Discover Hakuba Resort: A Comprehensive Guide to Your Alpine Adventure

No matter what mountain range you choose to visit for your first visit to Japan, you’re in for a treat. While Niseko is perfect for those seeking a bustling atmosphere, deep powder, and international amenities, and Furano is the ideal destination for those seeking a quieter and more authentic Japanese experience, Hakuba is the best of both worlds. A true gem amongst the Japanese Alps, Hakuba offers world-class powder, diverse terrain with over 10 different ski resorts, and some of the most spectacular views Japan has to offer. 

Since hosting the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998, Hakuba has established itself as a coveted haven for winter enthusiasts around the world, while its villages still maintain local Japanese charm and character. Making it the perfect destination for those looking to experience world-famous Japow with a more traditional feel.

IN A NUTSHELL

11 metres of annual snowfall
Abundant beginner slopes and facilities.
10 Ski resorts
Park facilities at Hakuba 47, Tsugaike Kogen and Iwatake
Night skiing available at Happo One, Goryu, Kashiyamari and Tsugaike
Each region within Hakuba Valley boasts a variety of dining experiences, shopping options, nightlife, and off-snow experiences.
Lift access to back country and side country, numerous options for slack country and in-resort off piste.

Exploring Hakuba's Varied Mountains

Hakuba boasts a collection of distinct mountains, each with its own unique charm and character. From the thrilling slopes of Hakuba 47 to the family-friendly environment of Happo-One, every mountain caters to different rider preferences. Explore the nuances of each resort, whether you’re seeking challenging terrain, stunning views, or a relaxed atmosphere for beginners.

Let our wealth of local knowledge alleviate the stress of your journey, ensuring you find the perfect skiing destinations and have an unforgettable Hakuba experience.

Happo-One

Known for its vibrant atmosphere and diverse terrain, Happo-One stands as the largest, highest and most popular among Hakuba’s resorts. Offering a plethora of dining and entertainment options, it’s an ideal choice for families and groups seeking an energetic experience amid the pristine Japanese Alps.


*Tip: At 3,000 metres in length, Riesen Slalom Course is an essential run for all visitors to try.

Hakuba’s second most frequented resort, Hakuba 47, offers a selection of challenging runs, a renowned ski school and a selection of great on-hill facilities. For those looking to advance their skills, Hakuba 47 boasts the biggest terrain park in the region, featuring a well maintained half-pipe and a variety of boxes, rails, bonks, jumps and more. But if the park’s not your style, skiers and snowboarders enjoying the beautifully groomed runs of 47 will also be able to ride Goryu and limori, with all three resorts being connected and covered under the same lift-pass– giving you limitless options for riding. 

*Tip: While it is a beginner run, Route 8 offers narrow paths and a lot of side-hit potential.

Offering gentle ski-slopes and wide uncrowded runs, Jigatake is the perfect destination for families and beginners getting out on the slopes for the first time. Featuring a designated kids park and a super rare ‘Chibikko Troika’, which allows budding shredders to get to the top of the kids slope without ever needing to ride a chair-lift, Jigatake is a haven for beginners looking to learn a new sport. Not to mention, it’s also free entry to the kids park, making Jigatake a perfect day one destination before moving up to more challenging terrain.


*Tip: Jigatake’s children’s ski slope is 55 metres wide and 95 metres long!

Another great option for beginners and first time riders, Kashiyamari offers runs suited for both beginner and intermediate levels. A favourite amongst families with budding riders, Kashmiri offers snow escalators alongside their beginner slopes, as well as a snow-tubing park; a winter theme park and other activities such as the ‘Pokemon Snow Adventure,’ for those looking for fun on the slopes without needing ski gear. 

*Tip: Kashimayari offers free hire of play equipment such as sleds and snow striders.

Hakuba Goryu strikes a balance between challenging slopes and family-friendly amenities. Renowned for its exceptional snowfall and diverse terrain, it caters to both advanced skiers and beginners. With the biggest night ski area in the region, designated learning areas, and a range of winter activities, Hakuba Goryu provides an immersive experience for all skill levels. Hosting three different skiing areas within the one resort, Goryu is the perfect destination for beginner and intermediate riders trying to advance their craft in the picturesque Japanese alps. Although, with 17 different courses on offer, even the most advanced shredders will find themselves entertained by Goryu’s terrain. 

