Saturday, March 14, 2015

(Japan Jan 2015) Day 6: Visit Echigo-Yuzawa and Karuizawa. Stay at Tokyo

Day 6 (28/1): Visit Echigo-Yuzawa and Karuizawa. Stay at Tokyo

This day's itinerary:
(Day 5 of our 14 days JR Railpass)
0754-0904 Ueno to Echigo-Yuzawa via Shinkansen
Visit Echigo-Yuzawa for foot hotspring and Sake museum and Snow.
1204-1229 Echigo-Yuzawa to Takasaki via Shinkansen
1235-1250 Takasaki to Karuizawa via Shinkansen
Visit Karuizawa and lunch
1542-1650 Karuizawa to Ueno via Shinkansen
Return hotel for a short rest
Walk around Ameyokocho at Ueno and dinner.

The main reason for this trip was actually for my brother (and my cousin R who would be joining us on this trip from Day 8 onwards) to see snow since they've not seen falling snow before.  
Since the places where we've visited for the past 5 days were areas where there's low chance of snowfall, so I thought of bringing my hubby and brother to Echigo-Yuzawa to try our luck. 

Yuzawa area in Niigata prefecture is actually 1 of the areas that is not too far from Tokyo that has a pretty high possibility of snowfall. Plus it is convenient to get there from Tokyo, about 70mins Shinkansen train ride from Tokyo to reach either Echigo-Yuzawa station or Gala-Yuzawa station.

Tokyo to Echigo-Yuzawa station (One way): 6670yen (Reserved seat)
Tokyo to Gala-Yuzawa station (One way): 7090yen (Reserved seat)

Although the regular 3 days JR Kanto Area railpass doesn't really cover the entire train journey from Tokyo to Yuzawa area, but usually during winter months (Dec to Mar), JR-East will offer a top-up option for those who purchase the 3 days JR Kanto Area railpass to extend the railpass coverage all the way up to Echigo-Yuzawa and Gala-Yuzawa station at the cost of an additional 1000yen (for a 1 day coverage during any of the 3 days JR Kanto Area railpass usage)

Therefore, if you plan to make a day visit to Gala Yuzawa (or Echigo Yuzawa) from Tokyo during winter, and you've no other JR railpass coverage, then the 3 days JR Kanto Area pass (8300yen) + a 1 day top up for the extension coverage (1000yen) = 9300yen would be worth getting.

Here's the comparison:
Return trip between Tokyo and Gala-Yuzawa via single trip tickets:
7090yen X 2 = 14180yen.

8300yen + 1000yen = 9300yen.

So that's a savings of 14180 - 9300 = 4880yen if you get the Kanto Area pass rather than just using single trip tickets!

Furthermore, you can still use the remaining 2 days of the 3 days JR Kanto Area Pass to travel to other places like Nikko or Kawaguchiko or Karuizawa or even take Narita Express to the airport.

Anyway, back to my trip's photos... :)

We took an early 0754am Shinkansen from Ueno station to reach Echigo-Yuzawa station at 0904am.

Before catching our train, we went to the convenient store to look for some food for our breakfast on the train.
Brother found this! Katsudon Onigiri (pork cutlet riceball)!!!!! It is huge!!
A double decker Shinkansen
My breakfast

the katsudon onigiri which my brother had. 
 Along the train journey, I didn't get to see any snow actually, not even on the ground. 
But after the train exited a long tunnel, suddenly everywhere u see is snow! So cool!

Arrival at Echigo Yuzawa station.

Looking out of the station's window. Snow everywhere!!

Outside the train station.
 The area around Echigo Yuzawa station area mainly little shops, with some onsen ryokans (hotspring inns) and occasionally you can come across some free foot hotspring too. There is a ski slope not too far from the station, but you'd probably have to take a short bus ride from the station to reach the gondola station.

Echigo Yuzawa station. 
 It was already snowing when we arrived and there were water sprays from the pavements which prevented the buildup of snow on the pavements. 

