Hiking in Japan

Hakuba

Spectacular views at Happo Ike

Hakuba’s main attraction during the warmer months is the hiking and the most popular day hike would be Happo Ike ( Happo Pond). Each day hundreds of people of all ages ascend up into the mountains to this spectacular viewing platform. I would rate it on a world scale at “as good as it gets”.  The journey starts with a Gondola ride and then 2 chairlifts that are lowered after the winter which brings you closer to the natural foliage. The top of the resort by itself has some amazing views for those not up to the hiking and is certainly worth the trip. For the more adventurous the 45 minute hike along some rocky pathways and boardwalk steps will offer up some breathtaking vistas along the way. The route follows the ridgeline so there are many vantage spots for photos and even the most novice of photographers will be taking professional shots here. The rocky step sections along the way can be a little difficult to manoeuvre so take your time on the hike and absorb the environment. Once you reach the pond the views will amaze you with the stunning back drop of 3000 meter peaks. This is truly a special place.

Hakuba

View from the top of the lifts

Hakuba Japan

The steps make it quite easy but there is some stone trails too

Japan hiking

The trails are well marked

Happo Pond

Beautiful first view of the pond

 

Hakuba snow peaks

Amazing peaks in the background

Hiking in Japan

My favourite place

Snow in Hakuba

There can be fresh snow in spring and autumn

Myoko mountain range

The views to the east

Paragliding in Japan

Tandem paragliding can be booked for a birdseye view

Autumn in Japan

The views on the way down are just as stunning

Hakuba autumn

Autumn leaves and fresh snow on the peaks

Tips. Take warm clothing with you. Conditions can change in an instant. Take some food and a drink and enjoy a picnic lunch next to the pond. Even a bottle of wine or champagne has been known to be popped up there. Take your camera, sunglasses and sunscreen.  There is a toilet at the top of the lifts and also 30 minutes into the hike. Kids as young as 4 should be able to complete the hike up and down. There are always many elderly hikers in their eighties so as long as you are sure footed you should be able to get up and back. Take all your rubbish home.

 

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Wine in Hakuba

wine bars in Hakuba

Lots of good wines in Hakuba

Over the years there has been a big transition with wines in Hakuba. When I first came here there was a limited supply of good wines at good prices. I made it one of my goals to change that and we have certainly come a long way. You still may find a red served from the fridge or a dubious cheap french bottle at the supermarket but at least now there are quite a few really good options about. Even the convenience stores have a few cheaper ones to choose from. I have always encouraged the restaurant, bar and hotel owners to learn a little about wines and this year once again I will be holding a tasting before the season on Friday November 21st. This event has always been a popular get together before business gets too busy for the winter.  There are also a few more wine distributors coming to Hakuba this year to introduce themselves and I see that as a great thing. The dining here is exceptional so having the wines to compliment just makes the experience even better.

Azuma Wines will be having a tasting at the Mominoki Hotel on Wednesday the 8th of October, 1-4pm

AWines will be holding their tasting at the Cherry Pub on Wednesday 5th November 12 – 5 pm

Village Cellars will be holding their 9th Hakuba annual wine tasting at the White Horse Hotel on the 28th November 1:00 – 4:30 pm

Drink driving is dangerous and also illegal in Japan and we would like everybody to stay safe so  please spit your wines, catch a taxi,  have a designated driver or take a pleasant stroll home.

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Eating out in Hakuba

 

Food in Hakuba

Bibimbap.The bowl is scorching hot so mix it up and press it to the sides for 5 minutes for it all to ccok up

Echoland is the main restaurant and bar district in Hakuba and offers a great range of dining experiences. If you are looking at fine dining then I would rate Traumerei as one of the best in Hakuba.  As for izakaya’s I find it difficult to go past Hie and if I do I stroll 100 meters to Sarugaku Shinshu Dining. Either will delight. Marukame is a yakiniku restaurant that offers up some delicious cuts of meats to cook up on your own table top bbq. I can also recommend the bibimbap there (photo above).  Sumotei dish up a magnificent traditional sumo hotpot by a sumo wrestler. Tomatito has some amazing dishes with an Italian style. Taco Taco offers fresh mexican food. Zen is a soba restaurant and offers an izakaya menu also in very traditional decor. Hindi Momo is very tasty Indian food. The Cherry Pub offers some great western style foods with probably the best ribs in town. Syo is Italian and the pastas are brilliant. Enchante is fine dining again and great value for money. White Horse will have an international menu with something for everyone. Alpine Grill have the best Wagyu steaks in town. Non Jaes is a huge izakaya and great for big groups. New this year will be a Gyoza Restaurant and a Teppenyaki Grill. Daytime there is the very popular Sounds Like Cafe and the New Sanno Bakery will be open shortly in a new building on 4th street. That will pretty much cover you for a 2 week stay in Hakuba. Eating out here is one of the best gourmet experiences you will have. Make sure you get out there and try anything that is going. You will be amazed at what is available.

