[DAYTRIP] Literary Travel in <Snow Country>
<Snow Country> is a novel written by Yasunari Kawabata who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968 for the first time in Japan for his excruciatingly beautiful prose. We traced the scent left by the classical novel to Yuzawa where it was born.
The story unfolds in a snow-covered hot spring(onsen) town in Japan. Shimamura is a dilettante who has a wealthy family background but feels his life is lonely and futile. Geisha Komako works hard to look after those around her, often putting their interests before her own. In the novel, the lives of Shimamura and Komako cross paths despite their stark difference. Three times over the span of three years, they get to share conversations to study each other in a world blanketed with snow that blurs the moral barometer of society and the lines defining their emotions and relationship.
revolves around the meeting between Shimamura and Komako in a calm manner without a noticeable incident. The novel has still received international acclaim, most likely because of the unrivaled aesthetic consciousness, as well as poetic and succinct narratives unique to Japanese literature. It is a short novel that could be read in 2-3 hours, but the author devoted 13 years, from 1935 when the serial publication began through 1948 when the story concluded, solely to completing this work, making sure he depicts Japanese aesthetics to the best of his ability. Kawabata’s sentences, constantly honed by the perfectionist author, come into their own in not just the description of the minds of characters, but also the depiction of nature. Thanks to his vivid, detailed expressions that deliver the photographic image of the beautiful landscapes, many people who read still travel to Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture, to visit the world within the novel.
The name of the town is not mentioned in the novel. Nevertheless, Kawabata worked on part of the book while staying in Yuzawa and indeed met geisha Matsuei, who Kobako was modeled after. So the town of Yuzawa has the right to be called the background of the love story. Niigata Prefecture being the snow capital, the entire region is coated in white with thick snow from as early as November to March the following year. Considering that Shimamura sees Komako in autumn for the last time, now would be the perfect time to trace the fictional footsteps.

Tombstone at Omomizu Park

[10:00 AM] Reading the first lines of the novel through Kawabata’s handwriting
Omomizu Park is about a 3-minute walk from Echigo Yuzawa Station. There stands a stone monument on which the first two sentences from are engraved, drawing more attention than the small flower garden, fountain, or the mountain range in the distance.
“The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky.”
After crossing the borders of Gunma and Niigata prefectures, you can empathize with Shimamura getting overwhelmed by the snow-covered town view. The fine sentences instantly capture the reader’s attention upon opening the book. However, when the story was first published in a serial form in a magazine, the beginning of was different. The final version that is often talked about until today is the result of constant revision and rewriting over the period of 13 years. At Omomizu Park, you will find the handwritten lines from Kawabata’s masterpiece engraved on a stone monument. How about making these famous lines, maybe even better-known than the story itself, the starting point of your day trip?

Address 361-1 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Yuzawa-machi covered in snow

[10:30 AM] Viewing snow scenes dating back 90 years through the novelist’s eye
How did the people of Yuzawa cultivate their lives when they had no snow-plowing or heating equipment to cope with a piling snowfall? How different was Yuzawa back in 1934 when Kawabata first visited the town, compared to now? You can find the answers to these questions at the Yuzawa Museum of History and Folklore, also known as ‘Yukiguni-kan’(Yukiguni is the original Japanese title of the novel).
The museum has an ongoing exhibition introducing cold-weather supplies used by Yuzawa townspeople to endure the snow season, along with furniture pieces that reflect the lifestyle of the town back in the day. Of course the museum also displays a massive archive of records and data related to and Yasunari Kawabata’s personal belongings. It is currently closed for renewal, and many people are looking forward to the re-opening slated for mid-December this year.

Address 354-1 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Udon-suki at Chaya Moritaki, and a look inside the cozy restaurant

[12:00 PM] Savoring the clean, yet rich flavor of udon-suki at Chaya Moritaki
Have a bowl of clear soup in a traditional, cozy mood naturally formed in an old residential structure and you would notice feelings of warmth spreading through your mind and body in no time. Most customers order udon-suki, a hot noodle soup with chicken, seafood, vegetables, and udon boiled in a pot. The clean, rich broth brings out flavors of other ingredients. After finishing the soup, you can add white rice to the pot to make porridge. Various other menus are also available, including sashimi and fried vegetables.

