Things To Do In Hakuba
On And Off The Slopes
Snow Shoe Tours
If you are keen to escape the crowds on the slopes and get away from the ski lift queues and want to experience the serene silence of remote Hakuba, there are seemingly endless trails on the mountain ridges or through old mystical forests and shrines with breathtaking views across the alpine landscapes. Choose a half, full-day or a private tour. Little Steps loves the chocolate fondue after the evening tour.
Snow Shoe Tours, https://www.evergreen-backcountry.com/snowshoe-tours/
Hire a guide and a ski mobile or two and head to the outback of Hakuba and explore virtually undiscovered magical winter wonderlands. The snowmobiles are easy to master, so you'll be off exploring in no time.
Ski Mobiles, https://skihakuba.com/snowmobile.htm
Top Off-Slope Tips
Whether it’s your first or tenth time to Hakuba, visiting the world-famous hot spring monkeys is always a must. The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, was jettisoned to fame after appearing on the front cover of Life magazine in the early 1970s. The macaques are the only known monkey to bathe in naturally occurring hot springs. The curious monkeys are located in the beautiful Jigokudani Monkey Park, a scenic 90-minute drive from Hakuba; the tour also includes lunch and a visit to the Buddhist Zenkō-Ji Temple in Nagano.
Matsumoto Castle and Matsumoto Art Museum
For Instagram fans, Matsumoto Castle and the surrounding city are well worth visiting. Matsumoto Castle is affectionately known as the Crows Castle. The castle is as black as night, surrounded by a moat in the open plains. The winter illuminations are nothing short of spectacular. You can walk to the castle directly from the train station, and it's free to enter the grounds. Matsumoto Castle is the oldest standing castle in Japan and has been designated a National Treasure by the Japanese government. The Matsumoto Art Museum has an incredible permanent exhibition of world-famed 90-something-year-old Yayoi Kusama, who became an art-world phenomenon in the age of the selfie.
The natural hot spring experiences are ubiquitous in Japanese culture. Relaxing in an onsen is the quintessential Japanese experience. It's a great way to relax and rest your slope-tired body. The lives of many Japanese families centers around visiting an onsen, whether it's after work, for a dip with the family at the weekend, or even for their holidays. There are onsens throughout Hakuba; you might have one in your chalet or hotel grounds if you are lucky.
Sake Brewry Tour
Ichinoya is home to the region's oldest sake breweries, so it makes sense to explore its rich history and sample some sake over lunch. The tour begins at Wachigai Restaurant, a traditional Japanese restaurant with water tasting, sake tasting, and lunch. After lunch, you'll head to the streets for an immersive brewery tour. Your guide will explain the importance of the 'spirit,' the rice, fertile lands, and the clear waters that run from the slopes of the Northern Alps.
There is no better way to immerse yourself into Japanese culture than by attending one of the incredible festivals throughout the winter months.
The ‘Nozawa onsen Dosojin’ is held on 15 January yearly, attracting thousands of visitors. It's an impressive festival that revolves around a burning three-story wooden structure, plenty of sake, and two generations of men fighting for their honor. The festival is intended to dispel bad spirits and luck, bring good fortune and fertility to the village and strengthen the community.
Throughout February, you’ll also find the Happo Fire Festival, Nagano Lantern Festival, and the Iiyama Snow and Kamakura Festival.
Discover authentic Japanese culture, learn about kimono dressing and origami, and enjoy a traditional tea ceremony. Your teacher will guide you through the various principles of this customary clothing that dates back over 1,000 years to the Heian period. This is a girls-only tour, so leave the boys to hit the slopes!
Iwatake Yahoo Swing
Take a gondola to the top of the Iwatake Resort for some spectacular views and swing on the Iwatake Yahoo Swing, located next to the Mountain Harbor facility.
Located at the foot of Mount Togakushi, the forested mountains northwest of Nagano Togakushi Shrine consist of five shrines: Okusha, Chusha, Hokkosha, Kuzuryusha, and Hinomikosha. It enshrines the gods associated with the Amanoiwato opening myth that originated in Takamagahara. Amaterasu Omikami hid in Iwato due to his younger brother's orgy, and the world became pitch black and confused. There, the troubled gods met and held a song and dance festival to take Okami out again.