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Hakuba Valley Archives - SkiJapan.com

Hello Hakuba! The Best way to enjoy Hakuba and Japan

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If you’re planning to visit Hakuba, we recommend some research to help you make the most out of your trip. Being in Honshu, and just a few hours away from Tokyo, there’s so much to see and do in and around Hakuba, so it can be hard to plan your time efficiently to get the most out of a Japan skiing holiday. 

Tokyo

Japan’s biggest city, and the most common place to fly into Tokyo; it has everything you could want to do in a Japanese city. There’s near-infinite restaurants, shopping districts, Disney Land, Studio Ghibli Museum just to name a few.

If you plan to spend a few days here, once you land in Tokyo, find the luggage services area in the airport terminal and send your ski bags straight up to the ski resort hotel you’ll be staying at. Cost is usually about ¥2,000 per ski bag, but it will save you a lot of effort on trains and transport in Tokyo. Find out more about luggage transport services in our beginners guide to Japan.

Tokyo has a huge variety of hotels, but one of the best is the Tokyo Hilton. It’s right next to the Imperial Gardens, which are definitely a must-see. The gardens are especially nice in the spring-time with flowers and sakura starting bloom. Make sure to try some of Tokyo’s famous restaurants as well as retro arcades, karaoke and more. Check out our top 8 things to do in Tokyo here.

Getting To Hakuba

Getting to Hakuba from the city or the airport is very easy. The most popular method is to get the Nagano Snow Shuttle which runs to and from both Tokyo airports as well as Shinjuku downtown area. The bus can be booked through SkiJapan.com, and is best reserved at least a few days in advance to ensure there is space.

The second option is the train to Nagano station, then a bus to Hakuba. If you’ve got luggage with you, this can be difficult – but is definitely doable. There’s also the option of a private shuttle to take you directly from Tokyo to your accommodation in Hakuba.

Once you have booked your accommodation with SkiJapan.com, be sure to let us know your preferred method of transport or and/or your estimated arrival time to Hakuba, so that we can best advise you on what to do when you arrive and ensure a smooth transfer to your accommodation.

Staying in Hakuba

There’s a wide range of accommodation options in Hakuba, but two of the best choices are The Hakuba Gateway Hotel, and Hotel Hakuba Goryukan. Both are economical and in great locations with facilities inside the buildings. Hakuba Gateway Hotel has NBS rentals, a physiotherapist and a restaurant, while Hotel Hakuba Goryukan has a restaurant, souvenir store, onsen and more. For the ultimate in luxury Hakuba accommodation, there’s the Grand Phenix Hakuba, which offers one of the most comfortable stays in Hakuba.

The Hakuba Valley is made up of a number of resorts – the biggest being Happo One, Tsugaike Kogen, and Goryu 47. There are free shuttle buses that run between the village areas and the resorts that run every day till the resorts close for the day. There are also shuttle buses that run at night to get you around the village and to restaurants.

The Hakuba Valley lift pass is ¥6,000 and allows access to most of the resorts in the area. Holders of the Epic Pass can also redeem five consecutive days of skiing in Hakuba Valley. More info about the Epic Pass in Hakuba here.

What to do in Hakuba

Hakuba is very close to the famous Matsumoto Castle – which is one of the best preserved castles in all of Japan. This historic building is considered a national treasure, and can be easily visited on a day trip from Hakuba. Read more on Matsumoto Castle here.

Nagano’s snow monkeys are an iconic part of the Japanese mountainous landscape. The monkeys sit in the hot pools of water to keep warm during the winter, and are relaxed enough to pose for photos!

Make sure to visit our team in Hakuba Gateway Hotel to find out more about tours in the area.

If you want to visit Hakuba, make sure to talk to our experienced team – we can book every part of your Japan ski holiday so that you get the best deal and service. Contact our team today!

Beginners Guide to Japan

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Japan is a stunning country with a rich culture, history and of course amazing ski resorts, but it can be daunting for first-time visitors. Don’t worry, because we’re here to share our top tips and handy hints to get you through Japan like a pro.

These are just a few of our top tips, and our team has even more great advice and info to make sure you have the best trip ever. Contact us today for the best deals and service.

