Hakuba is a village with breathtaking landscapes and mountains. It is the perfect base to snowboard in the region (or at least attempt to if you’re me!). The Shinkansen bullet train is a great option for travel between Hakuba and Tokyo. I caught the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano, and then caught a local bus to Hakuba.
I stayed in Echoland at Shakespeare Hotel and absolutely loved it! It’s modelled like Shakespeare’s House and is very warm and cosy inside. It’s also in a great location, just a minute walk from Echoland Base Camp. This is one of the stops that shuttle buses pick up from to go to the mountains each day.
As a beginner on the slopes, I purchased a 4 day Hakuba Valley Pass. I had been warned about how sore you can end up after a day in the snow. I chose to snowboard and WOW, I did not expect to be that sore after the first day. EVERYTHING hurt!
On the first day, I had a snowboarding lesson with Evergreen Ski School. This really helped me learn the basics of snowboarding. In the days following, I used only the beginner slopes. The beginner slopes I visited were at Happo, Sakka and Tsugaike Kogen. Tsugaike Kogen was my favourite as there were lots of ‘green’ beginner runs. This gave me a variety of slopes to use and made me feel more comfortable as most people there were also beginners.
There was no snowfall on my first few days in Hakuba and I was a little disappointed. After all, I was visiting Japan in winter when snowfall was meant to be at it’s highest. On my 4th night in Hakuba whilst walking home from dinner, it started to snow and it was the best thing ever!
It continued to snow all through the night and the next morning I woke up to a winter wonderland. It was absolutely amazing and so much fun to play in! I feel very grateful to have been able to experience snow whilst many parts of Japan were in the grips of the worst snow season/lowest snowfall for the season on record, including Hakuba. Many locals we spoke to said they could not recall a season that had such little snowfall and they were concerned for the future – yet another sign of our changing climate.
On one of the days when I was too sore to snowboard, I went on a tour to see the snow monkeys in Nagano. The monkeys are wild monkeys who bathe in onsens as a way to socialise and keep warm in the winter. I booked through a tour company however if you have a hire car, you could easily drive out there. The monkeys and the onsen are approximately a 2km walk each way from the parking area and main gate. Note: the path can become very slippery if it has been raining or snowing. Be sure to wear proper footwear. There can be a lot of tourists however it is well worth a visit.