Hakuba Valley is a large area that encompasses 11 ski resorts and various villages, but most people just refer to the area as Hakuba. Hakuba comes alive from December to March, with snow hunters the world over making their way to the famous Japow.
Hakuba is located on the island of Honshu (the main island of Japan), about 270km northwest of Tokyo. Happo One Ski Resort and the Happo village are the main tourist hub, which extends 1.5 – 2.6km west of the town of Hakuba. Although it’s seems easier to get to than it’s Northerly cousin Niseko, it can be a little complicated depending on the means of transportation you choose.
1- TRAIN COMBO
Step 1: Trains from Narita Airport to Tokyo and then to Nagano
The Narita Express train (NEX) goes from the Tokyo Narita Airport terminals to the city of Tokyo, and takes about 1 hour. There are frequent departures from the airport railway terminals. Upon arrival at Tokyo Station take the escalators up and follow the signs for the Nagano Shinkansen Asama. Departures are very regular during the main part of the day, but you can check Hyperdia for schedules if you’re on tight timelines or travelling late in the day. You need to get the NEX no later than about 8:45pm, as the last train to Nagano leaves at about 10pm. Otherwise you’ll need to stay overnight in a Narita Airport hotel or spend a few days in Tokyo and make your way to Tokyo Station once you’re ready to go to Hakuba.
The Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagano takes about 1 hour 40 minutes. Keep in mind that if you arrive late into Nagano, you may need to stay overnight in one of the Nagano hotels before taking the public bus to Hakuba. The prices vary for the train depending on what other train journeys you have planned, however, it is always more expensive than the bus.
Alternatively, catch a train from Narita Airport to Ueno via the Keiser Skyliner and then the bullet train from Ueno to Nagano. Check out Hyperdia for the fastest route for your travel time.
Step 2: Getting from Nagano to Hakuba
The best option is to catch one of the Alpico buses from Nagano Station to Hakuba Bus Terminal. They run every hour from 8:20am to 8:00pm (Friday night 9.00pm) and cost ¥1800 one way (children ¥900). Buses depart from the East (Higashi) exit of Nagano Station from bus stop 6. Please note that reservations are not required and the buses are available on a first-come, first served basis.
The other options which i wouldn’t recommend are to take a taxi directly to your hotel, which you guessed it, is expensive! Or you can get a local train to the Hakuba Station, but this is more difficult than getting than bus.
2- SHUTTLE BUS OR CAR/TAXI
Often the easiest option, it’s possible to book a shuttle bus which has several daily departure times, including an evening 9:20pm departure. This bus service goes directly from the Tokyo airports to Hakuba Bus Terminal. The trip generally takes longer (approx 5 hours), but has the advantage of you not having to carry your bags on trains and buses, and not having the stress of changing modes of transport. This option is also a little cheaper, averaging ¥9500 per direction.
Alternatively, you can book a private or shared car. These are like taxi services that will either take you and whoever you’re traveling with or you and a group of randoms. The private car prices start from approximately ¥30000, and the shared vehicle car prices start from ¥18000 per person based on a minimum number of passengers. These vehicles will go directly from the Airport to your accommodation and take around 5 hours. Keep in mind that they have stricter luggage allowances, so you’ll need to be careful of the amount of gear you bring.
PUT SIMPLY THERE’S 3 OPTIONS
1- Train Combo
Train/train/train or bus combo – this includes a train from Narita to Tokyo, then a bullet train (Shinkansen) to Nagano, and then a local train or bus to Hakuba Bus Termainal. The advantage is that it is the fastest route, getting you to the Japow quicker! However, it’s a little more expensive than the bus and you have to lug your bags through 3 terminals.
2- Shuttle Bus
This involves getting a shuttle bus from Narita or Haneda Airport to Hakuba. They leave at set times during the day and night and go directly from Airport to Hakuba Happo Info Centre. The advantage is not having to lug your bags around the train stations, however the journey is longer.
This involves getting a vehicle transfer from Tokyo to Hakuba. They can be arranged with any travel agent and go directly from Airport to your accommodation. The advantage is being dropped straight to your hotel and not having to lug your bags, however it is much more expensive.
Once you’ve arrived into Hakuba at either the Hakuba Bus Terminal or Happo Info Centre, you’ll need to get to your accommodation. There is not much accommodation within walking distance of either, so it’s likely you’ll need onward transport. Many of the Hakuba accommodation providers offer transport from the Hakuba Bus Termainal & Happo Info Center if pre-arranged, or there are lots of taxis. The staff in the centre speak English, so they’ll be able to help you with this.
Once you get to your accommodation. Enjoy!