Zao Onsen Travel Guide - By public transport

Zao Onsen by public transport

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 train
Zao Onsen area by bus
Town Map
Other Zao Onsen resources on SnowJapan
Zao Onsen by car
Go to our guide for getting to the Zao Onsen area by car

Getting to the Zao area by train



  Yamagata Station 山形駅
  Shinkansen bullet train:  
  Yamagata Shinkansen 山形新幹線
  Tohoku Shinkansen 東北新幹線
  Local trains:  
  Ou-sen 奥羽本線
  Senzan-sen 仙山線

There is no station in the highland Zao Onsen area. The nearest train station is Yamagata Station on the Yamagata Shinkansen line.

From Tokyo area

The quickest way to get to Zao Onsen by train from Tokyo is to use the Yamagata Shinansen (bullet train). From Tokyo Station, take the Tsubasa train to Yamagata Station. This journey takes between 2.5 and 3 hours, depending on which train you board.

The Yamagata Shinkansen actually uses the tracks of both the Tohoku Shinkansen and the Ou Honsen line - meaning that there is no actual dedicated Shinkansen track between Fukushima Station and Shinjo Station. The section between Tokyo Station and Fukushima Station is on the Tohoku Shinkansen. The section between Fukushima Station and Shinjo Station is the part often referred to as the 'Yamagata Shinkansen' but as it shares tracks with other regular train services it is sometimes known as a 'mini Shinkansen'.

From   To Train line
Tokyo Station > Yamagata Station Yamagata Shinkansen

This journey is around 360km and usually takes around 165 minutes

From Sendai

From Sendai Station, take the Senzan-sen train line to Yamagata Station.

From   To Train line
Sendai Station > Yamagata Station Senzan-sen

This journey is around 63km and usually takes around 80 minutes

Getting from Yamagata Station to Zao Onsen

From Yamagata Station, take one of the buses direct to the Zao Onsen Bus Terminal in the village. This journey takes around 45 minutes and (as of 2015) the one-way charge is 1000 yen for adults and 500 yen for children.

Many of the hotels and other places to stay in Zao Onsen are quite close to the Bus Terminal, but some will also pick you up from the Bus Terminal on request.

Yamagata Shinkansen
Yamagata Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yamagata (using Tohoku Shinkansen and Ou Honsen tracks)
>> Full Yamagata Shinkansen details
>> Full Ou Honsen train line details
Station name   Prefecture Distance from Tokyo Station Distance from Yamagata Station Connections
Tohoku Shinkansen tracks
Tokyo 東京駅 Tokyo >>> 359.9km  
Fukushima 福島駅 Fukushima 272.8km 87.1km  
Ou-sen line tracks
Yoneyama 米山駅 Yamagata 312.9km 47.0km  
Yamagata 山形駅 Yamagata 359.9km >>> Yamagata Shinkansen
Ou Honsen
Senzan-sen from Sendai Station to Yamagata Station
>> Full Senzan-sen train line details
Station name  


Distance from Sendai Connections
JR East
Sendai 仙台駅 Miyagi
>>> Tohoku Shinkansen
Akita Shinkansen
Tohoku Honsen
Sendai Subway
Yamagata 山形駅 Yamagata 62.8km Yamagata Shinkansen
Ou Honsen

See also:

>> Tohoku Shinkansen
>> Ou Honsen line

Getting to the Zao area by bus

Various bus and tour companies offer day trips and packages to Zao Onsen from Tokyo, Sendai and other areas (though note that a day trip from Tokyo to Zao is stretching things!) 

Check with local tour and train companies for what tours might be available.

See also:

>> Tohoku Expressway
>> Yamagata Shinkansen
>> Ou Honsen train line

Additional Zao Onsen resources on SnowJapan

For detailed information on how to get to Zao Onsen by car, 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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