Brigitte Cornelison

Written by Brigitte Cornelison

Modified & Updated: 21 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett


Tsuruoka is a captivating city in the Yamagata Prefecture of Japan, known for its rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. With a population of around 130,000, Tsuruoka is a vibrant destination that offers a unique blend of tradition and modernity. From ancient temples and shrines to lush mountains and picturesque coastlines, this city has something to offer everyone.

In this article, we will explore 31 fascinating facts about Tsuruoka that showcase the city’s historical significance, natural beauty, and distinctive charm. From its UNESCO World Heritage site to its mouthwatering local cuisine, Tsuruoka has a myriad of attractions and experiences to delight travelers of all interests. So, let’s delve into the wonders of Tsuruoka and uncover the hidden gems that make this city an exceptional destination.

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover Tsuruoka’s rich samurai heritage, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant cultural traditions. From ancient temples to sake tasting, this city offers an enchanting and unforgettable experience for every visitor.
  • Immerse yourself in Tsuruoka’s warm hospitality and explore its historical sites, traditional crafts, and delicious local cuisine. With festivals, hot springs, and stargazing opportunities, this vibrant city has something for everyone to enjoy.
Table of Contents

Tsuruoka’s Rich Samurai Heritage

Tsuruoka has a deep connection to the samurai culture, being the hometown of the famous Shonai Clan. The city’s history is intertwined with samurai traditions and has left a lasting impact on its culture and architecture.

Home to the Spectacular Mount Haguro

One of Japan’s Three Sacred Mountains, Mount Haguro offers visitors a mystical journey up its 2,446 stone steps. The awe-inspiring beauty of the ancient cedar trees and the pagoda at the summit make it a must-visit spot for nature enthusiasts.

The Spiritual Yamadera Temple

Yamadera, meaning “mountain temple,” is a serene Buddhist temple complex nestled in the mountains near Tsuruoka. Its stunning architecture, tranquil atmosphere, and panoramic views make it a popular pilgrimage site.

Tsuruoka’s Famous Shonai Plains

The vast Shonai Plains, stretching across Tsuruoka, is known for its scenic beauty and agricultural significance. The fertile plains provide an abundance of rice paddies and are a symbol of the city’s agricultural heritage.

A Haven for Sake Lovers

Tsuruoka is renowned for its high-quality sake production. The city is home to numerous sake breweries that have been crafting this traditional Japanese rice wine for centuries. Visitors can indulge in sake tasting and learn about the brewing process.

The Enigmatic Kamo Aquarium

Kamo Aquarium, located in Tsuruoka, is famous for its mesmerizing jellyfish exhibits. With over 50 species of jellyfish on display, it offers a captivating and immersive experience for visitors of all ages.

Tsuruoka’s Traditional Noh Theater

Tsuruoka is known for preserving the ancient art form of Noh theater. The city hosts regular performances where visitors can witness the elegance and beauty of this traditional Japanese performing art.

The Majestic Mogami River

Flowing through Tsuruoka, the Mogami River is a scenic waterway that provides breathtaking views and opportunities for outdoor activities such as boat tours and kayaking.

The Yutagawa Hot Springs

Tsuruoka is blessed with natural hot springs, and the Yutagawa Hot Springs is one of the most popular spots for relaxation and rejuvenation. Visitors can soak in the healing waters while enjoying the surrounding scenery.

Tsuruoka’s Festivals Galore

The city is renowned for its vibrant and lively festivals throughout the year. The Tsuruoka Festival, Shonai Kagura Festival, and Hagurosan Fire Festival are just a few examples of the exciting cultural events that showcase Tsuruoka’s traditions.

The Enclosed World of Dewa Sanzan

Tsuruoka is the gateway to Dewa Sanzan, a sacred mountain range consisting of Mount Haguro, Mount Gassan, and Mount Yudono. Pilgrims embark on a spiritual journey to these mountains to seek enlightenment and blessings.

