Japan Winter Trip to Yuzawa, Fujikaguchiko, and Tokyo (January 2024)

Notes and recommendations

Table of Contents

Consolidating notes and recommendations based on my winter trip to Japan in January 2024.

Travel party profile

One adult male and two elderly females (difficulties with stair climbing). Three mid-sized wheeled luggages in total.


Opting to stay near airport due to late arrival

I was scheduled to arrive late in Japan at 940pm. So the plan was to stay near Haneda Airport, and continue travelling the next day.

Henn na hotel

Henn na Hotel has an unmanned front desk reception utilizing robots
Henn na Hotel has an unmanned front desk reception utilizing robots

Chose Henn na hotel (which translates into ‘weird hotel’) which was near the airport.


  • provides free hourly shuttle buses to-and-fro Haneda Airport.
    • pretty packed in the morning when leaving the hotel back for Haneda airport.
  • check-in/out counters are manned by robots
    • need to return room key when checking out into the same kiosk used for check-in.
  • rooms are small and clean
  • toiletries had a pleasant essential oil fragrance


My first destination was the Yuzawa ski resort area.


  • not easy to find available hotels during the peak ski season, especially during weekends.
  • I realised I didn’t need to book somewhere near the train station actually. There are numerous shuttle bus lines that one can hop on-off at various points in the vicinity.
  • Ski classes conducted in English are charged a premium.

Travelling from Haneda Airport to Yuzawa

The original plan was to first take a limousine bus from Haneda Airport to Tokyo Station, and take a Shinkansen train to Echigo-Yuzawa Station. I had previously checked that there were going to be many trains going to Echigo-Yuzawa Station throughout the day, and since it was a weekday, I didn’t see the need to prebook the tickets. This allowed me flexibility in the travel timing.

Echigo-Yuzawa Station

After alighting, there was a long queue of people at the only elevator. If you can handle your luggages on an escalator, there is one near the lift to save you time.

It was snowing heavily in Yuzawa when we arrived
It was snowing heavily in Yuzawa when we arrived

I recommend the place below for a cheap and good meal. No seats are available. You have to stand by a table to eat. It is located within Echigo-Yuzawa Station near the gantries.

Good and cheap meal at Echigo-Yuzawa Station
Good and cheap meal at Echigo-Yuzawa Station

Yuzawa Toei Hotel

Overlooks the Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort.


  • front desk offers discounted ski lift and gondola tickets to various ski resorts in the vicinity.
  • hotel also has ski equipment for rent.
  • was contemplating if I should join a night ski class, but the Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort does not have night ski sessions [Jan 2024].
  • shuttle bus
    • prior to check-in, the information given to me was to call a local Japan number to request for a shuttle upon reaching Echigo-Yuzawa station. But all my call attempts never managed to get through. Thankfully, some other hotel guests who had checked in earlier and were on their way back to the hotel too managed to call for the shuttle ride.
    • at the hotel reception, the staff directed me to scan a QR code that brought up a web application, which had a chat option to contact the hotel to request for a shuttle ride.
    • last hotel shuttle bus is at 6pm. This means we cannot spend time to shop and dine before going back to hotel in the evenings if we want to utilize the shuttle service.
  • hotel complimentary onsen
    • onsen is quiet at night as only hotel guests will be using it.
    • there is an indoor onsen, outdoor onsen, and a sauna
    • it is a beautiful experience to have snow falling on your head while soaking in the outdoor onsen. Do try it if it is snowing.
  • room
    • the rooms are huge and expensive.
    • my room faced a ski slope of Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort and has a sliding window. So you can open the window to take clearer photos or just to brave the cold in your pyjamas :)
Yuzawa Toei Hotel room overlooks Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort
Yuzawa Toei Hotel room overlooks Yuzawa Kogen Ski Resort

GALA Yuzawa Ski Resort

Visited here for half a day of snow activities.


  • if you intend to book tickets on Klook, please note that same day tickets are not being sold. The earliest tickets you can buy on Klook are for the next day.
  • the day we arrived in Yuzawa region, GALA Yuzawa was closed due to the adverse snowy weather.
  • I tried riding a MoonBike. Seems like this is an experience uniquely available at GALA Yuzawa among the nearby resorts. It cost 4000 JPY and the experience is around an hour. I do not have a motorcycle license so the learning curve was rather steep for me.

Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel

Visited this gorge after spending the morning half day at Gala Yuzawa.

The walk to the gorge tunnel is very scenic, not difficult, and FREE!

Walking to Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel entrance from public bus stop
Walking to Kiyotsu Gorge Tunnel entrance from public bus stop

If driving, there is a carpark near the entrance. If travelling by public bus, it is a 30-40 min walk to the entrance of the attraction.

Kiyotsu Gorge carpark near entrance
Kiyotsu Gorge carpark near entrance

The walk inside the gorge tunnel is long (750m one way), rather boring, and there is an entrance fee of 1000JPY too. I personally don’t think it was worth paying the 1000JPY. I would not recommend it if you are claustrophobic. The furthest end of the tunnel opens to the sky mirror-like Instagram worthy spot, but everyone is queueing up to take the exact same photo, so you would not have time to look out and take in the view.

Kiyotsu Gorge highlight photo-op
Kiyotsu Gorge highlight photo-op

If going back to Yuzawa by the public bus, the bus will arrive from the opposite side of the road. There is no proper bus stand by the road.

Other places at Yuzawa

Some other places at Yuzawa area I got to know about later on but didn’t get to visit.

  • Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort

Five Lakes Area (near Mt Fuji)

Travelling to Fujikawaguchiko from Tokyo Station

I booked bus tickets from Tokyo Station to Kawaguchiko on actual day morning (weekday). I think it is a slightly risky move as tickets for earlier in the day are gone.

The boarding was in a bus bay within a building. Not by the roadside.

If it is around lunchtime, you can consider buying lunch from the food trucks outside the office buildings catering to the office crowd.

Food trucks at an office buildings near Tokyo Station during lunchtime.
Food trucks at an office buildings near Tokyo Station during lunchtime. Settled our lunch with these while waiting for our bus to Kawaguchiko.

Notes on accommodations

Mt Fuji from my accommodation's balcony
Mt Fuji from my accommodation’s balcony
  • Having a Mt Fuji view from your accommodations sounds romantic but in reality it is not necessary. While sightseeing in the area, you can see the massive Mt Fuji throughout the day as long as the skies are clear.
  • In winter, it is too cold to chill in the balcony with Mt Fuji in the background.
  • Check the reviews to see if the place you are staying has proper heating.
    • the house I rented was on the ground floor and it was freezing cold at night due to inadequate heating.
  • If travelling with elders, find a place with proper beds rather than futons. It is difficult for them to get up from the ground.



Good for buying groceries if you plan to cook. Examples near Fujikawaguchiko include Ichiyama and Ogino. You can find fresh seafood on sale and cooked items, sushi and sashimi on discount in the evenings.

Toyota Rent-A-Car


  • says 6 minutes walk from Kawaguchiko Station but is very walkable. Easy to walk also even with luggage. Only have to cross one traffic light and walk along road.
  • GPS navigation system in the car
    • The car I rented had offline maps. Not useful and cannot find many addresses. Had to rely on the front passenger to hold my phone for me while I used Google Maps to navigate. Strongly suggest to bring your own mobile phone holder for cars.
    • The unit only allowed pairing via Bluetooth for calls and audio. No option to mirror the Google Maps on my phone.
  • book early if possible or the desired model might not be available.
  • the rental car had no dashcam.
  • having an ETC card makes going on toll roads easier but it costs extra. Was advised by the car rental staff not to opt for it.
  • when returning the car, I had to pump petrol and show the receipt to the car rental staff processing my return.


  • Save an offline copy of the destination’s map data on your Google Maps app before travelling.
  • if driving in winter, research how to prevent the internal of the car from fogging beforehand. It is something we hardly encounter in Singapore.

Be careful about straying onto toll roads. I entered one accidentally and thought it was nothing to worry about, just pay the toll fee and u-turn at the next exit.

However, the next toll road exit was a good 15 mins drive away and I ended up in Tsuru city. The journey back via Road 138 took another 30 minutes. In total, I wasted 45 minutes due to my mistake.

Oishi Park

Great view of Mt Fuji from here when the skies are clear.


  • Overpriced souvenirs at the gift shop by the lake.
  • Most expensive ice-cream I came across in the entire trip. 500JPY for a cone.
  • I prefer the gift shop further from the lake on the opposite side of the road, which offers more ‘Made in Japan’ items.

Forest Mall Fujikawaguchiko

Stopped by here while sightseeing. There was a big store with very cheap clothes on sale, all imported from China.

OGINO Hypermarket


  • sells clothes and groceries.
  • good to visit during the evening for discounted cooked food. E.g. sushi and fried stuff.
    • on weekends, the cooked food items sell out much earlier.
  • tried buying some discounted seafood (scallops, oysters) for hotpot. They weren’t so fresh.

Fujisan World Heritage Centre

It is along the road that leads to the Fujisan Fuji Subaru Line. I think it is good for 30mins. Tried the FREE VR experience and got a headache.

Don’t search for Mt Fuji Museum or Fujiyama Museum on Google if you intend to visit here. It will lead you to a wrong place.

Fujisan Fuji Subaru Line

Wanted to drive on this toll road to get closer to Mt Fuji but it was closed due to snow conditions.

Gotemba Premium Outlets (GPO)

I don’t go for branded items and find them too expensive even after discounts at the outlets. Given another chance, I wouldn’t have visited this place.

Travelling to the Gotemba Premium Outlets is a long 45 mins drive from Fujikawaguchiko if not using toll roads.


  • Fashion sold are mostly for winter season. Too thick to wear in Singapore.
  • Sports apparel I don’t find the price difference much compared to Singapore. Decided to spare myself the hassle of lugging shoes back to Singapore just to save a bit.
  • Didn’t bother to buy Lindt or Godiva chocolates since they are easily available in Singapore.
I noticed there were buses going to GPO from Kawaguchiko Station. A good alternative if you don’t drive.


Enjoyed 3 x 250ml cups for 750 JPY.

Oshino Hakkai

Only main 2-3 ponds are worth seeing in my opinion. Entrance is free. It is a touristy place with touristy prices for souvenirs and street food.

Mt Fuji from Oshino Hakkai at sunset
Mt Fuji from Oshino Hakkai at sunset

SAIKO Iyashi no sato NENBA

About 30-40 minutes drive from Lake Kawaguchiko. Entrance fee of 500JPY. Visited on a weekday afternoon and it was quiet and slow.

It wasn’t an interesting place to me. Maybe weekends when there are crowds and more cultural experience activities it will be more happening. For my visit, I felt like I was paying an entrance fee to visit souvenir shops.


Day trip booked via Klook

In summary, enjoyable but rushed schedule which is typical of tours.


Harada Farm

Website: http://www.harada-nouen.com

Visited here for a 45min crab buffet and 30min strawberry picking session. 45mins for snow crab buffet was not enough time for me. And the strawberry picking was immediately after the buffet lunch so I couldn’t really eat a lot too.

Unlimited refills of the crab legs. But you have to be fast.
Unlimited refills of the crab legs. But you have to be fast. Other food and desserts were available too but I didn’t focus on them.
Huge strawberry I gorged on.
Huge strawberry I gorged on.

Ashikaga Flower Park

When there are no flowers blooming in winter, this place is lit up by millions of LED lights.

If you arrive before the sun sets, I would suggest to spend some time at the gift shop first. It really looks much better after it is totally dark.

For reference, for our visit in January, it turned totally dark around 5:15pm.

Ashikaga Flower Park winter LED
Ashikaga Flower Park winter LED
Ashikaga Flower Park winter LED

Shinjuku Area

Shinjuku Station is really massive. Expect to get lost in the Shinjuku area, whether or not you are underground or on street level. My phone’s GPS didn’t work well in the built up area, and was of no use to aid in navigating around the crowded neon-lit streets.

Notes on accommodations

The hotel I booked didn’t look far from Shinjuku Station on Google Maps, but was actually a good 15-20 minutes walk away. It was nearer to Nishi-Shinjuku station.

As we had elderly in the travel group, we had to rely on taxis (~990JPY) to get to-and-fro Shinjuku station.

Godzilla Head (Shinjuku Toho Building)

On the 8th floor terrace of building. Took photo of it from street level. Did not go up.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) Building Observatory


  • FREE entry!
  • the queue to enter the observatory starts from outside the building, not directly in front of the observatory’s lift.
  • inaccurate opening times
    • the website says “The opening hours are from 7:30 to 17:30” but this is not true. We arrived at 830am to find out that it only opens at 930am. You can check the correct opening hours from the PDF of the schedule.
    • the staff only come to setup the check-in counter and queue lines a few minutes before the opening time.
  • in January 2024 when I visited, the North Observatory was closed to be used as a vaccination centre. Only the South Observatory was opened to public.
  • it is a government building and bags checks are required to enter the observatory
  • there is a big gift shop at the observatory level. We went crazy and both S$200 worth of souvenirs there.
  • on days with good weather, you can even see Mt Fuji which is a few hours drive away!
  • when leaving the building, I spotted a booth offering volunteer tour guides near the North Observatory entrance. I didn’t have time to check it out then, but found some information here in case you are interested.


Kimono wearing experience


  • the Japanese slippers worn together with the Kimono are very slippery. Advice to be careful when walking in them. Take smaller steps.


Sensoji Temple

It is quite a long walk from Asakusa station.

East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

Didn’t do my research beforehand and was expecting to see some majestic Japanese castle. This place is more like a landscaped garden with some castle moat walls and ruins. I believe it would be beautiful during other seasons, but in winter when there is little vegetation, it was rather ordinary.

