Everything you need to know about this Winter Wonderland!
- How to get to Hakuba
- Where to stay in Hakuba?
- Foodie Destinations in Hakuba
- Hakuba Nightlife
- Skiing and Snowboarding in Hakuba
This trip to Hakuba was my second time visiting Japan, the first was during the months of August/September. So coming to Japan in February during winter time was a whole different experience!
The main trip of this holiday was to go snowboarding. Since we only had two weeks we decided to go to Hakuba instead of Niseko. If you are planning a short trip to Japan going to Niseko can be done, but due to the lengthy travel time Hakuba seemed like a much more reasonable option.
“Hakuba Valley” is the home to 11 ski resorts and many villages spread out across the valley. It is located 44kms west of Nagano in the Nagano Prefecture and about 270kms northwest of Tokyo. Hakuba as a place has so much to offer than just skiing. There are a variety of cafés, restaurants and bars, shopping, an amazing landscape, traditional Japanese Culture and in 1998 the Nagano Prefecture hosted the Winter Olympics.
During the summer months, Hakuba trades in their snow gear for some hiking shoes. It is still just as busy (sometimes even more so) during the summer months, as there are a variety of hiking trails, mountain bike tracks, paragliding and many water sport activities.
1. How to get to Hakuba
There are a few options to get to Hakuba from Tokyo…so sit back, because this may take you a while to read.
*Tip: Before you leave your home country be sure to purchase a Japan Rail Pass (JR) or Japan East Pass (JEP). This will be much cheaper than purchasing it in Japan! When you land at the airport you will need to go to the Japan Rail counter to pickup and finalise your pass before you head to Tokyo/Hakuba. This could take 30mins depending on how many people are lining up.
From Tokyo Narita Airport
Express train + Shinkansen + Bus: This is the fastest way to get to Hakuba from Narita Airport! If you don’t want to purchase the JR Pass because you’re going straight to Hakuba, you can just pay as you go. Catch the Keiser Skyliner train that goes from Narita to Ueno. This is super quick! (Estimated Time: 35 -40 minutes)
- Please note that catching the train to Ueno you need to purchase the ticket from the Skyliner desk. This is because they are not a part of the Japan Railway Group
- For the Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket you will have to purchase that when you get to Ueno
- Once you arrive at Ueno, follow the signs pointing to the JR Station. There you will be able to purchase your Shinkansen tickets and board that train for Nagano Station!
- From Nagano Station there are the two options of either taking the bus or a chartered taxi (bus is cheaper).
You are almost there! (please see – Nagano to Hakuba)
Option 2) If you are going to be staying in Tokyo before heading to Hakuba (which I highly recommend), from the airport take the JR train (Narita Express) to Tokyo (Shinjuju) station. (Estimated Time: 1 hour).
These trains will depart the airport rail terminal frequently. So if you’re feeling hungry from that long flight, go grab some Japanese airport food! Trust me, it is delish!
From Tokyo Haneda Airport
Express Train + Local Train + Shinkansen + Bus: I didn’t land in Haneda Airport, but from my understanding there are a lot of transfers!
- Make your way to the train station at Haneda and take the Keikyu Airport Limited Express to Shinagawa Station.
- Switch to the Yamanote Line towards Tokyo Station
- When you get to Tokyo Station you will need to buy a ticket on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano Station (JR/JE Pass)
- At Nagano Station there are the two options of either taking the bus or a chartered taxi (bus is cheaper). You are almost there! (please see – Nagano to Hakuba)
Tokyo to Hakuba
So you’ve enjoyed your time in Tokyo, now it’s time to head to Hakuba!
Shinkansen + Bus: This is when you get to catch the famous bullet train! From Tokyo Station to Nagano Station, transfer to the bus from Nagano to Hakuba.
I caught this route on the way to Hakuba. It was fine, but I would have preferred to just catch the express train from Tokyo instead. Saves you the hassle of lugging your luggage around. (Estimated time: 3 hours)
- You will use your JR/JE Pass to catch the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano Station from Tokyo.
*Tip: You can also reserve your train tickets (which I highly recommend) – for making seat reservations read here
- When you arrive into Nagano Station, go to the east exit and find bus stop #26
- You will need to purchase a bus ticket when you arrive at Nagano Station (Cost: ¥1800)
- The bus bound for Hakuba leaves about every hour from 8:20 to 20:30 (you have no public transport options to Hakuba after this time) – (for more information on the bus please see – Nagano to Hakuba)
Express Train: Direct express train (Azusa 3) from Shinjuku to Hakuba…defs worth the extra hour!
