When heading to Nagano from Tokyo, the shinkansen – often referred to as the ‘Bullet Train’ – is by far, the fastest and easiest way to get here! Taking between 80 and 110 minutes (depending on which service you use) to reach Nagano, the shinkansen network is a pleasure to use.
While super-efficient, using the shinkansen system – choosing which pass or individual tickets, booking and boarding the right train – can be confusing, particularly if it’s your first visit to Japan! The following page provide some basic information including:
- Overview Getting to Nagano by Shinkansen
- Fares & Timetables
- The Option of a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
- JR Pass vs Buying Individual tickets
With the basics explained, our ‘How To: Shinkansen Reservations to Nagano’ page covers:
- Purchasing a Ticket Online
- Purchasing a Ticket In-person
- Booking a Reserved Seated Using a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
- Boarding & Riding the Shinkansen to Nagano
These pages can be used in conjunction with our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen’ page for complete understanding on how to make the journey from Tokyo to Nagano.
Overview of Getting to Nagano by Shinkansen
Japan has nine different shinkansen lines spanning the country, effectively connecting all areas in one huge network. One of those nine – the Hokuriku Shinkansen – runs north of Tokyo Station all the way to Kanazawa Station. Nagano Station sits near the midpoint of the line and, very conveniently, all services running from Tokyo to Kanazawa or Kanazawa to Tokyo, stop at Nagano Station.
There are also services from Tokyo Station which terminate at Nagano Station, so any service from Tokyo on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line will bring you to Nagano. The following are stops along the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line*:
*Please note, not all services stop at all stations. However, all services from Tokyo stop at Nagano.
There are three different services from Tokyo. All of them stop at Nagano:
Kagayaki Tokyo to Nagano: 80 minutes
Taking 150 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa, this is the fastest service and stops only at Ueno, Omiya, Nagano and Toyama. For visitors traveling to and from Kanazawa, the Kagayaki service takes 65 minutes to reach Nagano. The Kagayaki is reservation only, meaning that a seat must be booked in advance.
Hakutaka Tokyo to Nagano: 90 to 95 minutes
Taking between 180 to 200 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa, the Hakutaka stops more stations – including all stations between Nagano and Kanazawa – but different stations between Tokyo and Nagano depending on the specific service you take. This accounts for the variation in times to travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa and can be confusing, so check in advance to ensure the service you intend to use stops at the appropriate stations. The Hakutaka includes both reserved and non-reserved seating.
Asama Tokyo to Nagano: 100 to 110 minutes
Operating only between Tokyo and Nagano, the Asama stops at all between those two stations. The Asama includes both reserved and non-reserved seating.
For full details regarding these services and the differences between them, please refer to our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen’ page.
Fares & Timetable
A one-way fare from Tokyo to Nagano will cost approximately JPY8,500 one-way or JPY17,000 return, while a one-way fare from Tokyo to Kanazawa will cost approximately JPY15,000-16,000 one-way or JPY30,000-32,000 return (depending on which service you choose). Numerous daily services operate on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line. For details including the timetable, please refer to our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Timetable’ page.
The Option of a Japan Rail (JR) Pass
Foreign nationals who are in Japan as temporary visitors (stays of less than 3 months) are eligible for a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. While expensive, the passes are great value for money if you are planning to use the shinkansen more than a couple of times. The JR Pass covers all services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line.
The following three options all cover the journey from Tokyo to Nagano and many other services:
Japan Rail (JR) Pass
Covering all shinkansen lines in Japan and many other train services, the JR Pass is a great option for visitors planning to use the shinkansen more than a handful of times and/or travel large distances. Travellers have the option of 7, 14 and 21-day passes covering either Ordinary or Ordinary and Green Cars.
A great option for travelers visiting Nagano as part of larger trip across Japan.
Japan Rail (JR) East Pass/ Nagano & Niigata
The JR East Pass covers the Hokuriku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines serving Nagano and Niigata, along with other regional services. There is only one option of pass, covering 5 days of use within a 14-day period from its date of activation.
Notably cheaper than the JR Pass, this is a great option for visitors only visiting this region. A good option for winter visitors hitting the ski resorts of Nagano and Niigata.
