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[Feature] Autumn Leaves in Zao! Dokkonuma pond and other spots

Hoshi Mama

Hoshi Mama

I moved to Yamagata with my family on the occasion of the U-turn of my husband (coming back to work to Yamagata where he is from). I was fascinated by the people, nature and food in Yamagata, and now I am totally captivated. I will do my best to let many people outside the prefecture know the charms of Yamagata! Also, I am also running a personal blog named Yamagata Kurashi ( with the theme o​ Enrich your life in Yamagata. I will continue to share information on Yamagata from various angles in the future.


Zao Onsen is a prime tourist destination in Yamagata which is popular for its seasonal expressions.
This time, we will introduce a course to enjoy the seasonal leaves that goes around the popular spot of the Dokkonuma pond.
It is a fun course where you can easily enjoy Zao by using the ropeway or lift, filling up with the popular café lunch, and satisfying at the souvenir shop.

1. Zao autumn leaves

Introducing this time is a course that goes around the popular autumn leaves spot of Dokko-numa pond from the Zao Onsen town.

It is an “easy and delicious course” where you can use the ropeway and stop by the popular restaurants.

After enjoying the autumn leaves, we also introduce spots where you can enjoy souvenirs and foot bath, so please refer to them.

[Course outline]
① Take the Zao Chuo Ropeway to the Torikabuto station
② Take the Natsuyama lift (Central 1st pair lift) to Dokko-numa pond
③ Walk around Dokkonuma pond
④ Have lunch at Forest inn SANGORO
⑤ Shop at Souvenir shop Iseya in Zao Onsen town and enjoy the foot bath
⑥ Purchase Zao’s specialty Igamochi rice cake at the souvenir shop Marushichi

I also went around with kids, but I was able to enjoy it without any problems even as they were running around with fun (^-^)
The main part of walking is between the Natsuyama Lift, the Dokkonuma pond and the Forest inn SANGORO.
Each of them is a few minutes walk away, so I was able to enjoy the autumn leaves with just the right amount of fatigue.

2. Ride the sky on the Zao Chuo Ropeway

Click here for the beginning of the trip.

The Zao Chuo Ropeway is located near the center of the Zao Onsen town.
There is a parking lot around the building, so you can get out of the car and head straight to the ropeway platform.

First, buy a ticket at the ticket office near the entrance. The fare is as follows.

[One way]
Adult: 800 yen
Child: 400 yen
Pet: 300 yen
[Round trip]
Adult: 1,500 yen
Child: 750 yen
Pet: 500 yen
* Adult is for junior high school students and above, Child is for elementary school students

Since pets are allowed, many people enjoy walking with theirs.

The operating hours of the ropeway are 1 to 3 per hour.
There are also Zao Onsen souvenirs in the waiting area, so it’s quite interesting to look at the waiting time (^-^)

It’s time to depart, and it’s time to go to the ropeway platform!

I was surprised at the unexpectedly large gondola when I saw it nearby.
It says up to 101 people can ride at the same time!
The children were delighted to see the gondola (^-^)

Currently (October 2020), there are measures such as limiting the number of passengers (half), disinfecting, measuring the temperature, and wearing masks to prevent COVID-19 infection.

The departure bell will ring, and it’s time to travel in the air for 7 minutes! !! !!
However, as you can see, only a few autumn leaves can be seen from the gondola …

… Because, in fact, the best time to see the autumn leaves of Zao changes considerably depending on the altitude.
The destination of this time, Dokkonuma, is at its peak, but the best time to see the ropeway area, which is a little low in altitude, will be a little further (late October every year).

To put it the other way around, the leaves will start falling down in order starting from the highest altitude, so if you change location every time you come, you can enjoy the autumn leaves for a long time (^-^)
At this time, the bright autumn leaves were in full bloom at Dokkonuma, which I will introduce later.

By the way, here is a picture of when the ropeway area was at its peak in the past.

The red, yellow and orange of the mountains overlooking from the gondola were really beautiful.
* Around this time, the leaves have fallen near the summit of Naruto.

7 minutes in no time.
We are arriving at the final stop, Torikabuto Station.

There is also a food area inside the station where you can enjoy tama konnyaku (konjac balls) and hot coffee.
Let’s finish the restroom here (^-^)

3. Natsuyama lift to Dokkonuma pond

To reach the Dokkonuma pond, you need to go down a little hill from the Torikabuto Station.
This is the view from the ropeway station.