(Estimated time: 4 hours)
- Leaves daily at 07:30 from Shinjuku Station and goes directly to Hakuba Station arriving at 11:28
- When you arrive in Hakuba it’s pretty much time for lunch! Head over to Lucky Pete’s, which is right outside the station to your right. Have one of his famous burgers and wash it down with a nice pint of Kirin! It is just divine!
(for more information on restaurants please see –Foodie Destinations in Hakuba)
Express Train back to Tokyo: We caught this route on the way back to Tokyo. It was so good to be hassle free of switching from trains to buses!
- The Express Train leaves Hakuba at 14:37 and arrives in Shinjuku at 18:36
*Tip: If you sit on the right hand side of the train you will get to see Mt Fuji!
Nagano to Hakuba
Bus: Majority of travellers get to Hakuba from Nagano Station via this route (Estimated time: 1 hour, Cost:¥ 1800)
- From the east exit of Nagano Station, take the elevator on the left down to the ground floor. Go to bus stop #26
- Here you will find the Alpico bus bound for Hakuba destinations. The bus leaves roughly every hour from 8:20 to 20:30
*Tip: We got a bit lost trying to find the east exit and missed our bus. So if you go out an exit to see what looks like the town centre…you went out the wrong exit
- The last departing bus to Hakuba from Nagano Station is around 20:30 – so don’t miss it :/
- Also be aware that you cannot reserve the bus. Usually if the bus is full, they are able to put another one into service on short notice
- One of the places to get off the bus is at the Happo Information Centre (Happo Bus Terminal). It is centrally located, has an English speaking help desk, international ATM, free Wifi, coffeeshop, bathrooms and indoor waiting area.
Chartered Taxi: Another alternative is a chartered jumbo taxi. The only taxi company offering this is Chuo Taxi and they are normally pretty booked out. Therefore you should pre-book in advance. (Estimated time: 1 hour, Cost:¥ 15800 per taxi) – personally I would just catch the bus
2. Where to stay in Hakuba?
Seeing Hakuba for the first time was breathtaking! As soon as I stepped off the bus I could feel the temperature drop immediately. Then I could see snow starting to hit my jacket! I couldn’t have been more excited!
We stayed in a part of Hakuba called Echoland and I would definitely recommend this area to stay in! There are so many choices for food restaurants and bars; an amazing view of the old Olympics ski run; and easy access of bus transport to the slopes.
For the 10 days that we were staying in Hakuba, I stayed with a group of five in the Echoland Apartments.
The host of these apartments is run by an Australian lady named Teresa and her husband. When we arrived Teresa kindly picked us up from the bus stop, took us food shopping and then brought us to Rhythm Snowsports to get our snowboard and ski gear.
She was such a fantastic host the entire time we were there and I couldn’t speak more highly of her and this
accomodation. Echoland Apartments is definitely one to check out if you are looking for a place to stay.
Here is a list of the best areas to stay in Hakuba:
There is a real village atmosphere to Echoland. You will find that majority of the independent bars, restaurants and shops are all located along the main street.The restaurants can be cheaper than most other areas of Hakuba, depending on where you go. Echoland offers a wide variety of cuisines (for more information on restaurants please see – Hakuba Foodies).The area is centrally located in between the 2 best resorts, Happo and 47/Goryu. Shuttles for all areas go here.The cons to Echoland, is that you will need to take a shuttle to get to any of the resorts. It is a 5 to 10 minutes shuttle…which isn’t bad at all!
The village like atmosphere is also seen in Happo. Restaurants, shops and Japanese flavoured things are all found within good walking distance of each other.The area neighbours to the Happo runs of Nakiyama and the gondola. You will find shuttle access to all other areas is accessible from Happo.The cons to this area is that few restaurants can be booked out. This means you will be waiting a while to get in. You also still need shuttles to get to other resorts.
The accommodation is close to the Happo Resort runs. Some have a few ski in ski out places near the Sakka lift.You will find the higher end hotels are located here and shuttles for all areas leave from Wadano.The cons to this area, unlike Echoland and Happo, is there is no village atmosphere. There is only about one bar and a few restaurants.It is a long way to get to places/would not recommend walking to get to places. The roads are steep, dark and icy with no footpath…yikes! You will have to catch the shuttle to get to other resorts.
