How to travel between Sakata and Tokyo
Take the JR Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo to Niigata (2 hours) and then a limited express train from Niigata to Tsuruoka at the entrance of the Dewa Sanzan or to Sakata (2 hours). The entire one way trip takes around 4 to 4.5 hours, costs about 14,000 yen and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and the JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass. There is about one connection every two hours.
ANA and Jetstar Japan operate multiple flights per day between Tokyo (ANA from Haneda Airport, Jetstar from Narita Airport) and Shonai Airport near the Dewa Sanzan and Sakata. Flight duration is 60 minutes. The regular one way fare by ANA is around 22,000 yen; however, discount tickets are typically available for between 15,000 and 20,500 yen. One way fares by Jetstar start from around 5000 yen. Buses connect Shonai Airport with central Tsuruoka (30 minutes, 780 yen one way) and Sakata (35 minutes, 860 yen one way).
By highway bus
Shonai Kotsu operates an overnight bus between Tokyo (Shinjuku, Tokyo, Akihabara and Ueno Stations) and Tsuruoka and Sakata stations. The one way journey takes around 8 hours and costs 7,800 yen to Tsuruoka or 8,100 yen to Sakata. Round trip tickets are available for 14,000 yen and 14,600 yen respectively and must be used within seven days. Online reservations can be made through Willer and Japan Bus Online.
Above fees and schedules are subject to change. For the current yen exchange rate, click here.
Sakata's main transport hub is Sakata Station and the nearby Shonai Bus Terminal. The city center and tourist sites lie to the west and south of the station. The city is medium-sized and relatively compact with many of the attractions walkable from the station. Alternatively, there is a free bicycle rental service available from various points within the city including next to Sakata Station.
A network of buses connects the bus terminal and station with the tourist sites, but the buses do not tend to be too frequent or easy to use by foreign tourists. There are regular city buses operated by local bus operator Shonai Kotsu (fares depend on distance traveled) and several "Run Run" bus lines operated by the city (200 yen per ride).
An alternative to taking the bus is to rent a car, which also makes travelling to the Dewa Sanzan area from Sakata more convenient. There are multiple car rental outlets in the city center and at Shonai Airport.
Shonai Airport is located south of central Sakata and is connected to Sakata City and the Shonai Bus Terminal by a bus service that is synchronized with the arrivals and departures of flights. The journey between the airport and the city center takes 35 minutes and costs 860 yen one way.