The summer heat is unbearable in Yamagata Prefecture, but Dokko-Numa Swamp is like a summer resort.
When you ride the ropeway and climb “Mt. Torikabuto-yama” (altitude:1387m) from the Zao Onsen Ski Resort (Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture), you will find plateaus at an altitude of 1300m. Because the temperature difference from the foot of the mountain is more than 10 degrees, so you can enjoy fresh air even in the middle of summer. There is “Zao Central Plateau Walking Path” starts from Mt. Torikabuto-yama and walk around many lakes. In addition to the Walking Course goes around the central plateau, there are hiking trails such as Dokko-numa Swamp Course and Fudo Falls Course. You can enjoy a 1 to 3 hours walk there. There is not much up and down, so it is recommended for beginners and tourists.
<Origin of Mount Torikabuto>
The Zao Central Ropeway operates between Onsen Station and Torikabuto Station in Zao Onsen in about 7 minutes. The gondola is a large 101-passenger gondola that climbs to the top of Mt. Torikabuto-yama with a view of the Zao Onsen town and the Yamagata Basin. The name “Mt. Torikabuto-yama” comes from the mountain’s shape, which resembles a “Torikabuto” (a phoenix head), a costume used in Bugaku and Shinto rituals. From the observatory of Mt. Torikabuto-yama, you can overlook the Zao Onsen town at the foot of the hill. On a sunny day with clear air, you can see famous mountains of Yamagata such as Mt. Gassan, Mt. Asahi-dake of Asahi Mountains, Mt. Dainichi-dake of Iide Mountains, and Mt. Nishi-Agatsuma of Agatsuma Mountains.
<Highlights of Zao Central Plateau>
“Dokko-Numa Swamp Course”
You can easily stroll around Zao Central Plateau (“Dokko-Numa Swamp Course”) from Mt. Torikabuto-yama to Dokko-Numa Swamp (elevation: 1264m), as it is only a gentle slope down to the swamp. It takes about 15 min. to reach Dokko-Numa Swamp. If you are short on time or not confident in your physical strength, you can take the lift from Torikabuto Station, which will take you to Dokko-Numa Swamp in about 5 min. The surface of Dokko-numa Swamp is beautiful emerald green. There are benches and tables on the shore, so you can enjoy the scenery while having lunch or taking a break.
The name of Dokko-numa Swamp originated from the name of the Buddhist weapon called “Dokko.” It said that a long time ago, a monk threw Dokko into the swamp to calm down the dragon lived in the swamp. Later, this swamp became to be called “Dokko-numa Swamp.” Now, this dragon enshrined in Dokko-numa Swamp as a water god.
“Fudo Falls Course”
To Fudo Falls, you can walk about 30 minutes in the beech forest from Dokko-numa Swamp. The Fudo Falls Course is a mountain trail. Mountaineering gear is recommended. According to a legend, Fudo Falls is where Minamoto no Yoshiie enshrined Fudo Myoo (a Buddhist deity) during his march at the end of the Heian Period (11th century). It is the origin of the name Fudo Falls. Incidentally, Minamoto no Yoritomo, who founded the Kamakura shogunate, was a fifth-generation descendant of Minamoto no Yoshiie, and Ashikaga Takauji, who established the Muromachi shogunate, was a tenth-generation descendant of Minamoto no Yoshiie.
“Zao Central Platea Walking Course”
For those who want to enjoy trekking, we recommend the “Walking Course” that circles Zao Central Plateau. This is a 3-hour course that takes you to Mt. Torikabuto-yama Swamp → Momiji Pass → Paradise Crossroads → Katagai-Numa Swamp → Utsubo-Numa Swamp → Mt. Saburo-dake → Mt. Goro-dake → Dokko-Numa Swamp → Mt. Torikabuto-yama. There are few ups and downs.
There are three bells in the Zao Central Plateau that bring “happiness” and are said to be good for you if you ring them. There is the “Bell of Luck” at Mt. Torikabuto-yama, the “Bell of Love” at Paradise Crossroads, and the “Bell of Health” near Dokko-Numa Swamp.
Zao Onsen is a location for filming the Shochiku movie “King of Silver Mountains” (released in 1960.) Toni Sailer has initially been an Olympic skier, and he spends a long time at Zao Onsen to shoot this film. He was a person who appealed Zao Onsen Ski Resort to the world. Toni Sailer Monument was built after his death in honor of his contribution and lament over his death. There is a Toni Sailer Monument near Paradise Crossroads.
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