1Shirioshi-Zao Station (Tohoku Shinkansen Line)There are three rental car shops to choose from near the Shiroishi-Zao Station. If you're staying in Sendai, you could also simply start your drive from there.Car22 min.
2Zao Fox VillageKick off the day adorably with a visit to Zao Fox Village. Once an off-the-beaten-path attraction, videos of its adorable inhabitants have gotten a huge about of attention online, turning the refuge into one of Miyagi's must-sees.Car16 min.
3Cheese tasting at the Zao Dairy CenterIn Japan, local dairies making real cheese are few and far between. The Zao Dairy Center (蔵王酪農センター) makes some of the best in Tohoku. Come taste for free! For visitors with extra time, the Center also features hands-on workshops, cute farm animals, and a rose garden.Car13 min.
4Waterfalls along the Echo Line
Shortly after the dairy, you'll begin the climb up Mount Zao along a scenic highway called the Zao Echo Line. On the way up, you’ll spot Sankai no Taki (三階の滝), one of Japan's Top 100 Waterfalls as chosen by Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Just before reaching the waterfall, there will be a sign reading 滝見台 on your left next to a driveway. Turn in here. The driveway leads to a parking lot and an observation platform. Park here and visit the observation platform to get some good shots of the falls without obstructing traffic.
Just a couple of kilometers further down the road, there's a tiny parking lot next an impressive Fudo Myo-o deity statue. There's also a short pathway leading to a viewpoint overlooking the Fudo-taki (不動滝) waterfall.Car14 min.
5Komakusadaira ObservatoryAs you continue up the Echo Line, you'll see a few vista points along the way. Stop at as many as you like, but be sure not to miss the Komakusadaira Observatory (駒草平展望台), which offers one of the most stunning panoramas the Zao area has to offer.Car9 min.
6Okama CraterOkama Crater is the crown jewel of Mount Zao and the most famous landmark in the area. No trip to Zao is complete without a stop here. Most visitors enjoy simply standing on the edge and being enveloped in the landscape, but active types can also opt to hike a trail partway around the rim of the crater.Car32 min.
7Lunch in Togatta Onsen village
Togatta Onsen has been making a name for itself as a foodie destination. There are a number of casual eateries here serving best-in-class fare: Michelin-listed soba at Shoan, fine Taiwanese teas at Manyocha, hearty tofu snacks at Hasegawaya , pork burgers at Zao Boo, and more.
There is a free public parking lot across the street from the Zao-machi Sightseeing Information Center (蔵王町観光案内所). Park here and walk to whatever restaurant suits your appetite. Those who are down for a bit of walking can actually just leave the car parked here and walk to the final two destinations, as they are only about 10 minutes away on foot.Car2 min.
8Kokeshi Museum & PaintingKokeshi are the traditional carved wooden dolls of Tohoku. The Zao Kokeshi Museum is Japan's largest, making it a great place to check out whether it's your first introduction to the craft or you're already a seasoned kokeshi aficionado.Car4 min.
9Soak in natural hot springsWrap up the day by bathing in a natural hot springs. The most relaxing option is to stay overnight in Togatta Onsen or a nearby hotel like Gaga Onsen. For those staying elsewhere, day-trip hot springs facility Mahoroba no Yu is just a stone's throw from the kokeshi museum.
Scenic Zao Drive
See the wild side of Zao on a laid-back day trip