10 days in Japan winter itinerary from Tokyo. Nagano, Hakuba, Takayama, Japanese alps. Best places to visit winter in Japan cities. December, January, February, March. Best time to visit for snow. Best things to do. Getting around Japan by bus and train. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

This is basically part 1 of my Japan winter itinerary and almost exactly what I did. (Part 2 is winter in Hokkaido!)

This starts off from Tokyo, and then heads to places where you can visit the mountain range called the Japan Alps or Japanese Alps.

This is how I did it anyway in early 2019.

I started at the very end of February and was in these places through March.

 

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best ski resorts in Japan. Best snowboarding in Japan. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

This was actually a little late in terms of winter landscape, as some places I visited didn’t have the packed snow as seen in pictures. The snow was melting.

So if you have flexibility in your dates, it may be better to try to go earlier in the season than I did. Although they did say the season I went was unseasonably warm so snow was melting earlier than usual. In pictures below that you don’t see packed snow, google winter pictures of these places!

But even with places that did have snow melting, you’re sure to have a very Japan experience by following this winter itinerary!

There are some places on this list that aren’t necessarily winter-specific destinations, but since you are in the area, they can be a perfect way to experience more of Japan!

 

First, the quick list of the best places to visit for winter in Japan when starting your trip from Tokyo.

Then, the quick list of the 10 day trip itinerary to go to these places with 1-2 weeks in Japan.

Then, a little bit about where to stay.

And then, a bit more about getting around Japan, specific to these places, by bus or train!

 

 

3 best places to visit for winter in Japan in 10 days

…when you’re making a loop from Tokyo!

 

  1. Nagano City
  2. Hakuba
  3. Takayama

 

These are the places to spend your nights!

 

And then from these places…

9 best things to do in Japan in 10 days

 

1. Nagano city

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. nagano. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

2. Jigokudani snow monkey park

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. jigokudani snow monkey park hot springs. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

3. Shibu onsen hot spring town

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. shibu onsen hot springs japanese town. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

4. Obuse chestnut town

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. obuse chestnut japanese town. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

5. Hakuba Valley

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. Hakuba, northern Japanese alps. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

6. Matsumoto

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. Matsumoto. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

7. Takayama

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. Takayama. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

8. Shinhotaka ropeway

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. Shinhotaka ropeway, Japanese alps. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

9. Shirakawago

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Best places to visit in Japan in winter. Shirakawago. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

So how to make these things a part of your trip to Japan?!

Here is the quick list of the Japan winter itinerary!

 

Day 1: Tokyo to Nagano

 

Day 2: Nagano

 

Day 3: Nagano

  • Obuse
  • Zenkoji Temple
  • Overnight in Nagano

 

Day 4: Nagano to Hakuba

  • Nagano city to Hakuba by bus (1.5 hours)
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

Day 5: Hakuba ski resort

  • Happo-one ski resort (gondola ride for winter landscape of snow-capped mountain views if you don’t ski!)
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

Day 6: Hakuba ski resort

  • Iwatake ski resort
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

Day 7: Hakuba to Takayama

 

Day 8: Day trip to Shirakawago

  • Takayama to Shirakawago by bus
  • Visit Shirakawago
  • Walk around Takayama Old City
  • Overnight in Takayama

 

Day 9: Day trip to Shinhotaka Ropeway

  • Takayama to Shinhotaka ropeway by bus
  • See winter mountain views around the Shinhotaka ropeway
  • Overnight in Takayama

 

Day 10: Takayama to Tokyo

  • Takayama to Tokyo by bus or train
  • Overnight in Tokyo

 

There’s a bit more on how to get around Japan below, but first…

 

Where to stay in Japan

There are maps and links below (partner websites) to search for hotels in the overnight cities that are a part of this itinerary. Put in future dates into the map, and have a look at hotel prices and reviews!

 

Nagano

Since this itinerary uses the snow monkey pass (more on this in a bit) to go places from Nagano city, it can be convenient to stay near Nagano Station which is where you can find the train station and bus station.

I stayed at this hostel that also has private rooms that will give you a Japanese feeling.



Booking.com

 

 

Hakuba

For Hakuba, it can be helpful to first decide what it is you want to do here. The ski resorts are kind of spread out, so it will save you time if you stay in an area that will be closest to some of your activities. Some ski resorts might be a 30 minute to 1 hour shuttle ride away.

I stayed at this hostel that also has private rooms. It was located within walking distance of a shuttle bus stop, and they offered a free ride to the train station too.

 



Booking.com

 

Takayama

If you follow this itinerary by going to the suggested day trips, then it will be convenient to stay near the bus station (which is also near the train station).

I stayed at this hostel that also has private rooms, and also gives you a bit of a Japanese feeling. This was a 5-10 minute walk from both the bus station and the old city area. If that’s all booked up, this hostel is a sister property of that one, also in a good location.

