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Things to do in Yuzawa Part 1

When I left Tokyo for Yuzawa, the environment I was used to ever since I came to Japan changed completely. During my first three months in Yuzawa, I spent most of my free time exploring the area because I wanted to know the place I might call home for probably the next three years. Unfortunately enough, I arrived in Yuzawa at the end of the snowy season, so I didn’t have the chance to enjoy what Yuzawa is famous for (snow), but I didn’t get discouraged. I saw this as an opportunity to get out of the obvious and explore other options of things to do in Yuzawa apart from snow-related activity.

Yuzawa is one of the most famous locations in Japan when it comes to snowboarding, skiing, hot springs, or if you just want a good traditional Japanese meal and sake (Japanese traditional alcohol). All of these are due to its accessible location, but what many people might not know about Yuzawa is the fact that it is a town that is full of history and is the perfect place to visit if you have any interest in such things.

As mentioned in my previous article on Things To Do In Minakami, it only takes 70 minutes from Tokyo Station by bullet train to get to Yuzawa – also known as one of the towns belonging to the Snow Country. If you are seeking adventures out of the beaten paths, Yuzawa is an amazing place to experience all of these. In this article, I will talk about some mind blowing hidden gems you can find in Yuzawa. If you like to discover the unknown just keep reading!

Less than 20 minutes away from Echigo-Yuzawa Station you can get to the Snow Country Museum:a “must go” spot if you are into history in general and, if you also want to know the story behind the place, their lifestyle and culture. The building has three floors and each of them has a different section designated to different subjects but all related to Snow Country’s History.

I was really amazed with these people and by the fact that everything they had came from natural sources and how they were sure to get the best out of each season.

On the second floor we can see a reconstruction of a typical ancient Japanese room with an “Irori” at the center. An Irori is a type of fireplace that was used for cooking and heating up the room during winter in ancient Snow Country..

It is equally decorated with real vintage furniture such as an old Crystal camera, ceramic pieces, clothes and other objects are also displayed on this floor. The level at which they paid attention to detail when recreating this room made me feel as if I had been teleported to 50 years back in history, for a  moment a lost touch with reality and it all seemed like I was living in that time, what an awesome experience. You can also get into the room and take pictures there!

The third floor is divided into four distinct areas which all represent the four seasons that exist in Japan (winter, spring, autumn, and summer) with each section demonstrating the activities that were carried out by people in the old days that lived in the Snow Country.

First, we have the section dedicated to spring activities; In the old people who lived here, carried out a lot of farming activities in preparation for the next winter. The main farming activity was rice ploughing. In this spring section you can find a traditionally made raincoat used by rice farmers on rainy days called hiroro.

There are also two traditionally made rice planting frames, traditionally made rain boots, a traditionally sandal made of straw, a hoe and a shovel.

Next, is the Summer section designated to weaving and the production of silk. In summer, while the men were on the fields cultivating rice and vegetables, the women stayed indoors producing clothes known as the Echigo-jofu clothe which is very famous in Japan today. Dresses made from this material are very expensive and it takes over 6  months to a year for the completion in production of a piece of echigo-jofu. They were mainly used by rich people in the old and even in the present. One of the factors that make this material very costly is because every process in its production is handmade. Every equipment used in the production of the Echigo-jofu can equally be seen in this section.

Furthermore, there is also the Autumn area where you can see tools and machines that were used in processing rice.

On this floor we equally have a section dedicated to winter and considering that Snow Country as the name suggest is the place with the largest amount of snowfall in the world in general and in Japan in particular with snow rising above two meters in height and also the fact that winter is the longest season most activities carried out in the other seasons is in preparation for the winter. The inhabitants of the snow country in the past started preparing for the next winter as early as the end of the previous winter.

In this part of the museum, you will find olden day snow equipment such as skis, snowboards,shoes and clothes that locals adapted to survive during the harsh winter. You can also see by first hand embalmed animals that existed during that period.

On the third floor there is a room that has several translations of the award winning novel Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata.

The first floor is dedicated to Yasunari Kawabata and his work on the Snow Country novel, on this floor there is a reconstruction of the room of the main character Komako which was based on a real life character called Matsuei.

Next to the room is a display of paintings portraying several scenes found in the book.

At the corner of the room we can find several expensive personal objects that once belonged to Yasunari Kawabata, such as clothes, pens, watches,cups and much more.

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