The Dokkonuma area is near the building with a triangular roof that can be seen at the foot of the hill.

There is also a trekking course, so you can relax and enjoy the autumn leaves, but I personally recommend using the Natsuyama Lift (Central No. 1 Lift)!
Have a look at this.

You can relax and overlook the bright autumn leaves of the mountains (≧-≦)
Moreover, unlike the gondola, you can feel the autumn breeze directly.
I was able to enjoy the lifts other than the snow scene more than I expected (^-^)
* Please note that depending on the weather, it may be cold enough to require a jacket.

The fare for the Natsuyama lift is as follows.

[One way]
Adult: 300 yen
Child: 150 yen
[Round trip]
Adult: 500 yen
Child: 250 yen

The trekking course is also popular when going down while the lift is used for returning to the ropeway station.

4. Stroll around Dokkonuma pond

We finally arrived to the main attraction of this trip, the Dokkonuma pond!
You will see it when you get off the lift and go 100 meters.
The autumn leaves on the roadside are also at their peak!

Expectations swell on the emerald green water surface that faces through the trees (^-^)

We arrived at Dokkonuma in no time!

The scenery was so beautiful that I couldn’t help but sigh.
Trees colored in red and yellow, the surface of the water dyed in emerald green, and a log bench that makes you feel the passage of time.

I was wondering if any of them would be out of balance.
Even the moss that covers the ground seems to add glamour to this painting-like landscape.

The typhoon was approaching this time, but I’m glad I managed to get the weather and be in time for the best time (> _ <)

Wooden tables and chairs are also maintained on the shores of Dokkonuma.

You can sit back and enjoy the scenery, or have your own lunch box.
Hot coffee is also good (^-^)

By the way, this emerald green is a characteristic of Dokkonuma.
It seems that it is still unknown why it is such a bright color.

This time I visited early in the morning on weekdays, but there were few people, probably because of the typhoon.

Many tourists visit during the best holidays, so if you want to take a leisurely stroll, we recommend early hours on weekdays.

Detailed information

Dokkonuma pond

Dokkonuma pond

Kamihozawa, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture

5. Lunch at Forest inn SANGORO

After enjoying the autumn leaves, we had lunch at the Forest inn SANGORO, an inn and café just a few minutes’ walk from Dokkonuma (^-^).
The landmark is a log house-like building with a triangular roof.

At SANGORO the atmosphere inside is also very good (≧-≦)

Large wooden pillars and beams, wooden floors, wood-fired fireplaces and stoves made the space as if it were packed with all the charm of a winter mountain lodge.
Especially the 4th seat on the lower right is personally recommended (^-^)

This is also a nice atmosphere when winter snow is piled up …
In fact, it can be used as an accommodation facility in addition to SANGORO and café.
When the children are about to ski or snowboard, we will stay overnight!

This time, we had the SANGORO Burger and the clam chowder at the recommendation of the staff.

① SANGORO burger

First of all, I got it from this menu bearing the name of SANGORO!
The first thing that surprised me was the texture of the buns that I felt the moment I bite.

It seems that it has been toasted since the order was placed, and the crispy texture and the aroma of the grilling are irresistible (>-<)
It comes with a handmade patty that is thicker and juicy than you can imagine.
It goes well with avocado sauce, tomatoes, and cheese, further enhancing its flavor.

I’m grateful that the salad and soup are included in the set (^-^)

② Clam chowder

This is also a popular clam chowder.

The clam chowder poured into the bread balls is a delicious dish from the outside.
From the moment you eat a bite, the rich aroma and umami flavor of the clams spreads (≧-≦)

You can have the soup alone, soak the bread cut with a knife and fork, or submerge the onion rings.

It was so chilly that I had a jacket on that day, but the hot clam chowder was really irresistible.

This is definitely dangerous if you have it after enjoying winter sports in winter.
I wanted to do winter trekking just for this (laughs)

Activities such as the athletic plaza and trampoline are also maintained outside the shop.

Moreover, these facilities can be used by anyone …
It is also recommended for SANGORO and children (^-^)

When my stomach is full, I will return to Zao Onsen town.
The lift in this state is too comfortable (laughs)

Please be careful not to oversleep.

