Zao & Shiroishi Adventure: Severe Beauty in Severe Winter!

Preview of our trip (Locations linked to Google Maps):

DAY 1
–8:00–
Gather at Car Rental Company (オリックスレンタカー 仙台駅前店)
–8:00~9:30–
Commute from Sendai to Shiroishi
–9:30~10:30–
Shiroishi Castle
–10:30~11:00–
Walk from Shiroishi Castle to the Un-men restaurant (光庵)
–11:00~12:00–
Have lunch and then shop in a supermarket (ヨークベニマル 白石店)
–12:00~12: 30–
Commute from Shiroishi Castle to Fox Village (宮城蔵王キツネ村)
–12:30~16:00–
Fox Village
–16:00~16:45–
Commute from Fox Village to Zao Royal Hotel (宮城蔵王ロイヤルホテル)
–16:45~–
Time for rest and onsen bath

DAY 2
–7:30~9:30–
Breakfast and check-out
–9:30~10:30–
Commute from hotel to Okama (御釜)
–10:30~12:00–
Okama*
–12:00~13:30–
Commute from Okama to Zao Ice Monster (蔵王ロープウェイ)
–13:30~15:30–
Zao Ice Monster
–15:30~17:00–
Commute from Zao Ice Monster to Sendai

*We at last failed to visit Okama due to the heavy snow which made the path unavailable.

————————————–

Total Cost: ¥48,000
= 16,000 (car rent, etc.)+ 15,000 (hotel room which can accommodate 4 people; without meals)+ 12,000 (entrance fee) + 5,000 (meals for 3 people)

And, there will be  public-transportation schedule and some more information links provided at the end of the article.

 

Early on Saturday morning, we set-off to the ORIX car rental company. There are some companies we have searched for inexpensive items, like Orix and Budget. Sometimes, it’s worth checking if there are any good value campaigns running. If you have an international driver’s license, it is usually no problem for foreigners wanting to rent a car in Japan. For your reference, here is a guide of useful info in English (Driving a car).


However, there are still some licenses issued in certain countries available in Japan, like ones issued in Taiwan.


It was not a good weather when we headed to Shiroishi, and was even called the strongest storm of the season.


From the parking-lot to Shiroishi Castle, we saw a stone which seemed like a landmark.


Beside the castle, there is a Japanese Jinjia, and lots of people visit it.

 

Here we are! Shiroishi Castle! We made it!

Due to limited time, we only visited the castle tower itself, but there is also a museum and Samurai residences close by which would be worth checking out. One thing to notice is that the opening hours differ between winter and other seasons; it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. between November and March, and it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. between April and October.


At the entrance, there is a list of the family crests of the ruling lords over the years.


And here is the map of the original castle town.


Here is a closer look.


Why is this photo here…?


Um… This is the reason…check out these stairs!! (LOL)

When we were looking around the building and decorations inside the castle, the employee introduced a special service to us (though we didn’t understand Japanese very well) and helped us try on the traditional costumes (the best language: body language).

With that we were instantly transformed into Japanese princesses! With the traditional background and warm lighting, the photos turned out really well. In the bottom right photo, we could see some record photos of the activities and festivals previously held at the castle.

    After the castle, we went to a nearby restaurant to taste the famous noodle dish, U-men – a local delicacy of Shiroishi. The store is located down a path which you can follow by checking the Google Maps link in the beginning of this article.

The dishes are so delicious – it’s definitely worth visiting. Here are some of the available lunch sets and prices you may like to know:

In the restaurant, it was really warm due to the heater; moreover, they provided lap-blankets for customers to use. However, the restroom is not in the restaurant, so you need to wear your coat to go outside.

The third place on our bust itinerary we went to is Fox Village! When we were buying the entrance ticket, the employee told us “Don’t run”, “Don’t kneel down”, and “Visitors are responsibe for any possible injuries and lost items because the foxes may rob you” (LOL). 

    But, look how cute they are! (especially when they were eating and following the employee who was scattering their feed)

Although we are not professional animal experts, we can still see and understand the different facial expressions of each fox. Some are serious, and others are funny. There is even a white one which looks so fierce – and showed obvious signs that the foxes still sometimes fight each other.


Bleeding wound on nose

Visitors could buy fodder.

Visitors can not only feed the foxes and other animals, but also pay 400 yen for a warm hug from a fox. Just remember to be gentle and careful to them, and be a kind human-being (blinking).

    Due to the early sunset time in winter (about 4:30 pm) , we went to our  hotel before 5:00 pm which is earlier than the time we booked (6:00 pm). But the front-desk still helped us check in, and told us either dinner or breakfast is 1,700.


Tourism info. you can take away


Sales campaign for present day

The onsen bath place provided lots of brands of shampoo and body-wash; moreover, the hotel provided various machines for facial spa or back massage!

    After a good rest, we had planned to head to the famous ‘Okama’ crater-lake of Miyagi-Zao, because of its well-reknown beauty (as you can see). But unfortunately the weather was so bad that the path to the Okama crater was closed-off. So, we decide to go to directly to Yamagata Zao to see the famous Ice Monsters.


The beauty of Okama


Time and fees for the cable car
(Rope-way)


As you can see
(the storm

Despite our new plan, we still arrived at Zao later than 1:00 pm due to the horrible weather. Although the sky was still bright, the storm made it hard to see the snow monsters clearly. And the temperature was so low that we felt really cold in the cable car because there is no heater inside the car!!


The clearest view we can see


It’s really cold!!!


Zao Sanroku Station
(855 m; -6 degree)


Juhyokogen Station
(1331 m; -12 degree)


Juzosancho Station
(1661 m; -15 degree)

Although the weather is not good, there were still some dedicated people -adults and children- skiing in such weather. Hopefully we can visit here again on a better day to see the wonderful landscape and enjoy skiing.


A skiing path


Kids skiing

 


Information links

[1] Shiroishi Castle Official Website
[2] Un-men restaurant and its noodle shop Official Websites
[3] Fox Village Official Websites
[4] Zao Ice Monster Rope Way Official Websites
[5] Miyagi Zao Royal Hotel

————————————–

Public-transportation schedule
(Weekends; from Tokyo)

DAY 1
–8:00–
Gather at Tokyo Station
–8:20~11:05–
Commute from Tokyo to Shiroishi Castle (Shinkansen)
–11:05~12:30–
Shiroishi Castle
–12:30~13:30–
Walk from Shiroishi Castle to the Un-men restaurant (光庵)
–13:30~14:00–
Commute from Shiroishi to Fox Village (Taxi)
–14:00~16:00–
Fox Village
–16:00~16:45–
Commute from Fox Village to Zao Royal Hotel (Taxi)
–16:45~–
Time for rest and onsen bath

DAY 2
–7:30~9:30–
Breakfast and check-out
–9:30~10:30–
Commute from hotel to Okama** (Taxi)
–10:30~12:00–
Okama*
–12:00~13:30–
Commute from Okama to Zao Ice Monster*** (Taxi)
–13:30~15:30–
Zao Ice Monster
–15:30~17:00–
Commute from Zao Ice Monster to Sendai (Shinkansen)

**From Yamagata station to Okama: Bus
***From Yamagata station to Zao Ice Monster: Train

 

Tohoku Ambassador Club

About Tohoku Ambassador Club

The Tohoku Ambassador Club consists of over 170 international exchange students from 27 different countries, all living and studying in Sendai City. As both local Tohoku residents and international travelers, we have all the insider knowledge and tips for discovering the amazing attractions of the Tohoku region! Follow us as we uncover your next Japan adventure, far from the crowds of Tokyo and Kyoto.

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