Tsuruoka’s Historical Museums

The city is home to several museums that provide insight into Tsuruoka’s rich history and cultural heritage. The Tsuruoka City Museum and the Shonai Museum of History are worth visiting to delve deeper into the city’s past.

The Iconic Tsuruoka Castle Ruins

The remnants of Tsuruoka Castle, built during the Edo period, serve as a reminder of the city’s feudal past. Exploring the castle ruins allows visitors to imagine the grandeur and strategic importance it once held.

A Culinary Delight: Tsuruoka’s Local Cuisine

Tsuruoka is known for its delicious local cuisine, including the famous “Shonai Soba” noodles and fresh seafood from the nearby Sea of Japan. Food enthusiasts can indulge in the flavors of the region at the city’s many restaurants and markets.

Tsuruoka’s Traditional Crafts

The city takes pride in its traditional crafts, such as “Chido-gaki” (straw crafts) and “Shonai-Kasuri” (a traditional textile dyeing technique). Visitors can witness the intricate craftsmanship and even participate in workshops to learn these art forms.

The Lush Beauty of Tsuruoka Park

Tsuruoka Park is a picturesque oasis in the heart of the city. With its cherry blossom trees, landscaped gardens, and vibrant foliage, it’s a perfect spot for a leisurely stroll and picnics amid nature’s beauty.

The Mystical Gassan Shrine

Gassan Shrine, located on Mount Gassan, is a sacred Shinto shrine with a serene atmosphere. It is a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts, offering panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Tsuruoka’s Traditional Tea Ceremony

Visitors to Tsuruoka have the opportunity to experience the art of the Japanese tea ceremony. This traditional ritual is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the grace and tranquility of Japanese culture.

The Magnificent Three-Storied Pagoda

Hagurosan’s Three-Storied Pagoda is a designated Important Cultural Property of Japan. Its impressive architecture, adorned with intricate woodwork, is a sight to behold and a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage.

The Charming Aoyama Farm

Aoyama Farm is a picturesque countryside retreat in Tsuruoka, where visitors can enjoy the scenic beauty of farmland and engage in activities such as strawberry picking and horseback riding.

Tsuruoka’s Stargazing Opportunities

Tsuruoka’s unspoiled natural landscapes make it an ideal destination for stargazing. The city’s low light pollution allows for breathtaking views of the night sky, making it a haven for astronomy enthusiasts.

The Ancient Ogamiyama Shrine

Ogamiyama Shrine is an ancient Shinto shrine nestled in the mountains near Tsuruoka. Its serene surroundings and spiritual ambiance attract many worshippers and nature lovers.

A Hidden Gem: Akita Youth Science Museum

Located in Tsuruoka, the Akita Youth Science Museum is an interactive and educational experience for children and adults alike. It offers a hands-on approach to learning about science and technology.

The Alluring Mount Yudono

Mount Yudono, one of Dewa Sanzan’s sacred mountains, is a place of spiritual significance for Shugendo practitioners. The mountain’s serene atmosphere and ancient rituals make it an unforgettable destination.

Tsuruoka’s Traditional Sake Cellars

Visit Tsuruoka’s sake cellars to witness the traditional methods of sake production. These historic buildings house wooden storage barrels known as “sake kura,” offering an insight into the craftsmanship and dedication behind sake brewing.

The Aesthetic Beauty of Tamasudare Falls

Tamasudare Falls, located near Tsuruoka, is a stunning waterfall named after the traditional Japanese amasudare bamboo blind. The cascading water creates a mesmerizing spectacle and is a popular spot for nature lovers.

The Unique Zao Fox Village

A short drive from Tsuruoka will take you to Zao Fox Village, where visitors can observe and interact with adorable foxes in a natural environment. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that animal lovers shouldn’t miss.

