Japan City Guides: Hakuba, Nagano
- Population - 9,000 full-time.
- World-class ski resorts
- Site of the 1998 Winter Olympics
- Easy access from Nagano to the south east
- Famous for its powder snow
- A total of around ten ski resorts in the Hakuba Valley
- Great hiking, cycling and canoeing in summer
- Situated at the foot of the northern Japan Alps
Skiing in Hakuba, the Japanese Alps, Nagano Prefecture
Located in the Japan Alps, 60km northwest of Nagano, Hakuba increasingly appeals to the international ski-set from as far afield as Australia, China, Hong Kong and Europe.
The snowfall in the area is heavy and the quality of the powder snow arguably some of the best on Japan's main island of Honshu. Hakuba's slopes offer good skiing for all ranges of ability and every visitor to the area will share the spectacular backdrop of the 3,000m peaks of the Japan Alps.
Happoone was the site of the 1998 Nagano Olympics downhill skiing course and is the largest of Hakuba's ski resorts. One or two-day ski-passes are available here and at the other main resorts in the valley. Gondolas run up to the start of the ski runs and there are chairlifts to the tops of the mountains for fantastic views of the snow-covered peaks.
The linked ski resorts of Hakuba 47 and Hakuba Goryu are the next largest after Happoone and offer up to 5km downhill slopes from the top of the piste. Ski passes are valid for both resorts. Hakuba 47 is a popular spot for snowboarders. Hakuba 47 has 8 pistes, 6 ski lifts and 800m of vertical descent.
Other resorts in the Hakuba Valley are Iwatake, Cortina, Norikura, Sun Alpina, Yanaba and Tsugaike Kogen.
A number of foreign-operated and Japanese tour companies in Hakuba offer back country skiing and snow shoe tours as well as skiing and snowboard lessons for all levels of ability.
In addition to the skiing, there is also good hiking in the nearby hills and mountains in summer and some fantastic onsen (hot spring baths) in Hakuba.
Onsen in the Habuka area include the Tokyu Onsen at the Tokyu Hotel, Echoland no Yu, Daiichi Sato no Yu, Daini Sato no Yu, Shobei no Yu at the Mominoki Hotel, Kurashita no Yu, Iwatake no Yu, Mimizuku no Yu, and the Hakuba-shio no Michi Onsen at the Sports Hotel Terry.
Tenjin no Yu is within the Hakuba Highland Hotel.
The Juro no Yu Onsen is close to Chokokuji Temple near Iimori Station.
Hakuba is something of a gourmet town for apres ski wining and dining. There are both Japanese and foreign-owned eateries in town. If you are staying in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, meals - breakfast and dinner - are usually included in the price of your accommodation.
Options for eating out in Hakuba include British- and American-style pubs, Italian, French, Thai, Tex-Mex, Korean and Indian restaurants in addition to more local soba noodles, wagyu (Japanese beef), teppanyaki and izakaya (Japanese-style "pubs").
Hakuba also has numerous bars and clubs if you wish to drink or dance the long winter nights away.
If you are not skiing, Hakuba has some interesting museums and a botanical garden to see. Hakuba's museums include the Hakuba Ski Jump Stadium (Tel: 0261 72 7611) used in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the Hakuba Saegusa Art Gallery (Tel: 0261 72 4685), the Laforet Hakuba Art Museum (Tel: 0261 72 6084) and the Hakuba Miyajima Craft Museum (Tel: 0261 72 2738). Hakuba Botanical Garden (Tel: 0261 71 8118) has a number of species of alpine plants and is spectacular in the summer.
Skiing in Hakuba, Nagano
Hakuba and the Japanese Alps, Nagano
Hakuba is about one hour by bus from Nagano city. The JR Oito Line connects Hakuba to Matsumoto (1 hour). Oito Line trains from Hakuba or Kamishiro station go to Yanaba. It is easy to connect a visit to Hakuba with seeing the amazing Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto and Zenkoji Temple in Nagano.
Ski slopes in Hakuba, Japanese Alps, Nagano
There are highway bus services to Shinjuku, Tokyo, Nagoya (3 hours, 10 mins), and Osaka to Nagano as well as direct buses to Hakuba from Shinjuku (about 4 and a half hours), Tokyo, Matsumoto and from Nagoya Station. From Nagano city take National Highway 406 west if you are driving.
There are sight-seeing taxis outside JR Hakuba Station (Tel: 0261 72 2144).
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Hakuba, the Japanese Alps, Nagano Prefecture
Hakuba Tourist Information Center
Hakuba Tourist Office
JR Hakuba Station
0261 72 2279
New places to stay in Hakuba are appearing every year and many of them are foreigner-friendly. Accommodation options in Hakuba include hotels, guesthouses and ryokan (Japanese inns).
Hotels and ski lodges are also clustered around Iimori and Kamishiro Stations to the south.
The Yamano Hotel Hakuba is convenient for the slopes of Happoone.
Cheaper guesthouses with dorms include the Yama no Oyado Alupu, Backpackers Hostel Ks House Hakuba Alps, Snowbeds, Lodge Tabi-tabi, Hakuba Alps Backpackers, Hakuba Cedar House Terry and Wind Jacket Lodge.
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