How To Take The Bus To Hakuba From Tokyo — Guide And Review

There are a few ways to get from Tokyo to Hakuba, namely the bus, train, private taxi or self-drive. Taxis are expensive, you’re looking at around ¥100,000 to charter a van for up to 9 people. Since we were not comfortable with driving in snow, we were down to the bus or train option. We eventually settled on taking a bus to Hakuba as it was the most fuss-free option, since it didn’t require any transfers.

Here’s a detailed review and some tips from our experience. For context, we took the Alpico bus from Haneda to Hakuba and the Nagano Snow Shuttle from Hakuba to Shinjuku.

Hakuba Station
Hakuba Station

What Bus Companies Are Available?

Alpico and Nagano Snow Shuttle are the most popular options for bus to Hakuba from Tokyo. There are also other companies with similar services such as Jam Jam Express and Keio Bus, but we’ll only be comparing Alpico and Nagano Snow Shuttle in this article.

Alpico vs Nagano Snow Shuttle; What’s The Difference?

Departure Times

The biggest difference between the 2 would be the departure times and locations. Refer to the table below for the departure times and prices of the 2 bus companies:

Note: Departure times and prices may change based on season. The information below is accurate for the 2023-24 season.

Depart FromAlpicoAlpico
Departure time(s)
Nagano
Snow Shuttle
Nagano Snow Shuttle
Departure time(s)
HanedaAdult: ¥9,300
Child: ¥7,300
Terminal 3: 7.40am¥9,800Terminal 3: 7.30am, 11am, 4pm
NaritaAdult: ¥13,000
Child: ¥11,000
Terminal 3: 10.55am
Terminal 2: 11am
Terminal 1: 11.05am
¥105,000Terminal 2: 10.30am, 3.30pm, 8.30pm
Shinjuku¥5,400 – ¥7,800 (depends on dates)7.35am, 9.35am, 10.25am, 3.05pm, 5.05pm
Osaka/KyotoWinter:
Adult: ¥10,300
Child: ¥5,150
Green Season: ¥10,600 – ¥12,600
Osaka (Umeda Hankyu Sanbangai): 8.40pm
Shin-osaka: 8.49pm
Kyoto Station: 9.55pm
Matsumoto Adult: ¥2,800
Child: ¥1,400
Matsumoto Bus Terminal: 8.30pm
Shigakogen¥5,50010am
Nagano To Goryu, Hakuba Station, Happo, Iwatake:
Adult: ¥2,800
Child: ¥1,400

To Tsugaike, Norikura:
Adult: ¥3,000
Child: ¥1,500
Many departure times, almost every half-hourly¥3,3008.30am, 11.30am, 3.45pm
Madarao Kogen
(Hotel Tangram, Madarao Kogen Hotel)
¥5,5008.25am, 10.35am, 1.55pm
Myoko Kogen
(Akakura Bus Stop)
¥5,5008am, 10.10am, 1.30pm
Nozawa Onsen
(Chuo Terminal)
¥5,5008.40am, 10.40am, 2pm

Tip: if you want to save some money on transport, you can stay a night or 2 in Tokyo and catch the Alpico bus from Shinjuku to Hakuba. If you choose to do this, you can also arrange for luggage delivery service with Yamato Transport at the airport and have your bags delivered to Hakuba. It will take about 48 hours for your items to be delivered from Tokyo to Hakuba, and you also wouldn’t have to carry your luggages around Tokyo.

Comfort

Another major difference between the 2 companies are the comfort levels of the seats. The seat orientation of the Alpico buses are mostly of a 3-seat orientation, whereby each row has 3 individual seats, while the Nagano Snow Shuttle has the traditional 4-seat orientation layout, with an aisle in the middle.

Alpico 3-seat Orientation

Alpico Bus Interior - Bus to Hakuba From Tokyo
Alpico Bus Seats

Every seat is standalone and does not have another seat attached to it. The leg room was roomy for someone of average build, and the leg rest is also very comfortable. The seats were wide and being an stand-alone seat, it also gives you more room for your arms on the armrest. It was also spacious even with a backpack on my lap. As the seats were quite a distance apart from one another, reclining my seat also did not feel like I was causing any inconvenience to the person behind.

Alpico Seat Foot Rest - Bus to Hakuba From Tokyo
There’s even a calf/shin rest.

Nagano Snow Shuttle 4-seat Orientation

The Nagano Snow Shuttle has a seat orientation that most of us are used to. 2-by-2 seats, with an aisle in the middle. The leg room was not great and was a squeeze when I placed my backpack on my lap. I did not recline my seat on the Nagano Snow Shuttle as it was a tight squeeze and I did not want to further limit the space of the person sitting behind me. There was also no leg rest, which made it even more uncomfortable.

Nagano Snow Shuttle Seats - Bus to Tokyo from Hakuba
Nagano Snow Shuttle Seats

Rest Stops

Alpico Bus - Bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
Alpico bus, Expansa rest stop

Both buses had 2 rest stops; one stop an hour from Tokyo, and the other an hour away from Hakuba. The rest stops will have toilets and you’ll be able to buy food and/or drinks as well. The only difference is that the Nagano Snow Shuttle will stop at Oyaki Farm for one of its rest stops, so you are “forced” to eat Oyaki if you’re hungry.

