The 4 Seasons of Hakuba
The Hakuba Valley has four very distinct seasons. Winter is obviously the busiest with our famous snowfall leading the charge but coming up at other times of year can offer some amazing experiences with things to see and do for everyone.
The winter is what made Hakuba famous for so many of us. The so called ''Lake Effect'' which is where cold air from Siberia blows across the Japan Sea, picks up lots of moisture from the sea, turns it to snow and carries it to the first mountain range and dumps copious amounts of snow on it. This is the Hakuba Valley!
The start of the ski season can be a bit unpredictable like everywhere in the world but just one or two winter storms is all it needs to get going. Once it is on, its on! January and February are the prime powder months that continues into March. April the seasons start to change and more bluebird days are on offer, however spring storms do roll through in March and sometimes into April dropping serious powder on mostly deserted slopes. Often the slopes close in May with a base of 2m+ at the summit.
Spring is a beautiful time in the Hakuba Valley, the snow base in just the village starts to melt and everyone waits for the Cherry Blossom trees (Sakura in Japanese) to erupt into full bloom. There are many prime viewing locations in the valley and also in our neighbouring valleys.
Spring is the perfect opportunity to visit many of the attractions nearby such as Matsumoto Castle which is surrounded by Sakura trees, Kurobe Snow walls, Snow Monkeys - minus the tourists or even Togakushi just to name a few. All this can be done while still enjoying the snow on the mountains. Most resorts offer spring discount lift tickets. Spring storms will occasionally roll though and can dump in excess of 50cm of glorious powder. It will be just the locals and you on the mountain, it is heaven!
When the snow melts the action and adventure doesn't stop it keeps going! The Valley erupts in a sea of green and the rivers fill with crystal pure mountain water. The perfect combination for adventure! In addition to the year round attractions listed on the ''Things to Do'' page, I will mention just a handful of the summer activities on offer below.
On the mountains most of the major resorts operate their gondolas for hikers and sight-seers. Many of the cafe's we love in the winter are open in the summer so you can have a lazy time at the top of the mountains sipping a cappuccino or beer watching the valley go by.
For the more active the gondolas are launching pads for hikers. There are many well established hiking trails that vary in time from a few hours to an overnight stay at the summit (it's a great experience!). Some of the views and mountain top lakes are simply breathtaking!
If you need more action on your plate the Hakuba Valley has some amazing mountain biking that is gaining popularity very quickly. Iwatake is becoming renown as one of Japan's best! There are trails for all abilities and guided tours for back country biking too.
If biking on asphalt is more your style there are very scenic established biking routes along the valley and also a few competitions are based in the valley throughout the summer months.
If you want to see the Hakuba Valley from a completely different dimension try out paragliding! Hakuba is Japan's paragliding capital. We have some of the world's best and have held the paragliding World Cup. Tandem flights are easily available and well priced throughout the summer. What a buzz!
In the valley we have a multitude of rivers that offer excellent white water rafting, kayaking or even canyoning experiences with half, full or multi day tours on offer.
If you prefer your water calmer there is also very easy access to canoeing, fishing, kayaking, water skiing, stand up paddle-boarding just to name a few.
In July and August the fireflies become very active on the lakes around Hakuba and makes an incredible sight. There are night canoeing tours that get you right up to their natural habitats where they are active as the night sky around you, above you and beside you is swarming with their silent glowing beauty. It is truly a magical experience and why we call our namesake Firefly Apartments!
Autumn is another beautiful season in the Hakuba Valley, perhaps the most beautiful. All the mountains turn fiery red and orange in unison as the leaves get ready to fall. It is quite a spectacle. October is the hiking month as the temperatures are quite moderate and the views from the peaks simply stunning. Hikers from all around the world descend on the valley for our Autumn colours!
If hiking isn't your thing then definitely go to the Kurobe Alpine Route that starts just a short drive from town (check it out on the things to do web-page). The Route takes you by cable car, by foot and by train over some spectacular gorges with all the leaves in colour. It is one of Japan's most famous Autumn activities.
Autumn is our favourite season for travelling around Japan as the whole country erupts in colour, it's almost like a reverse Sakura just without the crowds! It is always well worth a detour to Hakuba any time of year, there is always something to see and do!