Hokuriku Arch Pass
Valid for 7 consecutive days from date of activation, the Hokuriku Arch Pass covers train services from Tokyo – including trains from both Narita and Haneda Airports – to Nagano and Kanazawa and then onto Kyoto, Osaka and Kansai Airport.
Well-suited to any traveler doing the popular Tokyo – Nagano – Kanazawa – Kyoto – Osaka (or the reverse) in a short period of time.
The pass best suited to you depends entirely on your plans while in Japan. For many visitors planning to travel to popular but distant cities – such as Tokyo, Nagano, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima – the full JR Pass is probably your best bet. Individual tickets quickly add-up and while expensive, the pass will pay for itself if you are planning to use the shinkansen multiple times and over long distances.
For guests limiting their visit to just Nagano or neighboring Niigata (and this particularly applies to skiers and snowboarders), then the JR East Rail Pass covering those two areas – serviced by the Hokuriku and Joetsu lines respectively – may well be your best bet. They pass is notably cheaper than the full pass and covers multiple stations including Nagano, Iiyama, and Joetsu-Myoko (on the Hokuriku Line) and Echigo-Yuzawa and Gala-Yuzawa (on the Joetsu Line).
Less well-known but offering great value for money, the Hokuriku Arch Pass suits travels following the popular tourist route from Tokyo to Osaka or Osaka to Tokyo including transport to and from Narita, Haneda and Kansai airports.
JR Pass vs buying individual tickets
The value of the pass depends entirely on how often you will use the shinkansen (or other trains) while in Japan.
As a base sum:
- A one-way fare from Tokyo to Nagano will cost approx. JPY8500
- meaning a return trip from Tokyo to Nagano is around JPY17,000
When you consider that a JR East Rail Pass (Niigata/Nagano) will cost you JPY18,330 online the pass is great value if you plan to use the train even one more time than your return trip to Tokyo plus any other service – noting that it can only be used on 5 separate days during its 14 day validity. The full JR Pass is more expensive costing JPY33,610 for 7 days, JPY52,900 for 14 days, and JPY66,200 for 21 days. Unlike the JR East Rail Pass, this pass can be used every day of its validity making it ideal for visitors headed to Nagano as part of a larger Japanese holiday including destinations on other shinkansen lines such as Kyoto and Osaka.
The Hokuriku Arch Pass costs JPY24,440 and covers unlimited use for 7-days within the defined region. So yet again, use of any shinkansen service just a handful of times will easily justify buying the pass.
For information regarding how to purchase a ticket online, purchase a ticket in-person, booking a reserved seat using a JR Pass, and boarding and riding the shinkansen to Nagano, please refer to our ‘How To: Shinkansen Reservations to Nagano’ page.
Recommendations in Nagano City
As Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator, Snow Monkey Resorts operates all year round and offers guests a range of options including both group and private tours to the region’s most popular destinations. All tours are led by locally-based guides and are designed to introduce the region in a fun and engaging way.
Our group tours start and finish at Nagano Station, our tours easy to access and can be joined as day-trips from Tokyo.
When visiting Nagano, we recommend Hotel Kokusai 21 – one of city’s most established international, full-service hotels.
Blending Western-style rooms and facilities with Japanese service and attention to detail, Hotel Kokusai 21 is conveniently located within easy walking distance of JR Nagano Station, the city’s main attraction including Zenko-ji Temple, and entertainment district. For the convenience of guests, the hotel also provides a free shuttle service to and from the station.
The hotel has a range in-house services including both Western and Japanese restaurants including teppanyaki and traditional kaiseki service, along with dedicated Chinese, Italian, and French cuisine restaurants.
Kokusai 21’s English-speaking staff and dedication to professional service make it our recommendation when staying in Nagano.
Located under 2-minutes walk from the city’s famous Zenko-ji Temple, Monzen Terrace Enya serves and enticing menu of Japanese and Western favourites, in a modern and friendly atmosphere. English-speaking staff and English menus make any visit easy and convenient, while the restaurant’s mixed indoor and outdoor seating allows guests to relax, unwind and take in the atmosphere of the city.
But it’s food that matters most! Enya serves a delicious menu based on fresh local produce from the farms of Nagano and seafood from the nearby coastal markets of Niigata. All-in-all, Monzen Terrace Enya is a Snow Monkey Resorts favourite!