Takasaka rest stop for Nagano Snow Shuttle - Bus to Tokyo from Hakuba
Takasaka rest stop for Nagano Snow Shuttle

Luggage Allowance

Alpico has no limit to the number of pieces of luggages allowed.

The Nagano Snow Shuttle allows 2 pieces of luggage per person and a small bag to be carried onto the bus (either to put on your lap, or placed overhead). Snowboards and skis are allowed, but are included in the 2 pieces of luggage allowance. Additional luggage will cost extra and based on space availability. Our bus was packed and the luggage storage area was too, so don’t bet on the availability of extra space.

How To Buy Tickets

For both Alpico and Nagano Snow Shuttle, it is best to book online. It is recommended to book at least 1 month in advance. Both bus companies also have the option to buy a ticket on the day itself before boarding, but this is subjected to seat availability.

Where To Board The Bus At Haneda Airport

Alpico

The Alpico bus stop is at Terminal 3 of Haneda airport. Follow the signs and you should find a lift that takes you down to the public bus stands. Across the lift, there is a directory next to the escalator, which states which bus stand you should go to. Look for “For NAGANO”, “Hakuba Area (Winter Only)”, and you should see a bus stand number. Head down to the bus stand. Once you’re downstairs you should see quite a number of bus stands and the bus stand should indicate “Hakuba Sta. 7.40”.

Note: There is also a ticket machine at the bus stands where you can buy a ticket if you have not made any reservations online.

Instructions for bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
Follow the bus signs in Haneda terminal 3 arrival hall
Instructions for bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
Take this lift to the bus stands
Instructions for bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
You should see this opposite the lift, you can find the bus stand number here, look for “Hakuba”
Instructions for bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
Wait around the bus stand, the Alpico staff will get everyone’s details near boarding time

Tip: Book a seat on the left on the way from Haneda to Hakuba. You may catch a glimpse of Mt. Fuji on a clear day!

Nagano Snow Shuttle

The Nagano Snow Shuttle check in counter is in the terminal 3 arrival hall. If you’re arriving at Haneda terminal 3, you should see the counter once you exit the customs area.

Nagano Snow Shuttle Haneda Airport Counter - Bus to Hakuba from Tokyo
Image credit: Nagano Snow Shuttle

Timeliness

Alpico

The Alpico bus was around 5 minutes late to arrive at the Haneda bus stop. However, it departed on time from all the rest stops and made it to Hakuba in good time, slightly ahead of scheduled time.

Nagano Snow Shuttle

The Nagano Snow Shuttle departed Hakuba on time and also made it to Shinjuku right around scheduled time.

Service

Alpico (Haneda to Hakuba)

Right from the get go, the service from Alpico were extremely warm. The staff arranged our luggages neatly and according to where each guest was alighting, so that the driver would know which bags had to be taken out at each stop. The driver also sent us off with a warm smile when we alighted and got our bags.

For the return trip to Tokyo, there are only specific stops where you can board the bus, namely the stops in the screenshot below. This may be difficult if you have many luggages and can’t get a taxi or if your accommodation does not provide free shuttle service to these stops.

Alpico bus stop locations in Hakuba

Nagano Snow Shuttle (Hakuba to Shinjuku)

On the other hand, the Nagano Snow Shuttle driver seemed a little grumpy when unloading the luggages. However, I’d give him the benefit of doubt, as he could have been in a rush to unload all the bags as the bus was parked in a very awkward spot along a road in Shinjuku. All things aside, the service we received when checking at the Hakuba Base Camp before our departure was great.

A plus point of the Nagano Snow Shuttle is that they are able to pick you from your accommodation prior to the bus’s scheduled departure. It would have been difficult for us to get to Hakuba station, where the bus was scheduled to depart from, with our bags from our accommodation, so the pickup service was greatly appreciated. The pickup service was on time as well!

Oyaki Farm, Nagano Snow Shuttle Rest Stop
Oyaki Farm

Final Thoughts, Ratings

In terms of comfort, I much preferred the Alpico bus. As it is a 5 hour long journey, comfort is important, unless you’re not fussy about squeezing.

Another issue I had with the Nagano Snow Shuttle was that there were guest making transfers at the Oyaki Farm rest stop. For the return trip from Hakuba to Tokyo, guests who were heading to Tokyo from other areas like Nozawa Onsen, Shigakogen and Myoko would all board the bus that came from Hakuba at the Oyaki Farm rest stop.

It was extremely disorderly and we came back from the toilet to someone sitting in our seats, even though those were our assigned seats. The staff onboard the bus also did not bother to get the seats properly sorted and told the new guests to sit in whatever empty seats available. This was terrible as it made it seem like we stole the new guests’ seats, even though those were our assigned seats.

AlpicoNagano Snow Shuttle
Comfort5/53/5
Timeliness4/55/5
Service4/53/5

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