Best things to do in Hakuba


We went to Hakuba for the first time in 2020 to ride the famous Japanese Alps with our snowboards. We instantly fell in love with this region of Japan and not only for its Powder Snow!

The Hakuba Valley is located northeast of the Nagano department, in the heart of the Japanese Alps. The peaks, covered in snow for much of the year, dominate the surroundings. The mountains are magnificent and majestic.

Hakuba is actually an all-year-round vacation and leisure destination.  For winter sports until May, with guaranteed quality snow. In spring and summer, hikes are in the spotlight, to climb the slopes among alpine flowers and rediscover the invigorating freshness of the peaks. Finally, in autumn, the beautiful colors of the trees that transform the entire forest will delight you. 

We highly recommend renting a car while in Hakuba to easily and freely discover the area and enjoy most of the ski slopes as well! If you are there mostly for skiing and snowboarding then shuttle buses run around the valley and will drop you in most popular places. 

There are many things to do outside the resorts though. You can visit the famous Snow Monkey, Ninja Museum, beautiful temples, the beautiful town of Obuse and so much more.

Check out some beautiful impressions of the Hakuba region with the video below:

Things to do in Hakuba

Hakuba, known as the Alps of Japan, is a great place to find lots of powder snow, tree runs, backcountry rides as well as steep terrains. There are many different resorts with a wide range of terrains from beginners to advanced.

The valley with more than 11 meters of snowfall per year, is the main ski resort in the region, with more than 200 slopes.  Hakuba was also the main host station for the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Happo-One is the biggest and most popular resort. It has more steep terrain which is ideal for advanced skiers but overall the resort caters to all levels. 

Both resorts are linked and can be accessed with the same ski pass. There you can find wide courses ideal for beautiful carving and also popular among snowboarders for its high-quality park. We spent most of our time in Goryu and Hakuba 47 while we stayed in Hakuba.

Cortina is one of the powder capitals of Japan. The station is facing North hence getting more snow than the other resorts. Ideal for backcountry and tree runs. Absolute pleasure!

Iwatake is famous for its park and halfpipe and also great runs. Worth exploring and for many their favorite resort.

There are many other places, such as Tsugaike, Norikura, and Kashimayari. Just let your instinct guide you. If you have a car it will be easy to explore the most popular ones. Otherwise, you can explore the ones which are closer to where you stay.

If you want to explore more powder paradises in Japan, check out our articles about Niseko and Furano.


Things to do in Hakuba

If you want to take a break from riding slopes, we highly recommend renting a car and go on a day trip in this picturesque area of Japan.

First, take a very scenic road to Togakushi, It’s about 1.5h from Hakuba. Togakushi is hidden in the mountains of Nagano prefecture. The path which lead there is an ode to nature and meditation, we loved it ! 

On the way to Togakushi Shrines and Forest, you will drive through Togakushi village. It’s a traditional village with great restaurants and nice temples. We recommend making a stop there to feel the traditional Japanese vibe.

Then continue to Togakushi Shrines and Forest. The forest has some very big trees. After a 30-minute walk through one of the most beautiful forests in Japan, you will reach a Japanese Shrine. It’s all worth it! You will find yourself in a peaceful state surrounded by nature and spiritual life. It’s a great place to take absolutely amazing pictures. 

Just before the Togakushi Forest and Shrine, we recommend a fantastic Soba Noodles restaurant, nestled in the tree called Sobanomi. It’s less than a minute drive from Togakushi Forest. Super yummy and such a beautiful and serene place. 

After a trip to Togakushi, we understood why so many people felt in love with Hakuba.

Location: here

Things to do in Hakuba

We recommend experiencing the life of a Ninja (yes NINJA!!), at the Ninja Museum located near the Togakushi Shrines and Forest.

The museum has various buildings that showcase tools, weapons, and tricks used by the Ninjas. You can discover some of the techniques they used in the past to fight their enemies. There are many photos of the Togakure Ninjas in action.

You can also practice throwing a Shuriken (Ninja star). Absolutely great experience! We highly recommend this fun and somewhat cultural place.

Kagamiike at Mt.Togakushi

Next to Sobami, the soba noodle place which we highly recommend, there is a path to hike to the Kagami Ike, also known as Mirror Pond. The water reflects the Mountains which makes it a beautiful scene.

In Autumn with the red, yellow, and orange trees, this place is a must-go on your trip to Yogakushi. In Winter is it highly recommended to wear adequate shoes or snow shoes as the path to the pond gets a lot of snow. 

Location: here

Things to do in Hakuba

A trip to Hakuba isn’t complete without seeing the Snow Monkeys. About 1.5 hours from Hakuba and 1h from Togakushi you can see those tricky Japanese Monkeys enjoying their life in a natural onsen. This is a unique experience in Japanese (you can see similar monkeys in Hakodate, in Hokkaido).

Hundreds of Japanese monkeys reside in the Japanese Alps and the Nagano region, and more particularly in the Jigokudani Park. This natural park, which is specially dedicated to them, is an opportunity for a beautiful winter stroll through a forest punctuated by hot springs. It is also here that you will encounter these funny-looking monkeys. Winter is the ideal season to visit as they will bath in the onsen surrounded by snow. What a moment!  