This foot hotspring is free for use, and is located just directly opposite Echigo Yuzawa station. 

Streets at Echigo-Yuzawa
 Just a couple minutes walk from the station, we came across another foot hotspring just outside this ryokan, located right next to their car park. So this is where we relaxed our feet in the warm water while enjoying the snowfall. Since we didn't brought any towel with us, so I went to a nearby convenience store just across the road to purchase a small towel for like 300yen (i think) and the 3 of us just shared that towel to wipe our feet dry after using the foot hotspring.
We used the foot hotspring just in front of this ryokan.

Hubby enjoying himself. 
Map of Echigo Yuzawa town

After playing a morning of playing in the snow, we head back to Echigo Yuzawa station to visit the Sake museum. It is conveniently located inside the station building.

Entrance of the sake museum.
 How this sake museum works is:
- You pay 500yen, and in return you will get 5 tokens and the use of a sake cup (u have to return the cup).
- Use the tokens on the sake dispenser machines.
- Each dispenser uses 1 token, meaning 5 tokens = 5 cups of sake.
- There are close to 100 different types of sake available, so you can choose which you want. There's also a list of ranking for top 10 popular sakes, as well as top 5 dry sake, and top 5 sweet sake...etc...
- If you ran out of tokens, you can pay another 500yen to purchase another 5 tokens. :)
- Don't get too drunk. lol.

a wall of sake dispensing machines.

Tokens and the sake cup

If you prefer hot sake, you can use this to warm up your cup of sake.

There is also a wide variety of different salts for tasting too. 

 So, after a morning of playing in the snow and getting nearly drunk on sake, we headed for Karuizawa.

My fav cocoa drink

Arrival at Karuizawa station.
 I've previously been to Karuizawa during autumn and I enjoyed the place alot. 
But I didn't realised that in winter, this place was very empty with most shops not opened for business. Not sure if it's because we visited on a weekday or not. Sigh.

Empty streets.

 After walking for nearly 20mins, we finally found a restaurant that's open for business!! 
We were sooo hungry by then! 
Not sure if it's because we were famished, but their food was good!

See! Empty streets!
 It wasn't even 4pm and we decided to just head back to Tokyo.

After arriving back at Ueno station, we went to explore Ameyokocho area near Ueno station as well as have our dinner.


Came across a 100yen store and spent some time in it to see what we can get. :)
100yen each

100yen each

100yen each

100yen each

100yen each
100yen each

 After leaving 100yen store, we came across a shop selling many snacks!!

I think most of the shops here starts to close around 7pm-7:30pm.

Back to Ueno station to find some more cute panda snacks for supper.
check out these panda shoes!
Back to Ecute inside JR Ueno station.

Our purchases from the 100yen store. 

Panda donut


Go to previous blog entry: Day 5 Osaka to Tokyo. Visit Tokyo /
Go to next blog entry: Day 7 Visit Edo Wonderland at Kinugawa onsen.


  1. Hi Sam!

    Thanks for the lovely blog about Japan!

    Im going to Tokyo with my 2 young kids (7 + 6 yrs old) next week.. 5 Dec onwards.

    I will be going to Echigo-Yuzawa from Ueno Station. I couldn’t find information about the 1 day coverage during any of the 3 days JR Kanto Area pass… When will they offer the top-up option for the extension? U know?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. Hi Sam

    I have reserved train tickets to gala yuzawa for sledding. Since we are in the region, I would like to ask if it's worth if I drop by echigo yuzawa for short seeing as well?

    1. Gala Yuzawa and Echigo Yuzawa is pretty close. There's buses that runs between these 2 areas too. The thing I liked at Echigo Yuzawa are the various foot hotsprings (bring a small towel with you to wipe your feet with) near the station, and also the sake tasting at Echigo-Yuzawa station. If you have the time, you could probably spend a couple hours here.