Tsuruoka was the castle town of the lords of Sakai of the Shonai domain. Fujisawa Shuhei, a notable novelist and native of Tsuruoka, wrote many historic novels using Tsuruoka as a setting. Many films based on his novels have been shot in Tsuroka. Recently, scenes from the much acclaimed “Departures” was also shot at “Tsuru no Yu,” which is actually a public bath, and other places in the city. Sets, props and materials of related movies are displayed at Shonai Eigamura (Movie Village) Museum. A huge open-air set of the movie village will open on September 12, 2009, and retro buses run from JR Tsuruoka Station.
Shonai Plain has long been a breadbasket, or rather ricebasket, of Japan, producing abundant and delicious rice and vegetables. Speaking of delicious food, the Italian restaurant Al-che-cciano is famous and attracts people from all over the country.
Yunohama Onsen is an old hot spring resort near the Sea of Japan. Kamo Aquarium in the town always displays 30-40 species of jellyfish, which is the largest number among the world’s aquariums. In this aquarium, owan-kurage, or aequorea victoria (crystal jelly) were successfully induced to emit light thanks to expert advice from Shimomura Osamu, Professor Emeritus at Boston University Medical School, who was awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Yudagawa Onsen is at the foot of Mount Kinpo. Atsumi Onsen sits beside the Atsumi River which flows into the Sea of Japan and has a 1,100 year history. These are the most famous hot springs in Shonai, along with venerable old Yura Onsen.