Address 357-5 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Suwa Shrine, a favorite walking spot for Yasunari Kawabata

[14:00 PM] Visiting the shrine where Shimamura and Komako walk
Suwa Shrine, sitting almost secretly next to a railway, is easily missed by tourists, but is a crucial place in terms of as Kawabata is known to have had the first inspiration to write the novel while he was walking around in the shrine. In the story as well, the shrine plays an important role. When Shimamura first visits the onsen(hot spring) town, he takes a walk with Komako at Suwa Shrine and realizes his special feelings for her.

Lion statue, the guardian of Suwa Shrine, and the cedar grove that surrounds it

The shrine seems to have been deserted for a long time, surrounded by a soaring cedar grove and stone sculptures. The guardian lion statue covered in moss looks just the same as Kawabata’s description of it in the novel. A 400-year-old cedar tree that Komako may have leaned against creates a mystical ambience.

Address 901 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Autumn at Yuzawa Kogen

[15:00 PM] Eyeing the Yuzawa mountains Shimamura admires
In the novel , Shimamura initially comes to the snowy town because of its mountains. He loves mountains, and goes hiking somewhere between Niigata and Gunma prefectures to enjoy the season of fresh verdure, after which he checks in at the onsen inn. The author’s description of the mountain is full of delicate observations. At around sunset, ‘the layers of the Border Range, indistinguishable one from another, cast their heaviness at the skirt of the starry sky in a blackness grave and somber enough to communicate their mass.’
Yuzawa Kogen offers a venue to enjoy diverse leisure activities all year round with a fantastic view of Mount Tanigawa and Echigo surrounding Yuzawa. At the 1,000m-high observatory, accessible via Ropeway aerial lift, you can see the open view of the majestic mountain ranges guarding the town. Enjoy skiing and snowboarding in the wintertime. Trekking and zip-lining open in spring and summer. In autumn when the splendor of nature reaches its peak, the azure sky and turning leaves create an unforgettable scenery.

Address 490 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Entrance to Ponshukan, decorated with countless sake labels

[18:00 PM] Reflecting on the trip with a glass of sake
If you feel reluctant to leave Yuzawa after the tour inspired by ,  you should visit Ponshukan at Echigo-Yuzawa Station to appease yourself. The place offers a variety of local specialties, including sake and rice, that could help you understand the food culture of Niigata Prefecture. In addition, original goods by Ponshukan are also popular for their simple design and practical use.

Kikizake Bansho at Ponshukan, allowing you to sample different types of Japanese liquors in small glasses

If you are passionate about drinking, you should not miss out on a chance to visit Kikizake Bansho(sake tasting room), which does justice to its nickname ‘drink warehouse of Niigata’. As with every relationship, a glass of alcoholic beverage plays the role of catalyst quite effectively between Shimamura and Komako in . By purchasing store tokens at the entrance of Kikizake Bansho, a Ponshukan must-see place, you can taste any of the 129 beverage samples from a tasting machine that spans an entire wall of the store. The selection also includes plum wines, sojus, and regular wines. So enjoy a glass of clear drink that resembles the white snow of Niigata, and end your day trip on a fragrant note.

Address 2427-3 Oaza-Yuzawa, Yuzawa Machi, Minamiuonuma Gun, Niigata Prefecture

Where to Stay in Niigata Prefecture: LOTTE ARAI RESORT
LOTTE ARAI RESORT offers a premium vacation experience including world-class dining and diverse activities in Niigata Prefecture’s natural environment that transforms each season. Private guest rooms across four buildings ensure top-quality relaxation in an elegant European-style retreat, while global restaurants provide exquisite Western, Japanese, and Korean cuisines. In Green Season, the resort offers one of the largest tree-top adventures in Japan, zip line, tubing course, and camping grounds hidden in lush garden areas, giving its guests the most dynamic and thrilling vacation in the woods. Enjoy a special vacation at LOTTE ARAI RESORT where fun never ends.

Address 1966 Ryozenji, Myoko City, Niigata Prefecture
Phone +81-255-75-1100
October 2023 Editor:Ha Jaekyung
Writer:Lee Yeeun

Where to stay?

  • October 2023
  • Editor: Ha Jaekyung
    Writer: Lee Yeeun
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