I have already written about “The easiest way to get to Tokyo from Narita , The Fastest Way to Get to Tokyo from Narita and The Cheapest Way to get to Narita but with increased tourism, services continue to improve and with the added demand many things are getting cheaper! Although the trains are pretty cool in Japan, buses are most often the easier way to travel. You always have a seat, there are no stairs to climb, and they have a large luggage space under the bus for your suitcases, board bags, and all your shopping. So now there is a 1000 yen bus service to Tokyo from Narita Aiport. The Access Narita bus has regular service (about every 15 minutes), they accept cash on the bus so there is no need line up to buy a ticket, and have 3 pick-up/drop off points. If you are coming to Hakuba by Keio Higway Bus from Shinjuku you will need to take a train or subway from Tokyo Station or Ginza but takes no longer than 20 minutes and cost no more than 200 yen.
Update: From January 6th to March 4th, 2017 Alpico will offer 1 overnight bus from Tokyo Station to Hakuba. You can find the schedule here. I don’t really recommend overnight buses but if you do decide to take it, I recommend getting off at Escal Plaza, the main entrance to Goryu. They have chill out rooms, huge lockers, rental gear and more and you can get an early start and be first on the lift in the morning!
You can use Hyperdia to check for trains, schedules and fees.
If your flight time matches up with Aplico’s once a day direct bus, this is possibly the best way to get to Hakuba from Narita airport and back. Extra roomy seats with, not only plenty of leg room, but also a leg rest so you can snooze for the entire 6 hour journey. If you will be joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi be sure to get off at Hakuba Goryu bus stop, we are a 10 minute walk from there. Check our access page for a map of the area. We can be a little tricky to find because we tucked away at the end of a road but keep your head up and eyes open for signs along the way.
Please check the Alpico website for timetables and fares. You can book online at Japan Bus Online or Japanican. I have no idea why they don’t have a direct booking option. It’s always best to book direct! Of course, we recommend booking your accommodation direct too! For other travel options check out our transportation pages on our blog and read the rest of my articles for all kinds of other useful information and local insights.
The Nagano Snow Shuttle now has 4 departures daily from Narita airport to Hakuba. If you will be joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi, please get off at Kamishiro Station, we are a 10 minute walk from there. The late night departure arrives after midnight, but will you off at your accommodation.
The easiest way to get to Hakuba from Narita airport is to take the shared Chuo taxi. The 15,900 yen per person service will take you door to door from Narita or Haneda airport to you accommodation in Hakuba. No transfers, and no bags to lug around up and down the train station stairs. To make a reservation you will need to fill in a form at least 48 hours ahead of time. You can find the form, and more details here.
The easiest way to get from Narita Airport to central Tokyo is by the Friendly Airport Limousine Bus. Most of you are probably wanting to take it to Shinjuku Station’s west exit but there are endless destination points to choose from including major Tokyo Hotels.
Terminal 1 has five tickets counters, while Terminal 2 has two tickets counters, all with helpful English speaking staff. Buses depart right outside of Narita aiport’s central exit every 20 minutes. The bus stop is on the ground level so no bags to haul up stairs or maneuver through escalators. You can roll your airport luggage cart through customs and right up to the bus luggage compartment. There are even some friendly staff attending to passengers, checking tickets, and making sure your gear is safely stored in the baggage compartment under the bus.
Ask for a window seat to get some great views of Tokyo bay and the urban sprawl of one of the most densely packed cities in the world.
A bus to Shinjuku will cost you about 3000 yen one way and take between 85 to 115 minutes depending on traffic. For current travel times, fares, departure and arrival options, check out their English site here
The fastest way to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport is to take the N’EX (Narita Express) train. You can depart from either terminal and choose from a number of arrival stations including Shinjuku, Tokyo, and Shinagawa.
If you are transferring to the Keio Highway bus bound for Hakuba you will want to get off at Shinjuku Station. If you plan to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Nagano, you should get off at Tokyo station.
The journey will take from 65 – 105 minutes depending on your departure time and destination. The one-way fare to Tokyo station is 2940 yen. If you wish to get off at Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa, or Ikebukuro the fare will be 3110 yen.
UPDATE: JR is now offering discounted return tickets on the N’ex to foreign passport holders. More here.
For more details on fares, departure times, combination tickets, and online reservations click here.
Keep in mind, trains station are often underground and require maneuvering up and down stairs and escalators, or elevators if you are lucky. If you have more bags than you have the strength to carry, I highly recommend taking the bus to Tokyo instead. You can read about the Narita Aiport Limousine bus here.
If you would rather not stop in Tokyo at all, and come directly to Hakuba from Narita Airport, you can take the shared Chuo Taxi. To find out more and to make your (required!) reservation, click here.