3. Foodie Destinations in Hakuba
Since you are going to be snowboarding and skiing majority of the time, you may as well indulge in everything Hakuba has to offer!
Hakuba has a range of cafes and restaurants spread out across the valley for you to enjoy. We mainly ate our meals in the Echoland area and up on the mountain at the ski resorts. I didn’t get around to all the foodie places in Hakuba, let alone the Echoland area, as there are just so many to choose from! So I’ll let you know the places I tried and loved.
There’s a bit of Aussie charm to Lucky Pete’s, as Pete himself is from Sydney and lives in Hakuba with his wife.
It was the first place I stepped into for a meal in Hakuba and it wasn’t disappointing! If you are after a home cooked Aussie burger and fries, this is the place to get one. I myself got the Grilled Chicken Burger and washed it down with a pint of Kirin. Absolutely delicious!
Located: 6359 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Monday (CLOSED), Tue – Wed, Sun ( 10am – 3pm), Thurs (10am – 9pm),
Fri – Sat (10am – 10pm)
Phone: +81 261-85-0912
This cute little cafe located on the main strip in Echoland, has some good breaky and lunch food choices. I would recommend trying a bagel or sandwich from here. So yummy!
Located: 3020-961 Hokujō, Hakuba-mura, Kitaazumi-gun, Nagano-ken 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sunday (8am – 6pm), Tuesdays (CLOSED)
Phone: +81 80-8182-4246
Tako Taco was super yummy if you are craving Mexican food! I wouldn’t say that it is a Mexican/Japanese fusion, more so Mexican (we were expecting something like a sushi burrito haha). It is busy during ski season, so you will need to book a reservation. Otherwise get there early or late and you will get a table.
Located: 〒399-9301 Nagano-ken, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba-mura, Hokujō, 3020-957
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (5pm – 11pm)
Phone: +81 261-72-4340
This is also another really good spot to get breaky. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but according to my fellow coffee drinkers the coffee here was pretty good. I myself decided to indulge in one of the Bear’s Cafes smoothies, which was delicious! They have a selection of nice simple breakfasts and they are also open for lunch and dinner too.
Located: 3020-867 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (8am – 10pm)
Phone: +81 261-85-0650
Marukame is a Korean BBQ restaurant located along the main street in Echoland. You cook-up your own meat and veggies on a charcoal/gas grill, which really makes you work for your dinner. Even though it is more on the pricey side of things, it is well worth it! Such a unique experience that you don’t want to miss out on and it is really delicious.
Located: 3020-351 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (5:30pm – 11pm)
Phone: +81 261-72-3118
All I can say is Japanese Dining Kyoto is yum yum yummmy! Even though it is a bit pricey to eat here, we still came to this restaurant twice for dinner. If you are after some traditional Japanese food, then this is definitely the place to eat. Their tempura was one of my favourite dishes of theirs, as well their sashimi. Kyoto is always busy, so best to make a reservation with them.
Also their Labrador Doggy is just the cutest!
Located: エコー ランド 通り シェイクスピア ホテル 敷地内,
3020-694 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (5:30pm – 10pm)
Phone: +81 261-85-2374
4. Hakuba Nightlife
The Nightlife in Hakuba is like going to one of your local country pubs back in Australia. A chilled and casual atmosphere that you can just hang out with your friends at. Not only are these places seen as the night scene in Hakuba, but you can go to these bars to eat at also.
Don’t be fooled by the name! This felt more like a bar than a kebab shop. Samurai Kebab is not your normal kebab shop that you are used to visiting at the end of your night. This is 100% cooler and you will probably be here all night. There is a darts board and table tennis set up for you to use, as well heaps of seating to eat your kebab and drink. Also the Kebabs here are really good, so you could even come here for dinner one night!
Located: Japan, 〒399-9301 Nagano Prefecture, Kitaazumi District, Hakuba, Hokujo, 3020-867
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (4pm – 2am)
Phone: +81 261-85-0780
We spent a lot of time at The Globe, both to eat dinner here and have a couple drinks. They have some of the biggest beer glasses that I have ever seen in Japan and it took two of my hands to hold a single glass! I love the couch set up in the corner, it made me feel like I was at the Central Perk hanging out with my friends and drinking coffee (Friends reference). Only to then find a beer pong table in the other corner, which was awesome! If you are feeling like some home food, then this is a good place to get it.