 

*Tip: Hakuba Goryu offers night-skiing every night of the week.

Blanketed by serene forests and lakes, Sanosaka marks itself as a beautiful destination for beginners and families. Whether you’re looking to experience its high quality powder, cruise on gentle beginner slopes, or just take in the scenery, Sanosaka will be a great choice.  

 

*Tip: For a ride with a view, shred down ‘Lake Down’, a picturesque run surrounded by forests that offers some of the best views of Lake Aoki.

For those seeking a serene escape surrounded by snow-covered landscapes, Hakuba Cortina offers a retreat into luxury. A smaller resort, Cortina is known for its deep powder runs, backcountry access and large-scale hotel, which offers riders a huge food-hall and on-site onsen facing the area’s main run. Allowing you to unwind after a long day, while watching others shred against the backdrop of Hakuba’s world-famous powder. 

*Tip: For the best access to backcountry and ungroomed terrain ride the newly installed Lift 11. Please note, you must have avalanche gear to ride.

Hakuba’s hidden gem, Tsugaike is a favourite amongst locals who chase deep powder and dynamic tree runs. With long and wide runs suited for beginners and challenging ridge lines and terrain parks for more advanced riders, Tsugaike stands out as one of Hakuba’s best kept secrets. 

*Tip- For thrill seekers visiting in the spring months, Tsugaike Kogen hosts heli-skiing.

Embracing a more laid-back ambiance, Hakuba Norikura is perfect for beginners, families and those looking for a romantic getaway amongst Japan’s winter wonderland. Featuring designated ungroomed runs and newly updated chairlifts which make the backcountry more accessible, powderhounds looking to create their own tracks will find themselves in awe of Norikura. Those looking for a gentler experience will love its quieter surroundings and proximity to hot spring onsens, which provide a gentle introduction to the wonders of Hakuba and Japanese mountain culture.

 

*Tip: Visit the Hakuba Alps Hotel to enjoy a luxurious open-air onsen after a day out riding.

Another well kept secret, Iwatake boasts deep powder runs, a variety of terrain and 360° panoramic views of the valley, making it the perfect destination regardless of if you’re looking to shred powder or just take in the scenery during some après. Plus, for park rats, there’s the world renowned DC Park, which was made with one intention in mind: to create a park that everyone from beginners to advanced levels can enjoy. 

*Tip: For some of the best views in the valley, visit the renowned outdoor seating area of Iwatake’s ‘Mountain Harbour/The City’ bakery, which can also be accessed by visitors without skis or snowboards.

Advantages and Limitations of Each Resort

Happo-One
With its central location, Happo-One is an ideal choice for a short stay, providing easy access to convenience stores, restaurants, and bars. Perfect for those wanting to experience the vibrant nightlife and readily available onsens.
Hakuba Goryu
As the closest accommodation option to Hakuba 47, Hakuba Goryu caters to families and adventure seekers alike, offering a captivating destination with upgraded facilities, family-friendly slopes, and ski-in, ski-out accommodations for a seamless experience. Although more limited than both the Happo and Tsugaike regions, visitors will still find most essentials easily thanks to the Escal Plaza.
Iwatake, Cortina, and Norikura
All offer quieter charm, serving as excellent bases for families and groups seeking a more authentic Japanese experience while also having access to premium amenities. With a large selection of ski-in ski-out resorts and local restaurants on offer, visitors will easily find themselves entertained within these regions. However, due to the remote nature of these resorts, additional effort such as arranging a car or utilising shuttles will be necessary for visitors to access grocery shopping and other necessities.
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What to do in hakuba

Outside of its varied terrain and diverse option of ski areas, Hakuba is a mecca for a range of winter and cultural activities, making it a versatile destination for all types of travellers. Here’s our tips on the best activities in Hakuba and surrounds:

Backcountry Adventures

For powder hunters, the backcountry terrain of Hakuba offers an exhilarating experience. With lift access making back-country, side-country and in-resort off-piste all incredibly accessible, Hakuba’s 11 resorts’ are an essential destination for thrill-seekers looking to create their own tracks. We recommend guided tours to safely explore the uncharted territories of the valley’s 10 resorts.

