Getting to Gala Yuzawa from Tokyo

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort is a popular winter destination for tourists who want to ski or snowboard because of its convenient location. Being the only snow resort in Japan with its own bullet train station, you can hop on the train in Tokyo and be at the resort in as short as 77 minutes.

ski, snowboard, snow resort

When you’re going to this snow resort, the main and most convenient transportation you need to ride is the Shinkansen (bullet train), particularly Joetsu, which goes directly to Gala Yuzawa station. Not only is it convenient but it’s also stress-free. With that said, let me guide how to reach Gala from your starting point: Tokyo station.

1. Buy Shinkansen tickets.

The first thing you need to do is decide on your date of visit and purchase bullet train tickets. You can either pick any of the four JR passes as mentioned in my previous post, which is more cost-efficient (valid for tourists), or the regular tickets you can buy at the JR counters in Tokyo station. Tickets bought at the JR counters are more expensive than the pass. I suggest purchasing your tickets in advance so you can also book seat reservations.

2. Pick your desired departure time.

Gala Yuzawa station is only open during winter, so make sure to pick your schedule based on Joetsu Shinkansen timetable (usually from December to March). For selected dates in March 2018, the bullet train departs from Tokyo as early as 6:24 AM. When you pick a schedule, make sure to arrive at JR Tokyo Station at least 30 minutes before the train leaves, especially if it’s your first time at the station because you will have some walking to do. Also, if you’re taking the subway, take note that most subway lines start at 5:00 AM. If you’re taking the 6:24 AM Joetsu Shinkansen, you might need to grab a taxi going to Tokyo station.

train station entrance
JR Tokyo Station - Marunouchi Underground Central Entrance
3. Find the entrance to JR Tokyo station.

Coming from the Tokyo subway station, find the JR Tokyo station entrance. JR stations usually have green automated ticket gates so it’s easy to spot them. In our case, we took the Marunouchi Underground Central Entrance which is just straight ahead from exiting Tokyo subway station (red line).

4. Follow the path to Shinkansen.

Once you entered the automated ticket gates (or the attendant window for JR pass holders), follow the path going to Shinkansen platforms. The path will be on the right side. Continue walking for about 5 minutes. Then, follow the bullet train icons, turn right and walk straight until you see an escalator going up.

train station path
From the JR Tokyo - Marunouchi Underground Central Entrance, walk about 10 minutes going to the Shinkansen tracks.
5. Find the Shinkansen Tracks.

Once you reach the top of the escalator, turn left and you will see a flight of stairs going to the Shinkansen Tracks. Find “Joetsu” to make sure you've come to the right place.

entrance to train tracks
Finally, after a long walk!
6. Locate your platform.

After entering a second set of green automated ticket gates, locate your train and your platform. For Joetsu Shinkansen that goes directly to Gala Yuzawa station, the train names are usually Tanigawa or Max Tanigawa. These trains are found at platforms 20-23. To make sure you’re riding the correct bullet train, refer to the departure time on your ticket and on the screen.

digital screen for train schedule
way to train platform, staircase and escalator

Take the stairs or the escalator going up the assigned platform. If you arrive early and your train doesn’t have an assigned platform yet, there’s a waiting area for JR passengers. You can also purchase drinks at the vending machine or food at kiosks found at the train platforms.

7. Ride the Shinkansen.

You can board the train 10-15 minutes before departure. Find your assigned car and seat number. Since the ride will take more than an hour, you can either sleep on the train or eat breakfast. 

train platform, train schedule, food kiosk
Locate your platform and line up 10-15 minutes before the train departs. Food kiosks such as this can be found at the platform. This one sells drinks, sushi, and bento boxes.
bullet train on platform 22
Joetsu Shinkansen that goes directly to Gala Yuzawa Snow Resort.
8. Get off at Gala Yuzawa.

Finally, get off at the last station where the snow resort is located. The train stops there so you won’t get lost. Remember, the station name is the resort name itself. Don’t mistake it for Echigo-Yuzawa, which is the station before Gala.

Gala Yuzawa Station

Return Trip:

When you go back to Tokyo and you are planning to ride the subway once more, find the Shinkansen South Transfer so you will exit the tracks from where you entered before. Once you get out of the ticket gates, locate the escalator going down, walk straight for a bit, then turn left. There will be another set of green gates (for Marunouchi Underground Central Entrance) so make sure you’re holding on to your tickets. Upon exiting the second JR ticket gates, walk straight ahead until you see the Tokyo subway entrance.

Remember these landmarks because it's easy to get lost in the train tracks and at the MASSIVE Tokyo station, especially during rush hour.

train entrance and exit gates
shinkansen south transfer information

Enjoy your trip to Gala Yuzawa!

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