Overnight trip from Tokyo- (1) Countryside Gunma and Snow Country Niigata

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Countryside Gunma & Snow country Niigata

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If you've been to Japan many times, chances are you've explored almost every corner of Tokyo and wondering where else can you go. In fact, there are many attractive sightseeing spots and activities in adjacent prefectures known only by locals. Thanks to Japan’s efficient transportation network, you can easily visit these places with an overnight trip from Tokyo.

In the first series of our “overnight trip from Tokyo”, we are bringing you to Gunma and Niigata. Located to the north of Tokyo, the two prefectures are easily accessible by Shinkansen and boast many gems yet to be discovered.  So join us and embark on a journey through nature and culture!

Suggested itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo Station 8:24 - (Shinkansen) - 9:18 Takasaki Station 9:26 - (Local train) - 10:12 Numada Station 10:30 - (bus) - 10:44 Harada Farm 13:35 - (bus) - 14:06 Denen Plaza Kawaba - (5 minutes by car) - Yutorian

Day 2: Yutorian - (45 minutes by free shuttle bus) - Jomo Kogen Station 10:10 - (Shinkansen) 10:37 Urasa Station - (15 minutes by car) - Hakkaisan Yukimuro - (20 minutes by car) - Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple - (15 minutes by car) - Urasa Station 13:43 - (Shinkansen) - 13:55 Echigo Yuzawa Station, and then choose from:

Option 1 (for a quick snow experience): Play with snow at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort and then go back to Tokyo.

Option 2 (from amateurs to pros): Stay at Naeba Ski Resort to fully enjoy this powder snow paradise.

Option 3 (great for families and kids): Stay at NASPA Ski Garden for a memorable family ski trip.

Departing from Tokyo Station.

Day 1: Countryside Gunma

Tokyo Station 8:24 - (Shinkansen) - 9:18 Takasaki Station 9:26 - (local train) - 10:12 Numada Station 10:30

Get your stuff ready and we are heading to Gunma for a perfect countryside getaway! Today we will be taking a Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Takasaki, and then transfer to a local train for Numada. From there on you can follow our suggested itinerary, but make sure to check the latest bus schedule (find the schedule at the link below “沼田駅4番のりば”, Japanese only) to ensure a smooth trip.

Harada Farm- Fruit picking all year round

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Numada Station 10:30 - (bus, get off at Shimogumi 下組) - 10:44 Harada Farm

After a 15-minute bus ride, we are at Harada farm. Here you can hand pick fresh fruit and eat it on spot. From strawberries and cherries to grapes and apples, there is always some fruit in season whenever you visit. Definitely a fruit farm that makes a fun family outing!

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Also check out the Apple Baum Factory and indulge in an apple feast of fresh apple juice, apple pie, and baumkuchen that has a whole piece of apple filled inside.

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After having lunch in the farm restaurant, we took the 13:35 bus for our next stop: Denen Plaza Kawaba.

Denen Plaza Kawaba - A roadside station that has its all

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Harada Farm 13:35 - (bus, get off at Denen Plaza 田園プラザ) - 14:06 Denen Plaza Kawaba

While a roadside station basically functions as a rest area along roads and highways, Denen Plaza Kawaba has evolved to become a tourist attraction on its own and is among the most popular roadside station near Tokyo. From café to bakery and pottery workshop to farmer’s market, the place has everything to keep you and your kids busy for a whole day.

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We had rice bread, fresh yogurt, grilled German sausages, blueberry crepe and apple caramel crepe. Maybe a bit too much for an afternoon tea but obviously we couldn’t resist the temptation of gourmet food! It’s a mere 5-minute taxi ride from here to the Japanese inn (Yutorian) we will be staying, so you may stay at Denen Plaza Kawaba as long as you like (though you may want to check-in at Yutorian earlier to fully enjoy it). If you prefer to take a bus, you can do so by taking a 15:01 bus for Numada Station, and from there transfer to the free shuttle bus (reservation required) for Yutorian.

Yutorian - Escape from city life and unwind in nature

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Denen Plaza Kawaba - (5 minutes by car) - Yutorian (Hire a taxi or take the 15:01 bus for Numada Station and from there take a free shuttle bus (reservation required) for Yutorian)

Located on an expansive land dotted with seven thatched-roof lodgings, Yutorian is the perfect place to experience Japanese country life. Thanks to the beautiful natural surroundings and soothing hot springs, we enjoyed a relaxing stay in a serene environment reminiscent of old Japan.

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Spacious guest room provides guests with utmost relaxation.

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You can move around in the hotel with electric cars, or ride the monorail to the observatory deck. Kids will love it!

