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PARTNER CONTENT FOR EAST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY


HIGH LIFE


Zao Onsen Spread over undulating mountains on the eastern cusp of Yamagata Prefecture, Zao Onsen is Tohoku’s best-loved ski resort. Its 25 runs are mostly fairly gentle, but what they lack in steepness they make up for in length — the longest extends for nearly six miles, slaloming through dense forests and alpine meadows. zao-spa.or.jp Skiers and snowboarders


can also swoosh past the local population of ‘juhyo’ — meaning ‘ice monsters’. Less of a hazard than you might expect, these are actually conifers, coated with snow and ice and contorted into surreal shapes by the raging mountain winds. Come spring and summer,


Zao Onsen exchanges skiers for hikers, with a web of trails winding across the mountain. Cheat by taking the ropeways to the summit of Zao-san (Mount Zao), then bear south to the crater lake of Okama, set amid forbidding volcanic slopes. It’s an easy walk downhill through shadowy woodlands and wildflower- strewn glades back to the resort. zaoropeway.co.jp Whether you’re weary-


limbed from the trails or the piste, Zao’s hot springs are a welcome sight at the day’s end. There are a few to choose from — Kawarayu and the luxurious Shinzaemon no Yu are both popular. Summer visitors should, however, make for Zao Onsen Dai Rotenburo — an open-air pool set in a little valley, where bathers stew in steamy waters, idly gazing up at the forest canopy. zaospa.co.jp


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