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The city with more cherry trees than people, Yamagata is one of Japan's major producers of cherries. Sitting in the northeastern Tohoku region of the main Japanese island of Honshu, the area is often described as the "hidden" Japan and it is definitely not on the tourist route. Surrounded by mountains, the attraction is not the city itself, but its surrounds.

There is achingly beautiful scenery to be had, ancient temples to meander around, succulent local food to indulge in and some of the best hot springs in the whole of Japan to wallow in. For those into skiing, this is where you will find some world class skiing to be had. You should jump a train for a short ride to the "Mountain Temple" or go to Tendo Town, the main producer of shogi (chess) pieces in the world.

The downtown area is called Nonoka-machi where you will find the main shopping area, restaurants for when the hunger pangs strike plus a couple of museums to gawk at. If you are into slurping down soba noodles you will be in heaven, as they are a stable food item on the locals' menus.

Take note that there are very few English speakers and the local lingo is a distinct dialect of the region that may be hard to understand, even if you have a decent grasp of the Japanese language. This is where you will be a novelty; as foreigners are rare, so expect to be the subject of much curiosity and stares as well as the topic of whispers especially in the rural areas around the town.

If you really want to get the most out of a visit here, it is recommended that you have a Japanese speaker in tow.

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