Winter hasn't yet put his great white cloak, so this is the perfect timing for a short trip into the nature to enjoy these beautiful sunny days that follows the first autumn frosts! That’s why I’m inviting you for a little trip to Happo-One, one of the many ski resorts in Hakuba right in the heart of the Japanese Alps! A very unique scenery and an ideal spot to enjoy the stunning spectacle of autumn leaves in Japan.
You'll discover that besides of winter activities, Hakuba has a lot to offer: hiking, paragliding, rafting... all will depend on how adventurous you feel!
Access Happo-One from Tokyo Station is very easy! Just take a Shinkansen on the JR Hokuriku Line to Nagano (100 minutes, 8000 yen). From here you can catch a direct bus to Hakuba (60-90 min, 1600-1900 yen) which also stops to the ski resort we're interested in today: Happo-One.
There are many ski resorts in Hakuba but Happo-One is probably the biggest. It's also the most famous for having hosted several events during the 1998's Olympic Winter Games (downhill, combined ski...). Not far away also stands the ski jump that is still used today, all seasons during, by many fearless skiers.
Stay in a Chalet for the night!
Photo: Petra Bensted on Flickr
What's better for a complete Mountain experience than staying in a chalet for the night? For this I would recommend you the Big Bear Chalets. Ideally located in the Wadano valley, the owner is a very nice Australian guy and their website is in English (which should facilitate the booking for non-Japanese speaker).
Hiking and sightseeing
Now that you're well established, it's time to enjoy some nice walk around!
To start, take the cable car called "Gondola" and some chair lifts that will carry you to the top of the mountain to enjoy a 360 degree panorama over the Japanese Alps! From there, you can enjoy a very easy trail in the nature to Happo-Ike (alt.2,060m.). You will walk in the middle of a very colorful vegetation in this season, along a wooden board path that will lead you to a very beautiful pond! Also resting point of many clouds that gives to the place a very unique atmosphere! Before going back, take a moment to breathe, relax, and why not enjoy a little Onigiri break?
Photo: tsuda on Flickr
The round trip to the Happo-Ike pond can be done in about 90 min. But for the most adventurous (and if you are still genki and fitted with good shoes), it is quite possible to push a little bit further and follow the ridge until Karamatsu Peak (alt.2,696m.) to enjoy even more spectacular views!
Family walk near Oide
Located about 1 km from Hakuba Station, there is also another small hiking trail (approx. 2 hours) through the forest, which will take you across suspension bridges, stream and offers some nice views on the 3 main peaks of Hakuba valley.
The loop starts from the parking area of the Oide suspension Bridge! You will also see an old mill that is still working and there also is an ice cream shop near the parking area to reward you for your efforts! (Don’t miss the apple soft cream: a specialty of the area!)
Need for more adventure?
Hakuba Happo Paragliding School
It’s also possible to fly the Hakuba Valley with a paraglider! Access/Take-off at the top of the of “Gondola” cable car (online booking and information here).
The Oide Suspension Bridge is also a good spot for rafting!
After all these activities, nothing like a bit of relaxation in one of the many Onsen in the area! Hakuba is also well known and recognized for its many hot springs! Japanese macaques that also live in the valley are very aware of it and also love in winter the warmth of a good Onsen (Which could explain why their face is so red...). Here is a non-exhaustive list of some Onsen near Happo-One ski resort that you can try!
- Shobei no yu (Mominoki Hotel)
If you’re staying at Big Big Chalets, this Onsen is only 3-5 min by walk
- Daiichi Sato no yu
- Daini Sato no yu
Near Hakuba sation (Outdoor bath with views of surrounding mountains)
Here you go! Enjoy and why not coming back during winter time to enjoy ski!