When we decided we were going to Japan and timed it for January we knew we had to include a trip to the Japanese Alps for snowboarding (for the husband and the daughter of course as the boy and I are not quite ready to plummet down the side of a mountain).
Planning for this portion of our trip was surprisingly difficult as there was very little information on the Internet. Interesting considering Nagano, the largest city in the area, was the host for the 1998 Winter Olympics. So where exactly do we go and how do we get there were the questions. Hopefully my post will help you if you are planning a visit to Hakuba, Nagano.
Marc asked some Japanese colleagues for recommendations. I searched and searched the Internet. We had initially considered going to Shiga Kogen which is quite close to Jigokudani Monkey Park (which I will write about in my next post) but all recommendations pointed towards Hakuba as having the best powder and there are eight good resorts for Marc to choose from for riding. Hakuba can be reached by an hour bus ride from Nagano or a train ride from Matsumoto; which route to take depends on where you are coming from. Coming from Kyoto, I think the train would have made more sense for us as our train from Kyoto-Nagoya stopped in Matsumoto before moving on to Nagano. From Matsumoto, there’s a train to Hakuba. We didn’t realize the train was an option as everything I read only indicated the bus from Nagano as most of the people come from Tokyo. You can also take a direct shuttle from Narita or Haneda airport to Hakuba.
Once we decided on Hakuba, we had to decide on where to stay. There were only a handful of Airbnb listings in the area and they were all ridiculously expensive. The hotels are spread out in the different resort areas and not having been there before we weren’t sure how far apart all the resorts were from each other. We agonized over which hotel to stay at (well really it was just me as Marc doesn’t agonize over decisions). We finally picked one and hoped for the best. Our hotel (Hakuba Hotel Ougiya) was located in Hakuba Happo where the majority of the restaurants, bars and equipment rental services along with a couple of grocery/convenience stores were all within 5-10 minutes walk. It was also five minutes walk to the Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal where the bus arrives and departs for Nagano. The hotel was exceptionally clean, had a large drying room, a phenomenal natural onsen and a delicious breakfast buffet (included in the room rate). Both the owner and his wife were amazing hosts. We are definitely staying there again when we return to Hakuba.
Hakuba turned out to be the perfect choice for us. The area is breathtakingly beautiful, our hotel provided stellar service and amenities and the traditional Japanese mountain village had a totally cool vibe. This portion of our trip was the most memorable part of our visit to Japan.