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There is even a mini museum exhibiting Japanese antiques and artifacts.

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Enjoy a course meal with a total of 11 dishes prepared using local and seasonal ingredients.

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Heal your body and mind in the spacious open-air bath. Rooms in the main building even have private outdoor hot spring bath.

Day 2: Snow Country Niigata

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Yutorian - (45 minutes by free shuttle bus) - Jomo Kogen Station 10:10 - (Shinkansen) - 10:37 Urasa Station

After having breakfast, we headed to Echigo Yuzawa in Niigata Prefecture, the snow country depicted by Nobel Prize winning author Yasunari Kawabata in his novel “Snow Country”. Apart from Echigo Yuzawa, we also had a side trip to Hakkaisan Yukimuro and Saifukuji Temple. The two places are more easily accessible if you’re traveling by car. So it’s up to you whether to do the side trip or head to Echigo Yuzawa straight from Jomo Kogen Station by Shinkansen.

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Hakkaisan Yukimuro

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Urasa Station - (15 minutes by car) - Hakkaisan Yukimuro

Yukimuro, literally a snow room, is a product of wisdom of local people to co-exist with nature by storing snow inside a cellar for various usages. Hakkaisan Yukimuro is a modern snow room that uses the cool air to store sake and food. You can actually see the storing space and take home some local products as souvenirs. It’s a great place to learn and experience lives in the snow country. There are also restaurants serving udon and soba noodles.

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Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple

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Hakkaisan Yukimuro - (20 minutes by car) - Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple

Hiding behind an unassuming façade is the breathtakingly beautiful and exquisite ceiling carving created by Uncho Ishikawa. Drop by and take a look, you’ll surely be convinced why Uncho is known as the Michelangelo of Echigo.

Echigo Yuzawa

Kaisando, Saifukuji Temple - (15 minutes by car) - Urasa Station 13:43 - (Shinkansen) - 13:55 Echigo Yuzawa Station

With more than 10 ski resorts, Echigo Yuzawa is a paradise for skiers of all levels. From absolute beginners to experts, everyone can find something suited to his or her needs. The area is also famous for hot springs that are especially soothing after a few rounds of skiing. Here we propose three options for you to enjoy the snow experience!

Option 1: GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort - Right next to the station

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This option is good for a quick snow experience. Play with snow at GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort before going back to Tokyo.

Located right next to Gala Yuzawa Station (direct Shinkansen service during snow season), GALA Yuzawa Snow Resort is such a skiing heaven that offers everything from rental gears to dining services. While advanced skiers can enjoy various new facilities, first timers can take ski lessons and have a whole lot of fun. Be it skiing or snowboarding, a variety of courses are sure to satisfy you!

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Directly connected to Echigo Yuzawa Station, CoCoLo Yuzawa Gangi-dori Shopping Street is a mall that has everything from local specialty products to gourmet food and souvenirs. You may nibble on many kinds of free samples before deciding to buy or not. Even an onsen bathhouse is here for you to enjoy hot spring that has sake poured into it.

Option 2: Naeba Ski Resort - Powder snow paradise

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This option is suitable for anyone from skiing amateurs to pros. Stay at Naeba Ski Resort to fully enjoy this powder snow paradise.

50 minutes by bus from Echigo Yuzawa Station, Naeba is one of the most popular ski resorts in Japan and attracts numerous visitors from abroad as well. Everything from accommodations and hot springs to various dining options and fun family activities are all available directly in front of the slopes! While families and kids can enjoy various snow activities in the snow land play area, those who would like to learn skiing or snowboarding can take lessons provided by English speaking instructors.

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Breeze through snow trails! If skiing or snowboarding is not your thing, why not try riding a snow mobile? The staff will give you a basic lesson and guide you through the snow trails.

Option 3: NASPA Ski Garden - Great for families and kids

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Stay at NASPA Ski Garden for a memorable family ski trip. Recommended for families and kids.

NASPA Ski Garden is a skiers-only (snowboarding is not allowed here) ski resort offering various ski courses and such facilities as cafeteria, onsen bathhouse, pool and fitness. In particular, kids can have fun playing with snow at NASPA Kids Garden in a dedicated and safe environment.

Key takeaways

That wraps up our trip in Gunma and Niigata. It takes only 80 minutes to travel from Echigo Yuzawa back to Tokyo, so it's totally possible to do an overnight trip from Tokyo covering selected destinations in Gunma and Niigata. If you've been to Japan several times and want to discover a different Japan, this is definitely an ideal travel option for you! 

Next in the series:
Overnight trip from Tokyo- (2) Nostalgic Nagano

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