Hakuba Japan Guide: What You Need to Know - Hakuba
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About Hakuba Japan Guide: What You Need to Know

Just over three hours from downtown Tokyo in the Northern Japanese Alps—Hakuba, Japan is an experience incomparable to others. The valley can claim more sunshine than its neighbors, a cluster of mountains with wide ranging terrain, delicious restaurants, great bars, huge snowfalls and the steepest runs of the country’s 600 alpine resorts. The region debuted on the world stage while hosting the Winter Olympics in 1998 and has grown to one of Asia’s most popular ski destinations. For those who have rightfully decided to tick this off their bucket list of must-ski destinations, we’ve put together the must read, insider guide on Hakuba for the 2019/20 season.

Table of Content

  1. Whats New
  2. Mountain Cams
  3. Trail Maps
  4. About Hakuba
  5. Resort Guide
  6. Hakuba Access
  7. Lessons and Rental Equipment
  8. Off Slope Adventures
  9. Accommodation
  10. Restaurants & Apres
  11. Special Events
  12. Day Trips 
  13. Onsen
  14. Green Season
  15. News
  16. Our Top Videos

Whats New?

There are several big changes this year in Hakuba; Hakuba will host the first ever Snow Machine Music Festival, The Free Ride World Tour Returns to Hakuba in January, and Happo-One has opened Beach Resort above the Happo Gondola.

Snow Machine

For the first time ever, Hakuba will host an international music festival featuring the best electronic acts from Australia and Japan. The festival will run from March 1 to March 4 with tickets currently available on the Snow Machine Website.

The heavyweight lineup will play among some of the most idyllic backdrops throughout the Hakuba ski fields, from sweeping mountaintop vistas, to cosy apres soirees, from outdoor village stages, to indoor/outdoor onsens. Tickets are still available at the Snow Machine Website.

Free Ride World Tour

The Free Ride World Tour returns to Hakuba from January 18 to January 25th during the busy Chinese New Year Holidays. Hakuba will be the first stop on the 2020 tour and will feature a group of talented athletes led by Markus Eder and Victor De Le Rue.

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@travisrice welcome back to Hakuba!

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Iwatake VIP S Class Ticket

This year visitors to Iwatake can purchase a VIP ticket which allows holders access to VIP stations on the mountain, complimentary pick up and drop off, high end gear rental, priority access for all lift lines, and more. Pass holders can also request a private ski butler and evening snow cat tours for an extra cost. Base prices are ¥15,000 yen for adults (16+) and ¥7,000 for kids.  For more information please visit the Iwatake Mountain site.

Happo-One Hakuba Mountain Beach

The Hakuba Tourism Association has opened a beach resort themed space on top of Gondola Station on Happo-One where visitors can relax in hot tubs, in gondola’s converted into saunas, and beach chairs. Happo-One will have the saunas in operation during the winter.

Hakuba Jobs

There are still plenty of jobs available in Hakuba if you’re interested in working the season. We’re currently looking for kitchen staff and hotel hospitality staff and companies throughout Hakuba will be looking to pick up last minute additional staff. Join the Hakuba Crew 2019/20 Facebook Page to find opportunities or email us at bookings@hakuba.com.

 

MOUNTAIN CAMS

TRAIL MAP

Resorts

The Hakuba Valley boasts incredible variety with ten different resorts so no matter your ability level Hakuba will be able to accommodate you and your party. If you can’t visit all the resorts in the valley, worry not I have you covered with what you need to know to have the perfect Hakuba ski holiday.

All ten resorts are connected with a single lift ticket, the Hakuba All Valley Lift Pass. Pass holders also receive access to all inter-resort shuttles included with the pass (otherwise each ride is ¥500). Enquire below to have your Hakuba Valley Pass delivered to your accommodation before you arrive.

Tsugaike Kogen

Beginners and intermediates would be best served to start their skiing at Tsugaike Kogen. The slopes are wide, gentle, and devoid of trees making it the best place to build your confidence.

The main street at the foothill of Tsugaike has various izakayas as well as western style restaurants for you to explore. All in all a very charming experience.

Insider Tip:

“Kane-no-naru-oka” (The hill where the bell rings) is the best run for families and beginners. This mellow run is 1,200m wide, 980m in length, and has comfortable 9 degree average gradient. It also has night skiing.