Located: Japan, 〒399-9301 Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba, 3020-936 Hokujō
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (7am – 2am)
Phone: +81 261-85-6676
This was one of the most popular pubs and was always packed! If you want to grab a table to sit at instead of standing, best to get there a bit early on in the night. The interior of Mockingbird felt like I was inside a cabin, which was really cool. It is a super fun place to spend on your night out.
Mockingbird seems to have events on during the Ski Season. Best to check out their Facebook Page for details, click here!
Located: 3020-868 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (5pm – 1am), Wednesday (CLOSED)
Phone: +81 261-85-2450
Snow’d Inn is a sports bar that is a part of the Hakuba Echo Hotel. It is located on the main strip of Echoland. The sports bar is a little bit smaller than some of the other bars around Hakuba, but it was nice to just chill out at. They have TV screens set-up for you to watch some awesome snowboarding and skiing footage, whilst you are also playing some Jenga and having a few drinks. We stayed here for a couple hours playing Jenga and it was super fun!
Located: 3020-503 Hokujo, Hakuba, Kitaazumi District, Nagano Prefecture 399-9301, Japan
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (4pm – 12am)
Phone: +81 261-850-931
Bar 902 seemed more like a club then a bar, for Hakuba anyway. I walked past this place on one of my nights out and I really liked the music that was playing, it was mainly DJ music. Apparently it is the oldest bar in Hakuba since 1982! Looked really awesome if you are keen to kick on from one of the other bars.
Located: Japan, 〒399-9301 長野県北安曇郡白馬村大字北城エコーランド3020−902
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun (8pm – 2am)
Phone: +81 261-72-5151
5. Skiing and Snowboarding in Hakuba
Each ski resort in Hakuba offers something different, and having the various ski resorts is what makes Skiing and Snowboarding in Hakuba so unique.
Our accomodation organised the lift passes for us, but this may not be the case for everyone.
Here are two options on how to get the lift passes:
- Buy Tickets Each Day
One option is to buy a lift ticket for a single day. Happo-one is the most expensive and Cortina being one of the cheapest. I don’t think this is the best option if you are going to be here for a week or more. If you are only doing a day trip or two, then this would be a good option.
- Multi-Day Hakuba Valley Lift Pass
Pre-purchasing a ticket on the Hakuba Valley Lift Pass home page is the best option if you intend to stay in Hakuba for multiple days. You can select different multi-day options for the lift pass, we had the 7 day lift pass out of the 10 days we were in Hakuba. This meant that we were able to do other activities on our days off from Skiing and Snowboarding, which was good, because Skiing and Snowboarding is super exhausting haha. The advantages that these lift passes have, is that you are able to visit multiple ski resorts in the one day, and you don’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket!
- Happo One
Happo One ski resort is the most popular resort in Hakuba. It is pretty big, has lots of vertical slopes, and is reasonably steep. This is good for intermediate riders, due to the slopes, bumps, and having access to the famous Hakuba alpine backcountry.
- Hakuba 47 and Goryu
I learnt how to snowboard at Goryu with the Hakuba Snow Sports School. If you are travelling with a group of 4 or more, I recommend booking a private lesson. This is because you learn more and it is also cheaper. The slopes were really easy and nice to learn on at Goryu, which makes it suitable for a beginner or intermediate. Hakuba 47 is good if you are more of an advanced rider. It has steep long fast runs and an excellent terrain park and half-pipe.
Iwatake has a number of green runs, but as a beginner myself I did find it quite challenging at some points. I would say if you are a confident beginner or an intermediate rider, then this is perfect for you. The view at the to of Iwatake is spectacular! The 360 view of Hakuba and its mountain range really does look like a painting. So make sure your phone or GoPro is charged up to take a photo!
This was my favourite ski resort! There are slopes here for everyone. I was a beginner at the start and by the end I did a couple of tree runs at Tsugaike, it was so much fun! The powder here was also insane after it snowed, so the backcountry action was always on point. Apparently during the spring season there is also heli skiing…don’t think I’m ready for that just yet though.
We didn’t get to Cortina and for a good reason. Cortina is more for advanced and confident riders. The ski resort has steep tree skiing and lift-accessed sidecountry (Terrain that is accesses from a lift with the use of a bootpack or skin track). This mountain can be packed on a powder days though!