]

Eat[edit][add listing]

Fatty slices of Yonezawa beef, ready to be cooked as sukiyaki

Yonezawa is known throughout Japan for its beef (米沢牛 yonezawa-gyū), an expensive delicacy, and there are three beef speciality restaurants right outside the station competing for your attention plus countless more in the city itself. Just don't fall into the trap of eating the cheapest bento boxes, made from gristly leftovers: instead, sample a course at a ryokan or speciality restaurant. With diminutive steaks easily costing ¥8,000 per head, most visitors will find stews like sukiyaki the tastiest and most cost-effective option, but locals also prize their meat raw!

Drink[edit][add listing]

Yonezawa is sake country and the best-known local tipple is Tōkō (東光) [4]. Originally appointed to supply the Uesugis, the "East Light" has been brewed in Yonezawa since 1597 and is currently run by the 23rd generation of the same family, so they must be doing something right. Their sake comes in a vast constellation of grades, from the proletarian fūtsūshu (¥1600/1.8L) to the top-of-the-line daiginjō (¥12,000/1.8L), and is available everywhere in town.

  • Tōkō no Sakagura (東光の酒蔵), Honmachi 3-1-46, +81 0238-27-1700, [1]. W-M 9AM-4:30PM. Tōkō's old brewery and warehouse, now open to visitors. Halfway between station and Uesugi Shrine. ¥310.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]


  • Sega World Yonezawa (セガワールド米沢), 大字花沢字タナコ原177 (From Yonezawa Station, walk east 10 minutes. At the traffic light by Route Inn, turn north and continue 200m. The net cafe is on the left after Seven-Eleven.), +81 0238-24-0666, [2]. 24h. This is a clean and quiet net cafe with TVs, computers, manga, and a drink bar. 3, 6, 9, and 12 hour packs available. Night pack ¥1200. (37.911368,140.13381) edit
  • Jiyukukan Yonezawa (自遊空間 米沢金池店), 金池6-5-34 (About 2km WNW of Yonezawa Station.), +81 0238-22-5456, [3]. 24h. A standard net cafe. (37.926047",140.116035) edit

Get out[edit]

  • Onogawa Onsen — well-preserved hot spring town just 20 min away by bus
  • Shirabu Onsen — a tiny hot spring hamlet tucked in a remote valley, 50 min by bus

Routes through Yonezawa
Kaminoyama-Onsen ←
Akayu ←
Takahata ←
 N noframe S  Fukushima
Kaminoyama-Onsen ←
Akayu ←
Takahata ←
 N noframe S  Fukushima

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