My first experience seeing snow – Hakuba, Nagano!
Seeing snow has been on my Bucket List for as long as I can remember. Living in Australia sort of limits our options in regards to being able to experience snow. This is because it generally only falls in certain areas on the East Coast. So when Russell and I were planning our trip to Japan this past March, we decided we would definitely include a town with snowfall on our itinerary.
Searching for a town that was easily accessible from main cities, wasn’t easy. It looked pretty difficult finding public transport to and from any of the snow towns close by. But eventually, after a lot of research, we settled on staying in the city of Nagano for 3 nights. This would give us the chance to catch a bus up to the ski resort of Hakuba for a full day of snow fun!
Hakuba is located in the Northern Japan Alps. The town was host of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics – how cool is that! Hakuba is a highly sought after area during snow season, as it holds 9 ski resorts and has more advanced ski and snowboard slopes than anywhere else in Japan.
We decided to check out the ski resort Happo One. This is where the fun really started! So I’ve come up with a few tips to help you plan a perfect Winter adventure in Hakuba, Nagano.
How to get to Hakuba
If you are staying in Nagano (this is the perfect home base if you’re planning to head up to Hakuba!), you’ll need to start your journey at the Nagano Train Station. Google Maps will help you to get there from your hotel.
Head up the escalator to the right of Starbucks, and then find your way to the east end of the station. There’s another set of escalators heading downstairs and back outside again. Once you’re out of the station, turn to your left and you’ll see a long line of bus stops. You’ll wanna head to bus stop #26, where the Alpico express bus to Hakuba departs from!
Cost: 1,800 yen each way (AUD $21, USD $16, £12)
Duration: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Departure Times: roughly every hour from 8:30am – 8:30pm
The bus will take you all the way to Hakuba Station.
If instead, you want to head to Happo One Ski Resort, stay on the bus for another few stops and get off at the Happo Bus Terminal!
So, you’re now in Hakuba. What next?
Russell and I didn’t ski or snowboard during our time in Hakuba for a few reasons. It’s fairly expensive if you’re on a budget. It costs around $50 for a full day ski or snowboard package. You do get ski lift access, ski boots and equipment and access to the slopes for a whole day, but we didn’t want to spend that amount of money.
Instead, we found something even cooler.
The Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium
We stumbled upon this gem somewhat randomly. When we arrived at the Happo One Bus Terminal, we were a bit confused as to what we could do in the area, since we wouldn’t be skiing or snowboarding. After some Google searching and map reading, we learned that the Ski Jumping Stadium used in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics was a short distance walk away.
Russell and I headed up the hill, taking in all of the beautiful snowy scenery in front of us. Once we made it to the Ski Jumping Stadium, we soon realised we were the only people there. It costs a measly 460 yen for adults, and 280 yen for children, to be taken in a ski lift up to the top of the Stadium.
You can view the entire town from 3 different floors, plus there are also two outdoor viewing platforms. We climbed the stairs up to the very top platform. Although it was easily the most terrifying experience of my life, it was also something I’ll never forget, because the views were absolutely incredible!
There is also a small museum on all three floors. There isn’t too much on display, but you’ll see some cool ski wear and equipment used by athletes during the Olympics.
Cost: 460 yen for adults (AUD $5, USD $4, £3), 280 yen for children
Duration: As long as you like! There’s no time limit once you’ve paid for your ticket
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 4:30pm (April 12 – November 30), 9am – 3:30pm (Early December – March 31)
I highly recommend checking out the Ski Jumping Stadium, especially for those of you who aren’t interested in skiing or snowboarding, and just want to experience the snow. It’s cheap and you can stay up there for as long as you want while enjoying the beautiful views!
But what else is there to do?
If you’re not planning to do any snow activities, there isn’t too much else to do or see in Happo One. There’s a few places to grab some lunch and have a rest, but unless you’re skiing or snowboarding, other activities are limited.
I personally loved walking around the streets, taking photos and enjoying every moment of throwing snow at stuff! I went 25 years of my life wanting to throw snow at something. Finally – mission accomplished!
Russell and I did build a very small snowman before we left though!
The snow season in Hakuba runs from December to April. We visited in the middle of March, and there was still a ton of snow and even some snowfall! There’s quite a few accomodation options within the town of Hakuba and even up on the Happo One Ski Resort, so if you’re wanting to stay right up amongst the action, have a browse through these villas, lodges and apartments!
Here are some other photos from our day exploring Happo One in Hakuba, Nagano!