Join the pilgrimage to the snow mecca on Japan’s main island!
Long known for its hot springs and internationally known ski resorts, Echigo-Yuzawa area in Niigata Prefecture attracts over 6 million skiers each year. The more than 16 in skiing fields include popular ski resorts such as Gala, Kagura and Naeba that provide all the powder snow you need.
Only an hour away from Tokyo, it’s quite convenient. Echigo-Yuzawa can be easily reached via train, car, highway bus and shuttle bus. You will find lots of quaint local restaurants and decades-old architecture, plus the major attractions are all in walking distance from the JR station. Score!
Skiers from beginners, intermediate to advanced abilities flock to Echigo-Yuzawa, mostly for its soft, powder snow. Echigo-Yuzawa is also the venue for various large-scale skiing championships. To make winter sports even more exciting, the ski resorts often hold illumination events and fireworks in winter. Sliding down a colorful slope sure makes the whole experience even more magical.
After a day on the slopes, reward your body with the mineral hot spring waters from one of the seven hot springs in the vicinity. If you’re looking for something different, know that Ponshukan operates a sake bath next to its sake museum at the JR station. If you haven’t been to a Ponshukan before, it is where you can try five cups of top-quality Niigatan sake, from more than 100 options, with ¥500. You will see a long line and full racks of luggage when you’re there — it’s that popular.
While you’re in the area, try the local dish called kenchin. It is a healthy, thick vegetable soup with usually mushroom, tofu, burdock root, Japanese radish, konjac jelly, potato and carrot in it. You can have it with udon or soba noodles.
All about nature
Thanks to its location in the Japan Alps, Echigo-Yuzawa a magnificent sight throughout the year. Ascend 1,000 meters via the Yuzawa-onsen ropeway up to Alp-no-Sato, where you’ll see over 1,000 different types of alpine plant species. The recommended-to-see attractions include skunk cabbages in spring, yellow lily in summer and the changing autumn leaves in fall.
If you want to camp, check out Daigenta Canyon. You will be surrounded by waterfalls and forests there. Get ready to hike, canoe or stand up paddle! You can enjoy a barbecue at the pits afterward, too.