As one of Japan’s most popular resorts, Hakuba has a fittingly lively après-ski scene that ranges from classy cocktail lounges to sake-soaked karaoke dens. In fact there are more than 100 evening establishments in the resort for revellers to sample.
The traditional izakaya pubs are a great place to meet the locals and get a taste for regional traditions, including sampling a drop of local sake. Karaoke is also popular here, with numerous bars crammed with customers belting out tunes. Among the most popular après-ski joints is The Beer Bar (tel: +81 261 753 533), at the base of Hakuba 47, bustling most evenings with its trendy clientele.
Away from the bars, shopping, hot springs and snow activities such as rafting, tubing, snowmobiling and night skiing are all popular evening activities.
There’s a great choice of dining around Hakuba with over 150 different establishments now listed. As the resort’s popularity continues to grow internationally, the dining choice is also expanding.
Hummingbird (tel: +81 261 727 788) is a small family-run restaurant housed in a beautiful traditional building, which has established a reputation as one of the best in Hakuba thanks to a strong Japanese and international menu. There are several vegetarian options but it’s so popular it gets booked out early, even low season, so reserve well in advance.
Another good choice for fans of authentic Japanese cuisine, especially sushi, is Sarugaku (tel: +81 261 727 133), which is again small and popular, making reservations advisable. The buckwheat pancakes and blue cheese tofu come highly recommended.
Beyond the slopes
Hakuba is a major destination resort with lots to do besides skiing and boarding. Competition between the 11 different ski areas also helps to keep variety and quality up and prices reasonable.
Off-slope attractions include guided snowshoe tours, tubing, tobogganing, snowmobiling and snow rafting (sliding down the hillside on an inflatable boat). Of course, the onsen (hot springs) – for which Japan is famous – are here in abundance too, with many of the larger hotels offering their own; and plenty more available to the paying public.
A visit to the Olympic ski jumping hill above the village is a must. Take the lift up to the top of the jump for the amazing views the jumpers are afforded before they start their descent.
Facilities for families have improved greatly in recent years, and in the wider Hakuba area there is a large array of family-friendly facilities and attractions.
The Hakuba 47 Activity Centre (tel: +81 261 753 533) offers childcare for children aged two to six, a ski school for older children, and family activities such as snow rafting. At Happo-one, the Kids Park Snow-Chao offers a safe place for kids to learn the basics and also offers tubing and sleigh rides. There are also childcare facilities in Happo-one at the Happo Kids Club (tel: +81 2612 727 940), which looks after children aged eight months to four years. Reservations are required.
There are dozens of shops in Hakuba covering the essentials, as well as regional specialities. The options include supermarkets, large outdoor sports stores and a post office, which has a cash machine accepting most international credit and debit cards. There are smaller shopping centres dotted around the separate ski areas, such as the Escal Plaza at the base of Goryu Toomi, which has a ski shop, a couple of souvenir shops and grocery stores.
Hakuba 47's (tel: +81 261 753 533; www.hakuba47.co.jp) 'First Tracks' program offers early-morning privileges, including breakfast and guided untracked skiing and snowboarding before the crowds reach the slopes.
There are plenty of hotels in Hakuba, with around a dozen situated at the base of the Happo-one resort, ranging from alpine-style, moderately priced, 2- and 3-stars to more modern luxurious options. For a more authentic Japanese experience, there are ryokan (traditional Japanese hotels), guest houses and lodges scattered across the resort.
Hakuba Tokyu Hotel
One of the most exclusive properties in Hakuba, the 5-star Hakuba Tokyu Hotel has French and traditional Japanese restaurants, as well as a lavish breakfast buffet, in addition to its natural hot springs. Rooms are large, and most have balconies - ask for one with a mountain view.Address: , 4688 Hokujo, Hakuba, 339 – 9301
Telephone: +81 261 723 001
La Neige Higashikan
This luxury 5-star complex draws inspiration architecturally from Frank Lloyd Wright’s design. Loved for its beautiful, spacious rooms (some with hot tubs), the La Neige Higashikan is located within a two-minute shuttle ride of the Sakka lift, while Happo village is 15 minutes away. A French restaurant and a spa round off the amenities.Address: , 4744 Happo-wadanonomor, Hakuba, 339 – 9301
Telephone: +81 261 727 111
Hotel Villa Hakuba
This comfortable 3-star hotel has convenient ski-in/ski-out access from Happo-one and a range of good facilities, including rooms and apartments with large plasma screens and Apple TV, and indoor hot baths. Staff are exceptionally welcoming and helpful, and there's also a convenient cafe/bar, The Rabbit Hole.Address: , 4777 Hokujo Wadano, Kitaazumi-gun, Hakuba, 339 – 9301
Telephone: +81 261 850 808.
Aqua Alpine Hotel
This hotel benefits from an excellent location, just 300m (980ft) from the ski lifts, and is co-owned by Australia's first Winter Olympic Gold Medallist – Steven Bradbury. On-site facilities include free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, a large lounge with open fire and a theatre and karaoke room screening nightly movies.Address: , 22203-151 Kamishiro, Hakuba, 399-9211
Telephone: +81 261 75 3571.
A popular 13 bedroom, family-run, guest house with onsen style baths and a karaoke room; the Hakuba Hifumi is well presented and located close to the Happo One ski area.Address: , 4998 Hokujo, Hakuba-Mura, 399-9301
Telephone: +81 261 728 411
Hakuba Alps Backpackers
This friendly and affordable hostel with dormitory and cottage-style accommodation is located at the bottom of the Goryu area ski slopes. Rooms are basic but comfortable with communal bathrooms and free Wi-Fi internet access.Address: , 22407-4 Kamishiro, Hakuba-Mura, 339 – 9301
Telephone: +81 261 754 038