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Nice Castle Grounds, But Not a Llot of Castle...yet
Yamagata castle is located in Yamagata city, a nice enough drive but not terribly close to other businesses other than a fairly large athletic complex including a baseball field. The castle grounds provide a nice walk when weather allows, but otherwise there isn't too much to see until you get to the statue of the samurai lord of this area, Mogami Yoshiaki, on the back of a horse that is rearing on its hind legs.
Beyond that statue sits the historically sound rebuilding of the castle gate, which is lovely and interesting. When the rest of the rebuild is finished, there will be a whole castle, created using the same means that were used when castles were built centuries ago. Unsurprisingly, this method takes some time and expected completion date is as yet unknown. Until then, it's just a gate with an elevated indoor hallway, in which scale models of the castle designs, videos about the castle history, and very kind volunteers wait for tourists.
If you've got an hour or so to kill on a road trip, why not swing by the castle gate at Yamagata Castle? It's fun and free, but not really worth planning a whole trip around.