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Yuzawa: Winter Snow Paradise Close to Tokyo!

Yuzawa: Winter Snow Paradise Close to Tokyo!

Date published: 19 January 2018
Last updated: 23 January 2018

Under 90 minutes from Tokyo and nestled in one of Japan's snowiest areas, Yuzawa is home to 12 unique ski resorts, all of which are easily accessed from JR Echigo Yuzawa station. The area is packed with heaps of winter attractions, including an onsen town right near the station, and even if skiing or snowboarding isn't your thing, you're sure to find something fun in the area's variety of other winter activities!

An Incredible Region

An Incredible Region

Although it draws a variety of outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers for its serene views and laid-back vibe in other seasons, Yuzawa really comes alive in winter, when snow lovers come from all over the country (and world) to enjoy the powder. Located inland in Niigata Prefecture, Yuzawa receives a large amount of snowfall - sometimes even over 1 meter overnight - due to its proximity to the Sea of Japan.

Each of the area's 12 ski resorts feature non-compacted snow fields with deep powder snow that feels incredible under ski or board.

How to get to Yuzawa?

How to get to Yuzawa?

Getting to Yuzawa from Tokyo is quite easy. Many travel and tour companies will offer day trips from the Tokyo area to different resorts by train or bus or a combination of both. These companies will also likely offer some kind of bundle which includes rental, hotel and transport.

If you are considering going for a weekend, another option is the JR TOKYO Wide Pass. Costing just 10,000 yen (under US$100), the JR TOKYO Wide Pass is valid for 3 days and allows users to travel via Shinkansen, making the trip from Tokyo to Echigo Yuzawa in about 75 minutes. JR's TOKYO Wide Pass website lists additional promotional packages as well.

What to do in Yuzawa

What to do in Yuzawa

Skiing and Snowboarding

There's a shuttle bus service that takes you directly to the ski resorts around Yuzawa, departing from Echigo Yuzawa station and nearby areas. There are several bus stops in front of the Echigo no Oyado Inamoto Hotel, about two minutes' walk from the west exit of Echigo Yuzawa station. Shuttle buses will take you to Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort, GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort, NASPA Ski Garden, Yuzawa Nakazato Ski Resort, Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort, Yuzawa Park Ski Resort, and Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort.

You can reach Iwappara Ski Resort, Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort and Maiko Snow Resort by shuttle bus from the east exit of Echigo Yuzawa station. There is also a shuttle bus to Naeba Ski Resort from the east exit, but this is for guests of the resort-owned hotel only. For GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort, there is a shuttle bus from the west exit of Echigo Yuzawa station. But if you're coming from Tokyo, the shinkansen would be more convenient because the ski resort is directly linked to shinkansen's GALA Yuzawa station.

If you're going to Nakazato Snow Wood, it's best to use train as the resort is only five minutes' walk from the Joetsu Line's Nakazato station. You can access Kagura Ski Resort, Naeba Ski Resort and Ludens Yuzawa Ski Resort by local bus.

  • Naeba Ski Resort
    苗場スキー場
    • Address Mikuni, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6292
    • Phone Number 025-789-4117
  • Kagura Ski Resort
    かぐらパウダーステーション
    • Address 742 Mitsumata, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6211
    • Phone Number 025-788-2066
  • Kandatsu Kogen Ski Resort
    神立高原スキー場
    • Address 4121-1 Kandatsu, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6102
    • Phone Number 025-788-0111
  • Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort
    湯沢高原スキー場
    • Address 490 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6101
    • Phone Number 025-784-3326
  • GALA YUZAWA SNOW RESORT
    GALA湯沢スノーリゾート
    • Address 1039-2 Kayabira, Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6101
    • Phone Number 025-785-6543
  • NASPA Ski Garden
    NASPAスキーガーデン
    • Address 2117-9 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6101
    • Phone Number 025-780-6888
  • Yuzawa Ipponsugi Ski Resort
    越後湯沢温泉 一本杉スキー場
    • Address 2521 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6101
    • Phone Number 025-784-4440
  • Iwappara Ski Resort
    岩原スキー場
    • Address 731-79 Tsuchidaru, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6103
    • Phone Number 025-787-3211
  • Yuzawa Nakazato Ski Resort
    湯沢中里スノーリゾート
    • Address 5044-1 Tsuchidaru, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6103
    • Phone Number 025-787-3301
  • Yuzawa Park Ski Resort
    湯沢パークスキー場
    • Address Kosaka, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6103
    • Phone Number 025-787-4111
  • Nakazato Snow Wood Ski Area
    中里スノーウッドスキー場
    • Address 〒949-6103 Niigata Prefecture, Minamiuonuma District, Yuzawa, 大字土樽4731−2
    • Phone Number 025-787-3511
  • Joetsu Kokusai Ski Area
    上越国際スキー場
    • Address 〒949-6431 Niigata Prefecture, Minamiuonuma, Kabanosawa, 112番地1号
    • Phone Number 025-782-1028

Onsen
The Yuzawa area has a large variety of onsen, with many hotels and ryokan having their own facilities. Especially after a long day of playing in the snow, relaxing in the hot water can do wonders for the spirit. Some facilities even offer foot baths if you want to take a load off without going all the way in!

Photo by Chiho Kuriyama

Snowmobiling
With so much snow, Yuzawa offers a wide range of snow activities, and if snowboarding and skiing doesn't appeal to you, why not give snowmobiling a go?

Snowmobile Land Yuzawa is only a 3-minute drive from JR Echigo Yuzawa station. In winter, the entire premises of Yuzawa Chuo Park, with a multi-purpose square and baseball ground, turns into a snowmobile field! The snow-covered park is arranged into snowmobile runs for you to enjoy the sport at your leisure.

As snowmobiling does not require any special license, practically anyone, whether you are a beginner, an adult or a child, can give it a try. Several plans are available, so you can start with a fun 30-minute ride, or go out for longer - with half-day (2 hours) and full-day (4 hours) rides offered as well. If you've never snowmobiled before, the instructor will guide you in the basics so you can enjoy your ride safely.

Snowmobile experience
■Dates: January 7-March 30, 2018
*Dates are subject to change depending on the quantity of snow.
■Apply to: Snow Country Tourism Information Center (Tel: 025-785-5353)
*Applications accepted for groups of two or more, up to and including the day of the ride.

■Fee: 6,000 yen per adult (special one-hour test-ride course)/3,500 yen per adult (30-minute test-ride course)
■Meeting area: RSS Snowmobile Land Yuzawa (Yuzawamachi Leisure Pool)
■Hours: 9:00-17:00
■Fees include: Voluntary insurance fees, trial fees

  • RSS Snowmobile Land Yuzawa
    スノーモビルランド湯沢
    • Address 151-1 Tsuchidaru, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata 949-6103
    • Phone Number 025-785-5353

After the Slopes, Sip Some Sake!

After the Slopes, Sip Some Sake!

Niigata is a land of rice and abundant amounts of pure, clear water - the key ingredients for brewing the fine sake the prefecture is famous for. Yuzawa is home to a sake brewery, and though you'll need to book ahead, you can tour the brewery and sample some of their rice wine. There are also plenty of stores with a great array of sake, some with a designated section for local brews. Don't miss this fantastic opportunity to experience the deep world of sake.

*Copy by Chiho Kuriyama, edited by Timothy Sullivan. Prices quoted in the article are current as of January 2018.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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