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Nature abounds in Hakuba

Hakuba Now

Truly spectacular Scenery

The Hakuba Valley is a spectacular mountain region located just 1 hour from Nagano City. Famous throughout Japan for the number one ski resort of Happo One which was the showpiece for the 98 Winter Olympics, Hakuba also shines during the warmer months with an abundance of natural beauty. Sitting at 700 meters above sea level the mountain range towers the village at 3000 meters. There are spectacular views from many vantage points throughout the valley. Pure mountain air, fresh water from our rivers, food from our farms and a huge range of activities await those who want to get away from the summer heat of the big cities. The hiking is world class with absolutely stunning scenery. Other activities include paragliding, mountain biking, fishing for Shinshu Salmon, canoeing, and canyoning. Nature gives us a wild flower extravaganza that combines with a vast array of animal, bird and insect life. Kamoshika is common to see as are kiji pheasant. An early evening firefly canoe trip on Aokiko will certainly surprise your nocturnal senses.
Eating out in Hakuba at anytime of the year is a gourmets delight with so many outstanding restaurants and something for everyone’s taste.
Come and enjoy Hakuba and everything it offers.

 

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The cost of skiing in Hakuba

Hakuba : Hakuba Guide

Priceless

How much does it cost to ski in Japan? Well obviously you can go as high as you like but I will give you a run down on some prices so you can set a budget for your trip. It can be really cheap to ski here in Hakuba and with the infrastructure and our  mountain terrain, combined with the quality and quantity of snow we receive each winter, it is probably the best value in the world.

Transfers

Bus from Shinjuku  4850 ¥                                                                                                             Bus from Narita – 8500 ¥                                                                                                               Bullet train to Nagano  – 7680 ¥  and bus to Hakuba 1500 ¥

Lift tickets

Range from 3800 – 4800 ¥ per day. Often there are deals with the resorts that offer lunch. Don’t bother with the prepaid all mountain ticket (more info here) as the voucher deals give you much better value.  On the mountain you can eat well for under 1000 ¥. A can of coke will cost you 150 ¥. A beer for 400 ¥.

Season Lift Pass

Hakuba 47 offer an early bird season pass for 48000 yen

Ski Hire

4500 ¥ per day or 22100 ¥ for 6 days hire, Ski wear 3000 ¥ per day or 14700 ¥ for 6 days

Ski & snowboard lesson

2 hour group lesson 6000 ¥                                                                                                               1 Hour private lesson 9000 ¥

Dinner time

One of the great things about Hakuba is the eating out. You can get a very good feed for 1000 yen but I recommend to give yourself a couple of bigger nights out to really enjoy some magnificent dining experiences. A night out at an Izakaya with a few drinks might set you back about 4000 yen per person.

Nightlife 

drinks are usually between 500 to 600 yen for beers and spirits as a general guide.

Accommodation

Budget – 4400 Yen per night for a dorm bed. 13600 yen for a twin room room at the Monkey Rider Lodge

Medium – 14400 yen for a twin room at Mon Coeur Yamato

Splurge – 31000 yen for a dbl/twin room at the White Horse Hotel

Double splurge and buy a house – 8,000,000 ¥

Miscellaneous

Taxi – Hakuba Station to Happo Gondola 1500 ¥                                                                           Fried Chicken from the convenience store 150 ¥                                                                           Walking boots 2000 ¥                                                                                                                         Coffee at Lawsons 220 ¥                                                                                                                     Loaf of bread 140 ¥                                                                                                                             Litre of milk 160 ¥                                                                                                                               Onsen 600 ¥

If you want some other prices then leave a comment below and I will find out for you. Happy Planning

Current Exchange Rates

 

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Family holidays in Japan

snowmobiling in Hakuba

Who’s having more fun?