Luggage Transport

One of the biggest question visitors ask is “how can I move my luggage around?” Well, Japan is the land of convenience, and there are a range of luggage transport and storage services available. The main one is called “Yamato Transport”, also commonly known as “Taku-Bin”, and “Black Cat” named for their mascot which is a black cat. With this service, you can send your ski bags or luggage anywhere in Japan from almost any convenience store, luggage office at airports, or hotel desk. The service usually costs around ¥2,500 per ski bag, and less for regular luggage. It’s perfect if you’re going to stay a few days in a major city as part of a stopover, and don’t want the hassle of lugging around skis and boots through the city to a resort such as Hakuba.

Food In Japan

There’s so much food in Japan and it’s all so good! Here are some tips to enjoy food just like the locals do.

Ramen: Commonly available in three main flavours – miso, soy and salt. They’re all delicious, so don’t worry too much about which one you choose. You’ll get roast pork, noodles and some vegetables. Try to get the noodles onto the large spoon, and then slurp away! It’s not rude or impolite to slurp, it’s just considered the normal way to eat ramen!

Sushi & Sashimi: Sashimi is simply very fresh fish that has been sliced into small portions. The price varies per species and cut, with the fattier cuts more prized, more delicious and more expensive. Sushi is when the cut of fish is placed atop a small portion of rice and commonly served with a hint of wasabi. Both sushi and sashimi can be enjoyed with special soy sauce for dipping, but make sure to try it without the sauce first! Niseko even hosts some of the best sushi restaurants in Hokkaido.

Yaki-Niku: BBQ meat is a favourite, no matter what country you’re from. In Japan, BBQ meat can be found at Yaki Niku restaurants, and are often available in timed sessions where you can eat as much as you want for a certain period of time – only in Japan!

Sake: Sake is undoubtedly Japan’s most famous alcohol, and there are many different varieties available. In the bigger cities there are even dedicated sake bars where you can try sake from different regions, and sample all kinds of different flavours and styles.

Phrases

The Japanese language is very difficult to master, and it doesn’t make sense to learn it for a holiday a few weeks a year. BUT there are some great phrases which every visitor to Japan should know!

Arigatou: (Ah-ree-gah-toh) – “Thank you”. Probably the most important word to know in Japan. You can say this at any time you would thank someone.

Sumimasen: (Sue-me-ma-sen) – “Excuse me”. If you’re at a restaurant, you can yell this one out to get the attention of a server, or if you bump into someone on the street you can say this as.

Onegaishimasu: (On-ne-guy-she-muss) – “Please”. There are a number of ways to say this, but this one is the most commonly used. You can say this when you order food or for that all-important Japanese beer.

Daijoubu: (Die-joe-boo) – “It’s alright”. You can say this if you fall down on the snow and people ask if you’re alright, or if you’ve had enough fried chicken for the night.

Konnichiwa: (Ko-ni-chi-wa) – “Hello”. You can use this anytime you meet with someone, or even when you check in at your hotel.

Mou Ippai: (Mo’-ip-pie) – “One More”. If you’ve finished your drink, or need another plate of sushi, just say this (followed by “please”), and you’ll be served one more of whatever you just pointed at.

Sugoi Yuki: (Sue-goy You-key) – “Amazing Snow”. If it’s dumping with snow (a common occurrence), you can point to the heavens and yell this out!

Douzo: (Do-zo) – “Go Ahead”. Lift operators at ski resorts will say this to you once they sweep the chairlift of snow. When you get on the lift, you can respond with “arigato”!

Public Transport In Japan

Getting around on Japan’s public transport is super easy – especially in the cities. The subway systems might look big and scary, but they are easier to navigate than you think.

Tip #1: Use Google Maps or Hyperdia on your phone! This saves you so much time and effort. Get yourself a data sim, download one of these apps, and relax. The public transport maps in Japan can be pretty big, and using an app will save you a lot of time and effort when you need to get from place to place. They’ll give you times, routes, fares, platform numbers and up to date info.

Tip #2: Get yourself a public transport card! Instead of having to calculate and purchase a new fare every time you got on public transport, you can just tap your card and go. The two major brands are Pasmo and Suica, and both can be used on public transport across Japan. To get a card, just go to a branded machine at the station, choose the card, fill it up with cash, and then start tapping! Don’t worry if you fill it up with more than you needed, you can use these cards to pay for items at convince stores as well.

Tip #3: Plan your day in advance! This might sound obvious, but you’ll probably want to be maximising your time doing activities rather than being on trains all day, so make sure to plan your day as best you can before you leave the hotel. Sometimes the things you want to do are only a stop or two away!

Tip #4: Etiquette! Line up for trains and subways – this makes it easy for people to get off, and easy for you to get on. Don’t talk on the phone – it’s considered very rude to speak on the phone, so if you get a call, let them know you’ll have to return their call. Don’t speak loudly – it’s considered very rude to speak loudly on public transport, especially trains. Always give up your seat to the elderly or less mobile.

