How to Get to Nagano
As the largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the broader region, Nagano City is your gateway to Central Japan. Easily accessible using the Hokuriku Shinkansen line – which runs from Tokyo to Kanazawa – Nagano is an ideal base from which to explore Central Japan including moving to and from its many ski resorts. On this page you will find the following information:
Host of the 1998 Winter Olympic Games, Nagano remains proud of its Olympic heritage – something that can still be enjoyed today at its popular ski resorts. As the nearest major station to the hot spring-loving monkeys of Jigokudani, Nagano is one of Japan’s premier winter destinations with just as much to offer in spring, summer and autumn.
Nagano City – most commonly referred to just as ‘Nagano’ – is main transport hub and gateway to the region. The city itself is small and pleasant, best-known for its near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple, the forest shrines and mountain ninjas of Togakushi, and the historic samurai town of Matsushiro – all located within the city’s boundary.
40 Things to Do Around Nagano & Where to Stay
Lying in the centre of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, Nagano is the countr…
Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator offering group tours to some of the region’s most unique and enjoyable destinations with the option of private charters and tours – see below for details. We hope the following information helps you plan your visit to Nagano and Central Japan.
WHERE IS NAGANO CITY?
Located around 245KM to the north-west of Tokyo, Nagano City is the largest city in Nagano Prefecture and the primary transport hub for visitors heading to the region’s most popular destinations including the many ski resorts of Nagano, the Jigokudani Monkey Park, the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, multiple national parks and many other fantastic attractions. Nagano Station is a stop on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line running from Tokyo to Kanazawa – 80 to 110-minutes from the capital depending on which service you choose – along with the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ service running to Matsumoto, the Kiso Valley and Nakasendo, and Nagoya; while the Nagano Dentetsu Line runs to Yamanouchi, home of Nagano’s famous Snow Monkeys. Highway and local bus services also run from the station to many regional destinations including Togakushi, the monkey park and the ski resorts of the Hakuba Valley and Shiga Kogen – Japan’s largest resort – making Nagano City the primary transport hub for northern Nagano Prefecture.
While Nagano may be the largest city in the region, it is small compared to the expansive metropolises of Japan with a population of around 370,000. One of Japan’s most liveable cities, Nagano is most famous for the near-1400 year old Zenko-ji Temple – a registered National Treasure and one of the most important Buddhist complexes in Japan – along with the Shinto shrines of Togakushi and samurai town of Matsushiro, that lie within the city boundary.
HOW TO GET TO NAGANO CITY
In this section you will find information on how to reach Nagano City from the following starting points:
JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK – TOKYO – NARITA AIRPORT – HANEDA AIRPORT – KANAZAWA – KARUIZAWA – NAGOYA – NAKASENDO TRAIL – TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE – MATSUMOTO – KAMIKOCHI – TAKAYAMA – SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA – KYOTO & OSAKA
We endeavour to keep this information as up-to-date as possible and in recognition that most international visitors will be using the train network to move around Japan, most directions are for using the trains. If there is alternative option i.e. express or local bus, that is notably faster or economical, we also include that information.
FROM THE JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / between 50 to 60 minutes
To reach Nagano from the Jigokudani Monkey Park is straight-forward. From the park, you have the option of: 1. a direct express bus from the park to Nagano Station or 2. a local bus to Yudanaka Station followed by an express train to Nagano Station.
Starting from the park, the express bus costs JPY1500 each way and takes 55 minutes to reach Nagano Station. In comparison, taking the Nagaden local bus from the park to Yudanaka Station – 15 min / JPY310 – followed by the Nagano Dentetsu Line to Nagano Station – 45 min / JPY1290 = a total journey of around 60 to 70 minutes and costing JPY1600.
FROM TOKYO / between 80 to 110 minutes
If you’re headed to Japan, chances are that you’ll be spending some time in Tokyo. To reach Nagano from the capital, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen line from either Tokyo Station or Ueno Station to Nagano. The journey takes between 80 to 110 minutes (depending on which train you take) and costs between JPY8000-9000 one-way. The Kagayaki and Hakutaka services starting from Tokyo Station are the fastest while the Asama service is slower, stopping at all stations from Tokyo to Nagano (where it terminates). For detailed information about how to reach Nagano using the Hokuriku Shinkansen, see ‘How To: Getting To Nagano From Tokyo By Shinkansen’ below.