Onsen Experiences

There’s no better way to unwind after a long day on the slopes by relaxing in a traditional Japanese onsen. These hot springs are a quintessential part of the Hakuba experience, offering a serene scape and a peek into Japanese culture.

Tip: While it requires a car or shuttle to get to, the Highland Hotel onsen, situated between Echoland and Happo, offers a stunning open-air onsen with incredible panoramic views of the Valley.

Snow Monkeys

As previously stated, there’s no better way to unwind than a long, relaxing bath in a Japanese hot spring. Which is something even Japan’s monkeys can agree on, with Hakuba’s snow monkeys being the only known monkeys in the world known to bathe in naturally occurring hot springs. The monkeys are located in a beautiful national park roughly 90 minutes away from Hakuba, with tours leaving daily from Happo, Echoland and Wadano at 8am and 9am. An essential experience for first time visitors to Hakuba.

Local Cuisine

The region is also famous for its exquisite cuisine. From traditional hole-in-the-wall eateries serving authentic local dishes to international delicacies and Michelin star dining, you’ll have the time of your life exploring Hakuba’s food scene.

Tip: As Nagano is famous for soba noodles, be sure to try Riki for a traditional handmade soba, made from 100 percent buckwheat and cooked in ground powder from Shinsu and underground water from Hakuba. Perfectly paired with local sake.

NIGHTLIFE

Whether you’re staying in Happo, Wadano or Echoland, you’ll have a variety of different nightlife options. From afternoon aprés on the Happo and Tsugaike slopes, to clubbing in Wadano, to small bars and nightlife spots in Echoland, there’s a wealth to choose from– making bar-hops across the different regions an incredibly fun way to spend the evenings.

Tip: For a unique nightlife experience be sure to check out Holy Smokes. Hidden behind a vending machine, you’d be forgiven if you walked right past it.

Festivals

The Nagano prefecture, where Hakuba is located, is revered for hosting a variety of traditional Japanese festivals throughout the year–including the Happo Fire Festival. For the upcoming winter season, the Happo-One Fire Festival will be held on the 17th of February and features traditional Japanese practices such as woodcarving, traditional Japanese drums and fire dances. Located on the Nakiyama Slope, the Happo-One Fire Festival is a unique experience for those coming over towards the end of winter.

The Best Time To Visit Hakuba

Timing your visit to Hakuba is key to experiencing the best of what the Valley has to offer. Hakuba’s ski season normally runs from mid December until early April, with the peak powder conditions occurring between January and February.

  • Peak Season: Late December to early February, when the snow is plentiful and the slopes are in prime condition. The most popular time to visit with peak visitation occuring during the Christmas/New Years period and Chinese New Year.
  • Off-Peak Visits: If prime powder snow isn’t your main priority then a visit outside of Hakuba’s peak period is an excellent choice. With less of a tourism crowd around you’ll find the runs quieter, lift lines shorter and dining options readily available. 
    Please note: Around the last week of February Hakuba hosts the Snow Machine festival, so while Hakuba’s runs would have reduced in crowd size by this stage, it will be very busy around the villages over this period.


Essential gear for your trip to hakuba

You don’t want to end up in Hakuba and realise that you forgot your ski-jacket. Trust us, it won’t be a fun time without one. To ensure you stay warm and dry and enjoy your time on and off the mountain to the fullest, here’s a quick guide of what to bring:

Read more about the latest gear recommendations from our local team here

Leave those oversized bags at home and enjoy travelling light. Rhythm Japan’s Hakuba stores offer a comprehensive range or rental options for ski gear. Additionally, our store provides all the necessary winter wear, including jackets, après boots, beanies, and more, ensuring you’re well-equipped for the slopes without the hassle of packing everything. Plus, it saves you a lot of money normally spent on exorbitant airline baggage fees.

HOW TO GET TO hakuba

The most common route to Hakuba involves flying into Tokyo and then transferring to Hakuba. From the airport, you have several options.

Airport Shuttle Buses

There are two airport shuttle providers– Nagano Snow Shuttle and Alpico Bus Lines. Both offer direct shuttles from Tokyo Narita Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport to Hakuba.

