This is actually our first real trip to experience deep snow and skiing so we were pretty excited. The place we chose was Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture, as it is one of the places in Japan where a lot of snow usually accumulates during winter. It's about 3 hours away by bus from Tokyo and everything is just what I had imagined.
All the photos were taken with either the Fuji X-E1 and 55-200mm or the Panasonic GF-2 and 14-42mm kit lens.
We started our trip with a bus ride from Ikebukuro to Echigo-yuzawa. We prefer to travel by bus since the place is only 3 hours away from Tokyo and is a lot cheaper than going by Shinkansen. The bus we took was pretty cool, with three individual comfortable seats per row and it was not full since we took the day bus. It cost around JPY2,500 one way. We usually book my bus through www.bushikaku.net, the site is like a centralized booking system for different bus companies throughout Japan. You can pay by Credit Card or through the convenience stores. Sadly though, the site is only available in Japanese and I often have to use Google translate just to understand most of what's written.
This is the highway towards the town and goes all the way to Niigata proper. Snow covered mountains is a common sight and the mountain ranges are just amazing.
We stayed at Angel Grandia Resort near Nakazato Station. The building in the middle of the photo is the Resort. It has it's own ski slope right in front of the building and is also very near the big Nakazato Ski Resort. If you are staying at the resort, you are also entitled to great discounts on snowboards, skis and accessories. One thing to note is that in Yuzawa, they have a free shuttle service that connects different resorts for free. If you check the time table and make use of it, you can actually go around the Town without paying for bus fares and such. This photo was taken right above the train tracks at Nakazato Station.
The moment we arrived there we got curious and wanted to walk outside, so we went out and explored the surroundings, the snows were still very fresh and was perfect to play around. So what else would a first time traveller to snow country do? Play in the snow!!
The next day we decided we're going to check out Gala Yuzawa Resort, the only resort in Niigata with its own Shinkansen Station. Since we don't really know how to ski or snowboard, we just went there to explore and look around. When we arrived, we bought the Gondola round trip pass for (JPY1,200) to the landing area of the resort. Here are a few photos from the ride up...
as you can see, it is very scenic and beautiful.
When we arrived, we saw the different ski slopes they have, from beginners, to intermediate all the way to expert level slopes. It's a very nice resort but it is definitely more crowded compared to other resorts in the area.
When we went back to Echigo-yuzawa station, we decided to try this delicious looking Soba... and it was indeed Oishi (delicious)!
Right inside the station is also a big place where you can buy different kinds of presents and local delicacies.
Also, right there at the station, in one of the stalls, we discovered one of our favorite Japanese food, Motsu. It's relatively unknown to the international crowds or foreigners but it's definitely one of the best food to eat during winter. It's boiled innards with radish, potatoes and other stuff I don't know... all that matters is it taste really good.
The next morning when we woke up, we were greeted by a very gloomy weather and heavy snow... We were happy though as it means fresh snow and the perfect time to play. Nobody is out on the slopes yet and everything was empty.
Yours truly playing in the snow.... and that about sums up our trip to Niigata.
Thank you very much for getting this far. I hope you enjoyed my photos. Cheers!!