 



Booking.com

 

 

Tokyo

To be safe, it would be best to book your flight out of Tokyo on the day after you arrive back. Winter travel can mean an increased risk of delays. You don’t want to feel stressed about having to make it back by a certain time for your flight! (Although this could be a good reason to have travel insurance for those weather related delays!)

Shinjuku is where the main long distance terminal is located, and it’s also the location of a major train station too. This is also a popular Tokyo neighborhood for tourists.

In Shinjuku, I’ve stayed at this more modern hostel. In another area of Tokyo, I’ve also stayed in this hostel right near the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo that offered free group activities like cooking classes, and I would also recommend having a look at this hostel that is in Asakusa. This neighborhood can also be nice if you’ll be further exploring Tokyo.



Booking.com

 

 

And now…

A few more details about getting around Japan!

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. train or bus. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan with luggage. what to pack for japan. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 

Getting from Tokyo to Nagano

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. Tokyo to Nagano bus. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 1: Tokyo to Nagano

 

To get from Tokyo to Nagano, it’s possible to take a shinkansen train if you want to use your JR pass.

But it’s also possible to get there for cheaper, at least when it comes to individual tickets. (Tokyo to Nagano shinkansen train vs Tokyo to Nagano bus.)

I basically just showed up at the Shinjuku bus station in Tokyo (THE main bus station in Tokyo) and bought a bus ticket to Nagano. I don’t always recommend this approach as it depends on season and destination (you might not get a seat), but it worked out for me at the end of February! The bus was fairly empty.

See more about my trip from Tokyo to Nagano by bus.

 

 

Getting around Nagano city area

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan. getting around nagano with snow monkey pass. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 2: Nagano city

  • Jigokudani snow monkey park
  • Shibu onsen, small hot springs town
  • Overnight in Nagano

 

Day 3: Nagano City

  • Obuse, the small chestnut town
  • Zenkoji Temple
  • Overnight in Nagano

 

Nagano is the name of a prefecture (similar to a state or province), and there’s also a city by the same name. This region was home to the 1998 winter olympics.

When in Nagano city, I bought the 2-day snow monkey pass which is around 3,500 yen (US$30). This included all necessary transportation to and from the famous Jigokudani snow monkey park (there’s a direct bus), and it includes the entry too. This is where you see snow monkeys in the onsen hot springs.

The snow monkey pass also includes transportation to Shibu onsen, which is a small hot springs town. You can visit Shibu Onsen on your way back from the monkey park. (It is kind of a long walk, but I walked there from the monkey park.) The pass also includes transportation to Obuse, which is a small town known for chestnuts. Visiting both of these places can give you a quieter small town Japanese experience.

You can buy the snow monkey pass once you arrive in Nagano, in the basement level of the train station. Follow signs for the Nagano Dentetsu Station.

When you’re in Nagano city, also be sure to visit Zenkoji Temple. This is a famous temple in Nagano.

Nagano is also known for the Japanese noodles called soba. While you can find soba all over Japan, since it’s a specialty here, be sure to have soba in Nagano! You might be able to see them prepare the soba from the street too.

 

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. What to eat in Japan. nagano soba. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

I stayed at a hostel in Nagano which can give you a Japanese feeling type stay – see my photos!

Also see my photos for:

 

 

Getting from Nagano to Hakuba

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan. nagano to hakuba bus. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 4: Nagano to Hakuba

  • Nagano city to Hakuba by bus (1.5 hours)
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

There is a direct bus from Nagano City to Hakuba.

You need to buy a bus ticket before you board the bus. The Nagano bus station is right next to/at the train station. You can buy bus tickets at a store near the place to catch the bus to Hakuba. (You’ll see signs.) It can be better to buy a ticket as soon as you arrive in Nagano, just so you don’t have to worry about tickets selling out. I bought mine on the same day I was leaving though.

 

 

Getting around Hakuba

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. Hakuba shuttle. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 5: Hakuba ski resort

  • Happo-one ski resort
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

Day 6: Hakuba ski resort

  • Iwatake ski resort
  • Overnight in Hakuba

 

Hakuba is a popular ski destination in Japan, as well as a popular snowboarding destination.

Hakuba Valley located in Nagano prefecture, and is a part of what’s called the Japanese Alps or the Japan Alps.

There are a number of ski resorts and snow fields that make up Hakuba, and there’s a Hakuba Valley mountain area pass. This will give you access to all 10 mountains that make up Hakuba Valley including the gondolas and ski lifts, as well as free rides on the shuttle buses that run between the various ski resorts. You can go for 1-day ticket, starting at around 6,100 yen (US$60), through a 7-day ticket. Here are updated prices for the ski lift pass.

You can find ski rentals and snowboard rentals in Hakuba.

