The ski slope at Zao
Zao Onsen (藏王温泉) is a hotspring and ski resort town in Yamagata Prefecture, about 45 mins by bus from the Yamagata City centre.
Zao is famous for ice-monsters.
Here is a picture of the monsters look like:
Ice Monsters! Photo from japan-guide.com
The "ice monsters" are actually just trees that take on curious shapes due to the heavy snowfall and freezing wind in winter.
Zao is a very popular ski resort because it's nice to ski amidst all the "monsters". It is open on certain nights in the winter and supposedly, the snow and lights at night will make the entire place really pretty and romantic.
Skiing amongst the ice-monsters would be really fun.. Photo from japan-guide.com
We stayed in a ryokan hotel that faces the ice-monsters. A little sign on the coffee table of our room says "Watch the ice-monsters on show outside the window".
Unfortunately, all the snow on the trees have melted and there are no more ice-monsters.
But Zao is still a pretty place to visit in March, even without the ice-monsters. There is this very famous open air onsen at Zao that is supposedly one of the few naturally concealed open air onsen in Japan.
The ski slope is still beautiful in March,
but not too much snow left when we were there..
The open-air onsen is located next to the ski-slope, but naturally considered
by the surrounding rocks and trees.. See the stream on the right of the picture?
That's a little stream of hot water flowing down from the mountains.