Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dog Sled & Ski Slalom in Yuzawa - Sunday February 1st

An event based around dogs and snow can only be fun. Head to Nakazato Ski Resort on Sunday February 1st and you can check out the 7th Dog Sled/Ski Slalom Race.

If you have a dog and a long enough leash you are welcome to join in. No experience required for either canine or human. Competitor registration starts from 0820 with the main event kicking off at 0940. There will be some proper sled dogs around but also expect lots of people out for some fun on the slopes with their four-legged friends. [Please send us photos of any dogs in ridiculous outfits!]

Anyone got a dog they can lend me?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Big Winter for Snow

It has been an amazing start to the winter season with lots of snow falling since mid-December. There are all sorts of statistics being thrown around: best start to the season for a decade, more snow by early Jan than the whole winter last year....

One of our favorite places to go to for snow information in the Snow Country region is the Tsunan town website. Tsunan is just on the border of Niigata/Nagano and always seems to get masses of snow. They have a daily update of temperatures, snowfall and snow depth. It makes for great reading and there is even a comparison with the same date last year.

This is the Tsunan Town Snow Information Page
Scroll town for the tables with the snow data starting in November.
Here is the table for December
Date on the left
The next four columns are for the town hall and are (1) temperature at 0900, (2) snowfall for the 24 hours, (3) snow depth at 0900, and finally (4) snow depth for same date last year.
The next four columns are for a different location in Tsunan.

The numbers for the snowfall in the day show you what a big winter we are having.

It's not called Snow Country for nothing!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Candle Live 2015 - Saturday January 17th

The crazy busy period of Christmas/New Year has passed, so we can all kick back and take a bit of a breather. Time to enjoy the snow (locals are saying that the snow levels are more like February than January!) and also some of the upcoming events.

Saturday January 17th sees the return of the ever-popular Candle Live event in Yuzawa. Thousands of candles light up a ski slope and there are a whole host of events going on around town.

Candle Live has been moving around in recent years, but this year it is going to be centered along the main Onsen Street on the West Side of Echigo-Yuzawa Station. Things are due to kick off around 6.30pm and there should be plenty to see and do for a couple of hours after that.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Sushi Making and Sake Tasting Tour

Fancy a day off from the slopes? Or have someone in your party who doesn't ski or snowboard and is looking for something interesting to do in Yuzawa? We have just the thing for you...

This is a tour that should appeal to everyone with a love of Japanese cuisine.

Introducing the Sushi Making and Sake Tasting Tour.

One of Yuzawa's top sushi chefs will teach you how to handcraft sushi, after which you will be able to eat the fruits of your labor.

It is then off to Yuzawa's famous Shirataki Brewery to learn all about how they produce such a delicious easy-drinking tipple. Of course no brewery tour is complete without tasting the finished product.

A true gourmet experience!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Restaurants in Yuzawa

We would recommend that everybody experience a dinner in a ryokan. The multi-course banquets that are served for the evening meals are seriously impressive. The flavors are out of this world (even if you might not be 100% sure what you are eating!) and the presentation is so good you might not want to disturb it.

For other dining choices, people staying in Yuzawa have plenty of options. There are restaurants all over the place serving a wide variety of styles of cuisine. No matter what you are in the mood for, there is a good chance someone somewhere has it on the menu.

We have put together a list of some of our favorites and are happy to make recommendations (or bookings) if you require.

Food and Drinks in Yuzawa

Friday, 12 December 2014

Rice Harvesting - Guest Post by Pelle Blomster

Rice plays a major role in these parts and many of the autumn festivals coincide with the rice harvest. Over in Nakazato you can experience rice harvesting by hand and some friends of our went along to see what it was like. Here is the report from Pelle and Emilia.

Rice harvesting in Echigo-Nakazato.

Each season brings different experiences in the Snow Country. Winter brings abundant snowfall excellent for all kinds of winter sports. Spring is beautiful with its cherry blossoms and wild rivers. In summer there are many festivals and the lush mountainous nature to explore. Autumn is great for trekking among the changing colors of the trees. Autumn is also the time for harvesting the famous Niigata Koshihikari rice.

Through Hop Step Japan we had the opportunity to try traditional rice harvesting on our latest trip to Snow Country. On a beautiful, sunny autumn day we hopped on our bikes and set out for Nakazato and the rice harvesting experience. We were excited to try harvesting one of the culinary gems of Niigata, Koshihikari rice, but also a bit nervous due to our lack of Japanese language skills. As I turns out it was a wonderful day, and the helpful staff made sure we knew what to do by giving a demonstration. So with about 100 other eager participants we soon got to work cutting down a whole field of rice. People of all ages made an effort together, and little kids enthusiastically carried around bundles of rice bigger than themselves. The only time work was halted was when a frog was found in the rice field. After a while and many pictures everybody got back to work. The kids got to take turns riding the harvesting machine and looked very happy. It was amazing how quickly you can harvest a rice field by hand when working together side by side.

It was a fun way to feel a connection to the community and the area, were rice fields stretch out as far as the eye can see. After harvesting we all posed for photographs and were rewarded with one kg of premium koshihikari rice and a bathing ticket to try a local onsen. The friendly organizers reminded us to stop by the harvest festival held near the Nakazato station the next day, and we promised to do so.

After the harvesting we rode our bikes to the trendy 3-ji café in front of the Nakazato station for lunch, and had some delicious curry with homegrown vegetables. We highly recommend trying out the local specialities of the snow country area for a taste of the real, friendly, rural Japan.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Pop in and say "Hi"

Everything is clicking into winter mode and everywhere is getting busier as the snow arrives. It is great to see the town come alive again and getting ready for the New Year influx of skiers and snowboarders. We get a good view over everything that is going from our vantage point next to 7-11 on the main onsen street outside the West Exit side of the station. [Turn right onto the main road and we are the first building on the right hand side after the convenience store; up the stairs to the first floor, door on the right.]

Our door is always open during business hours so feel free to drop in. If you have questions, need some local area information or would like to sort out your discount Super Pass, ski/snowboard lesson or rental package, we are always happy to help.

We've got free wireless and can probably rustle up a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate...