If you don't have a gap in your itinerary to stay in the mountains while you are in Japan, you can still get up here for some fun in the snow. The bullet train is an amazing way to travel and can get up to Echigo-Yuzawa in around 75 minutes from Tokyo. This makes a day trip to the snow a viable option if you happen to be in the capital.
The Joetsu Shinkansen line is the one that will bring you up to this area. You can get on at Tokyo Station, Ueno Station or Omiya Station. Echigo-Yuzawa Station or GALA Yuzawa Station would be your destination.
If you have a JR Rail Pass it can be used to get up here. We are hoping to hear shortly that the JR Kanto Pass will also include Echigo-Yuzawa and GALA Yuzawa this winter.
If you don't have a Rail Pass you can take advantage of the cheap day return trip packages that the national rail company provide. These can be bought at the View Plaza Travel Agencies in all the main stations. Once this season's offers are online we will post the links.
These packages are great value. They include a return bullet train ticket, as well as a lift pass, and possibly some discount tickets for other resort services (rental, lockers, lessons with the resort ski schools, etc)
GALA Yuzawa is a popular choice for a day return snow trip from Tokyo as it has its own bullet train station in the base of the resort. There are packages to other local resorts such as Iwappara (great if you are not skiing and just looking to play in the snow), Yuzawa Nakazato, and Kagura, to name a few. If you have questions about the various options, please feel free to contact us.
We'll update once this season's prices are available. Weekdays tend to be cheaper than weekends and holidays. There are also bullet train + hotel packages available from those same travel agents.
It is a great day out and a fantastic way to experience the snow. Hopefully it will inspire you to come for longer next time :)