So if you’re traveling with a JR pass, then you can get from Nagano to Tokyo by taking the super fast shinkansen bullet train.
But if case you aren’t traveling with a JR pass, you might consider traveling by bus.
It will be a little slower, but it is the cheaper way to get to Nagano!
Nagano is the name of a city, and it’s also the name of a prefecture.
The popular ski resort of Hakuba is located in Nagano prefecture. Nagano City can make a perfect base to see snow monkeys in hot springs at Jigokudani monkey park. Nagano was also the home to the 1998 winter olympics.
Here’s a bit of what taking the bus from Tokyo to Nagano might look like
I took a bus from Tokyo to Nagano City in February 2019, and this is my experience!
Arrive at Shinjuku bus station in Tokyo
The Shinjuku bus terminal is basically the main bus station in Tokyo, and this is where you’ll find long distance buses depart from.
The Shinjuku train station is right near the bus station.
Unless you’re staying in Shinjuku, there’s a good chance you’ll be arriving to Shinjuku by train.
It will be good to give yourself extra time to work your way around.
The Shinjuku train station is really big, but look for signs that point to the Shinjuku expressway bus terminal.
How to buy a bus ticket to Nagano
For this bus trip, I bought my bus ticket at the Shinjuku bus terminal right before I got on the bus.
I just went to the counter and asked for the next available bus.
There are a bunch of ticket counters, and they are also divided by the destination you are going to.
There is an information desk at the station, as well as workers standing around, and you can ask these people too if you’re not sure where to go.
There’s also the option to buy from the ticket machine, but to me it seems easier to buy a ticket from a person at the counter!
I don’t always recommend the approach of buying your ticket on the day-of 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.
But if you want to buy your ticket in advance because you have less flexibility or because you want to make sure you get confirmed tickets, you can try searching for bus tickets on this website. This is the website I used to buy a ticket for a bus from Tokyo to Mt Fuji 5th station, and I had no issues.
How much does the bus ticket cost from Tokyo to Nagano?
My bus ticket cost 2,900 yen (US$27).
Getting to the bus departure point
So once you buy your ticket, you can ask the ticket counter, information desk, or the workers standing around where to go to catch your bus to Nagano.
Then… go there! It’ll be a short walk.
Once you are there and you find your bus to Nagano, you will show your ticket to the bus driver once it is boarding time. If you bought your ticket online, you can show the ticket on your phone.
There’s a spot to put your luggage under the bus if you don’t want to bring in onto the bus with you.
Enjoy the ride!!
How long is the bus ride?
My bus ride from Tokyo to Nagano was around 4 hours long.
There was also a rest stop
A little over 2 hours into the bus ride, there was a stop at a rest area for about 10-15 minutes.
You don’t have time to sit down for a meal, but you can check out what a rest area in Japan is like! At this rest area, there was a bakery, a gift shop, a fast casual restaurant, and plenty of vending machines with drinks.
I’m pretty sure there was a toilet on this bus too.
Some long distance buses have toilets, although it’s not on all of them.
Approaching Nagano City
On this bus, there was a button to press indicating to the bus driver to stop next.
I haven’t seen these so much on long distance buses, and being that Nagano city is a main bus stop, I would expect the bus to stop no matter what. (You do want to use the buttons on local buses though.) But, in case you see it on your bus to Nagano, that’s what it is!
Arrive in Nagano City!!
My bus drop-off point was right near the JR Nagano train station.
Inside of this train station is a tourist information center, and that could be a good first stop to make!
And that’s a bit of what it might be like to take the bus from Tokyo to Nagano!
Where to stay in Nagano city
When I was Nagano city, I stayed at hostel called 1166 Backpackers. This hostel will give you a “Japanese” type feel! There are dorms beds as well as Japanese-style private rooms. There’s a common area where you can make yourself free tea. This is on a quiet street about a 20 minute walk from Nagano Station. There is also public transportation that will get you here, and for that, you can follow google maps!
Otherwise, put in future dates below (partner website) to look for more places to stay in Nagano!
HAPPY BUS RIDE FROM TOKYO TO NAGANO!
How to spend winter in Japan
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Among the top 3 things people get specific for a trip to Japan
- JR pass for quick and easy long distance train travel (see price here and see here how to calculate train routes to figure out it's worth it for you)
- Pocket wifi to make travel in Japan easier (see price here)
- Travel insurance for natural disasters just in case especially for travel disruptions (see price here and see here for past natural disaster that affected foreigners)
Food in JapanIf 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!
- 10 day Japan winter itinerary
- Tokyo to Nagano bus
- 2 days in Nagano with snow monkey pass // Stay at this Nagano hostel (private rooms available)
- A few days in popular ski resort area Hakuba (go here for at least a day even if you don't ski for the winter landscape in the mountains!) // Stay at this Hakuba hostel (private rooms available)
- Hakuba to Takayama (Hakuba to Matsumoto train / a few hours in Matsumoto / Matsumoto to Takayama bus)
- A few days in Takayama with day trips: Shirakawago / Shinhotaka ropeway on a sunny day // Stay at this Takayama hostel (private rooms available) and eat regional Takayama ramen
- Takayama back to Tokyo OR Takayama to Nagoya airport to fly to Hokkaido for more winter landscapes!
Hokkaido winter itinerary (train to get around - there are JR Hokkaido passes available, and you can use a regular JR pass too)
- Sapporo to Asahikawa (Asahikawa for penguin walk at zoo)
- Asahikawa to Abashiri (Abashiri for drift ice cruise)
- Abashiri to Obihiro (night in Obihiro and go to Lake Shikaribetsu ice village the next day)
- Obihiro to Sapporo
- Sapporo to Noboribetsu onsen hot spring town (day trip)
- Sapporo to Hakodate // Stay in this Hakodate hostel
- Hakodate to Tokyo on shinkansen bullet train through the underwater tunnel! (Regular JR pass will be worth it if you take this train ride along with one more long distance train ride within 7 days)
When the JR pass is worth itIn 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 JapanUnfortunately, 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
- 5 days in Kyoto
- Cost of climbing Mt Fuji from Tokyo
- Where to go for famous Mt Fuji views as seen in pictures
- Know before you go to Hiroshima
- One day in Miyajima with famous floating torii views
- 3 days in Okinawa, Japan's tropical islands
- Cherry blossom photo walk
- When is the JR pass worth it for train travel?
- Tokyo to Kyoto train
- Hostels in Japan