If you have a bit of extra time to spare and you’re not lugging a board bag or skis around, then you might as well take the Keisei line from Narita to Nippori. The Keisei Main Line Limited Express (the red line) takes 76 minutes and costs only 1000 yen. At Nippori Station you can transfer to the Yamanote line for the 21 minute, 190yen ride to Shinjuku, or the 11 minute, 150 yen ride to Tokyo. From Shinjuku you can catch the Keio Highway bus to Hakuba while Tokyo is the main transfer hub for the Nagano Shinkansen.
For any and all transportation questions, you can also call the super friendly folks at the JR English Info Line at: 050-2016-1603 . Drop the first zero if you are calling from overseas and don’t forget to add Japan’s country code, 81.
Tokyo has the easiest and most direct access to Hakuba so if you are trying to choose an airport to fly into, pick Narita or Haneda. For travel options from the Tokyo area, please check out our transportation entrieshere. If you have been exploring the country, hanging with the geisha in Kyoto, or got a good deal on a flight to Osaka, then you will have fewer transportation options when making your way to Hakuba.
If you are travelling on a JR rail pass then best stick to JR trains. From Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, and Kyoto, you can catch the Takaido Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya and then change to the Shinano line bound for Matsumoto. In Matsumoto you will need to change to the Oito Line, where there are a few direct trains to Kamishiro/Hakuba but others will stop in Shinano-Oomachi where you will have to board a connecting train bound for Hakuba. If you will be joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi, be sure to get off at Kamishiro (NOT Minami-Kamishiro) station. From there we are a 10 minute walk or a 1000 yen taxi ride.
UPDATE: Until this year it was not possible to buy JR Rail passes in Japan so if you forgot to buy your pass and didn’t know about these passes you were out of luck. But now, JR is offering more flexibility and a greater variety of passes for foreign tourist in Japan. See for yourself if one of these passes would suit your travel itinerary. More here.
Alternatively take the Thunderbird to Kanazawa and then change to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano. You can get off at Itoigawa and take the Oito Line to Hakuba. If you will be joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi, stay on the train for 2 more stops and get off at Kamishiro Station. We are a 10 minute walk from there.
If you are like me, and don’t mind a little extra travel time if it means less transfers and less hassles, then I suggest taking the
Shinano Limited Express from Osaka at 8:58 am. This train will arrive at Matsumoto station at 13:03 where you can change to the Oito line bound for Hakuba. Although a little more out of the way, you can get off 50 minutes later at Nagano station and then take the Alpico Bus bound for Hakuba. Please note, the ¥1500 yen bus fare will not be covered by a JR Rail pass but all Oito Line trains from Matumoto are.
UPDATE: The Shinano Limited Express stopped running in March 2016.
If you are looking for the cheapest way to get to Hakuba, and don’t have a JR Rail pass, then I suggest taking the Hankyu Bus from Osaka or Kyoto to Matsumoto and the train from there. The 5 1/2 hour journey from Umeda costs 5,700 one way and 10,000 yen return. For a link to the Hankyu Bus schedule and fares, click here. The train from Matsumoto to Hakuba is another ¥1200 and you may need to transfer in Shinano Oomachi station.
UPDATE: From December 16, 2016 to March 25th 2017, Alpico Group will be offer overnight buses from Osaka and Kyoto to Hakuba. Although I don’t recommend overnight buses at all, of you do decide to take this bus I recommend getting of at Escal Plaza, the main entrance to Goryu Ski Resort. They have lockers, a coat check for oversized bags, chill-out rooms, a hotspring bath and shower, and rental shops so you can get sorted and be the first on the lift that morning!
If you are callin from overseas, drop the first zero and add the country code, “81”.
If you are starting out your snow holiday in Niseko or anywhere else on Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, and will then be joining us in the Hakuba Valley, you should be prepared for at least one day of traveling. I have been asked many times ” What’s the best way to get to Hakuba from Niseko “, and although I have done the journey several times I have never taken the easiest or the fastest route because for me, the best way to travel is the most adventurous way. I have once taken an overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Sapporo and and I have now taken quite a few overnight ferries between Hokkaido and the main island, Honshu. I will try to provide as much information on as many possible routes as I can, and leave you to decide what is the best way.
