During the year that I lived in Japan some friends and I ventured north to Yamagata for a winter skiing holiday. The trip was amazing, and I have some great memories that include relaxing in steaming outdoor onsens surrounded by snow.
The trip had its challenges too - one of my friends and I were separated from our third companion switching trains in Tokyo, and then ended up sitting in the wrong end of a train that split in two an hour later. All good memories now!
freezing my butt off in the snow - Yamagata-ken, Japan 2007
My favourite part of Yamagata was visiting the Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival in the city of Yonezawa. Every year, in early February the residents of Yonezawa come together to build 300 yuki-doro (big snow lanterns) and 3000 Yukibonbori (small snow lamps) creating a magical candle-lit snow world that lasts for just two days...
footpath tiles - Yonezawa, Japan
We caught the tail-end of the festival - so many of the snow lanterns were melting, but the few that were left were lovely.
Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival, Yonezawa 2007
small snow lamps, Yonezawa 2007
In the early mornings I spent some time wandering around by foot, enjoying the quiet snowy streets...
Our last stop before heading home was Yamadera temple, aka 'Mountain Temple', located in the mountains north east of Yamagata City. The Yamadera temple grounds and winding footpaths travel high up into the mountains. We climbed for about an hour and didn't reach the top - but were treated to some amazing views of the valley below.
Yamadera temple was founded over a thousand years ago in 860 and near the bottom of the mountain is a wooden building that stores a laughing Buddhist statue and flame that has been burning since Yamadera's beginning!
Budda - Yamadera temple, Japan 2007
Yamadera is also where Matsuo Bashō wrote this famous haiku in 1689...
ah this silence
sinking into the rocks
voice of cicada
looking out at Yamagata from Yamadera temple, Japan 2007
This November I'm blogging every day in a A to Z travel challenge, where I'll share some of the amazing but more obscure places I've travelled to in the world as I make my way through the alphabet.
If you'd like to join me on this travel blogging challenge please do. I'd love to hear about some of your favourite travel destinations. Tweet using #AtoZtravel and I'll retweet you, or just share your posts in my comment feed. Enjoy and Happy #AtoZtravel November!
Also - I'm entered in the travel category of the 2015 UK Blog Awards. If you enjoy reading somewhere... beyond the sea then I would love you to vote for me. It's pretty easy - just click on this link. Happy travels!