Tip #5: Taxis! When you check-in at your hotel, make sure to take a business card with their address. If you do get lost somewhere in Japan, you can take a taxi, show them your hotel’s card and be safely returned to your room without worry.

If you’re not sure how to get from resort to resort, or want any more handy hints for getting around, talk to an expert from SkiJapan.com today.

Onsen – Hot Pools And Bath-houses in Japan

Getting in an Onsen for the first time is an awkward mental struggle for just about every guest to Japan. Don’t worry though, because once you get into that steaming, healing water, you’ll forget all about how awkward the naked dash just felt!

When you enter the building, check if you need to remove your shoes – if there’s a step up, you probably will have to remove them. Head to the counter or ticket machine to pay the entry fee. If you don’t have a towel with you, it’s usually possible to rent one. It’s often possible to rent either 1 large towel, or a large towel and a small towel. The large towel is to dry yourself after your soak and should be left in the changing area, and the small towel can be taken inside to wash your face or use as a ‘modesty’ towel (don’t put it in the water though!). If you’re in a more traditional resort you may be asked if you have any tattoos, so be prepared to cover them.

Once you’ve paid the fee and then head into the gender-specific change rooms. Find a basket or locker to put your clothes into and then it’s time to get naked! If you’re using a locker, take the key with you which is likely to be on an elastic wristband.

Inside the next room will be a number of showers with stools to sit on. Find a free shower, sit on the stool and then wash your entire body and hair with the provided soaps. Once you’re all clean, then you can head through the next door where you’ll find the onsen! It’s going to be a cold walk and it’s tempting to run between the wash-room and the onsen, but don’t rush – you don’t want to slip here.

Some onsen have multiple baths with indoor and outdoor areas and varying water temperatures, so try to explore all the different options. Don’t worry about feeling awkward when you move between the baths; it’s worth it to experience each option. Most people will soak for about 20 – 45 minutes, but just go at your own pace and enjoy the scenery.

When you leave the onsen, it is recommended to give yourself a quick wash in the shower again, just to wash off the natural salts and minerals from the water. After a shower, dry yourself off and put your clothes back on. There’s usually a basket to put your used towels in as well.

Many onsen have relaxation areas, massage chairs, vending machines and spaces to lie down and nap. This is the perfect opportunity to just chill out until all your friends are done.

If you’re heading to Niseko, check out Niseko.com’s onsen guide here.

So that’s some of our best advice for beginners, but of course, there’s always so much more to talk about! Contact our team of experts for everything to know about skiing in Japan.

Choosing the right Japanese resort for your family

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With so many resorts in Japan to choose from it can be tough to pick the right one for your family. Flights to Tokyo and Sapporo are becoming cheaper from Asia & Australia, and Japanese resorts are more accessible than ever with direct transport to resorts available as well as family sized accommodation and ski lessons in English now at most resorts.

NISEKO

If you’re looking for a resort that’s going to cover all your bases with world class facilities and a huge choice of accommodation, Niseko United is the place for you. The world famous resort renowned for its deep powder snow is now also known for having some of the best ski hotels in all of Japan, including the acclaimed hotel “The Kamui Niseko”; ranked in the world’s top 3 new ski hotels in the 2016 World Ski Awards. The village of Hirafu boasts a huge number of restaurants from family friendly ramen to high end Izakaya. There is also tonnes to do off the mountain, like rock-climbing and Hokkaido’s largest high ropes course which is open all winter long. There is a huge choice for ski lessons with group lessons available in English from most ski schools. NBS ski school now also offers the smallest group sizes in Niseko for all lessons, so you and your little ones can make the most of your time on the hill.

RUSUTSU

The nearby resort of Rusutsu is also well equipped with 2 large hotels right at the base of the resort. There are group lessons available in a wide variety of languages including English for every level. Rusutsu has a large arcade with skill-tester machines, a 4-D cinema and an indoor merry-go-round. The terrain is great for developing skills with a large number of beginner and intermediate runs right next to huge powder forests. This resort was designed to keep skiers of every level entertained, so this resort is won’t disappoint!

TOMAMU

If you’re after an all-in-one resort experience,  Tomamu is your go to destinations. This resort is very family friendly with tonnes of activities for kids of all ages, including tubing, ice sculpting classes, ice slides and own ice-skating rink! The terrain  offers large areas for beginners as well as some advanced runs. Lessons can be offered in English, but it’s best to book ahead when planning your holiday.

