Hakuba Valley is perhaps most well known for being one of Japan’s most popular ski resorts, but it’s also home to three communities with a unique history and culture.
Before the introduction of skiing to Japan, the mountainous regions of Otari, Hakuba and Omachi were inhabited by local farming communities. The history and culture of the olden days, still celebrated today, are part of what make Hakuba Valley so special.
The annual Salt Road Festival is a 3-day celebration of the area’s history, tradition and culture. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the local community and experience the Hakuba Valley of bygone times.
What’s the Salt Road?
The Salt Road was an ancient 120km-long trading route that connected landlocked Nagano Prefecture to the Sea of Japan coast. During the Edo Period—the pre-refrigerator days—it was on this path that the precious commodities of salt and preserved seafood were transported from present-day Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture to Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture.
With salt and seafood passing through Hakuba Valley, traditional dishes such as pickled seasonal vegetables were created, and foods such as salted squid (shio maru ika) and dried seaweed (ego) became local favourites.
The Salt Road was an invaluable resource for the people of Hakuba Valley, and its history continues to be celebrated to this day.
Three days of festivities
Join the local community for one of the biggest celebrations in Hakuba Valley! You can dress up in traditional clothing and explore the historic path that connects Otari, Hakuba and Omachi—the 3 communities of the valley. Step back in time with folk songs and taiko drumming, and immerse yourself in the traditional, rural way of life.
While the 2021 Salt Road Festival was cancelled due to COVID-19, the event is typically held from 3-5 May. Be sure to add this to your list to experience a different side of Hakuba Valley.
Hakuba Valley is easily accessible from Tokyo in just under 3 hours via shinkansen and express bus.
Information courtesy of the Hakuba Valley Promotion Board
Images by the Tourism Commission of Hakuba Village