We’ve been getting quite a few questions recently asking about driving around here during winter.
There are two rental car shops in Yuzawa situated on either side of the station. Toyota Rent a car on the West Side and Nippon Rent-A-Car on the East side. Renting is relatively straightforward and all you need is a driving license valid in Japan, a passport and a credit card.
Nippon Rent-A-Car on the East Side of Echigo-Yuzawa Station
Driving rules are pretty standard, though remembering to stop at level-crossings and check both ways is not second nature to everyone.
Driving in the snow seems to be a big concern for many, especially if they have no experience. The roads here are well looked after during winter with fleets of snow clearing machines trying to keep them snow-free. Some roads have sprinklers systems in the middle of the roads pumping water out when it is snowing.
Cars in this region are usually fitted with snow tires in winter which are great at gripping the road, even when there is a bit of snow on them. You do want to drive slower than usual and try not to use the brake too heavily or too much.
Renting from the airport, either Narita or Haneda, and driving up here is also an option that some are considering. You need to have your wits about you driving through Tokyo but navigation systems do most of the hard work for you. Once you are on the Kanetsu Expressway it is a straight run all the way up to the Yuzawa Interchange.
Having a car in this area can open up lots of new destinations that might not be so easy to reach by public transport. Day trips to other resorts are a possibility; Nozawa Onsen is about an hour and a half away. Checking out some of the great temples or other tourists sites close by is a good way to spend a day, and there are always festivals going on somewhere. There are loads of great things to explore in the Snow Country Region.