Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 8, from Bessho Onsen to Tokyo via Nagano, Naoetsu, Echigo-Yuzawa

This is a local train Myoko. Some of trains between Nagano and Naoetsu are operated by old limited express fleet. (C) JP Rail
This is a local train Myoko. Some of trains between Nagano and Naoetsu are operated by old limited express fleet. (C) JP Rail

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 7, from Tokyo to Bessho Onsen by Ueda Railway.

This was the last day of trip and went back to Tokyo. But I did not go back to Tokyo directly. Because I wanted to take Shinetsu line from Nagano to Naoetsu and Limited Express Hakutaka from Naoetsu to Echigo-Yuzawa. Because Shinetsu line will be transferred to third sector company after Hokriku Shinkansen open in 2014. JR Pass will not cover this segment. Limited Express Hakutaka may be discontinued after Hokuriku Shinkanse open. So I made a big detour to take these trains/routes.

Fron Bessho Onsen to Ueda station in early morning

I checked in so late last night. But I had to leave in early morning. Because I had to take 17:30 departure flight at Narita. I had to be Tokyo by 13:30. In this trip, it was crazy busy from the beginning to the end.

Before I left Bessho Onsen, I enjoyed taking bath in early morning.

Very typical entrance of Onsen (C) JP Rail
Very typical entrance of Onsen (C) JP Rail
Nobody was there. That's why I could take a picture. (C) JP Rail
Nobody was there. That’s why I could take a picture. (C) JP Rail

And then I walked in this small hot springs town. This town is sometimes called “Kamakura in Shinshu”. There are lots of temples and shrines.

Kitamuki Kanon temple is one of major spot in Bessho Onsen. (C) JP Rail
Kitamuki Kanon temple is one of major spot in Bessho Onsen. (C) JP Rail

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There are three public bath in this small town. This is one of those, Daisihiyu.

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I wanted to try but no extra time! I had to go to the station and took Ueda Railway again.

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I expected different type train. But it was completely same as last night. (C) JP Rail
I expected different type train. But it was completely same as last night. (C) JP Rail

At Bessho Onsen station, preserved Ueda Railway’s original fleet is displayed.

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This train was called “Marumado train”. Marumado means circle shape window. It has some circle shape windows.

It was Sunday morning. There was no passenger except me.

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Ueda station

Ueda station is not a big terminal station but it belongs to three different railway companies.

JR East (Nagano Shinkansen),

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Shinano Railway that used to be a part of JR East’s Shinetsu line before Nagano Shikansen opened,

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and Ueda Railway.

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I took Nagano Shinkasen for only 10 minutes to get Nagano and transferred to local train.

From Nagano to Naoetsu by Local train “Myoko”

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This local train is operated by old type limited express fleet, 183 series. Only two round trips of all local trains between Nagano and Naoetsu are this train, Myoko.

In the train, looked Limited Express interior, but it was so old.

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I took this train from Nagano to Naoetsu for 1.5 hour. After Hokuriku Shinkansen will open in 2014, this section will be third sector companies, Shinano Railway and Echigo-Tokimeki Railway. JR Pass will not cover this line.

This section is one of the heaviest snowfall area. After 30 minutes from Nagano, it was completely white.

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I saw one of Hokuroku Shikansen’s station under construction. It will be called Joetsu station. But there are Joetsu Shikansen and Joetsu line in Japan. It may be mixed up. So this station’s name may be changed.

And then I arrived at Naoetsu.

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From Naoetsu to Echigo-Yuzawa by Limited Express Hakutaka

Naoetsu station is one of major stations in Hokuriku region. (C) JP Rail
Naoetsu station is one of major stations in Hokuriku region. (C) JP Rail

Hokurikoku Shinkansen will not go through this city. I worry that Naoetsu will be on the decline.

I took Limited Express Hokuetsu.

