Yuzawa (湯沢) *  is in Niigata prefecture, in the central Chubu region of the main Japanese island Honshu.
- 国境の長いトンネルを抜けると、雪国であった。Kokkyō no nagai tonneru wo nukeru to, yukiguni de atta.
The sentence loses more than a little in the translation, but "the train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country" is among the best-known opening lines in Japan. Written in Yuzawa, which has one of the highest snowfall rates in the world — up to 5 meters per year — and was all but cut off from the rest of the country in winter, the novel tells the sad story of a hopeless love between a rich Tokyo playboy and a poor hot-spring geisha, a species quite apart from those in Kyoto and essentially a euphemism for prostitute.
The canonical backwoods hot spring and skiing resort, Nobel prize winner Yasunari Kawabata's classic novel Snow Country (雪国 Yukiguni, see box) takes place in Yuzawa. Or so the Yuzawans claim; to be quite strict, the novel never mentions the name of its setting, but Kawabata wrote the novel while staying in Yuzawa so perhaps it's not too big a leap to make.
Yuzawa is easily reached via the Echigo-Yuzawa (越後湯沢) station of the Joetsu Shinkansen line. Trains run 2-4 times per hour from Tokyo station, taking 75-90 minutes at a cost of ¥6490 (no cost with the Japan Rail Pass). Toki trains generally make fewer stops and continue on to Niigata, while Tanigawa trains terminate at Echigo-Yuzawa after stopping at all stations on the route.
In the wintertime, most Tanigawa trains continue on to the Gala Yuzawa ski resort (see Do).
- Gala Yuzawa (ガーラ湯沢), tel. 025-785-6543, . Gala Yuwaza is a ski resort with 15 runs and nine lifts, but Gala's main attraction is convenience. Gala Yuwaza is also a Shinkansen stop 1 hour 35 minutes from Tokyo. In the station, you can buy a lift ticket and rent ski equipment. From there, take a gondola ride up to the ski area. Gala Yuwaza has a respectable dining area and a spa (Onsen & unisex swimming pool, so take your bathing suit) for soaking after skiing. One-day lift ticket, ¥4500 adults/¥2100 children; one-day ski and boot rental, ¥4500 adults/¥1500 children. JR East actively promotes Gala Yuzawa; look for packages which include round-trip Shinkansen from Tokyo, lift ticket and equipment rental discounts for about the price of the train ticket alone.
- There is a great food court at the base station of the central ski resort. Lunch at Yuzawa Gogen is one of the good choice. Taking the Ropeway at Yen 1200.