Deep in the snow-capped ridges of the Japanese Alps is Hakuba Region. Located within the Nagano Prefecture, this charming valley offers idyllic and picturesque view of mountains and ranges dressed in immaculate white snow. So popular and scenic is this place that it played host to several snow sporting events including the 1998 Winter Olympics. With a variety of terrains that could range from a steady downhill to the more treacherous and steeply ones, it is not surprising that this region is a favorite spot for skiers and snowboard aficionados all over the world.
This skiing resort haven got its name from the Japanese word “white horse” – the reason for which is that the mountain side during spring time would seem to resemble a shape of the horse. But of course, this lovely region is more than the snow capped mountains and terrains it is famous for. Hakuba, in the past, has been a constant resting and perennial stop-over place for traders and travelers treading the Salt Road going to Matsumoto from the Sea of Japan. It has provided great comfort and break from tired merchants and seafarers who have journeyed from afar for business and trade. Historical records reveal that Hakuba was part of the ancient highway called “Salt Road”. Back in the days, salt was considered to be the most important commodity aside from produce and sea harvests. This “Salt Road” traces Matsumoto along the coasts by Itoigawa.
At present, Hakuba is considered to be a major skiing resort in Japan’s Chubu district – and probably in the entire Asian region. Many skiers and snowboarders are drawn to its majestic scenery, challenging terrains and slopes as well as a motley of attractive diversions for both tourists and locals. For instance, there are ten different ski spots to choose from and can be traversed using a single lift pass.
During the green season when the snow has melted and flowers and trees are abloom, people can have a lot of ways to get themselves busy with. There are three lakes within the valley where the water is so pure and clean that they’re so irresistible to swim or dip on. There are bike trails for those who prefer the less steep mountains, and there are hot spring baths which are perfect for those tired muscles and joints after a long but enjoyable trek. A good number of bar and restaurants can also be visited in this area. There are a variety of local food shops serving authentic Hakuba delicacies and staples. As a matter of fact, blueberries and purple rice – considered to be the village’s top products– are a main attraction among local cuisine.
Hakuba is a place much cooler than other cities in Japan’s Pacific coast. It rests at the bottom of the Northern Alps centrally located near Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo. Considerably surrounded by mountain ranges and terrains, this is a truly magnificent place worth visiting – with or without the snow.
The scenic spots in Hakuba have been featured in many local movies and a number of ski and snowboarding adventure shows and publications. With a total land area of 182.34 km², and a population of 9, 246 (2007), this village remains a lasting vestibule in Japan’s tourist attractions.