Snow Monsters

After spending a cozy night at Pension Apple, we ventured back out into the cold to explore the Zao Snow Monsters.

What are Snow Monsters?

Snow Monsters

The Snow Monsters, known as Juhyo in Japanese, are Aomori Fir Trees, covered in thick blankets of snow and ice. When droplets from snow clouds come into contact with the branches and leaves, they freeze, forming tail-like and wind-blown shapes that cover the entire mountain.

Walking up the mountain and through the trees is a surreal experience. Because of the harsh elements, the trees morph into strange shapes, and it feels like you’re being watched by snowy creatures, waiting to pounce on you when the moment is right.

Snow Monsters

Our Snow Monster Experience:

Snow Monsters

To get up the mountain and to the Snow Monsters, we first bought our tickets to the Zao Ropeway at the Zao Sanroku Station. The tickets were ¥2600 round-trip/person, and we rode two different ropeway cars to get to the top.

Right after we got our tickets, we were pushed behind a large tour group, and the cars ended up being pretty cramped. Other than that, riding on the Zao Ropeway was very smooth and enjoyable.

Snow Monsters

Once we reached the top, we made our way through the sea of skiers and snowshoers, and started our way to the summit of the mountain.

Snow Monsters

Surprisingly, it wasn’t too windy, and the air was crisp, but not unbearably cold. The snow was deep, but it was fairly easy to walk through with our trusty snow boots. Everywhere we looked, we saw a new figure that caught our attention, and eventually we made it to the summit of Mt. Zizo.

Snow Monsters

Snow Monsters

At the summit, we were greeted by the most incredible view of the surrounding mountains. It was much windier and cold, but I could have stayed up there for hours admiring the icy view.

Snow Monsters

 I’m not sure a blog post and a few pictures will do the Snow Monsters justice, but I hope that I’ve come close. We were very fortunate to be able to see the figures clearly, as the day before was very cloudy, and a few of our fellow team members went to the top only to be greeted with a foggy view.

Want to see more of our Snow Monster Experience? Check this video out!

Your Snow Monster Experience:

1. Pay Attention to the Weather: You’re gonna want to have as clear of a view as possible! Go up the ropeway when there is little cloud coverage, and the sun is shining bright.

2. Bring Some Good Shoes: Good hiking boots are a must! There are places where you can rent snow shoes, but if you don’t want to spend more money, a good pair of waterproof boots combined with some thick socks does the job.

3. Take Your Time: When I say “take your time,” I mean a couple of things. First, take your time exploring. Don’t feel rushed by the crowds, and feel free to walk even further than we went; there are a few other landmarks in Zao, like the Okama Crater and the Iroha-Numa Swamp. Secondly, be careful as you make the ascent up the mountain. The mountain is steep, the snow is deep, and there are many opportunities for trips and falls.

Visiting Information:

Map of Yamagata

Zao Onsen Bus Schedule 

Zao Ropeway Prices: 

One way Round trip Attractions
Zao Sancho Station
Altitude: 1,661m
Adults ¥1,500 ¥2,600 Zao natural botanical garden(Mt. Sanpokojin)
Zao Jizoson
Trailhead to Jizosan, Kumanodake and Kattadake
Children ¥800 ¥1,300
Kogen Station
Altitude: 1,331m
Adults ¥800 ¥1,500 ○Iroha-numa swamp, Kansho-daira

Zao Ropeway Hours: 

Winter(11 Dec. – 31 Mar. ) Summer(1 Apr. – 10 Dec.)
Sanroku Line 8:15 – 16:45
Sancho Line 8:30 – 16:30
8:30 – 17:00