Even if you don’t ski, Hakuba can be worth a visit if you are seeking winter landscape! Have a look at taking the gondola at either the Iwatake ski resort (get snacks or a beer at Hakuba Mountain Harbor) or the Happo-one ski resort. You’ll need to buy a round-trip gondola ticket. And without a ski lift pass, the way you’ll get around the various Hakuba ski resorts will also be the shuttle, but that will be around 500 yen (US$5) per ride.

Some of the bigger ski resorts have free shuttles running around the areas too.

I stayed at a hostel in Hakuba that was a short walk from a Hakuba shuttle stop, and it’s also near a train station. See my photos!

 

 

Getting from Hakuba to Takayama

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. Hakuba to Takayama. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 7: Hakuba to Takayama

 

To get from Hakuba to Takayama, Matsumoto is basically along the way. Matsumoto has a famous castle, so it could be a convenient stop when you want to visit a castle in Japan!

See more about my trip from Hakuba to Takayama.

 

 

Getting around Hida Valley (Takayama area)

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. Takayama, Hida Valley, Japanese Alps. nohi bus. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 8: Day trip to Shirakawago

  • Takayama to Shirakawago by bus (1.5 hours)
  • Visit Shirakawago
  • Walk around Takayama Old City
  • Overnight in Takayama

 

Day 9: Day trip to Shinhotaka Ropeway

  • Takayama to Shinhotaka ropeway by bus (2 hours)
  • See winter mountain views
  • Overnight in Takayama

 

Takayama’s old city is a relatively small area you can walk that will give you that “very Japanese” feeling.

Takayama also makes for a good base for day trips by bus. You can make a trip to the UNESCO world heritage site and historic village of Shirakawago. (Google winter pictures for Shirakawago!)

You can also make a trip to Shinhotaka ropeway for more snow-capped mountain views if you didn’t get enough in Hakuba. If you’re interested in winter hiking or snowshoeing, this is a good area to start a trail too. You need to bring your own gear though! Otherwise if want just a casual winter hike, you can walk for 10-15 minutes on the snow-packed trails and then turn around!

 

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Things to do in winter in Japan. winter hikes in japanese alps. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

See more about my trip to Shinhotaka ropeway on a cloudy day.

Takayama has a specialty “Takayama ramen” so be sure to have some of this type of Japanese noodles when in Takayama!

 

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. What to eat in Japan. takayama ramen. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

I stayed at a hostel in Takayama, which is another place that can give you a Japanese feeling type stay! It’s also a short walk from the bus station, which is convenient for those day trips! See my photos.

 

 

Getting from Takayama to Tokyo

10 days in Japan winter itinerary. Getting around Japan in winter. Takayama to Tokyo. shinjuku station. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

Day 10: Takayama to Tokyo

  • Takayama to Tokyo by bus (6 hours)
  • Overnight in Tokyo

 

There is a direct bus from Takayama to Tokyo. It’s best to buy this bus ticket at the bus station as soon as you get to Takayama so you don’t have to worry about bus tickets being sold out.

Otherwise, train is another way to get from Takayama to Tokyo, although it will require a train transfer and will be more expensive. If you plan on further exploring Japan like the traditional Golden Route tourist trail, this might be a time consider activating a JR pass. If riding the shinkansen bullet train is on your bucket list for Japan, this is a time you can take it. (You can also take it at the beginning of this Japan itinerary, from Tokyo to Nagano.)

For the end of the trip, instead of heading back to Tokyo, I moved on to Hokkaido for more of winter in Japan. There was plenty of snow to be seen in Hokkaido even at the end of March!

I went from Takayama to Nagoya by bus to get to the Nagoya airport, and from there took a flight to Hokkaido. (I almost didn’t get a bus ticket, so I would definitely say get this in advance if you’re headed to the airport!)

 

HAPPY 10 DAYS OF WINTER IN JAPAN!

 

10 days in Japan winter itinerary from Tokyo. Nagano, Hakuba, Takayama, Japanese alps. Best places to visit winter in Japan cities. Best things to do. Getting around Japan by bus and train. Backpacking Japan winter travel blog

 

 



How to spend winter in Japan

Backpacking Japan travel blog: Japan winter itinerary. Japan itinerary travel planning tips. Backpacking Japan travel blog: Hokkaido winter itinerary. Japan itinerary travel planning tips.

More quick tips for planning your trip to Japan

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Among the top 3 things people get specific for a trip to Japan


Food in Japan
If you are in Japan for FOOD, then be sure to see where to try different types of Japanese food! (Sometimes for cheaper!)

And also have a look at some of these cooking classes in Japan too.

If you're looking for a route for winter in Japan, here are some ideas!
Hokkaido winter itinerary (train to get around - there are JR Hokkaido passes available, and you can use a regular JR pass too)


When the JR pass is worth it
In general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure. See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.

Natural disasters in Japan
Unfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.

My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon. There have been a few typhoons that have hit Japan in the past couple of years and they can cause real travel disruptions!

See how much insurance costs for your trip.

More for your Japan itinerary
 
That's it for now!
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