This world-class resort in Nagano's Northern Alps welcomes powder enthusiasts from around the globe in winter, then transforms into an outdoor sports wonderland during the warmer months.
Hakuba is well serviced by a network of trains and buses. The area's major transport hub is Nagano Station and the closest airport is in Matsumoto.
From Tokyo, the fastest and most flexible option is the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagano, then transferring to a bus at Nagano Station. Another option is to catch the daily JR Chuo Line-Limited Express Azusa to Minami-Otari which stops at Hakuba station.
Hakuba Valley began developing its resorts in the 1950s, but the 1998 Winter Olympics really brought it to the international stage. Hakuba and Otari Villages and nearby Omachi draw winter sports enthusiasts from around the world.
The area enjoys around 11 meters of annual snowfall, some of the nation's best powder. You could easily spend a season exploring the valley's 11 resorts, 146 lifts and over 200 runs for all levels of experience.
Ten of Hakuba's resorts have teamed up to offer a “Hakuba Valley Ticket” available for single or multiple day use. Getting around is easy with busses running between the resorts and villages. Besides the excellent downhill courses, winter activities like snowshoeing, snow rafting and backcountry skiing are also available.
The winter months are also packed with events and festivals like the Hakuba47 Snow Sculpture Festival and the Happo-one Fire Festival, which both run in February.
Hakuba has hosted international winter sports enthusiasts for decades, and has a lively after-dark scene. Two popular areas to stay and unwind are Happo Village and Echoland. Both are cosmopolitan without losing their Japanese charm: luxury hotels share the streets with small Japanese inns; craft brew pubs operate beside traditional izakayas, while ramen joints are squeezed in next to restaurants offering world class fare.
Just a short walk from the slopes, Happo Village's central location and array of facilities make it a convenient base. English speaking ski and boarding lessons are available, as is English day care. Besides the standard accommodation options, Happo offers plenty of apartments and chalets. The village's restaurants, bars, and shops keep it buzzing until late.
Staying in the adjacent Echoland area requires taking a shuttle to the slopes, of which there are plenty. The accommodation tends to be more economical than Happo's, and it is popular with a younger crowd. Echoland is packed with bars, clubs, and pubs, making its nightlife especially renowned.
The mountains of Hakuba are part of the Northern Chubu-Sangaku National Park. The spectacular alpine scenery, pristine air, and wealth of outdoor activities make Hakuba a popular warm weather destination as well. Its 800-meter elevation offers a cool respite from the heat of the cities.
Alpine enthusiasts often use Hakuba as a base for exploring the peaks, and many of the lifts operate year-round for easier access. With plenty of outdoor sports adventures on offer, from the placid canoe trips to adrenaline boosting paragliding, there's no shortage of things to do. The Evergreen Outdoor Center offers a variety of green season activities, including mountain biking tours, rafting, kayaking, and even tree climbing.