Tsuruoka’s Archaeological Sites

The city is home to several archaeological sites, including the Sankyo Pond Ruins and the Ishitoge Iwami Remains. These sites provide valuable insights into the region’s ancient civilizations and offer a glimpse into the past.

The Artistic Tradition of Tsuruoka

Tsuruoka has a vibrant artistic community, with many local artists showcasing their talents in various mediums such as painting, sculpture, and ceramics. Art enthusiasts can explore galleries and attend exhibitions to appreciate the city’s creative spirit.

The Historic Tsuruoka Library

The Tsuruoka Library, established in 1872, is one of the oldest public libraries in Japan. It houses a vast collection of books, manuscripts, and historical documents, making it a treasure trove for researchers and book lovers.

Tsuruoka’s Warm Hospitality

Above all, Tsuruoka is known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. The locals take pride in their city’s heritage and are always ready to share their knowledge and experiences with visitors.

These 31 facts just scratch the surface of all that Tsuruoka has to offer. Whether you are drawn to its historical sites, natural wonders, cultural festivals, or gastronomic delights, this vibrant city guarantees an enchanting and unforgettable experience. Explore Tsuruoka and immerse yourself in its rich traditions, captivating landscapes, and hospitable community!


Tsuruoka is truly a remarkable city, rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. From its ancient temples and shrines to its vibrant festivals and delicious local cuisine, there is something for everyone to discover in this hidden gem of Japan. Whether you are interested in exploring traditional Japanese crafts, immersing yourself in the serene beauty of nature, or simply experiencing the warm hospitality of the locals, Tsuruoka has it all.Make sure to plan your visit to include a visit to Mount Haguro, one of the sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan, and the beautiful Yunohama Onsen for a relaxing hot spring experience. Don’t forget to try the local specialty, “Shonai Soba,” a delicious buckwheat noodle dish, as well as Tsuruoka’s famous sake breweries.So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey to Tsuruoka, where you will be captivated by its enchanting blend of tradition and modernity. It’s a city that will leave a lasting impression and memories to cherish for a lifetime.


Q: How can I get to Tsuruoka?

A: Tsuruoka is accessible by train or bus from major cities in Japan. The nearest airport is Yamagata Airport, which is approximately 1.5 hours away by car.

Q: Are there English-speaking guides available in Tsuruoka?

A: Yes, there are English-speaking guides available in Tsuruoka for tourists who prefer to have a guided tour. You can inquire at the tourist information center for more information.

Q: What is the best time to visit Tsuruoka?

A: The best time to visit Tsuruoka is during the spring (April to June) and autumn (October to November) seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the surrounding nature is at its most beautiful.

Q: Can I experience traditional Japanese tea ceremonies in Tsuruoka?

A: Yes, there are tea houses in Tsuruoka where you can experience traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Japanese culture and enjoy the peaceful ambiance.

Q: Are there any hiking trails in Tsuruoka?

A: Yes, Tsuruoka offers various hiking trails, especially around Mount Haguro and the Dewa Sanzan area. These trails provide stunning views of nature and are suitable for hikers of all levels.

Q: What are some popular souvenirs to buy in Tsuruoka?

A: Popular souvenirs from Tsuruoka include locally produced sake, Shonai Soba noodles, traditional crafts such as lacquerware and pottery, and specialty food products like pickles and dried seafood.

Q: Are there accommodations available in Tsuruoka?

A: Yes, Tsuruoka offers a range of accommodations including hotels, ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), and guesthouses. There are options to suit every budget and preference.

Tsuruoka's rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture make it a must-visit destination. For those seeking adventure beyond Earth, space tourism beckons with its promise of otherworldly experiences. Nature enthusiasts will find endless wonders to explore, from lush forests to pristine beaches. Gastronomy lovers should mark their calendars for Jornadas Gastronómicas, where culinary delights await at every turn. Whether you're drawn to the stars above, the beauty of the natural world, or the tantalizing flavors of global cuisine, there's something to captivate every curious mind and adventurous spirit.

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