Hakuba is located on the main island of Honshu, 45 kms west of Nagano city in the Nagano Prefecture. Tokyo is approximately 270km west and there are a number of options at your disposal on how to get here. Which suits you best is going to depend on a number of factors including flight arrival times, layovers, budget, and convenience.
Arriving in Tokyo there are two airports that you can potentially land at: Haneda or Narita. Haneda is generally considered the easier of the two because of its close proximity to Tokyo (just a few kms outside the city centre as opposed to Narita which is approximately 80 kms from Tokyo) thus saving time and money if you are travelling via the city. Reports also suggest that immigration at Haneda is quicker, though having travelled through both I’ve never found an issue at either.
Travelling around Japan, signage is well set up for English speaking travellers. Both airports have information counters that are easy to obtain assistance from. The train station is part of the airport and easy to locate. Train ticket machines are quick to use, have an option to select ‘English Language’ and are easy to navigate, but if you’re a bit daunted there are counters at the train station to purchase tickets with English speaking staff.
Provided the bus timetables coincide with your flights, or you choose to do a stopover at the airport, the direct bus is the easiest option for transfers. You can also pick up the bus from the Shinjuku train station in Tokyo.
For information on cost and timetables from and to:
Haneda: Nagano Snow Shuttle
Shinjuku train station: Alpico Highway bus
Travel time: Approximately 4 – 6 hours depending on your start point and connection times.
Cost: Between ¥6500 and ¥9600 one way.
Pros: Direct transportation to Hakuba, cost effective, easy to travel with luggage, and make stops along the way for toilet breaks and food.
Cons: The buses don’t run regularly enough.
If the bus does not fit into your flight schedule, or you’re thinking of doing a couple of nights in Tokyo, the bullet train (shinkansen) is something everyone should experience at least once!
The trip takes about 40 mins from Narita to Tokyo, but Haneda to Tokyo is much closer and trains leave regularly from both airports. The loudspeaker system on the train is clear and easy to hear, and approaching stations are announced in both Japanese and English. Once you arrive at Tokyo Station, hop off the train and locate
the Shinkansen ticket machines (you can check the Shinkansen timetables). The Shinkansen ticket machines also have the ‘English’ option, or you can buy over the counter. You will want to purchase a ticket for the Hokuriku Shinkansen which stops at Nagano Station. We recommend buying a reserved seating ticket – it’s slightly more expensive but guarantees you a seat on the train. The cost of the shinkansen one way is approximately ¥8200.
Once you arrive at Nagano Station, there is a bus terminal at the East exit. Bus #26 costs ¥1800 per person and is the cheapest direct way to Hakuba. The other option is a taxi but it may be difficult for large parties and a lot of luggage.
Once you arrive at either the Hakuba train station or the Hakuba Happo Bus Terminal, our courtesy shuttle bus will be waiting for you to bring your group to the hotel. (Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your approximate arrival time to Hakuba)
Travel time: Approximately 3.5 – 4 hours.
Cost: Between ¥10,000 and ¥12,000 one way, depending on class of train travel.
Pros: Gives you time to sight see in Tokyo or other places in Japan if desired.
Cons: Manhandling your luggage across multiple transport options is a pain.
There is a luggage transport company called Yamanato Transport Co. (recognisable by their
logo of a Black Cat inside a yellow circle) and they have service desks at both Narita and Haneda
airports. For less than ¥3000 per bag in most cases, you can have your luggage or your ski/board gear sent
ahead of you to the hotel if you want to spend a few days in Tokyo, or if you don’t want to drag it
through the chaos of multiple train transfers. We highly recommend this option to everyone if you plan on doing some travelling. The address to send to is:
Hotel Villa Hakuba
4777 Hokujo, Hakuba-mura,
You can hire a car in Tokyo and drive directly to Hakuba. It is a long drive and navigating the toll roads can be overwhelming for many people. However, hiring a car once you arrive in Hakuba is a great idea. You will need to organise your international drivers licence before you leave your country of origin – and it’s best to book early as car options can become scarce in peak periods.
You can hire a 4wd, though they are considerably more expensive. Most cars come with the option for snow tires which are highly effective for driving in snow. Chains are not required in Hakuba. It is worth noting that driving in the snow with snow tires is not difficult but you do still need to be very aware of black ice and drive cautiously. Hakuba covers an area of approximately 20 kms from end-to-end and many of the resorts can be a bit of a hassle to get to when you’re relying on the town bus shuttle services and taxis can be time consuming to wait for in peak season. The convenience of having your own vehicle is worth its weight in gold. Please be aware that Japan has very strict drink driving regulations and anything over a .01 BAC can result in imprisonment.
For rental websites Niconico Rental Cars (at Shell Station, website in Japanese) and Hakuba Car Rental are two options in Hakuba. Rental car shops are also available in Tokyo and Nagano city. The main companies are Toyota Rent-a-car and Nissan Rental Car.
Travel time: Approximately 4.5 hours by car from Tokyo.
Cost: Depends on car type and duration of hire.
Pros: Ultimate freedom, convenience, ease of transporting luggage.
Cons: Cost if you’re not sharing the expense with friends.