Lift Tickets(1day)

Adult Lift Ticket
¥4,500
Junior Lift Ticket
¥2,500
Senior Lift Ticket
¥3,000

Rentals(1day)

Ski Set
¥3500
Snowboard Set
¥3500
Wear
¥3000
Beginner
50%
Intermediate
30%
Advanced
20%
Non-groomed
30%
Groomed
70%

Ski Lift

1P:

1

2P:

8

3P:

1

4P:

9

ropeway:

0

gondola

1

escalator:

0

towing:

0

others:

0

Number of Courses
9
Slope Gradient(degrees)
35°
Longest Run(m)
4,900

Cortina

Powder hounds heading to Hakuba will of course have heard the great lore of Cortina and its off-piste tree runs and unmatched side country. It receives the highest and driest snowfall in the valley and usually gets nearly twice as much snow as neighboring resorts! The snow patrol at Coritna are quite relaxed, and off-piste skiing is not an issue. Ridgeline runs that drop into near-perfectly spaced trees will delight those wanting to earn their turns and get waist-deep in the pow.

Cortina has fewer runs compared to other resorts in the valley but it’s interlinked with the neighboring Norikura and the the lift pass gives you access to all 25 combined runs which opens options nicely if you’re looking to stay on piste.

At the foot of Cortina sits one of the most iconic properties in Hakuba, the Green Plaza Hotel. While the impressive structure may resemble something out of The Shinning, we can assure you the atmosphere is more welcoming. With a delicious fusion restaurant and a great buffet, the Green Plaza Hotel is perfect for those who wish to languish by a fire and Après all day.

Insider Tip

GO HERE ON A POWDER DAY. You can basically ski any of the trees, and most on the front side of the resort funnel back down to the base center. It is not to be missed.

Lift Tickets(1day)

Adult Lift Ticket
¥3,600
Junior Lift Ticket
¥2,000
Senior Lift Ticket
¥3,000

Rentals(1day)

Ski Set
¥3,500
Snowboard Set
¥3,500
Wear
¥3,000
Beginner
40%
Intermediate
30%
Advanced
30%
Non-groomed
30%
Groomed
70%

Ski Lift

1P:

0

2P:

5

3P:

0

4P:

2

ropeway:

0

gondola

0

escalator:

0

towing:

0

others:

0

Number of Courses
16
Slope Gradient(degrees)
42°
Longest Run(m)
3,500

Happo-One

The largest and most central resort in the valley is Happo-One (pronounced On Ay), spreading across 220 hectares. Happo-One hosted several of the 1998 Winter Olympic events including the ski jump and the slalom.

The pitch is on the steeper side with a 1701 vertical meter drop and is best suited for intermediate and advanced skiers. Beginners at Happo should visit Saka where the terrain is more mellow.

Terrain park dudes are in luck, the Happo Banks Terrain Park or ‘the Banks’ as its referred to by those in the know, may be the best park in the valley.

On a powder day our suggestion would be to check out the tree runs on Skyline. Not as long as Cortina’s but just as fun.

Insider Tip

On a clear day, head up to Reisen Grat, the resort’s highest peak and ski all the way down through Alpen, Usagidaira and Panarama, coming onto what was once the Women’s Slalom course and finishing up at the bottom of the Kokusai area.

Lift Tickets(1day)

Adult Lift Ticket
¥5,500
Junior Lift Ticket
¥3,200
Senior Lift Ticket
¥5,000

Rentals(1day)

Ski Set
¥3,500
Snowboard Set
¥3,500
Wear
¥3,500
Beginner
30%
Intermediate
50%
Advanced
20%
Non-groomed
15%
Groomed
75%
Groomed
10%

Ski Lift

1P:

0

2P:

13

3P:

2

4P:

5

ropeway:

0

gondola

1

escalator:

0

towing:

0

others:

0

Number of Courses
14
Slope Gradient(degrees)
35°
Longest Run(m)
8,000

Iwatake

A great option for families or groups with a mix of abilities, Iwatake has terrain for every skill level. Just 10 minutes from Hakuba Station, the resort is easily accessible from Happo Village.

Once beginners build confidence, they can take an easy run from the top of the mountain all the way to the base; there are also more challenging intermediate routes that branch off from this run. Advanced skiers can stay busy as well as their are high speed runs, powder skiing and a terrain park.

Insider tip: One of the best ramen shops in town is located at the base of the ski resort. Come out from the gondola entrance and cross the road to a wooden shack with skis and snowboards out the front. The ramen here is to die for.

Lift Tickets(1day)

Adult Lift Ticket
4,600yen
Junior Lift Ticket
2,800yen
Senior Lift Ticket
4,100yen

Rentals(1day)

Ski Set
¥4,000
Snowboard Set
¥4,000
Wear
¥3,200
Beginner
30%
Intermediate
50%
Advanced
20%
Non-groomed
20%
Groomed
80%

Ski Lift

1P:

1

2P:

8

3P:

1

4P:

1

ropeway:

0

gondola

1

escalator:

0

towing:

0

others:

0

Number of Courses
26
Slope Gradient(degrees)
35°
Longest Run(m)
3,800

Hakuba 47

Connected to Goryu, these resorts sit right next to Happo One (the two have reciprocal views of each other) and are adjacent to Goryu and Echoland villages. This is another resort that’s great for the family; there’s a large variety of beginner and intermediate terrain with some challenging blacks as well. A few good days could be spent here, as the tree runs are mint when the go is POW and the terrain park perfect for firmer conditions.

