Many countryside areas of Japan are starting to highlight their particular charms to lure tourists away from the typical Japanese destinations. There are several innovative schemes to promote rural Japan. In this area they have banded together several different towns across three prefectures and are marketing the whole package as the Snow Country Region. The area includes Sakae village in Nagano, Minakami in Gunma, and Tokamachi, Tsunan, Uonuma, Minami Uonuma and Yuzawa in Niigata.
As you can imagine in such a big region, there is masses to see so to make sure you make the most of your time while here, it is a good idea to get stocked up on the relevant information. There is a good website for the Snow Country Region which gives you the chance to sort activities and sights by area, by interest or by season. You can then stick all the results on a map and work out the best way to manage your route.
If you prefer a little bit more in the way of human interaction, you can come to the Snow Country Region Information Center just outside the West Exit of Echigo-Yuzawa Station. This carries a wealth of information on all the options, the ways to get around, opening times, and they are also able to book accommodation for you if required. The staff are very helpful and full of interesting suggestions. They also put together some tours to help people get around and see some of the sights that are off the beaten track. Their day bus tours are very popular and allow visitors to visit several sites in a day with explanations from a local resident as guide. They are planning some trips that will involve highly unusual stays and meals in locations that tourists don't usually venture.
The Snow Country Region Information Center also rents out battery powered bicycles, has a paid luggage storage service, sells postcards of the local area, and in winter will rent you a pair of gumboots to keep your feet warm and dry.
Even if you have your itinerary set and your accommodation booked it is worth popping in to see if any of the leaflets catch your eye, or just to get a friendly local's recommendation for the best place to eat lunch. The Snow Country Region is definitely worth exploring and you are sure to find something for every interest.