Ski near the City – Tokyo and Hakuba

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Ski near the City – Tokyo and Hakuba

Tokyo city exploration

Tokyo, Japan – what a place! Not only is it an eclectic, creative and extensive city, the people are friendly, food fantastic and transport reliable. With Hakuba ski area about 4.5 hours from Tokyo main station by train, bus or a private transfer, you can combine the excitement of city exploration with some skiing fun.

 

Tokyo, Shinjuku, food, restaurant

Tiny restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

It’s a 3.5-hour flight to Tokyo Narita from Hong Kong (and a bit longer on the way back) and if you travel outside of peak dates (e.g. CNY, Christmas, New Year) you can find a flight from about HK$3500. We stayed in the ‘Soho’ equivalent of Tokyo, Shinjuku, an easy hour train ride on the Narita Express direct to Shinjuku. We spent two days wandering round the Shinjuku Gyoen National gardens, investigating the Imperial Palace, sampling the local culinary delights at Gonpachi (the restaurant from Kill Bill) and a classic little food-haven in Shinjuku that only managed to fit our group of four at the bar.

Tokyo, nightlife, Robot Restaurant, Japan, Travel, Holiday

Robot Restaurant, Tokyo

 

A trip to Tokyo would not be complete without experiencing something random. So we tried the Robot Restaurant – a show featuring giant robots, lights, ladies and a contest between earth and robots. Yes, madness it was.

 Traveling to Hakuba from Tokyo

 

Skinkansen, Tokyo, Nagano, Bullet train

The Shinkansen train from Nagano to Tokyo

After packing in two days of city sightseeing, we headed to the mountains. We travelled by train from Shinjuku to Tokyo main station, then the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagano, followed by a bus from Nagano to Happo One and then picked up by our hotel, the Double Black. A total of about 4.5 hours of easy travel to get to the weighty snow-topped mountains.

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The Happo One powder!

 

We were certainly amongst the fortunate ones on our chosen February weekend ski break, as we managed to depart Tokyo and arrive in Hakuba on schedule in the midst of the largest snowstorm experienced in decades. And the snow did not stop upon reaching Hakuba. It snowed for 2.5 days solidly and much to our delight, we skied in over 1.5 metres of light, fluffy powder for the duration of our 3.5 days on the mountains.

 

Hakuba – 1998 Winter Olympic Games host resort

 

Happo One, Hakuba, Japan, Tokyo, snow, skiing, snowboard, holiday, off piste, resort,

The 44th Fire Festival, Happo One

The host of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, Hakuba comprises of nine ski resorts stretched across a broad valley and within close proximity to the towns of Happo and Wadano. In a commemoration to the Sochi Winter Games and the seven athletes from Hakuba who made it to the Games, there was a special torch lit descent from local ski school instructors during the 44th Happo Fire Festival on Saturday 15 February.

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Off piste in Iwatake

Our Hakuba part of the trip did not disappoint. We skied in the Happo One, Iwatake, Hakuba 47 and Goryu resorts of Hakuba, all offering a good variety of skiing. Happo One is one of the largest ski areas with over 22 chair lifts, mountain restaurants and a few hotels and bars at the bottom of the slope to end of your day with an après beer. There is night skiing on offer in the Nakiyama area, a snowpark and Olympic Courses 1 and 2 for the more advanced skier.

For those looking to experience off-piste and backcountry skiing, Iwatake and Cortina in Hakuba are excellent options. We spent a day with a guide from Evergreen Outdoor Center accessing untracked off-piste from the chairlifts in Iwatake. Evergreen also run backcountry tours for a variety of levels. In addition, Evergreen runs a ski and snowboard school catering for children, adults, beginners and those looking to improve their skills. One thing to bare in mind is that each ski area operates with a different ski pass (with the exception of Goryu and Hakuba 47) so do plan your days, taking ski conditions and location of resorts into mind. The Double Black hotel provided a daily morning shuttle service to Happo One and nearby resorts and we made out own way back via the regular resort shuttle bus.

 

Food and ski extras in Hakuba

 

Emu Restaurant, hakkuba, japan, skiing, snowsports, skiing, snow, holiday

Enjoying Okonmiyaki in Emu

The food in Hakuba was fantastic and our evening meals included the excellent international comfort flavours of the Double Black Hotel, an authentic Japanese delight with small dishes and maximum flavour at Hie in Echoland and the fabulous experience of Emu near Hakuba train station (dishes to try are the Okonmiyaki – a robust vegetable, meat and cheese pancake that is self-cooked – and Ramen).

We hired skis from Central Snowsports in Happo One and as the name suggests, they are centrally located, near to the Happo Gondola. They could not have been more helpful and provided a hassle-free, slick service – picking us up from our hotel upon arrival to kit us out, to changing skis whenever we wanted to with the Demo Package.

Double Black Hotel, Happo One, Hakuba, ski, holiday, snowsports, snowboard, powder, japan, snow, resort, Wadano forest, Wadano

The Double Black Hotel, Hakuba

The Double Black Hotel provided affordable, comfortable and relaxing accommodation, surrounded by the picturesque setting of the Wadano forest. Staff were always on hand to help and we could not fault the service. Breakfasts were plentiful – just what you need before a full day on the slopes. And the Onsen facilities are ideal to soak the muscles after a full day on the mountain.

If you want to try something a little different to the classic week-long ski trip, then combining a city break with travelling on local transport from Tokyo to Hakuba is up there as a top option.

Email us if you have any questions about our trip or would like some tips for one you may be organising. If you’d like to book at stay at the Double Black Hotel then again, email us for more information.

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