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Yuzawa • 湯沢町 みつまたエリア

So you're planning a day trip to ski and/or snowboard in the Japanese Alps? Dive into our comprehensive Yuzawa  travel guide covering everything you need to know about Yuzawa.

Yuzawa Travel Guide: Welcome to Niigata & The Japanese Alps

The Japanese Alps run through Niigata Prefecture, providing the majestic mountainscape and world-class skiing that characterizes the region. Yuzawa, located in Niigata, is a popular destination known for its abundant snowfall and ski resorts, including Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. The town offers a wide range of winter activities, from skiing and snowboarding to relaxing in onsens (hot springs). Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is unique in that it has its own Shinkansen (bullet train) station inside the resort, providing convenient access from Tokyo in approximately 90-minutes. With a variety of slopes suitable for all skill levels and excellent facilities, it's a favored spot for winter sports enthusiasts.

The ski season in Yuzawa opens in late December and goes until early May. The peak powder that Japan is famous for - JAPOW - can be found in Yuzawa in January and February. (Ski resorts in Northern Japan, such as in Hokkaido, start their season earlier. The ski season usually begins sometime in November, depending on snowfall amounts.) Explore the beauty and charm of Yuzawa for an unforgettable winter escape.

Yuzawa Travel Guide: Quick Tips

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is the most convenient ski resort from Tokyo and perfect for people looking to ski only one or two days during their trip to Japan. 

  • Lift Tickets: Lift tickets can be purchased in advance for a discount. You can purchase lift tickets online for Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort here.
  • Courses: Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort has a number of different courses for different skill levels. It is worth noting that more of the courses are for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders than beginners. Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort does not have any bunny hills or courses for true beginners. Courses may close due to snow conditions. A full map of the different courses can be found here.
  • Lessons in English: The resort offers both ski and snowboard lessons in English, for different levels, in both private and small group settings. If you are interested in booking lessons, visit the Canyons website.
  • Gear Rentals: For ease of convenience, we elected to rent our gear from Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort using their pick-up box service. We selected all of the gear we needed in advance online and it was ready and waiting for us when we arrived. There is an additional fee of ¥1,000 for this service, but we did not have to wait in the rental pickup lines. Additional information regarding gear rentals and prices can be found here
  • Other Amenities: Aside from the obvious skiing and snowboarding, Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort has a number of additional amenities and activities for visitors to enjoy. From sled rentals, to snowmobile tours, and hot springs, there is plenty to enjoy. These activities do come at an additional cost and are not included with the price of your lift ticket. Additional information can be found on the Gala Yuzawa website. 
  • Shopping: Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort's shop had anything and everything you might need for a day out on the slopes. Their prices were reasonable, so if you left anything behind, their shop had a great selection. They also sold Gala Yuzawa-specific merchandise such as beanies and t-shirts, alongside a wide array of items from Niigata Prefecture, notably a diverse selection of locally produced sake.
Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort_Ski Lift

While the biggest draw to Yuzawa is its slopes, the town itself is worth a wander. Don't miss out on the opportunity to indulge in the town's popular onsens for a truly relaxing experience.

Other Ski Resorts

Yuzawa is home to a few ski resorts. We selected Gala Yuzawa since we were just visiting for the day and the Shinkansen station is located in the bottom of the ski resort. However, other popular ski resorts in Yuzawa are listed below. 
  • Naeba Ski Resort: Naeba Ski Resort is  renowned for its expansive ski terrain and modern facilities. The resort is well-equipped with multiple lifts and gondolas, ensuring efficient transportation across the slopes. Visitors can enjoy a range of winter activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and even night skiing. Naeba Ski Resort is part of the larger Naeba Prince Hotel complex, offering accommodation, restaurants, and amenities.
  • Kagura Ski Resort: Kagura Ski Resort is renowned for its abundant snowfall and extensive ski terrain. Situated on the slopes of Mount Naeba and Mount Kagura, the resort offers a variety of slopes suitable for skiers and snowboarders of all levels, from beginners to advanced. Kagura Ski Resort is also a popular destination for backcountry skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, with vast off-piste areas and thrilling powder runs. 
  • Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort: Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort is a popular resort offering a diverse range of slopes and winter activities. The resort provides excellent skiing and snowboarding opportunities for enthusiasts of all skill levels. Visitors can also partake in other winter activities such as snow tubing and sledding. Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort also features a sightseeing ropeway, allowing visitors to take in breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding snow-covered landscape from the comfort of a gondola.


Yuzawa is famed for its rejuvenating hot springs (onsens), offering visitors a blissful retreat amidst the stunning snowy landscapes. Many hotels and ryokans in the area feature their own onsen facilities, providing guests with a serene and therapeutic experience after a day of skiing or snowboarding. The mineral-rich waters of Yuzawa's onsens are believed to have various health benefits, including relieving fatigue, soothing sore muscles, and promoting relaxation. Whether you prefer open-air baths with panoramic mountain views or traditional indoor baths, Yuzawa's onsens offer a tranquil oasis to unwind and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region. A few of the most popular public onsens are listed below. As always, be sure to check the Yuzawa Onsen website for current operating hours and if advance reservations are required.

  • Yama-no-yu: A close, 10-minute walk from Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort, Yama-no-yu is a small onsen open to the public.  
  • Komako-no-yu: Located in central Yuzawa, Komako-no-yu is a large indoor onsen with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Kaido-no-yu: Featuring an outdoor onsen, Kaido-no-yu is just outside of town near Mitsumata Road Station.  