While the snow monkeys are a must-see in Japan, we fell that this place is a bit too touristic and somewhat disturbing the Monkeys’ life… but still worth a visit for this unique experience. Just be aware that you are in the Monkeys’ natural habitat, hence be quiet and don’t go too close. 

Things to do in Hakuba

The city of Nagano is known to most non-Japanese as the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics. However, for the Japanese, Nagano is most famous for its great pilgrimage sanctuary, the Zenko-ji temple, visited by millions of pilgrims each year.

According to the Zenko-ji Engi, one of the first stories of the Zenko-ji temple, the first Buddha image in Japan was imported at 522AD from the kingdom of Kudara in Korea. Called Ikko Sanzon, or the statue of Amida Tathagata, it is the most revered object of the temple. We recommend visiting the temple for a cultural moment and to learn more about Japanese history. 

Location: here

You can join a tour group to visit Zenzo-ji temple and Snow Monkey. Check it out here.


Do you like temples, traditional houses, gardens, apples, and chestnuts?  Then the city of Obuse is made for you!  

Nestled in the heart of the Japanese Alps in the Nagano prefecture, often forgotten by tourist guides, Obuse is a very welcoming and charming stopover. Obuse was recommended to us by our host in our lodge in Hakuba. We never heard of it before. And WOW ! We absolutely loved this place

Here are some of the highlights:

Walk around the town to see traditional houses and unique streets made out of chestnuts trees. Obuse is famous for its chestnuts, apples, and other fruits, you will see many gardens and beautiful plantations around the village

Visit the museum of the famous painter Hokusaï in Obuse. Hokusaï came to Obuse several times from 1760 to 1849. It was in this village that he produced some of his most important works, notably the phoenix from the ceiling of the Ganshô-in temple.

Visit the the ancient Jokoji temple hidden in the wood: Ten minutes walk from the Ganshô-in temple is the Jokoji temple which can be reached by climbing steps that have seen the passing of time. This place is very peaceful, it was one of our favorite temple in Japan. 


From Oide Park you can enjoy one of the best views of the Japanese Alps. There is a suspended bridge with an old picturesque village and a river flowing through the park. In spring you can also enjoy the Sakurai lined up beside the river.

A stunning view and the most “Instagramable” moment in Hakuba. 

This place is near most of the ski resorts in Hakuba. So it’s easily accessible.

Location: here

Things to do in Hakuba

Overlooked by nine peaks of more than 3,000 meters, Matsumoto and its castle have all of the natural strength for a perfect visit. The landscape is breathtaking. It is easy to get lost in contemplating the reflection of the Japanese Alps in the lake. You can also admire the mountain mist, or the cherry blossoms. Matsumoto is definitely the pearl of the Japanese Alps.

But what stands out most when you visit Matsumoto is the imposing Matsumoto-jō Castle also nicknamed by the Japanese “the crow” because of its black color.  It offers an impressive view in any season. It is the oldest of its kind in Japan and its architecture is typical of Sengoku (1477-1573), an era troubled by civil wars and marked by the construction of numerous castles in Japan.

Location: here



If you need a break from skiing or snowboarding nothing better than going in an onsen in Japan. Hakuba has many onsen around the valley with various sources.

Each onsen has some specific benefits for your body. Some of the most popular places are Hakuba Happo Onsen, Shionomichi Onsen, Katakuri Onsen, and Himekawa Onsen. There are also free onsen for your feet in the middle of the village which is a great way to end a day on the slopes with a refreshing beer from Lawson 🙂 

In Hakuba, we recommend staying near one of the ski resorts for more convenience and enjoy the fresh snow early morning. Staying either near Goryu or Happo-one would be a good decision. The areas of Misorano, Echoland, and Wadano are all great and convenient. 

Best place to stay in Hakuba

During our stay in Hakuba we loved our hotel so much at Bears Den Mountain Lodge. It is located less than 10 10-minute walk to Goryu via a beautiful path through the forest. If there is enough snow, you can even ride down via the same path. So it’s practically a ski-in hotel 🙂 

The owner Lesley, is nice and helpful with many awesome recommendations. She will even pick you up at the train or bus station when you arrive in Hakuba and book restaurants and other things for you. 

If you intend to visit more places in Japan, traveling by train is the easiest way. You can purchase your JR PASS at a cheaper price here. The JR Pass allows you to take all trains in Japan as a multi-use ticket. Buying a JR Pass offers the best value for money!


Hakuba means “white horse” because it is said that the shape of a horse appears in the snow on the side of the mountain in spring. If you like sports and mountains, as well as lovers of Japanese tradition and culture, Hakuba is here for you. 

The valley, with more than 11 meters of snowfall per year, is one of the main ski resorts in the region, with more than 200 slopes. Those who do not like skiing are not left out, since Hakuba station also allows hiking, climbing and many more activities.

If you are looking for more Japow head to Niseko from Hakuba. There is a direct flight from Matsumoto Airport to Sapporo (more info here). Check out our post about Niseko here.

In Hokkaido make sure to check out Furano, one of our favorite spot in Japan. Check out our post here.

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