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Gastronomy and traditions in the Shônai region
Combining rich heritage, varied local products, and spiritual lands, the third city of Yamagata prefecture has many assets
City between sea and mountains
With 130,000 citizens, Tsuruoka is the third-largest city in Yamagata prefecture, after the capital and Sakata. Located about four hours by train, northwest of Tokyo, it offers a unique environment at the foot of the mountains and is near the sea.
The peaceful and authentic city also serves as a starting point for exploring the Dewa Sanzan, the three sacred mountains traveled by pilgrims. Mount Gassan, which rises to 1,984 meters, Mount Haguro at 414 meters, and Mount Yudono at 1,504 meters, is the spiritual land of shugendô, the religion of the Yamabushi hermits, literally means "those who sleep in the mountains".
The melting pot of three cultures
Tsuruoka's history dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868). The Shônai domain, on the coast of Yamagata Prefecture, was ruled by Lord Sakai, one of the four generals of the Tokugawa clan. The city flourished as the administrative center of the domain.
It is still strongly marked by the mixture of three cultures: that of Edo, through its lord who was a hereditary vassal of the Tokugawa, that of Kyoto and Osaka, coming from ships that used the trade route of the Kitamaebune in the Sea of Japan from Osaka to Hokkaido, and finally the culture of the Tôhoku region of which Yamagata prefecture is a part of.
Among its rich heritage, there is the vast Chidô museum in the heart of the city, Chidokan samurai school founded in 1805, the only one that remains in the region of Tohôku, and the cleared lands of Matsugaoka, where samurai idle after the abolition of the working class have engaged in the breeding of silkworms.
Creative city of the Archipelago
Tsuruoka is full of varied ingredients for all seasons. His edamame , called dadachamame ("dadacha " meaning "father" in the regional dialect), is notably renowned for being the best in Japan. In 2014, the city was the first in the archipelago to join the Unesco network of creative cities in the culinary field.
It has a variety of great restaurants with an emphasis on local produce, from the organic farm inn Naa to the gourmet Italian restaurant Al-ché-cciano. At the top of Mount Haguro, at the shukubô Sakai located near the Sanjin Gosaiden shrine, you can even enjoy the monks' vegetarian cuisine.
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