Getting from Central Tokyo to Hakuba Valley can seem a little daunting, but with a bit of preparation it is not too difficult.
Downtown Tokyo is a massive urban center, home to over 20 million people. The 3 main areas with good connections to Hakuba are the Shinjuku Station area, Tokyo Station area, and the Ueno Station Area.
These areas are probably the best areas to stay in, and while Tokyo Station is mainly a business center, Ueno and Shinjuku both have a number of attractions, as well as easy access to airports.
Private Transfers from Central Tokyo to Hakuba Valley
Get picked up at your accommodation, and delivered to your accommodation in Hakuba. This is by far the easiest way to get from Central Tokyo to Hakuba Valley.
We have vehicles for groups of all sizes.
This is the easiest way to make the trip (and also the most expensive).
Trains, Nightlife, Gardens and More
The many stations in the area make it the busiest transport hub in the world, with up to 2 million people transiting the area daily. It is the home of the Tokyo metropolitan government, and also hosts Japan’s largest Red-light district.
JR Shinjuku Station is at center of the hub, with lines heading out in all directions. The main train lines of use to tourists are the Yamanote Loop Line, which runs both clockwise and anticlockwise in a large loop of central Tokyo, and the Chuo Express Line which is the fast service direct to Tokyo Station. For those wanting to head to Harajuku, Shibuya and Shinagawa, head to platform 14. While those looking at getting to Ikebukuro, Nippori and Ueno should head to platform 15.
Those looking to get to Tokyo Station should head to platforms 7 and 8, and catch the orange train.
In addition to JR Station, there are also 3 subway lines, the Odakyu Line (for those heading to Hakone), the Seibu line and the Keio Line.
While well signposted, the sheer size of the place can be confusing. However, the area is very safe and once you get orientated it is fairly easy to get around. It is often quicker to take underground passages than remain above ground, as the roads can be difficult to cross due to traffic volume.
Rush hour is very congested, and trying to carry ski bags though the area can be difficult.
Getting from Shinjuku to Hakuba
For those staying in Shinjuku, and looking at getting from central Tokyo to Hakuba Valley, the good news is that there is a direct train, once a day, from Shinjuku Station directly to Hakuba.
This JR Azusa Express #5 leaves Shinjuku Station at 08:00am and arrives at Hakuba Station at 11:41am. The trip is a scenic one up the JR Chuo line, then onto the Oito Line to Hakuba.
For those looking to return to Tokyo on this train, it returns as Azusa # 46, departing Hakuba at 03:16pm and arriving in Shinjuku at 07:09pm.
The Azusa is one of the classic trains in Japan, with a history of linking Tokyo with Matsumoto for over 50 years.
Make sure you take a few snack and drinks as there is no food service on the train.
A one way trip will cost you 8,050yen.
Keio Highway bus and Alpico Kotsu operate bus services from Busta Bus Terminal, near the South Exit of JR Shinjuku Station. Shuttle volume varies by season, with about 4 return trips during the off season, and up to 8 trips a day in peak season.
These are large comfortable buses, and the transfer takes about five and a half hours.
Currently the cheapest option for getting from central Tokyo to Hakuba.
For times and prices, please visit the Alpico Web Site
Tokyo Station Area
Tokyo Station is the central hub for Shinkansen bullet trains heading in all directions. It also hoses many local lines, and there are several subway stations close by.
Although close to the Imperial Palace, which are good for a stroll, and not far from the Ginza Shopping area, there is not a lot to do around Tokyo Station, and there are very few less expensive hotels in this area. As such, most people see Tokyo Station as a transit hub, rather than a destination in itself.
Ueno Station Area
JR Ueno Station is also one of the major stations in Tokyo. Located on the Yamanote Loop line, and close to the Keisei Line which has the fastest connection to Narita Airport, Ueno makes a good transfer point for getting to Hakuba.
Apart from the large Ueno Park (Zoo with Pandas, and many museums), Ueno is also a great shopping center with Hirokoji Street offering a market like atmosphere. This is the original “Shitamachi” where the tanners and out-castes lived in historical time. Today, the residents here are very friendly and down to earth. Nearby Asakusa is also a great place to visit.