Insider Tip

Sign up to their “Double Black Diamond Club” and you’ll have access to the formidable off-piste and backcountry. It’s free to register and you’ll receive a bib that gives you access to the exclusive terrain.

Lift Tickets(1day)

Adult Lift Ticket
¥5,000
Junior Lift Ticket
¥2,700
Senior Lift Ticket
¥4,000

Rentals(1day)

Ski Set
¥4,000
Snowboard Set
¥4,000
Wear
¥3,000
Beginner
60%
Intermediate
20%
Advanced
20%

Ski Lift

1P:

0

2P:

4

3P:

0

4P:

1

ropeway:

0

gondola

1

escalator:

0

towing:

0

others:

1

Number of Courses
16
Slope Gradient(degrees)
35°
Longest Run(m)
5,000

Access

From Narita Airport

If flying into Tokyo, Narita airport, you have two options for transportation to Hakuba.

Option 1

The fastest route requires two trains and a bus. The first train will be from Narita airport (these trains leave the airport frequently), delivering you to Tokyo Station within the hour. From there you take the bullet train – famously known as the Shinkansen – to Nagano Terminal. Pre-book the Shinkansen (¥8,200) so you can assure yourself a seat. It will probably be the nicest train trip you’ve ever taken with scenic views of the Japanese countryside and the pure modern amenities of the train itself (wait till you see the bathroom’s, you’ll want to live in one!).

From Nagano Terminal you take a one and a half hour bus (¥1,800), which will deliver you safely to Hakuba Station. In total this route will take no more than four hours.

Option 2

Take the Nagano Snow Shuttle (¥10,250) from Narita airport straight to Hakuba. This trip will take just over five hours in total but it’s the most direct route and will save you having to lug your things around from station to station.

From Haneda Airport

Option 1

Take the monorail to Hammatsucho Station, transfer to the Yamanote Line (the large green circular line), and take it to Tokyo Station. There you can board the Shinkansen to Nagano Station and then the bus to Hakuba Bus terminal as outlined above.

www.jreast.co.jp/e/haneda/

Option 2

Take the Nagano Snow Shuttle (¥9,600) from Haneda Airport straight to Hakuba. This trip will take just over five hours in total and departs Haneda twice daily at 7:30 and 1:30 P.M.

Side Note 

If you’re interested in travelling for a day or two during your trip, buy the JR East Rail Pass. For ¥22,000 you receive 5 days of unlimited use of JR transportation network. Check this out for more information.

Ski-Ta-Qyu-Bin (Black Cat)

Send your ski bags and luggage from the airport to your resort hotel for under ¥5,000 by using the Black Cat Service. Delivery takes 2 days so this best for people spending at least a day or two sightseeing in Tokyo or elsewhere. Visit their site to learn more.

Lessons and Rental Equipment

With a number of English-speaking ski schools in the area you wont have to worry if your Japanese isn’t up to scratch.

Lessons

There are an array of excellent ski schools in Hakuba including Hakuba Snow Sports, Evergreen, Frontier, and more accommodating all types of lessons from group to private on several different mountains throughout the Valley.  Fill out the form below and we’ll help set you up with the best option for you.

Ski Hire

No need to lug your gear across the world to ski Hakuba. There are loads of excellent rental shops offering a range of gear from standard offerings to the latest demo gear. Enquire below and we’ll ensure you gear is reserved and that you receive a ride to the rental shop.

 

Off Slopes Adventure

Sake Brewery and Tasting

Take a step into the past and tour a hundred year old Japanese sake brewery followed by a sake tasting and lunch. The tour is held in nearby Omachi, only 20 minutes from Hakuba by train. Complimentary drop off and pick up at the train station included.

Tour, Sake Tasting, and light lunch – ¥5,500

Tour, Sake tasting, and two course lunch ¥7,000

Snowmobiling

Driving through fresh powder on a powerful machine is one of the best ways to spend an hour off the slopes this winter. A single ride costs ¥12,000 while a tandem ride will set you back ¥18,000. Check out Lion Adventure site for more details.

Snowmobiing

Snowshoeing

Take a nice wander through the trees on the fresh untouched snow of the Iwatake Snow Fields.  This guided tour leaves twice a day and includes a tea break in the forest.

Cost:
6000 yen per person (10yr +)

Snow shoeing in Hakuba

ACCOMMODATION

As ski towns go, Hakuba is definitely on the vast side and therefore has plenty of options to choose from in terms of accommodation. The valley is separated into various boroughs and we recommend staying in the Echoland, Happo and Wadano areas of Hakuba as this will give you easy access to more ski resorts, more après options, bars, restaurants, cafés and shops. There are plenty of options for those who are doing Hakuba on a budget as well as those who want to take the 5 star route.  Here are a few of our favorite Hakuba Accommodation spots.

