A part of what makes Japan’s public transportation so efficient is the location and planning of its stations. For many places in certain prefectures, these railway stations symbolize the district itself and play a crucial role in the lives of its citizens. They do so by helping develop the district’s economy and bettering individual’s lives by giving them easy access to other parts of Japan.
Tucked away in the prefecture of Niigata is a resort town that goes by the name of “Yuzawa”. The name “Echigo Yuzawa” may be recognized in connection with a railway station in Yuzawa, however, the name “Echigo” has a far deeper history than being a label for this railway station.
A Quick Brush on the History of Yuzawa and Echigo
Way before Japan was unified to be governed under imperial rule during the Meiji period, the country was divided into provinces that were ruled by feudal landlords called “Daimyo”. The area that is currently known as Yuzawa is part of one of those ancient provinces, Echigo Province.
On the first of April 1889, the name “Yuzawa” emerged. It was the name of the new village built in this area during the implementation of the municipality system. By March 31, 1955, Yuzawa became a town and was merged with Kandatsu, Mikuni, Mitsumata, and Tsuchidaru villages.
Fast Facts About the Resort Town of Yuzawa
Yuzawa is by no means a large town. Located in Niigata Prefecture’s Minamiunuma District (all within Japan’s Hokuriku region), this resort town holds about 7,972 people, as of the census held on June 1, 2016. The total area of the town is 257.29 sq. km, giving it a population density of 22.3 people per square kilometer. This town is so small that it only has a single public middle school and a single elementary school.
Areas in Japan are known to have symbols used to represent it; these symbols usually comprise a tree, flower, and sometimes a bird. When it comes to Yuzawa, its tree is the Prunus sargentii, and its flower is the Cosmos.
The municipalities that surround Yuzawa are Minamiuonuma, Yuzawa, and Tokamachi in the Niigata Prefecture. In the Nagano Prefecture, there’s Sakae, and in the Gunma Prefecture, there’s Nakanojo and Minakami.
What is the Weather Like in Yuzawa?
Yuzawa is a town that is predominantly cold because of its location. It receives a lot of rainfall (an average of around 2,231 cm per year) and is thus considered on the Koppen climate classification as having a humid continental climate, or “Dfb”. As for the average snowfall, Yuzawa receives an average of 1,183 centimeters of snow every year.
Temperatures can drop to daily means of -.5 to -.3 degrees Celsius during January and February respectively, while it raises to more comfortable temperatures during summer, its hottest months being July and August with 23.2 degrees Celsius and 24.7 degrees Celsius as daily temperature means respectively.
Mountainous, and Perfect for a Winter Vacation
The area that Yuzawa occupies has borders that range between the northern parts of both prefectures Gunma and Nagano. This plot of land being located beside the combination of the Japanese Alps and the Sea of Japan is responsible for giving Yuzawa the amount of snowfall it has. Out of all the other towns in Japan, Yuzawa has one of the highest amounts of snowfall every year. This factor contributes a lot to the booming business of ski resorts around this town.
Public Transportation in Yuzawa
There are three main railway routes in Yuzawa. These are the Joetsu Shinkansen, Joetsu Line, and Hokuhoku Line.
Operated by JR East, the Joetsu Shinkansen takes you from Echigo-Yuzawa station to Gala Yuzawa station. Next is the Joetsu line, also operated by JR East, which takes you from Tsuchitaru Station to Echigo-Nakazato, to Echigo-Yuzawa, and finally to Iwappara-Ski-jo-mae Ground station. Lastly, there’s the Hohoku Line, operated by Hokuhoku Express, which connects to a series of different stations all around the Niigata Prefecture.
Yuzawa also has three highways; the Japan National Routes 17 and 353, and the Kan-Etsu Expressway.
All About Echigo Yuzawa Station
Called by the Japanese as “Echigo-Yuzawa-eki”, and written as “越後湯沢駅”, Echigo-Yuzawa Station has been around since 1st November, 1925. In 1987, a privatization of the Japanese National Railways occurred, giving control to JR East. By 1982, the Joetsu Shinkansen was developed, and by 1990, the Gala-Yuzawa Line followed.
Its exact address is Yuzawa-Mondo, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun, Niigata-ken 949-6101, Japan, and JR East is its operator. Its elevation reads at 351.9 meters and serves mainly the Joetsu Shinkansen and Joetsu Line.
This railway follows MARS ticket reservation, MARS standing for “Multi-Access Seat Reservation System”, but known in Japanese as” Midori no Madoguchi” (written as “みどりの窓口”). This means that you may purchase your ticket a month before the date of your ride. This goes for all trains that fall under the JR Group.
This station has 1 side platform and 4 islands. An estimate of 2,905 people boarded trains this station daily, as of data obtained from 2015.
How to Get to Tokyo from Echigo Yuzawa Station
The quickest way to go to Tokyo from Echigo Yuzawa station is to take the train. Though there are 3 different routes to take by this mode of transportation, the quickest route takes about 1 hour and 51 minutes and costs 6,440 yen in one way.
First, head to Echigoyuzawa and board the Joetsu Shinkansen とき Toki 326, which is headed for Tokyo. Get off at Omiya station, where you will take 2-minute walk to arrive at the Shonan-Shinjuku Line 各停(local) that is headed towards Zushi. This will take you to Shinjuku Station, which is already in Tokyo. From there, you already have access to different parts of Tokyo, but to complete your trip of arriving at the center of the Metropolis, take a final train to Tochomae Station via the Oedo Line 各停(local) which is headed for Tocho-Mae or Hikarigaoka.
