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I'm arriving in Tokyo, Japan on the 23rd of March at 6pm, at the Narita Airport.

My problem is that I didn't plan for the time it takes to get from Tokyo to Hakuba, and after looking at options I figured the best one would be getting to Nagano (with the Shinkansen) and then finding transport from there.

We're a group of 4 and finding transport options to Hakuba at this time of the night has proven to be quite a challenge.

I'm wondering if there's any local companies specialised in private bookings or even night-time transportation options to get to Hakuba Valley?

Alternatively, is there any other routes that I could look into instead of going to Nagano first?

Thank you.

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    "I'm arriving in Tokyo, Japan on the 23rd of March at 6pm" - Have you planned on the time it takes to get from the airport to Tokyo itself? – John Mar 3 at 5:07
  • For reference: Is there any reason why you want to go to Hakuba via Nagano? The better idea™ seems to be taking the Limited Express Azusa from Shinjuku to Matsumoto and local trains from there. Nagano is one valley over from Hakuba, so getting from one to the other is not typically easy. – Jan Mar 3 at 5:14
  • That said, getting to Hakuba at all late at night is quite a challenge; the last trains (local ones) arrive there around 10–11 p.m. so it might be the best option to stay somewhere else. Plugging ‘last train’ from Tokyo to Hakuba into HyperDia or related apps returns that you would have to leave Tokyo before 6 p.m. – Jan Mar 3 at 5:16
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    Also for reference: Haneda or Narita? – Jan Mar 3 at 5:16
  • @John, yes the 4 hours to get to Nagano already include the time from the airport to the central station. – VulfCompressor Mar 3 at 5:40
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Buses exist between Nagano and Hakuba; they are run by Alpico and you can check the timetable in the link. Unfortunately for you, the last bus leaves Nagano at 8.10 p.m. Another bus is scheduled to leave Nagano at 9.10 p.m. but it only runs until the 15th March so you cannot use it. The first bus on the morning of the 24th leaves at 7.55 a.m. and gets you to Hakuba at 9.05 (station) or 9.10 (Happo bus terminal). It is not covered by the JR pass, as far as I can tell.

The problem with going from Nagano to Hakuba directly is that they are in two different parallel valleys and going from one to the other requires crossing a mountain pass. Therefore, this is not a common direction of travel, only buses serve the route and they do not do so very frequently. You can go by train; this involves taking a limited express from Nagano south to Matsumoto and then local trains back north

Coming from Tokyo, there are two general routes to get to Hakuba by train:

  • Take a Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station past Nagano all the way to Itoigawa on the North coast and a local train from there

  • Take the Limited Express Azusa from Shinjuku to Matsumoto and a local train into the valley from there.

However, your late arrival at Narita means that there is no way you will make it to Hakuba from Tokyo on the same day as the line between Matsumoto and Itoigawa is a very small local line with infrequent (by Japanese standards) service. The last trains arrive at Hakuba around 10.40 pm which require you to leave Tokyo before your flight lands. Thus, you will have to break your journey somewhere and stay overnight unless you want to fork out money for a late night taxi Nagano–Hakuba (Nagano probably being the closest you can get to Hakuba by regularly scheduled trains before night-time closure).

I would love to be able to suggest breaking the journey in Matsumoto which features Matsumoto Castle, one of the few remaining original Japanese castles and definitely a sight to see if you can set time aside. Doing so requires you to take the train out of Narita airport at 7.15 p.m. which may or may not work when your aeroplane lands at 6 p.m.

Aside from that, the other most logical option is breaking your journey in Tokyo, i.e. finding a hotel for the night there. Next morning, you can hop either on an early Azusa for Matsumoto or on a Shinkansen to Itoigawa. In fact, there is a 7.30 a.m. departure from Shinjuku that will bring you to Hakuba directly in 4 hours.


To sum it up:

  • Getting to Hakuba on the 23rd probably requires a taxi from Nagano; I can find no scheduled transport.

  • You have three options to break the journey:

    • In Nagano; the first bus leaves Nagano at 7.55 a.m. and arrives in Hakuba just after 9 a.m. Not covered by the JR pass.
    • In Matsumoto, if you are willing to gamble with reaching the train at 7.15 p.m. Bonus: sightseeing Matsumoto castle. First train bound for Hakuba leaves Matsumoto at 5.58 a.m, then 9.20 a.m, then 10.27 a.m. Journey time: 1:40 h except for the 10.27.
    • In Tokyo; many options. Probably the most appealing is the 7.30 a.m. Azusa from Shinjuku which will go directly to Hakuba arriving at 11.27. This is the same train that departs Matsumoto at 10.27.

To check for departure times, the most recommended site is Hyperdia.com which also has apps for iOS and Android available. I personally use the JapanTravel App which is also available for iOS and Android. Google Maps and Apple Maps also very good for checking train schedules.

Note that depending on where in Tokyo you are a different route might be faster. Searching from Tokyo station, it seems that Hokuriku/Nagano Shinkansen options are faster although they look less logical on a map. If you have control over where in Tokyo your hotel is, this is worth considering.

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  • Thank you very much Jan, what an amazing explanation. We'll take the first option to break the journey: stay in Nagano for the night and take the first Alpico Bus in the morning. Our hotel was happy to give us the refund for the first night so that was a game changer. All the best to you. – VulfCompressor Mar 3 at 22:08

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