HIKE INTO THE HEART OF HAKUBA
Crystal-clear lakes and wildflower fields prove that Nagano Prefecture’s not just for powder hounds.
Attention, all rugged adventurers! A wide range of lively activities awaits you in summery Hakuba village.
Famed for hosting the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is known as a playground for your inner snow bunny. The city’s infrastructure was built to world-class proportions in preparation for the Olympics, and some of the competition’s classic facilities, like the Hakuba Ski Jumping Stadium, are still in use. Perched on the outskirts of Nagano City, tiny Hakuba was the hub for many Olympic events, and it is still known as a ski town. But this region in general—and Hakuba in particular—has so much more to offer than shred-worthy slopes. Outdoorsy types should venture here in the “green season” to enjoy every inch of what this charming summer village has to offer.
Nestled into the 3,000-metre-high peaks of the Japan Alps, the Hakuba Valley is part of the Chubu Sangaku National Park, which spans much of the mountain range’s northern region. Hakuba is a hiker’s dream, with paths ranging from familyfriendly to sweat-inducing, from picnic interludes to multi-day treks. For one of the most celebrated sights, take a gondola from Happo Station, then the chairlifts of the Happo Alpen Line, which lead you to the Happo-One Nature Study Trail, a path that features majestic mountain views fringed with alpine plants. Keep pushing on until you reach the small but striking Happo Pond, over 2,000 metres above sea level. Stand at the edge of the lake in a refreshing breeze and drink in the pristine reflection of mountain peaks biting into a bluebird sky.
Plant lovers who want even more gorgeous flora should head to the Hakuba Goryu Alps Botanical Garden, which opens June 13. Summer travellers can enjoy these leafy alpine beauties in the bright sunlight or lit up on a twinkling nighttime gondola ride. Visitors in July and August should definitely enjoy the Hakuba Alps Hana-Zanmai, or Flower Festival. The largest event of the season, you can enjoy this festival any time between July 1 and August 31 in areas throughout the region. For more night views, you can also check out the July Hakuba Norikura Firefly Watching Tour.
After strolling through the flowers, get your heart rate up again with one of the many outdoor activities Hakuba has to offer. Hop on a tethered air balloon for panoramic views, or enjoy a two-hour kayak trip across the clear waters of the Blue Trek Lake. If you’re looking for adventures on land, try one of the town’s mountain bike trails, which offer rides for all ages and abilities. Uber-athletes and adrenaline junkies can get their kicks with rock climbing or cascading down water chutes in the gorgeous Kamoshika Canyon. White-water enthusiasts can enjoy the playful, class-two rapids of Princess River. All of these outdoor activities come with a variety of guided options for different skill levels. And what better way to end an actionpacked day than soaking in one of Hakuba’s 12 onsen, or hot springs? These natural alkaline waters will soften your calluses and soothe your muscle aches. Night owls and foodies will find no shortage of evening fun after that soothing onsen dip.
Victoire Cheval Blanc Murao 3rd
Designed by an eight-year-old boy in a local competition, Hakuba’s white horse mascot reflects the Chinese characters in the city’s name.
© Hakuba Village
ENJOY AN ACTION-PACKED ADVENTURE IN HAKUBA
HAKUBA’S EATS AND TREATS
Soba selection Hakuba’s eats and treats Hakuba is known for its exceptionally tasty soba, or buckwheat noodles. Discerning soba slurpers have a plethora of shops to choose from, as well as a delicious selection of dipping sauces. While you’re at it, try your hand at making your very own soba! For an even more authentic experience, try pairing this activity with a guided lesson in tea ceremony while garbed in a lovely yukata.
Pick up some Hakuba Murasaki-mai, or purple rice, at one of the village’s many roadside stations. The striking colour comes from boiling glutinous and non-glutinous rice together. A relative newcomer to Hakuba’s plethora of famous goods, purple rice was adapted from China in the 1990s and is now a popular ingredient in many snacks—and even in some local sakes. In addition to being a feast for the eyes, Murasaki-mai is delicious and nutritious.
Hakuba’s sights and activities overflow with high energy and with a deep appreciation for the region’s vigorous natural environment. Similarly, producers of the village’s famous omiyage (souvenirs) take full advantage of their local resources, blending a distinctly Hakuba-style gourmet sensibility with a whimsical and creative spirit. Surprising varieties of omiyage include veggie jams— such as pumpkin, carrot and onion— spongy royal hearts and, of course, variations on the famous buckwheat noodle. Be sure to bring home some of these surprising gifts for the family, and save a bite or three for yourself.
Pure-Soba Tea & Soba-Mint Tea
Courtesy of Hakuba Village
Even Hakuba’s local teas have taken on the distinctive flavours of the area’s finest soba noodles. This caffeine-free tea, available in pure and mint varieties, has a wonderfully refreshing flavour. Have your noodle and drink it too!
Hakuba no Ōjisama
Courtesy of Sumpson Farm, Hakuba
In this unique take on the traditional madeleine, dehydrated tomatoes are kneaded into a batter of pure, locally sourced flours and baked into heart-shaped sponge cakes—just one of the delicious, innovative gifts available from Hakuba Sumpson Farm.
All photos ©Tourism Commission of Hakuba Village/©JNTO unless otherwise noted