 

Swipe Right to See Our Favorite Places to Stay at Every Price Point

Hotels

Chalets

Luxury Chalets

Restaurants & Apres

The Hakuba Valley is blessed with an array of delicious restaurants spanning a seeminly endless number of cuisines and price ranges.  It’s the type of place where you can try a new restaurant for every meal during your stay, and still have so much to discover in the Valley.

 

Breakfast: Swipe Right To see Our Favorite Spots

Japanese: Swipe Right to See Our Favorite Spots

Western: Swipe Right To see Our Favorite Spots

Fine Dining: Swipe Right To see Our Favorite Spots

Apres/Night Life: Swipe Right To see Our Favorite Spots

Special Events

Free Ride World Tour

The best freeskiers and snowboard freeriders will compete on 5 of the most legendary and challenging alpine faces in the world this year including in Hakuba between January 18-25.

Slalom Race

Happo-One will host the annual slalom race this year from January 30th.  The competition is open to the public and costs ¥5,000. There are multiple age groups. Visit the Happo-One website for more details.

Day Trips

Snow Monkeys

The world famous Snow Monkeys are the only known monkeys to  bathe in hot springs and they’re easily accessible! It takes about two hours on public transport from Hakuba. Tours are also available.

Matsumoto Castle

Monkeys not your thing? How about a trip to one of Japan’s oldest standing castles? Nicknamed “Crows Castle’ for its unique black color, it’s one of the few castles in Japan constructed in an open plain. It’s about 90 minutes on JR train from Hakuba Station.

Zenkoji Temple

Located 10 minutes from Nagano Station, this 7th Century Buddhist Temple is one of the most significant in Japan, and many believe it holds the first Buddha statue brought to Japan. Given its location and splendor, it’s a must see for all visitors.

Kanazawa

Home to one of Japan’s most famous gardens, a beautiful castle, and Edo period shopping arcades, Kanazawa is a great way to experience Japanese culture and history. The trip takes 2 Hours and 52 Minutes from Hakuba Station and is all included on the JR Rail Pass.

Itoigawa

Located on the coast of the Japan Sea in Nigata, Itoigawa boasts natural beauty, fresh seafood, and a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture which can’t be found in a ski resort or a big city.

Fuji Q

Looking for thrills off the slope? Go ride some of the world’s fastest and most innovative roller coasters. This trip requires a car hire.

Karuizawa

A small resort town packed with culture, restaurants, skiing, and onsens, Karuizawa is only 2 hours and 20 minutes from Hakuba by bus and Shinkansen.

 

ONSEN

How to Use The Onsen

Each of the onsens have their own qualities, such as different colors and minerals in the water and supposed healing qualities. Each building is different too, from little wooden shacks to multi-leveled concrete buildings.

Be aware that it’s customary to bathe in the onsen completely naked. It may feel daunting to walk into a public onsen at first but the experience is well worth any initial awkwardness! Onsens have a few other rules and customs that you need to abide by:

Bring your own towel, soap, shampoo, razor, clean clothes and anything else you may need.

Enter through the right for your gender—red for women and blue for men.

Take off your shoes and clothes and place them in the storage area.

Wash yourself with soap and rinse well at the taps along the walls before you enter the bath.

Do not bring any soaps, liquids or perfumes into the bath!

The baths are very hot so enter slowly and don’t spend too much time in them.

Consider leaving some coins in the donation box outside as it goes towards the cleaning and maintenance of the baths.

Swipe Right to See Our Favorite Onsens

Green Season

Spring Skiing– Those looking for end of season snow can find some in Hakuba. Generally, there is snow on the top of the resorts until the first week of May.

Cherry blossoms- Generally blooming between early and mid April, the cherry blossoms are an iconic symbol of Japanese beauty and should not be missed. Spend a day relaxing by the river under the trees while pedals float down from above.

Cherry blossoms along the river in Hakuba

Hiking- There are loads of great hikes. Our favorite is the hike to Happo Pond. The whole trip takes about 4 hours and is best when the fall colors are shining in the valley.

Hiking to Happo-One Pond

Paragliding– Looking for a rush during the green season? Try paragliding over the Hakuba Valley. There are a few companies offering lessons and tandem rides for a reasonable price.

Paragliding over the Hakuba Ski Jump

Swimming- There are several lakes in the Hakuba Valley where you can go for a dip to cool off. Our favorite is Lake Aoki as you can see epic reflections of the mountains from the shore.

Summertime at Hakuba’s Lake Aoki

Hot Air Balloon- Operated by Lion Adventure Tours from April to November, rides cost ¥2,500 for adults and ¥1,700 for children.

Hot Air Balloon Tour in Hakuba’s Happo-One

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