6. Enjoy shopping and a foot bath at the souvenir shop Iseya

Now, after enjoying the autumn leaves, we will head to another main event, the souvenir shop.

Introduced this time is the souvenir shop Iseya, which is located across the road from the ropeway platform and is located next to Yunohana Chaya Shinzaemon-no-Yu.

Inside the store are Yamagata food souvenirs (on the left side when facing the entrance)

Traditional crafts (on the right side when facing the entrance) are lined up.

Among them, I asked about 3 recommended products of the staff!

① Recommended product 1 Shinzaemon Manju

The first recommended product is the limited edition Shinzaemon Manju sweets.

It is a bun filled with koshian paste made from high-quality azuki red beans, with a center of chestnut bean paste, wrapped in soft outside.
As it is a limited edition product, it seems to be selling well.

② Recommended product # 2 Yamagata specialty tama konnyaku (konjac balls)

The second is Yamagata’s famous tama konnyaku (konjac balls)!

It is no exaggeration to say that the nostalgic taste is Yamagata’s soul food.
It is also useful as a small light meal or a plate for dinner.
I’m grateful that we also sell seasonings so that you can easily have them (^-^)
It is recommended to attach mustard.

③ Recommended product # 3 soft-serve ice cream

Did you know that Yamagata is the largest producer of La France pear in Japan?
It accounts for 80% of the national production.
Here is the rich scent of La France as it is!

With a bite, the scent and sweetness of La France spreads throughout your mouth (≧-≦)
We also recommend the rich premium vanilla soft-serve ice cream, which is popular for its rich flavor.

In addition, there was a wide selection of Yamagata’s representative confectionery, local sake, and traditional crafts.

It’s fun just to look at it, so please come visit us.

And here are the attractions other than Iseya’s souvenirs!

That’s right, you can enjoy the foot bath!
What’s more, it’s a luxury that is 100% flowing from the source!
Please note that on the day you soak in your feet with a soft-serve ice cream in your hands you may not want to go back anymore (^-^)
* There is currently a fee charged for use of the foot bath of 100 yen (free for elementary school students and younger).

The Iseya souvenir shop introduced this time is attached to the Yunohana Chaya Shinzaemon-no-Yu, where you can enjoy a variety of things like hot springs, the large open-air bath, Yamagata beef and 100% soba. It is a day trip bathing facility with a restaurant.

It is a spot where you can fully enjoy Zao Onsen (^-^)
* Please cooperate in wearing a mask and disinfecting at the entrance to prevent COVID-19.


Detailed information

[Feature] Day-trip Hot Springs at Zao Onsen! Shinzaemon-no-Yu

[Feature] Day-trip Hot Springs at Zao Onsen! Shinzaemon-no-Yu

Click here for more information on Shinzaemon-no-Yu and the souvenir shop Iseya!

7. Zao specialty Igamochi rice cake at the souvenir center Marushichi

Lastly, I would like to introduce Zao’s famous Igamochi rice cake.
They were sold at many shops before, but now only five still do, including the Souvenir Center Marushichi introduced this time.
The raw materials are almost the same, but the amount and manufacturing method are different for each shop, so please try them all if you like them. (^-^)

If you go north 200 meters from Iseya, you will arrive at Marushichi.

It has souvenirs and special products from Zao and Yamagata prefecture lined up at this shop.

And here is the Igamochi rice cake.

Even though it was still just past noon, it was the last one left.
It’s very popular…
Even if it is sold out, it is recommended to check with the store as they manufacture them on the premises.
If the timing is right, you may be able to get it fresh (^-^)

The bamboo grass under the mochi is made from real bamboo grass from Zao.

The scent of bamboo leaves was faintly transferred to the mochi, giving it an indescribably rich flavor.
The sweet and chewy texture is irresistible!

By the way, the yellow grains on the rice cake are rice grains.
Marushichi is particular about dyeing with the Yamagata prefecture flower safflower.
The bright yellow color was a cute dish (^-^)
* Please cooperate in wearing a mask and disinfecting at the entrance to prevent COVID-19.

8. Summary

This time, we introduced the recommended courses for popular sightseeing spots in Yamagata.
The view of the popular pond Dokko-numa is more attractive than rumors.

If you use the ropeway or lift, you can enjoy it with a relatively small amount of exercise.
Fascinating autumn leaves of Zao that will satisfy your stomach and soul.
Please come and visit us (^-^)

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