The Most Direct Route
BUS: Hirafu Welcome Center – New Chitose airport (2-3 hours ¥2300)
FUJI DREAMS FLIGHT: New Chitose Airport – Matsumoto Airport (1hr 45 min ¥26,800)
ALPICO BUS: Matsumoto Airport – Matsumoto Station (25 minutes ¥540)
JR OITO LINE TRAIN: Matsumoto Station – Kamishiro Station* (96 minutes ¥1110 )
*You may need to transfer once in Shinano Oomachi. This may just be a quick change from one track to the next. Some transfers may only give you 2 minutes to switch trains. *
The easiest way to get to the New Chitose Airport is to take a bus from Hirafu’s Welcome Center. There are several bus companies offering this service. It is possible to buy a return bus ticket (to/from the airport) for about ¥4000, or ¥2300 one way. The one way journey usually takes between 2 to 3 hours but I would give yourself at least an extra hour in case of delays due to road conditions.
Fuji Dream Airlines has a once daily direct flight between the New Chitose Airport in Sapporo and the Matsumoto Airport in Nagano Prefecture departing at 14:15 and arriving at 16:00. If you book more than 1 month in advance the adult fare is ¥26,800 one way, while the regular rate is ¥35,600. It is possible to book this flight through JAL’s English website.
Plan ahead and you may be able to get some major discounts. Foreign tourists can get domestic flights for around 10,000 yen if you purchase the tickets before leaving your country. So plan ahead and save. More about special flight deals for foreign visitors here:
The Alpico Bus Company provides buses from Matsumoto’s Airport to the train station. Bus departure times are scheduled according the flight arrivals. The journey takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥540.
There is a 16:47 train bound for Hakuba (with a quick change in Shinano Oomachi) that arrives at Kamishiro (the closest station to Lodge tabi-tabi), and at 18:15 and Hakuba’s main station at 18:22. If you miss that one the next departure is about an hour later at 17:59, arriving at Kamishiro station at 19:28.
NOTE: If you are joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi please get off at Kamishiro Station NOT Minami Kamishiro Station which is one station prior. From Kamishiro Station you can walk Lodge tabi-tabi in about 10 minutes, here is a map. Or order a taxi by calling: 0261-72-2221
The Most Adventurous Way
So I was going to write here about taking the slow boat from Otaru, Hokkaido to Niigata and taking the train from there onward to Hakuba. However, it seems the ferry service will be stopped (hopefully temporarily) on January 6, 2014. If you are travelling before this time, you should know ferries depart at 10:30 a.m. from Otaru and arrive 18 hours later in Niigata. For trains schedule to/from the Otaru and Niigata, please check hyperdia. UPDATE: It seems every year the ferries between Otaru and Niigata stop sailing the first week of January. This winter, January 4th, 2017 will be the last ferry on this route until spring. However, you can still catch a ferry between Tomakomai in the south of Hokkaido and Niigata for the rest of the winter. More about ferry services in Japan, here.
And the overnight train I mentioned? Well unfortunately, it stopped running in March 2016 but they are now working on a shinkansen line connecting Hokkaido to Honshu. Kutchan is expected to be connected in 20123!
The Most Common Way
Most people catch a flight from Chitose, Hokkaido to Tokyo. Try Jetstar, Vanilla and Peach airlines for some of the best deals. Or book your domestic ANA or JAL flight before you leave home and you may get similar rates. Check the transportation section of this blog for information on how to get to Hakuba from Tokyo.
The best way to explore Japan’s country-side is with your own set of wheels. We suggest you check out ToCoo! rent-a-car. They have over 800 outlets, offer services from 12 different car rental companies, have a huge choice of vehicles, and an easy-to-use English website where you can check prices and reserve your vehicle. Although you can pick up your car at the airport when you arrive, most people prefer to make their way to Nagano by bus or train, and pick up their car in Nagano City instead. If you pick up your vehicle in Nagano or Matsumoto there is no extra fee for snow tyres, you can also request ski/snowboard racks, child seats, and all cars come with GPS. There is no extra fee for dropping off your vehicle at a different location as long as it is in the same prefecture. Smaller vehicles go for 4200 yen a day and they also offer long-term discounts. Driving in Japan is remarkably easy, other drivers are courteous, just remember to leave a little extra space between you and the car ahead when you are driving on snowy/icy roads. To rent a car in Japan you will need a credit card, a valid driver’s license, plus an international driver’s license which you have to get in your home country. Click on the pic for more details.
