Getting To Zao Onsen

Getting To Zao Onsen

Where is Zao Onsen?

Zao Japan is located in northeast Tohoku, about 400km north of Tokyo. The Zao ski resort and the associated onsen town are located 18km southeast of Yamagata City in the Yamagata Prefecture, and 78km southwest of Sendai in the Miyagi Prefecture. The trip time from Tokyo to Zao Onsen via train and bus is under 3.5 hours depending on connection times.


Many travellers chose to fly into Tokyo Narita Airport, but another gateway into Japan is Sendai Airport which is only 88km from Zao Onsen. Flights to Sendai originate from Shanghai with China Eastern Airlines or Air China, or via Seoul with Asiana Airlines. Yamagata Airport is even closer, with JAL domestic flights originating from Haneda or Shin-Chitose in Hokkaido.

To search for flights and compare lots of different airlines and routes, use one of our recommended flight aggregators

Travel to Zao Japan

Getting from Tokyo to Yamagata
If coming from Narita Airport you’ll first need to catch the Narita Express train (NEX) into Tokyo. The train ride takes about one hour and there are frequent departures from the airport terminals. From Tokyo Station, take the Shinkansen Tsubasa to Yamagata Station. The trip takes about 2:40 hours.

If coming from Haneda Airport, catch the inexpensive monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsucho. The monorail takes about 15 minutes, although the walk to get to the monorail may take 8-10 minutes. From Hamamatsucho, there are very regular and inexpensive local trains to Tokyo.

There are also other variations on train routes from the airports to Yamagata. Check out Japan Travel Navitime for routes, timetables and fares.

Bus from Yamagata to Zao
Buses for Zao Onsen leave from the Yamagata train station approximately every hour from the east exit bus stop number 1. The fare is reasonably inexpensive and you have to pay in cash when you get off the bus. The bus is not express so it takes about 40 minutes to get to the Zao Onsen bus terminal. Return bus trips operate every hour from approximately 7am to 7:40pm.

From the bus stop you can walk to your accommodation or get a taxi, or many hotels and ryokans will pick you up by arrangement.

The other option is to catch a taxi from Yamagata Station directly to your accommodation.

Getting from Sendai to Zao
There are two direct buses per day in winter between the city of Sendai and Zao Onsen. The trip takes 1:40 hours. Seat reservations are required.

From Sendai Airport there are 2-3 shuttle services per day to Zao in the afternoon. Reservations are required. A more complicated way to get there is to catch a train from Sendai Airport to Sendai and then to Yamagata.

Getting Around Zao Japan

Pop into the Zao Information Centre which is a few doors up from the Zao bus terminal. Here you can pick up town maps and other useful information.

Even though Zao village is somewhat spread out, it’s small enough to navigate on foot. The town is rather hilly and whilst the main tourist street is heated with onsen water, the other roads may be snow covered so wear sensible shoes. There is also the occasional open drain that drops off from the road, so take care when walking.

There is no shuttle bus service around Zao Onsen, so if you don’t like walking up and down hilly roads in your ski boots, pick a Zao Onsen hotel that is close to the slopes.