What are your memories as a child? For me I can remember every family holiday from the age of 4.
It’s a busy world out there now and information technology has intertwined the boundaries of work and leisure. That’s ok but don’t forget to take some real time off with the family. Anyone with kids will tell you, “they grow so fast”, and before you know it they will be off doing their own thing. One of the benefits of skiing is the bond it creates within a family. If mum and dad are going to pay for the kids to go skiing they will come along for as long as you want them to, even well into their 20s. I remember this one family we had stay with us this past season. Expats living in Hong Kong – apartment living with ipads as their best friends. The joy I saw as the kids threw their first snowball at their father  was what gives me job satisfaction, “Smiling Faces”, is my mission statement. Dad decides to take revenge and then mum joins in too and this was even before they stept foot into the hotel. The next few days of skiing, building snowmen and igloos, snowball fights full of laughter, tobogganing and snowmobiling was just great to see. The family reconnected and I am positive we will see them all again in the not too distant future.

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AirAsia flights to Japan

 

getting to Hakuba

Modern airport facilities makes travelling a breeze

Air Asia are continually offering more options on getting to Japan on a budget and they have just recently opened the KLIA2 airport which makes the stopover a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience. The previous low cost carrier terminal was a tough transit and was not able to cope very well with the number of travelers. The new KLIA2 facilities are fantastic and even better than a lot of major airports I have passed through. It is quite large and depending on which gate you disembark from it can be a bit of a hike to the arrivals area. If your next flight is under 3 hours away then there is plenty of space to find a comfortable lounge area and relax with a coffee and a bite to eat whilst in transit. There is free wifi throughout the airport. If you do have a longer stopover then I would suggest venturing out into the main terminal building and trying out one or even 2 of the great restaurant options. There are plenty of shops to browse and even a couple of supermarkets that have everything you would want. I was quite surprised that the prices were not inflated like they would be at many other airports. I had a great feed at Chef Chows for about $6 and purchased items from the pharmacy at cheap prices. If it is an overnight stopover then the Tune Hotel is nice enough to get a decent sleep and is very cheap. There is a covered walkway to the hotel and it only takes a few minutes from the airport shopping area.

There are 3 options coming into Japan with AirAsia – Haneda (HND) in Tokyo, Kansai (KIX) in Osaka and Chubu (NGO) in Nagoya. All are modern and well appointed airports and I find that they move people through quite efficiently at both departure and arrivals.  The restaurant choices at all of them are very good.  I always have an exit ramen when I am leaving Japan and have never been disappointed with what’s served up. The most difficult decision is how many pre flight meals should you have?

Tokyo and Nagoya are both serviced by the Chuo Taxi  and there are a number of rail options for Osaka for an easy transfer to and from Hakuba.

With the airports getting bigger and the information updated regularly I can recommend doing a bit of research on each leg of your trip before you travel so you can take advantage of the facilities available and make your transit stops a much more pleasant part of the adventure. Happy traveling.

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Hakuba Skate Park

True Players – Indoor Skatepark Hakuba

Hakuba skate park

Indoor Skate Park in Hakuba

True Players opened in 2012 and has been a great addition to Hakuba, offering another alternative to the many ski slopes on offer and is also open all year round.  The park is learner friendly and is open daily from 9am – 11pm.  Each session will cost just Y500 (please note there aren’t any boards for rent so bring your own).  The park consists of a 12ft vert ramp, 3 mini ramps (7ft, 4ft, 1ft) with a spine transfer in-between, street style banks, ledges and rails.  Another cool feature on the small mini ramp is a rope attached to the roof for skaters to hold while learning new tricks.

Hakuba skate

Ramp it up

True Players is located in the Happo area, just off the Olympic road near the Mimizuku Onsen (ask any local and they should be able to direct you).

 

Check them out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trueplayers898

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What are conditions like in Hakuba this season?

Hakuba snow

panorama shot of Hakuba on a perfect bluebird powder say

It has been a fantastic season so far and there are plenty more days to go. The starting date this year was the 22nd of November and we have had constant top ups ever since with some perfect bluebird days in between. On some occasions I have heard people say , “too much snow”, which can be all too true for those who do not have much experience with powder skiing and riding. The locals are happy with the season also as the majority of the snow is up on the resorts and not down in the valley where it has to be shoveled, bulldozed or blown from every road, path and doorway.  The season will run until the 6th of May so we are not even half way through and I seem to have had my fare share of epic powder days already. Still, I cannot wait for my next big powder turn tomorrow.  Come and experience our epic Hakuba snow season and hit me up for a good deal on accommodation.

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The Hakuba to Nagano bus

Hakuba bus

Bussing it to Hakuba

There is a new bus time for those wanting to get out to Hakuba later in the evenings. This is great for those living in Tokyo. It means they can check conditions in the afternoon and make the decision on a whim to catch the bullet train and bus with the total travel time under 3 hours. Take a bento box and a bottle of wine for the train ride and that makes for a 1st class way to travel.

Timetable is HERE

 

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