If you would prefer picking up your car in Hakuba, I suggest you book early! Here are some rental car companies with English services and pick ups in the Hakuba Valley:
Driving in Japan doesn’t have to be daunting. Nexco Highways Japan has an excellent site for people who want to be in the driver’s seat. With information on tolls, rest-stop details, recommended tourist attractions, restaurants, and shopping along the way, it’s a great way to plan your travels, and keep you from getting lost. Check it out here:
道 (Michi) means road, の (no) is a possessive like our ‘s, and 駅 (eki) means station. Together you have “Road Station“, which have all of the conveniences of train stations but is made for drivers and their cars. All michi-no-eki are organized by the government, and provide basic travel needs like free parking, 24 hour restrooms, and tourist information. Michi-no-eki is also the hub of many small towns providing them a place to promote tourism and trade. You can often find locally grown veggies, food stalls and restaurants with local specialties, souvenirs, hand-made goods, and sometimes even onsens! Michi-no-eki‘s merchants are carefully selected to represent the town so you can be sure to find the best food and the most welcoming folks at the road-side michi-no-eki.
Hakuba’s michi-no-eki is an easy walk from Lodge tabi-tabi, check it out on our walking map here. They have a soba shop, oyaki shop, and in the summer, a gelato stand. They sell local veggies and souvenirs, and provide free parking and restrooms. If you have a car, I highly recommend visiting the Otari michi-no-eki. Otari is the next town if you are driving towards the coast. If you are driving to Nagano City, you will pass Poka Poka Land, Miasa’s michi-no-eki, which has a spa with powerful jet-baths, sell cheap local vegetables, and has a great restaurant next door called Miasa Shokudo. Japan has close to 1000 michi-no-eki scattered throughout rural Japan so take note of the michi-no-eki symbol below and you’ll know where to take a break the next time you are on the road.
The best way to explore Japan’s country-side is with your own set of wheels. We suggest you check out ToCoo! rent-a-car. They have over 800 outlets, offer services from 12 different car rental companies, have a huge choice of vehicles, and an easy-to-use English website where you can check prices and reserve your vehicle. Although you can pick up your car at the airport when you arrive, most people prefer to make their way to Nagano by bus or train, and pick up their car in Nagano City instead. If you pick up your vehicle in Nagano or Matsumoto there is no extra fee for snow tyres, you can also request ski/snowboard racks, child seats, and all cars come with GPS. There is no extra fee for dropping off your vehicle at a different location as long as it is in the same prefecture. Smaller vehicles go for 4200 yen a day and they also offer long-term discounts. Driving in Japan is remarkably easy, other drivers are courteous, just remember to leave a little extra space between you and the car ahead when you are driving on snowy/icy roads.To rent a car in Japan you will need a credit card, a valid driver’s license, plus an international driver’s license which you have to get in your home country. Click on the pic for more details.
Hakuba now has a few car rental services available but you will pay a little more for the extra convenience:
For long-term, monthly car rentals, and over 2 week car rentals, we recommend Toyota Rent-a-Car.
Toyota Rent-a-Car is great for all kinds of rentals, not just long-term rentals, they have tons of options, great service, and prices, it many be possible to pick up a car at an affiliated shop in Hakuba as well. Please contact them direct for more information.
The cheapest (and easiest!) way to get to Hakuba from Tokyo is to take the Keio Highway bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal. The journey takes 4 hours and 20 minutes, and costs 4850 one way). If you are coming to stay with us at Lodge tabi-tabi, please get off at the Hakuba Goryu bus stop. It is the first stop in Hakuba Valley. You will need to push the button (above your head) when the driver makes the announcement for “Hakuba Goryu”, or the bus may not stop. You can now make your reservation online in English here. If you have a reservation you should arrive at least 15 minutes before departure to pay for your ticket at the counter marked “Hakuba”. You can use your phone number as your reservation number. This number does not have to be a number in Japan, just a number that you can recall when you go to pick up your ticket.
If you are taking the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, you will have to transfer to the Alpico bus in Nagano city. If you are joining us at Lodge tabi-tabi, please get off at Hakuba Goryu bus stop. You can find the rest of the Alpico Bus schedules here.
While travelling in Japan you might notice that you never see Japanese people carrying suitcases, board bags, trollies, and other over-sized gear around. That’s cause they know better. Japan is the land of convenience and efficiency! You too should take full advantage of this cheap, fast, friendly service. When you arrive at the airport just take your bags to one of the Ta-Q-bin desks like Kuroneko (Black Cat) or other courier companies. Give them an address and they will deliver your goods to your accommodation the next day (if sent before 3 pm), or choose any other day that suits you best. If you are sending your stuff to Lodge tabi-tabi in Hakuba, please ask them to deliver your bags no more than one day before you arrive. We can not store your gear for longer than a day.
They will also pick up your gear at your hotel, or you can take your stuff to any convenience store or post-office. For security reasons, packages sent to the airport will take an extra day.
For those of you sending your gear from the airport, our address is:
Lodge tabi-tabi (your name)
***** be sure to pay when you are sending your luggage if possible, and ask them to deliver your bags no more than one day before your arrival at the accommodation. *****