Lunch from 7-11 and we were on our way to the beach at Tsuruoka to eat it. Aside from its latitude it is ideally localted - 10 mins from the beach and 15 minutes from the mountains. Hiro spent 2 of his university years based here and knows the area well, though he says the roads have changed dramatically since he was there.
The beach was peaceful, and a pleasant place to eat a bento. Environmental considerations though haven't been at the forefront development applications thought and the hotels built virtually on the beach seem to be contributing to gradual erosion of the sand.
Winter winds blow fierce along the Japan Sea and along the road to Sakata there were thickly planted windbreaks of trees. You can see somewhat from the picture how they all grow on an angle away from the coast line.
We stopped briefly at Sakata, a former port city in the north of Yamagata. The Mogami river which empties into the Japan sea at Sakata, used to bring timber, rice and other goods down to Sakata for onward transportation to Kyoto and Tokyo.
The old rice wharehouses along the river in Sakata were built in consideration of the elements： the western wall has trees growing along it to keep the temperature down, and the rooves are built with space to allow air to cirucluate. The proximity to the river would have facilitated easy transportation. JA (Japan Agriculture) retains ownership of the wharehouses today and preserves them well, though with a small museum in one end and a souvenir shop in the other, and very little in the middle. The area has a very calm and relaxed atmophere but probably has considerably more potential. (The picture below gives some idea of the place but doesn't do it justice at all.)
From Sakata we made our way directly to Yuza machi where we were staying the night. Finding accommodation was a bit of a drama - the internet booking sites had every accommodation at every price level booked out on the Sunday night. I managed to ring around and find an old school that has been recently been renovated as a school camp kind of place. I forgot to take photos there but it was bright and fresh, high ceilings, big rooms, everything wood - quite lovely. Hiro says often these places are built to assuage local angst at schools closing down but usually can't get the numbers to make them viable as businesses. It was a good place to stay, though they could up the quality of their salmon at breakfast ;).
To get to Yuza we passed through many soon to be harvested rice fields. Yamagata, like Akita supplies much of Japan's rice. (The rice photos were taking the following morning).
Yuza machi's home page accommodation information. http://www.town.yuza.yamagata.jp/Files/1/6003/html/宿泊施設一覧.html The place we stayed at was no. 2. - 6,000 yen or so each for dinner, breakfast and accommodation... communal bathrooms / bathtub - but we were almost the only ones there - it is mostly used for school trips.