Bullet Train from Tokyo

As opposed to the five hour journey of the Airport Transfer shuttles, the Bullet Train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo is one of the quickest ways to get to Hakuba. As there is no direct line to Hakuba, the best route to catch is the Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Nagano and then a highway bus from Nanago to Hakuba.

Highway Bus

Highway buses are a great way to get from central Tokyo to Hakuba. The Shinjuku Expressway bus terminal has a variety of bus companies that provide services to Hakuba throughout the day. Depending on traffic, the trip can take up to 5 hours.

Local Train

For the more frugal traveller, there is the option of local trains. The Azusa Limited Express is the only direct train to Hakuba and departs from Shinjuku station.

TRANSPORT OPTIONS IN hakuba

Navigating Hakuba’s diverse offerings is made easy with a network of convenient shuttle bus services. Accessible for all visitors, the shuttle service ensures seamless travel between resorts, offering flexibility for exploration throughout the winter months.

 

Accommodation Shuttle Buses
As well as the Village shuttle bus, many accommodations around the Hakuba region also offer their own shuttle service, making it easy for visitors to get around the villages and local ski resorts.

Rental Cars

If you’re staying for an extended period or simply prefer the freedom of driving, car rental services are available within Hakuba. A great option for those looking to explore all that the Valley has to offer, in particular those looking for easy access to onsens.

Taxis

Most taxi services should be booked in advance, especially during peak season. Most local taxi companies speak Japanese so you may need to ask your accommodation provider to organise your taxi. 

Rhythm Japan Customers

Rhythm Japan rental customers can enjoy free pick-up and drop off-services between Rhythm stores and their accommodation, or from Rhythm stores to selected ski areas. Our Hakuba area includes Happo, Wadano, Echoland, Goryu and Tsugaike. 

Hakuba RESORT ACCOMMODATION

Choose from a variety of accommodations to suit your style and budget. Whether you’re looking for luxury penthouses or cozy lodges, Hakuba has it all. Here are the top things to look out for when choosing accommodation:

  • Proximity to Ski Lifts: Look for accommodations close to ski lifts for convenient access to the slopes.
  • On-Site Amenities: Consider facilities like onsens, restaurants, and ski storage. Larger hotels have many on-site facilities for people who prefer not to venture too far from the comfort of their lodging.
  • Transportation Access: Check for shuttle services or proximity to public transportation.
  • Room Configuration: Ensure the accommodation suits your group size and needs. Larger groups may benefit from renting a chalet.
  • Budget Considerations: Balance cost with desired amenities and location. Note that your money will go further during shoulder seasons.
  • Cultural Experience: Many central Happo and Wadano accommodations are modern and westernised, however you can still get a feeling for “old Hakuba” by staying in a locally owned, and often family run, Ryokan or lodge. 

Tip: Most of the traditional styled Ryokan’s in Hakuba also feature their own on-site onsens.

If you’re looking for accommodation in Hakuba, please visit our partners page to explore the best options around the region.

HAKUBA RESORT TIPS FOR FIRST TIME VISITORS

Tip

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Choose the Right Time To Visit

Aim for December to February for the best snow conditions. Early December and late March are less crowded, with the busiest period being from the Christmas Period to early February.

Book Accommodation Early

Hakuba is popular, in particular the Happo region, so secure your accommodation well in advance, especially if your visit is during peak season.

Dress Appropriately

Bring or rent high-quality gear. Layering is key to staying warm and comfortable in Hakuba’s cold climate.

Take Ski or Snowboard Lessons

If you’re a beginner, consider booking lessons. It’s better to learn the correct way to do things, than to pick up bad habits early on in your skiing/snowboarding career.

Explore Different Areas

With 11 different resorts, all with something unique to offer, it’s well worth your time to try and explore as much of what Hakuba has to offer as possible.

Enjoy Local Cuisine

Don’t miss out on local delicacies like soba, oden, ramen, sushi, and, for the adventurous eaters out there–bashashi.

Visit the Onsens

You shouldn’t need to be convinced about this one, visiting a traditional Japanese onsen is a must. The perfect way to unwind after a day on the slopes

Be Aware of Backcountry Risks

If you venture off-piste, be aware of the risks. Consider guided tours for a safe backcountry experience.

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