As well as the main Snow Country Tourist Information Office, each of the seven areas of the Snow Country Tourism Zone have their own Tourist Association (contacts for each of there here). All of these are working hard to ensure that visitors get to the see the best of the region.
We’ve been lucky enough to get a sneak preview of a 5-star tour that they are trying to put together to highlight the unique way of life in the Snow Country Region. It is in the planning stage at the moment, but it looks like it will be about a week long if you do the whole thing, or you can drop in and out to do various days that interest you while do your own thing on others.
February 28th Optional Introduction Trip – From Tokyo to Minakami. At Minakami ride the Joetsu Line through the iconic Shimizu Tunnel under the Tanigawa range. This early feat of engineering opened up the area to winter visitors. The experience of coming out of the long tunnel and finding yourself in a white, winter world is the first line of Kawabata’s Snow Country novel.
March 1, Day One – In Yuzawa, spend a pleasant evening on a restaurant crawl sampling some of the many delicious dishes available in the local eateries.
March 2, Day Two – Burn off some of the calories from the night before on the Snow Shoe Trekking tour at Daigenta Canyon. Lunch is soba noodles from local ingredients, and tempura. In the afternoon, ride the Yuzawa Kogen Ropeway to the top of the ski resort and enjoy the stunning views of the Uonuma valley and the surrounding mountains.
March 3, Day Three – Head up the valley to Uonuma and visit the historic Meguro Tei, and then nearby enjoy natural maple syrup and watch traditional washi paper being crafted. In the evening it is the Naked Man Festival at the stunning Bishamondo Temple in Urasa. This is an incredible festival that is one of the highlights of winter in the area, and the streets around the temple are full of little food stalls.
March 4, Day Four – Head over the hill into the next valley and learn about its rich textile history. Enjoy hand made sushi prepared in front of you, and then a firework display over snow-covered slopes. Accommodation will be in one of the works of art constructed for the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale.
March 5, Day Five – Ride the Iiyama line, a small countryside railway with picturesque views, to Tsunan and then head into Akiyamago where little hamlets hide deep in the mountains. The way of life here in winter is a true experience unlike any other area. Visit a traditional brewery and then enjoy a banquet dinner with the perfect sake matches.
March 6, Day Six – Enjoy a warming winter onsen water foot-bath surrounded by snow, and then watch traditional miso paste being produced. Sample some highly regarded local produce from Tsunan town and Sakae village.
March 7, Day Seven – Having crossed the breadth of Snow Country, eaten you fill of amazing cuisine, and witnessed many aspects of the fascinating culture, it is time to depart this snow-covered land. Leave the history and tradition behind as you ride from Iiyama Station back to Tokyo.
This promises to be a memorable trip and takes in some unique sights and experiences. Just moving around from place to place the scenery around you is stunning and you’ll defintely want your camera with you. The accommodation will be at some of the top ryokan and hotels in the area, each offering the best of Japanese hospitality. All in all this Snow Country Tour will be an eye-opening adventure.