A high security area where bags have to be checked. I saw some people bringing food and having a picnic inside.

There are FREE guided tours available to some areas restricted to public. But you have to come earlier to register for the limited slots. More information can be found on the official website.

The Sannomaru Shozakan (Museum of the Imperial Collections) is located within the grounds too. This is a ticketed attraction and you have to purchase the tickets online.

Other places within Tokyo area

Other places within Tokyo area that I wanted to visit but didn’t manage to fit within schedule:

  • teamLab Planets


Decided to stay at Narita area due to morning 10am flight back to Singapore.

Travelled to Narita from Shinjuku via the Narita Express


Tobu Hotel


  • room
    • triple room was decently sized, even space to open luggages for repacking.
    • clean and functional, with basic furnishings, nothing fancy or designer looking.
  • looks walkable to Terminal 3 on Google Maps but really still quite a fair distance to walk.
  • very decent morning buffet spread.
    • suggest to book together with hotel package as walk-in price is expensive (JP¥2600).
  • operates multiple large coach buses as shuttle buses
    • Terminal 1 shuttle bus stop is at South Zone bus bay 16.
  • there is no budget friendly food near the hotel at night. If arriving late, grab food from the airport first. Better still, eat a bento if arriving via the Narita Express train.

Narita Airport


  • Singapore Airlines operated from North Zone. The shuttle bus from Tobu Hotel brought us to the South Zone and I was flustered to not see any Singapore Airlines check-in counters there.

7-11 in Terminal 1

The 7-11 in Terminal 1 is located in the transit area. My was a morning 10am flight and I wanted to do some last minute snack shopping there. Turned out it was a very small outlet with nothing worth buying. The aisles were very narrow too.

Ended up doing my last minute shopping at the duty free Akihabara Fa-So-La shop.

7-11 in Terminal 2

There are two 7-11s in the public area of terminal 2. I visited both late at night about 11pm to find food and snacks to bring back to Singapore. The one located at the basement is closer to the shuttle bus stop, and had very little options available. I suspect the products were all bought up by other hotel guests staying in the vicinity who like me, came looking for food.

The other 7-11 is located at Level 4 and was much better stocked up.

Duty Free Akihabara Fa-So-La

There are a few different outlets scattered in the departure area.

Lounge Access / Free Meals (DragonPass Airport Companion)

My CIMB Visa Infinite credit card gives me 3 free lounge access yearly.

For Narita Airport, there are lounges on both landside and airside.

I also noted that the lounge access quota can be used to redeem set meals at selected restaurants.

Example of free set meals [Apr 2024]
Example of free set meals [Apr 2024]
Example of free set meals [Apr 2024]
Example of free set meals [Apr 2024]

General Stuff

Credit card acceptance

If you intend to use credit cards at F&B outlets, check whether they accept first.

Driving in Japan

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is required to drive in Japan.

You can get an international driving licence at just $20 and get it on the spot when you walk-in to apply for it. I did mine at the AAS branch at Broadway Plaza, Ang Mo Kio on a weekday lunchtime and there wasn’t much of a queue.

No language barrier in joining local tours

I joined a local tour where the guide spoke only Japanese and English. To cater to the Chinese speaking crowd in the group, he used Google Translate’s text to speech feature to read out passages in Chinese. I found it creative and it works well.



Sister brand of Uniqlo. Items are cheaper than Uniqlo but overall, I find Uniqlo items to still be of better quality and design.

Someone commented on a forum that they buy GU items solely for wearing at home, and Uniqlo items for going out.


Winter items were on offer when I was there in January 2024.


  • Ladies down jackets were going at 5990 JPY after a 50% discount.
  • HEATTECH Extra Warm items were going at 1900 JPY after a 50% discount.

Taking the Shinkansen


  • one can use the ticketing machine to change seats and timing.
  • buy an ekiben (station bento) to eat on the train to save on meal times.
  • if you don’t book early, you are less likely to score a window seat.
One of the train bentos I purchased. This one wasn't very tasty.
One of the train bentos I purchased. This one wasn’t very tasty.


It is very challenging to bring elderly on the Tokyo area subway. Transfers are confusing and involve long walks. There are also areas where there are no escalators or lifts, only stairs. It is especially inconvenient if you are with luggages or when it is the peak hours.

Other Useful Resources

Web Administrator

While we do our best to maintain up to date information on the available referral promotions, their terms and conditions do change frequently. We do not warrant, endorse, guarantee, or assume any responsibility for any loss caused by content on this website. Content may contains affiliate links, and at no cost to you, we may earn a commission when you click on them.