FURANO

Furano is located in central Hokkaido and is definitely a very happy medium between traditional and new age Japan. The town of Furano is right at the base of the resort, and there are a number of accommodation options including hotels and apartments. There are now English lessons available for all ages, and good ski rental options. The terrain here is great with lots of advanced to expert runs as well as large beginner areas. This region is much less crowded than at some of the more well-known resorts, but there are still many of the same services and activities available which is great news for skiing families.

MYOKO KOGEN

The traditional town of Myoko Kogen is nothing short of magical. The town is relatively new to the international snow scene, and doesn’t have everything in English like other resorts mentioned. But what it does have is tradition and history, and lots of it! The resort has great lifts, and a wide range of beginner and advanced terrain as well as the classic Japanese powder snow. Some of the longest and steepest runs are located here, and is definitely a powder paradise rich in Japanese history and culture. This resort will have something for everyone, especially for those interested in seeing what Japanese culture is all about.

HAKUBA

One of the largest ski areas in Japan is the Hakuba Valley, hosting 7 ski resorts and many different styles of accommodation, terrain and facilities. Hakuba is located about 4 hours from the Tokyo airports, with coaches being the best choice for transport. All of the resorts in the area have great terrain for beginners, as well as long and steep runs for expert skiers. The village is quite spread out, but there are free shuttle buses that run between the main village areas and the surrounding resorts, making transport a breeze. New to the Hakuba area is the “Hakuba Gateway Hotel”, which will offer great ground services and with a SkiJapan.com office will help improve services in the area. The nearby town of Matsumoto hosts one of the greatest traditional castles in all of Japan which is a must-see if you’re in the Hakuba area. There are also the popular snow monkeys which love to hang out in the hot onsen baths.

 

If you’re still unsure about which Japanese resort is the right fit for your family, contact our professional consultants. Our team have been to many Japanese resorts, and can help you to make the best choice for your family. Whichever resort in Japan you go to, don’t forget to enjoy the culture, food and powder. With the ancient culture and amazing snow, there’s just so much to love about a winter holiday in Japan.

Contact our team and find out more today.

Matsumoto Castle

Historic Hakuba – Matsumoto Castle

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First built in 1504, Matsumoto Castle is one of the best preserved traditional castles in all Japan. This historic site features a dramatic six storey keep that overlooks a huge moat, as well as a total of five separate structures. There is only one other castle in Japan that consists of six storeys, so Matsumoto is definitely a must see while you’re in the Hakuba area. The castle walls are mostly black with white highlights which contrast beautifully against the mountainous backdrop.

When you arrive at the Castle, you can walk around the Inner Moat area before making your way inside the main keep. Once inside you can explore each level, viewing samurai armour and weapons that are on display. On the sixth storey there is a magnificent view out towards the mountain peaks and across Matsumoto town.

The castle was ruled by 23 different lords over a 280 year period up until the Meiji restoration period. The impressive site has been embraced by locals for generations and it was saved from demolition in the late 1800’s because of the love the townspeople have for the castle. The impressive structure still survives in its original design and was designated a national treasure in 1952.

A stay in Hakuba is not complete without a visit to this historic site. If you’re considering a trip to Hakuba, SkiJapan.com’s very own Hakuba Gateway Hotel is in a great, central location with onsite ski/snowboard rental, physio, restaurant and access to the Hakuba Valley resorts, transport to Tokyo and local attractions. Hakuba also boasts one of the best luxury apartment rentals in a ski resort – the Grand Phenix Hakuba is one of the best accommodations in Hakuba just a minute’s walk from the bus terminal, rentals, and a few minutes’ walk to the lifts.

Enquire now to book your stay in Hakuba and experience everything Japan has to offer.

 

Freeride World Tour – Hakuba 2019

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The calendar for the Freeride World Tour has been announced, and the legendary big-mountain competition will kick off in Japan’s Hakuba Valley. From the 19th of January 2019 till the 26th, over 50 of the world’s best freeride skiers & snowboarders will be competing for the title of Freeride World Tour Champion.

The venue is set to be Happo-One, where the event has been held for the last two seasons. In 2017 the top spot was taken out by veteran snowboarder Travis Rice. Check out his epic winning run below.

With such great terrain and village atmosphere, it’s easy to see why Hakuba is the choice of so many top riders as well as families and intermediate riders.

Contact us today and visit Hakuba this season.