It has been my dream to go to Japan. As more and more people talked about their travels to this beautiful country, I couldn’t wait to check it out for myself. After 6 months of planning (and saving) it was time to begin our Japanese Holiday, starting in Hakuba!
Located in the Japanese alps, 1 hours drive northwest of Nagano you will find the beautiful village of Hakuba. Hakuba Valley is known to be one of the best winter sports locations with 11 ski resorts offering various terrains from beginner to expert level. Now that I have given you some background let me help you get there.
We (my mum, dad, brother, boyfriend and I) landed in Narita at 7pm after flying for 9 hours just to realise our journey to Hakuba was only beginning! Collecting the baggage was the easy part. The hard part is navigating through the extremely busy train stations.
TIP: have some Japanese Yen on you to purchase tickets at the automatic train ticket machines. The map above the machines will help you find out how much you have to pay. The numbers corresponding to the location is the amount in Yen. Yes, you can convert the machines to English. Insert your money into the machine and select how many tickets you wish to buy (if you have more than 3 people you will have to do it more than once).
Collect your ticket and off you go!
From Narita we caught the Narita Airport Express train to Tokyo (Uneo). When you arrive…be prepared! I have never seen anything like it in my life, Tokyo station was the busiest place I have ever been. After fighting the crowds, going up and down stairs with all our luggage we found the ticket machine and got onto the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Nagano. For the bullet trains you are able to choose a seat, ordinary or green car (first class). They also offer non-reserved seats. You will need to buy another ticket for this train. We picked reserved seats so we could get in the same car on the train.
Train stations in Japan have a public zone and a paid fare zone where only people with a ticket can get through the automatic gates. Insert your ticket into the automatic gates to enter and keep your ticket until you arrive at your destination. When you exit, put your ticket into the gates and it will retain the ticket and let you out. If you have a JR Rail Pass (only for JR trains) you will have a laminated ticket which you will need to show to station staff at manned gates.
TIP: If you did not pay the correct fare and change your destination you can visit the fare adjustment ticket machine to pay the difference.
TIP: If you are arriving on a night time flight into Narita and need to get to Hakuba either stay over the night in Narita or make sure you have alternate transportation from Nagano train station. We soon found this out.
After learning all of this…
We arrived at Nagano around 10:30pm to realise the last bus had already departed to Hakuba (1 hour drive away). We evaluated our options 1. stay in Nagano the night or 2. Take two taxis up to Hakuba Valley….two taxis it was!
TIP: taxi drivers in this part of town do not speak a word of English! If you have the Trip Advisor app you can now convert the location of your hotel to the local language – DO THIS! It really helped.
After 1 hour of driving in the snow and not knowing where we were going and $118 taxi fare later we reached our lodge, Hotel Montblanc.