Mount Zao is a volcanic mountain located between Yamagata and Miyagi Prefectures in Tohoku, Japan. It is one of Tohoku's most famous attractions, boasting spectacular views and unique activities throughout the country's four seasons. Mt. Zao's most famous sights include the electric blue Okama Crater and the mystical "snow monster" trees that form during the peak of winter.
The mountain is popular among sightseers for its attractive hiking trails lined with vibrant seasonal foliage, with yellow narcissus blooming during spring and trees boasting orange-red hues during autumn. During summer, the trails lead eager hikers towards the Okama Crater. The color of the crater changes depending on the weather and time of day, but Mt. Zao is best known for the view of the cobalt blue waters held within Okama Crater.
Within the Mt. Zao scenic area is Zao Onsen, a popular hot spring and ski resort. Zao Onsen is especially popular during winter, where the famous "snow monsters" form on the wintery slopes of Mount Zao. Due to the Tohoku region's harsh winters and heavy snowfall, the trees atop Mt. Zao get covered with snow and resemble monstrous-looking frozen sculptures. Many make the trip to Zao Onsen especially to see the snow monsters, which is a unique event that only occurs during February when snowfall is abundant.
Other than the snow monsters, Zao Onsen resort offers several different ski slopes of varying difficulties. Visitors can also utilize the Zao Ropeway to get around, as well as enjoy the mountainside views from above. If you're visiting during winter, make sure not to miss the snow monster illuminations at night — as part of the annual Zao Snow Festival. Festivalgoers enjoy firework displays, illuminations, professional ski and snowboard shows, and many more fun activities.
The Okama is a crater lake that measures 1km in circumference with a 27m depth. It is known locally as 'Goshiki-numa' (five-colour lake) for its changing surface colours.
The natural phenomenon of 'juhyo' can be seen on the slopes of Mount Zao during the winter months.