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This train will be discontinued after Hokuriku Shinkansen open. Because the fastest route to get Toyama and Kanazawa from Tokyo is Joetsu Shinkansen and this train via Echigo-Yuzawa. But once Hokuriku Shinkansen open, Shinkansen will be much faster. There will be no reason that this train run.

This train takes a route via third sector railway Hokuetsu Kyuko Hokuhoku line. This train runs at 160km/h. It is the fastest train in all JR trains except Shinkansen.

It was too much snow and there were lots of tunnels on Hokuhoku line. I arrived at Echigo-Yuzawa in a blink of time.

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I think 99% passengers from Limited Express Hakutaka transferred to Joetsu Shinkansen. I took Shikansen as well. And I took Narita Express to get Narita from Tokyo on time.

It was super busy trip. But I made many things on my wish list, such as Akebono, Resort Shirakami, Akita Nairiku Jukann Railway, Fuji Kyuko, Ueda Railway, Shinetsu line and Limited Express Hakutaka. I was really satisfied with this trip.

4 thoughts on “Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 8, from Bessho Onsen to Tokyo via Nagano, Naoetsu, Echigo-Yuzawa”

  1. Hey, I was reading about Tokyo Wide Pass that will cover Kanto Area including Gala Yuzawa, so I am thinking to buy that pass for 10.000 Yen to go to Gala Yuzawa, but I got little confusion here. Is that pass will cover shinkansen from Tokyo to Echigo Yuzawa without additional cost? Because the advertisement confuse me. It said you can go to Gala Yuzawa for 10.000 yen instead of 14.000 yen. Do i need to pay 10.000 more for Gala Yuzawa? Or i just need to buy this pass then I free to go? Please help my confusion.

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m glad you had a really good trip! You’ve got some really inspirational ideas in there I would like to try myself. As well as regular articles, I really enjoy your posts about your travel, too 🙂 . They are interesting, informative and fun to read. You photos from Bessho Onsen look really appealing!

    As you know, I am working on my own itinerary for February next year. I am planning to use a two week rail pass at this stage.

    I will likely be traveling with friends who do not have much experience with Japan (they have been to Tokyo before), and I wanted to feature these places/things:

    Kinosaki Onsen, Shirakawa-go/Takayama, Ginzan Onsen, Rikuzentakata/Sanriku Coast, Hakodate/Esashi, Sapporo, Twilight Express (Sapporo -> Kanazawa -> Shirakawa-go).

    There is a wide variety of other places I’m considering, from both yours and my experience:

    Bessho Onsen (looks great!)/Shinetsu Line, Resort Shirakami, Fuji/Hakone, Izumo/Matsue/San-in Coast, Abashiri (drift ice), Matsumoto, Yamaguchi/Shimonoseki, Nagasaki and Takachiho, as well as the tourist “must-see” locations like Kyoto/Hiroshima etc.

    Amongst these, which do you think are unique, interesting and would fit together well? I have seen so much it is hard for me to make decisions to make sure the people I travel with can see really exciting things, too!

    Thanks as always for your input,

    – Jonathan Ayre –

    1. Hi Jonathan,

      Thank you very much for your suggestion before I’ve done this trip. Your suggestion was very useful to make a plan for me. Especially you have much more experience about Tohoku than me. I will try to go to Sanriku (Hachinohe-Kuji-Miyako-Morioka) on next time. I want to try Esashi line before close. But I don’t think I can make it. 🙁

      I think you know that. But just in case, 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival will be held from February 5 through February 11. So try to avoid this period to get in Hokkaido. You know that it will be packed.

      In winter time, I have heard Resort Shirakami is suspended very often due to snow and high wind. If you want to travel with less stress, Kyushu or south part of Japan is much easier in February.

      Bessho Onsen was very nice. It is totally different from other big names, like Kusatsu, Kinosaki. It is very small and quiet. But it is very historical hot springs in Shinshu. I think you will like that taste. If you go to Bessho Onsen, I recommend you to see Ueda castle too. I did not have enough time to visit there. But some of history experts says Ueda castle is #1.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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