The major piece of advice here is to always get a seat reservation number if boarding a Shinkansen at Ueno Station. This is because all trains originate at Tokyo Station, and all non-reserved seating may be full before the train arrives in Ueno.
Getting from Tokyo Station / Ueno Station to Hakuba
Train + Bus
The only route currently from Tokyo or Ueno Station to Hakuba is on the Shinkansen Bullet train, and then transferring to a bus to Hakuba.
There are 3 trains that run on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Lines. They all use the same carriages and are the same size, and the difference in name refers to the number of stops and speed of the service. All trains make a stop in Nagano.
Each train has 3 classes of seat. Regular, Green Class, and Gran Class.
Regular cars have a 3-2 configuration and are cars 1-10.
Green Class is in car number 11, and has a 2-2 seat configuration.
Gran Class occupies car number 12 (front of train when heading away from Tokyo), and has fully recline-able seats in a 1-2 configuration.
- The fastest trains are called “Kagayaki“. These trains are reserved seating only, meaning you need to go to the ticket office and get a seat assignment. They only stop at Ueno, and Omiya before arriving in Nagano. All trains display “Kanazawa” as the destination, as trains carry on to Toyama and Kanazawa after leaving Nagano. There is trolley food and beverage service on board, but can be irregular if the train is full.
- “Hakutaka” trains also have “Kanazawa” as the destination. These make more frequent stops than the Kagayaki, and also has a trolley service on board for food and drinks. Cars 1-3,4,5 are generally non-reserved seating, meaning a first come first served basis for seating.
- The slowest trains are the “Asama” trains, which only run as far as Nagano. These stop at many of the smaller stations along the route. There is no food or beverage service on board, so bring snacks are advised.
Getting from Tokyo Station / Ueno Station to Nagano Station
Trains from Tokyo Station to Nagano Station leave from platforms 20 – 23, while at Ueno Station, they leave from platforms 19 or 20. If entering from the outside you need to go through 2 sets of ticket gates. The first one is to enter the station, and the second is to get onto the Shinkansen Concourse. In both cases simply insert all tickets into the ticket gate together (not one at a time), and the tickets will pop up as you pass through the gate. Remember to collect your tickets or you will have to buy new ones.
Shinkansen to Nagano use the following icon on signs.
At Tokyo Station there are 2 entrances to the Shinkansen Concourse, North and South. You can use either, however if you seats are in cars 7-12, then the North Concourse is closer to your carriage. And conversely if booked on cars 1-6 then the Southern Concourse is closer.
At Ueno Station the Shinkansen Concourse is accessed to the right as you enter the main station ticket gate. To get to the platforms you head down some very long escalators to get to the platform.
On entering the Shinkansen concourse, you will see digital signs listing the departures for the next 90 minutes or so. Platform numbers will also be listed. Go up/down the escalators, and once at platform level find the car number. Car numbers for the next 2 trains are displayed digitally along the platform at the entrance to each car. Each car has a front and rear entrance, except cars 11 (Green Class), and 12 (Gran Class) which only have one each.
On most occasions, the train will arrive about full of passengers about 15 minutes before departure. After the passengers have all got off, they will close the doors and clean the train. Once cleaning has finished, boarding will begin. This is often only 4-5 minutes before departure.
Once on board, find your seat (you must sit in your exact seat if you have have a seat assignment), and relax for the trip ahead.
The first part of the trip along the Kanto plain and is not very interesting, but once you enter Nagano Prefecture, the mountains appear and it is quite scenic.
Arrival in Nagano
Nagano Station has 4 Shinkansen platforms. The front of the trains is close to an escalator, while the rear has stair access. Between the two is an elevator.
There are 2 sets of ticket gates. One connects to other JR Lines (don’t take this one), while the other goes directly to the passageway that links the East Exit with the Zenkoji Exit.
Turn right if you have a booking on the Nagano Snow Shuttle Services, and head to the Metropolitan Hotel (well signposted – 1 min walk). At the hotel you can wait in the warmth of the lobby.
Turn left and head to the East exit if you do not have a booking and take the Alpico Bus.