Hotel and Ryokan Choices around Echigo Yuzawa Station
- 2 kilometers away from Echigo Station is a hotel called “Inamoto”. It goes for around 23,500 yen a night and has an address of 2497 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun 949-6101, Niigata Prefecture. Out of 43 reviews, it is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars, and stands as 9th best out of the 93 hotels and ryokan found in Yuzawa-machi when it comes to TripAdvisor.
- A little more expensive but also a tad bit more luxurious is Shosenkaku Kagetsu, which has a star rating of 4.5 out of 5, according to TripAdvisor. It costs around 30,000 yen a night (but you may find promotions lowering these prices to as much as 22,766 yen only. Rated 4.5 out of 5 by 83 reviews and taking the 6th spot of best hotels/ryokan compared to the 93 others in Yuzawa-machi, the location of this hotel is 318-5 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun 949-6101, Niigata Prefecture.
- For those on a tighter budget, you can book a room at hotel Sporea Yuzawa. It ranks as 12th out of Yuzawa machi’s 93 hotels and/or ryokan, with 4 out of 5 stars by 67 reviews. It’s a simple and clean hotel that has most of your needs with free internet, family rooms, air conditioning, non-smoking rooms, a spa, and others. The address of this hotel is 1920-1 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun 949-6101, Niigata Prefecture.
Note that these prices are subject to change without notice, and these are estimates based on when the data was researched.
Enjoy the Accommodations of Sakuratei, A Ryokan
Sakuratei is emerging as a decent hotel to stay in while in Yuzawa-machi. It costs about 30,000 yen to stay per night and currently is ranked 15th place when it comes to the best hotels and ryokan in Yuzawamachi. Out of 31 reviews on TripAdvisor, it garnered a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. The great part about booking in this ryokan is the fantastic food they serve, with a special focus on the sashimi. It’s also easy to navigate around the different ski resorts for winter sports and find a nice onsen to relax in.
A Close Contender: Echigo Yuzawa Hatago Isen
Last, but not the least, is Echigoyuzawa Hatago Isen. Located in 2455 Yuzawa, Yuzawa-machi, Minamiuonuma-gun 949-6101, Niigata Prefecture, it’s situated right by the Echigoyuzawa train station so that you’ll have no problem navigating the Prefecture. It’s rated 10th place out of the 93 ryokan and hotels in Yuzawa-machi. Staying here costs about 30,000 yen a night, though the experience you get is more of a ryokan than that of a hotel. Friendly staff, good food, and great hospitality await you here.
Ski Down Wonderful Slopes in Yuzawa
Because it’s so easy to get to from Tokyo, Yuzawa is an immensely popular place to visit for some fun in the snow. Yuzawa is sprinkled with resorts – it has around 20 of them, in fact, all with different offers, sizes, price ranges, locations, and amenities. Some of these resorts cooperate with each other in the sense that if you’re booked in one, you can use their slopes to ski in as well.
While some of these resorts close before Spring, some of them maximize the cold by keeping open until the end of May. Some of them are open only for the day, but others let you ski during the night.
Because temperatures keep cool around this town, it is also famous for its rejuvenating and relaxing hot springs, called “onsen” (温泉). Onsen can be found all over the resort town – whether it’s a specific bathhouse, in a ryokan, or even in a shinkansen station.
A Sake-Filled Onsen, and Much More
Yuzawa does have other places to go to and things to do if you’ve had your fill of winter sports and regular hot spring baths. There’s a museum dedicated entirely to sake called “Ponshukan Sake and Rice Museum” – and a tub full of it that you can bathe in, right beside it.
There are three resorts that have collaborated to give their customers a more open-ranged and diverse skiing experience. There are different combinations of these resorts. One is the grouping of Gala Yuzawa, Yuzawa Kogen Group, and the Ishiuchi Maruyama. The other is Naeba with Kagura Group, and lastly, the combination of Iwappara and Joetsu Kokusai Group.
The price you pay for your combination ticket depends on the resort pair/triplet that you pick. Costs can range from 4,000 yen (for Iwappara, and Joetsu Kokusai Group) 5,700 yen (Naeba and Kagura Group) and 5,100 yen (for Gala Yuzawa, Ishiuchi Maruyama, and Yuzawa Kogen Group).
Which Resort Should You Pick?
Each resort has its own benefits, and the best one for you is up to your discretion.
- Naeba, is located further than most resorts are, giving its long slopes a peaceful ambiance.
- For long runs and decent powder, Kagura and Ishiuchi Maruyama are both good choices – though Ishuichi Maruyama has built its reputation for being a pioneer when it comes to Yuzawa’s resorts.
- Resorts that are friendly to beginners and kids are Iwappara and Yuzawa Kogen.
- Gala Yuzawa is known for its trait of being easily accessible, yet is notorious for being windy.
- Joetsu Kokusai holds the most ground, literally – it’s one of the biggest resorts in all of Japan giving its customers more slope variety.
Get to Yuzawa Kogen Using the Ropeway
To get up to the Yuzawa Kogen resort, there is a special aerial lift that takes you on a scenic view of the Alps, all the way up to the resort. This is the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway. Japanese locals pronounce it as “Yuzawa Kōgen Rōpuwei”. It is also sometimes called the Yuzawa Highland Ropeway, written as “湯沢高原ロープウェイ”. With business beginning in 1991, this ropeway has a capacity of 166 people, holding the record as being the largest in Japan.
There are two stations for the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway; the Panorama Station, and the Ropeway station. Even though it isn’t winter season, this lift still works to transport people.
Take A Breezy Break in the Mountains
Overall, Yuzawa is a great, snowy resort town that you should consider taking your family to enjoy during the winter months. It's near Tokyo, affordable, and easily navigated via public transportation. For more information, visit the websites of the resort that appeals to you most.