Access to the town of Yuzawa is pretty simple. As it’s served by the Echigo-Yuzawa and Gala-Yuzawa stations on the Joetsu Shinkansen line, this makes it one of the most easily accessible winter sports areas from Tokyo. Yuzawa is so popular as a quick weekend getaway from Tokyo, that the town’s economy is reliant principally on skiing and snowboarding.
Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Yuzawa is surrounded by spectacular mountains, making it truly a winter sports paradise.
One of the most amazing things about Yuzawa and the surrounding area is the huge amount of snowfall. The highest snowfall Yuzawa has ever received, is a record breaking 2.32 meters. That height of snow is definitely taller then most people!
Presently, the town has developed a water-sprinkler system to melt the snow from the roads. Although before this, locals used to make their 1st floor bedroom window into a door. This was used as a front door during the peak winter months – the usual entrance being completely buried in snow!
Given the huge amounts of snowfall and mountainous terrain, it was only natural that Yuzawa should become a mecca for skiing, snowboarding and winter sports.
Yuzawa has around 30 ski resorts, all within 30 minutes of the train station, which allows for a huge variety of resorts. Back-country powder, friendly family resorts, terrain park jumps – Yuzawa offers it all.
After a full day hurtling down the slopes, nothing is better than a hot bath. Japan, and particularly Yuzawa, has raised this concept into an art form.
Yuzawa was originally established as an Onsen town – the term refers to natural volcanic Hot-Spring baths. Yuzawa has dozens of onsen, providing an amazing bathing experience.
The huge amounts of snow in Yuzawa provide for exceptionally clean water. Thanks to this, the rice grown in the region is nationally renowned as being the highest grade and tastiest rice in Japan.
Japanese visitors flock to Yuzawa to try the rice, but also other rice products such as “senbei” rice crackers and “sasadango” – mochi rice cakes mixed with yomugi herb and wrapped in sasa bamboo leaves
Apart from rice, the pure clean water is put to good use in making some of the finest and most famous sake in the country.
“Hakkaisan” is the name of the most renowned brand, brewed just 30minutes away from Yuzawa, in a neighboring town.
Yuzawa train station has a sake tasting area, where you can taste various brands. The station also has an onsen bath with added sake – not for drinking, but said to improve the circulation!
Yuzawa also has a hugely rich history.
Yuzawa is known throughout Japan as “Snow Country”. This nickname first came about as is was the title of a novel written by Yasunori Kawabata – the story was set in Yuzawa, and indeed was written whilst Kawabata was staying a Ryokan in Yuzawa.
This Ryokan is known as; the Takahan Ryokan – and contains a museum dedicated to Kawabata, showing a glimpse of Yuzawa life from the 1930’s.
Yuzawa town boasts a huge variety of hotels, restaurants, Onsen / Hot Springs and other facilities.
The town does everything it can to make your visit as enjoyable as possible: there is even a free foot Onsen on the high street, so that passers-by can soak tired feet.
Of course, the
ideal most logical time to visit Yuzawa would be during the winter season.
In the winter season, Yuzawa town holds a series of the events under the theme; “snow and shining lights”. Set against a canvas of pure white snow, candles and illuminations lend the town an almost ethereal beauty.
Of the multitude of ski resorts in the area, no less than 14 resorts hold firework displays during the winter period. Each display is held to a different theme, with different styles – plenty to enjoy!
With its huge amounts of snowfall and mountainous terrain, it’s only natural that Yuzawa became a mecca for winter sports.
Snow clouds generated over Siberia pick up precipitation from the Sea of Japan, and Yuzawa is the first mountain range that such clouds meet.
This then leads to the massive snowfall, which averages 12 meters over the past 10 years.
Well, should you still decide to visit during the “off-season”, please take note that majority of the ski resorts, hotels and Hot Springs will not be open.
Here’re some more information if you’re curious about what Yuzawa is like, during the “off-season”.
As throughout winter, Yuzawa is almost constantly covered in white. When spring comes, it brings about a pleasant change to see new green on the trees and flowers begin to blossom.
This is the time when “sansai” mountain vegetables sprout all over the town great for making tempura, and to put in soup.
Japanese summers are hot, but Yuzawa is a great place to avoid the pollution of city heat. The green environment allows for cooler temperatures, especially during the evening.
During Summer, the wide open spaces of Yuzawa’s ski resorts are put to good use as they utilise and convert the open spaces into many music festivals, held here annually throughout the summer.
When the temperature begins to drop during fall, the leaves on the mountain trees change into a riot of colors; vivid reds, yellows and orange, which create the most spectacular scenery.
Autumn is also the time for rice harvesting. The famous rice grown here in the region is its; “koshi-hikari”, rice the most valued brand of rice in the country.
Finally, one attraction that can enjoyed all year round, is the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway.
Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway is one of the largest ropeways in the world – able to hold up to a massive number of 166 people!
After a 7 minute ascent, you are then transported to the 1,300m attitude mountain peak station, with its breathtaking panoramic views of the Yuzawa area.
In the area as well, is the Yuzawa Kogen “Alp No Sato” botanical park contains over 1,000 different types of alpine plant species.
Although not open all through the year, it opens for most months. The “Alp No Sato” botanical park is open throughout the flowering seasons.
If you’d like to visit, as a rough gauge, the plants are at full bloom from early June to late September.
Other attractions include the marshland park called; “Ayame-ga-ike”, a summer bobsleigh ride that’ s 706 meters long, mountain go-cart park, and trekking course alongside Kiyotsu-gawa river.
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