Zao Onsen Travel Guide - By car

Zao Onsen by car

Zao Onsen is a traditional onsen hot spring village nestled high up above Yamagata City, about 16km to the south east of the city centre.

Zao Onsen is also the name of the large scale ski and snowboard resort famous for it's Juhyo ('Ice Monsters'). Many of the base ski lifts are within walking distance from the main village.

Juhyo  can be found on a limited number of mountains in Japan. This beautiful natural phenomenon makes for spectacular scenery and is one of the reasons why many people visit Zao Onseneach season.

Zao Onsen area by road
Expressway information
Town map
Other Zao Onsen resources on SnowJapan
Zao Onsen by public transport
Go to our guide for getting to the Zao Onsen area using public transport

Getting to the Zao area by road

  Main expressway and exits:  

  Yamagata Expressway (toll road) 山形自動車道
  Yamagata Zao IC 蔵王温泉IC
  Main roads:  
  Route 13 国道13号
  Prefecture Road 県道12号
  Prefecture Road 県道14号

From the Tokyo/Kanto area and east of Yamagata

From the north Tokyo and Kanto region, take the Tohoku Expressway north until the Murata JCT.

At Murata JCT, turn left onto the Yamagata Expressway and head westwards for about 36km towards Yamagata City. Exit the Yamagata Expressway at the Yamagata Zao IC

On exiting the toll gates take Route 286 and then soon turn into Prefecture Road 67. After about 10km take the Nishi Zao Kogen toll road (normal charge 310 yen) and continue on the road until reaching Prefecture Road 21. Turn left to head into the main Zao Onsen village area. 

Zao Onsen is less than 20km from the Yamagata Zao IC exit and is well signposted along the way.

Kawaguchi JCT to Yamagata Zao IC about 351km 8,360 yen
Murata JCT to Yamagata Zao IC about 36km 1,240 yen

From the south west of Yamagata and Niigata

Approaching from the south west of Yamagata city on Route 13, turn right onto Prefecture Road 12 towards the Zao Echo Line and after around 1km turn left onto Prefecture Road 14. Follow this road into Zao Onsen village. Zao Onsen village and the resort is about 12km from the Route 13 turn off.

Other nearby resorts

There are two smaller ski resorts fairly close to Zao Onsen:

Zao Sarukura - about 8km from Zao Onsen
Zao Liza World - about 13km from Zao Onsen

Both are actually located in Kaminoyama City. To get to those resorts from central Zao Onsen village area head south on Prefecture Road 53. For Zao Liza World, continue on Prefecture Road 12 (also known as the Echo Line).

During the summer months the Echo Line road is open connecting Zao Onsen in Yamagata Prefecture with Zao Town in Miyagi Prefecture. This road is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall.

Route Finder

>> SnowJapan Route Finder: Zao Onsen
>> SnowJapan Route Finder: Zao Sarukura

>> SnowJapan Route Finder: Zao Liza World
>> SnowJapan Route Finder: General Route Finder

The famous 'Juhyo' Ice Monsters at Zao

Tohoku Expressway
Tohoku Expressway to the Murata JCT; change to Yamagata Expressway
>> Full Tohoku Expressway details
>> Regional Expressway connections
Exit name   Prefecture Distance from Kawaguchi JCT Connections
Kawaguchi JCT 川口JCT Saitama >>> Tokyo Gaikan Expressway
Murata JCT 村田JCT Miyagi 314.5km Yamagata Expressway
Yamagata Expressway
Yamagata Expressway from Murata JCT to Yamagata Zao IC
>> Full Yamagata Expressway details
>> Regional Expressway connections
Exit name   Prefecture Distance from Murata IC Connections
Murata JCT 村田JCT Miyagi >>> Tohoku Expressway
Yamagata Zao IC 山形蔵王IC・PA Yamagata 35.6km  

See also:

>> Tohoku Expressway
>> Yamagata Expressway

>> Yamagata Shinkansen

Zao Onsen resources on SnowJapan

For detailed information on how to get to Zao Onsen by train and public transport, please go to this section.

Daily reports Exclusive daily snow and weather reports from Zao Onsen (Zao Now)
Ski and snowboard resorts List of ski and snowboard resorts in Yamagata
Resort Spotlights Zao Onsen
Accommodation Accommodation Spotlights - Zao Onsen
Online booking for accommodation in Zao Onsen
Online booking for accommodation in Kaminoyama

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