Other Experiences in Yuzawa

Looking for other experiences in Yuzawa? Check out this detailed list from the Yuzawa Town Tourist Association's website.

Niigata_Lauren & Brian

A Taste of Yuzawa

Yuzawa offers a variety of fantastic food offerings, with some regional specialties worth trying during your visit. 

Specialty Foods

Yuzawa, and Niigata as a whole, is known for several delicious local specialties:
  • Rice: Niigata Prefecture is famous for its premium-quality rice, known as "Uonuma Koshihikari." This rice variety is prized for its plump grains, delicate texture, and exceptional flavor, making it highly sought after for sushi, sake, and other traditional Japanese dishes. 
  • Hegi Soba: Hegi soba, a specialty of Niigata, features buckwheat noodles bound with seaweed, giving them a unique texture and flavor. The dish gets its name from the wooden tray, or "hegi," on which it's traditionally served.
  • Bakudan Onigiri: Bakudan onigiri or "bomb rice ball" in English is specific to Yuzawa. Much larger than your average onigiri, bakudan onigiri is round and wrapped in seaweed, taking on a form much like an old fashioned cannonball. The best place to find these is at Echigo-Yuzawa Station.
  • Tai Chazuke: Tai Chazuke is a traditional dish from Niigata Prefecture that combines two staple ingredients: tai (sea bream) and chazuke (rice soaked in green tea or broth). The dish typically consists of grilled or poached sea bream served over rice, which is then topped with hot green tea or broth. 
  • Tarekatsu-don: Tarekatsu-don is a delicious dish from Niigata Prefecture featuring crispy, deep-fried pork cutlets (tonkatsu) coated in a sweet and savory sauce (tare) served over a bed of rice (donburi). This regional specialty showcases the perfect balance of flavors and textures, with the tender pork complemented by the rich sauce and fluffy rice. Tarekatsu-don made the PERFECT lunch after a morning on the slopes!

Popular Restaurants 

Since it was snowing pretty hard when we had lunch during our trip to Yuzawa, we elected to eat at Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. They had a number of different options for food, ranging from a large food court-style eatery in the main rest house, to a restaurant serving traditional food from Niigata, a crêperie, rice ball shop, and more. We found the food to be really good and priced well at the resort. 

Restaurants at Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort >

The town of Yuzawa is full of other restaurant options. Restaurants outside of the ski resorts tend to be less expensive and have more variety. Some of the most popular are linked below. 

Top Restaurants in Yuzawa >

Local Sake 

The perfect après-ski - sake! Niigata Prefecture is renowned for its high-quality sake production. The region's cold climate, pure water from melting snow, and well-suited rice varieties create ideal conditions for sake brewing. Niigata is home to about 90 sake breweries, each with its own unique techniques and flavors.

One of the most popular breweries in Yuzawa is Shirataki Sake Brewery, conveniently located near the Echigo-Yuzawa Station. The brewery is open to the public for tours and tastings. 

Lunch at Gala Yuzawa

Getting to/from Yuzawa

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is the easiest ski resort to reach in Yuzawa thanks to its convenient Shinkansen station inside. 

From Tokyo to Gala Yuzawa (Train):

Shinkansen: To reach Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort by train, travelers can take the Shinkansen from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station. The journey takes approximately 90 minutes. The trains on this route have ample space to store any snowboards, skis, or other gear you might need for a day on the slopes. Unlike the regular Shinkansen, you do not need to make advanced reservations for oversized luggage storage. Train tickets do not have to be purchased in advance and can be purchased at the station. To view train schedules and fares, visit the JR East website

Getting Around Yuzawa

If you are looking to go from Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort into Yuzawa Onsen Town, Echigo-Yuzawa Station, or other ski resorts and hotels in the area, there is a free shuttle bus. More information about the shuttle bus can be found here.

JR Gala Yuzawa Station
Yuzawa Snow Resort_Snowboarding
Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort_Lodge
Snowy Tree_Yuzawa
Gala Yuzawa_Slopes

Why we loved Yuzawa

We had a fantastic day of snowboarding in Yuzawa. We started our day early in order to get on the slopes before 9:00 AM and we were by no means alone. Our train was full of locals and tourists alike heading to Yuzawa for a day of skiing. Getting to Yuzawa from Tokyo Station was truly a breeze, with the Shinkansen literally pulling into Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. Everything was efficient - from picking up our lift tickets and collecting our gear rentals, we were amazed by how organized the experience was once we arrived. 

The scenery in Yuzawa was truly breathtaking and the snow was so light and powdery. We are both pretty novice snowboarders, so we are by no means capable of judging the quality of the courses at Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort. However, we did find them to skew more towards intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders. Regardless, we made do, sticking to one of the more beginner runs. The snow did pick up as the afternoon went on and with the visibility decreasing, we decided it was a good time to head back to Tokyo. Before heading out, we enjoyed some après ski in the form of Niigata Prefecture's famous sake. 

It was just amazing to us that such a winter wonderland exists only 90-minutes from Tokyo! Visiting Yuzawa to see the beautiful mountains and snow made it an incredibly memorable trip, while the snowboarding was the icing on top!

Looking to stay more than a day in Yuzawa?

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