What is the Snow Country Region?
Snow Country is a region of rural Japan that is buries under snow for half the year. Made up of 7 municipalities in 3 prefectures the people are united by the stunning natural beauty that surrounds them. Tradition is strong in Snow Country and the unique pace of life is the same today as it was centuries ago. A journey to the area is like a journey to a place where time has stood still, where you can make new friends, refresh and experience “A Sprit as White as Snow.”
Festivals were important in ancient Japan and remain so in Snow Country today. The occur throughout the year and area communal celebrations as well a a chance to give thanks for health, happiness and hopefully, an abundant harvest. Many festivals remain unchanged from time immemorial and offer a great opportunity to see the traditions and culture of the area and its people. There are many festivals in Snow Country that are unique to this area and draw crowds from all over Japan.
As the name suggests, Snow Country has a notable winter. Due to an interesting weather pattern that includes Siberian winds, the area is blanketed in snow for much of the year and heavy snowfalls are the norm. Much of the culture and lifestyle was dictated by the snow in the past but now it turn the surrounding mountains into a playground for winter sports enthusiasts and nature lovers.
Snow Country is famous for its winter but summer is equally impressive. It is a fertile area due to the snow melt and green is everywhere. Breezes ruffle the ripening rice stalks, making the floor of the valley look like a green sea. The mountains are clad in green, and with several famous peaks it draws hikers and nature lovers. For those seeking more of a thrill, Snow Country has become famous as one of the best areas for outdoor adventure sport in the whole of Japan.
Onsen are abundant across the whole of Snow Country and are beloved by the Japanese who believe a long soak in a natural volcanic hot spring is the pinnacle of relaxation. The water properties that vary from spring to spring have different effects of the mind and body with onsen enthusiasts eagerly travelling to sample different baths. Time in an onsen with views of nature spread before you is often the highlight of a trip.
Agriculture has played and important role in the history of Snow Country and continues to do so today. There is a strong culinary tradition that is a source of pride to the locals. Fresh, seasonal ingredients feature heavily in the traditional classics and a new generation of chefs are finding innovative ways to showcase the bounty of the fields, mountains and rivers to make this a gourmet's paradise. With the Sea of Japan just an hour away the freshest of the day's catch will also find its way onto your plate.
The people and culture of the area have been moulded by the landscape and climate of Snow Country. With a long history and strong traditions there is a fascinating story whatever you venture. World class outdoor art festivals, hidden onsen, intricately carved ancient temples and beautiful hand-woven cloth all rub shoulders in Snow Country and give you an insight into the lives and lovers that have shaped the area.
How to get to the Snow Country Region?
One of a benefits of the Snow Country Region is its hassle-free access from Tokyo. Within Snow Country we have three bullet train stations (Jomokogen, Echigo-Yuzawa and Urasa), and smack in the middle of the three is Echigo-Yuzawa which is the junction for several different lines from different parts of Japan. It is just 66 minutes from the capital by Joetsu Shinkansen. [Jomokogen and Urasa stations are only served by bullet trains that stop at every station.]
For those who are driving, the Kanetsu highway runs like a main artery through the Region, so is highly recommended if you would like to explore the hidden gems of Snow Country to use your own transport.
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