FROM NARITA AIRPORT / between 3 to 4 hours
Nagano can be reached in a two-stage journey from Narita via Tokyo Station. Two rapid train services connect Narita Airport to central Tokyo, from where you can take the Hokuriku Shinkansen onto Nagano.
1 / the Narita Express (NEX) runs from Narita to Tokyo Station. It takes 55 minutes to reach Tokyo Station (depending on the service) and costs JPY3070 with trains departing every 30 to 60 minutes. Once at Tokyo Station, follow the directions above.
2 / the Keisei Skyliner runs from Narita to Ueno Station. It takes between 40 to 55 minutes to reach Ueno Station and costs JPY2520 with trains departing every 30 to 40 minutes. Once at Ueno Station, transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano.
FROM HANEDA AIRPORT / between 3 to 3.5 hours
Nagano can be reached in a two-stage journey from Haneda via Tokyo Station. Two train services connect Haneda Airport to central Tokyo, from where you can take the Hokuriku Shinkansen onto Nagano.
1 / the Tokyo Monorail connects the airport to Tokyo Station via Hamamatsucho Station in around 30 minutes. From the airport take the monorail to Hamamatsucho Station (20 min/JPY170) and then switch to the JR Yamanote Line or JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi Line Rapid bound for Tokyo Station (5 min/JPY160) – a total journey of around 30-minutes / JPY660 one-way. Once at Tokyo Station, follow the directions above.
2 / the Keikyu Railway connects the airport to Tokyo Station via Shinagawa Station. Take the Keikyu Airport bound to Shinagawa Station (approx.11 min/JPY300) and transfer to the Yamanote Line bound for Osaki to reach Tokyo Station- 13 min / JPY170 or a total journey of around 30 min / JPY470. Once at Tokyo Station, follow the directions above.
FROM KANAZAWA / between 65 to 90 minutes
Located on Japan’s north coast, Kanazawa is a popular destination for many international visitors and as the northern terminus of the Hokuriku Shinkansen, the journey from Kanazawa Station to Nagano Station is easy. There are four services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line – the Kagayaki, Hakutaka, Asama and Tsurugi – however only the Kagayaki and Hakuata services connect Kanazawa and Nagano. Using the Kagayaki, the journey from Kanazawa to Nagano takes 65 minutes / JPY8920 or 85 to 90 minutes / JPY8590 using the Hakutaka. For further details, see our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen’ and ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Timetable’ pages.
FROM KARUIZAWA / approx. 30 minutes
One of Japan’s best-known mountain resort towns, Karuizawa and Nagano are within easy reach of each other. Both Nagano Station and Karuizawa Station are stops on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line, meaning that getting from one to the other is quick and easy – taking only 30 min / JPY3210.
FROM NAGOYA / approx. 3 hours
The Limited Express ‘Shinano’ operates approximately once an hour and makes the journey between Nagano and Nagoya in approximately 3 hours and costs JPY6930. For further details including daily timetable, see our ‘Limited Express Shinano Line Timetable’ page.
*Please note, stations marked in bold are stops on all services. Those not marked in bold are only serviced by certain services throughout the day.
FROM THE NAKASENDO TRAIL / between 1.5 to 2 hours
Nagano and the historic Nakasendo Trail are also connected by the Shinano Line running from Nagoya to Nagano. Both Nakatsugawa Station and Kiso-Fukushima Station are convenient stops for enjoying the beauty of the Nakasendo. Refer above for information regarding using the Shinano Line.
FROM THE TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE / approx. 100 minutes
From Ogizawa Station – on the Nagano-side of the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route – take the Alpico Bus to Nagano Station – approximately 100 minutes journey time. From Tateyama Station on the Toyama-side, take the Toyama Chiho Railway to Toyama and transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen at Toyama Station, bound for Nagano.
FROM MATSUMOTO / between 50 to 90 minutes
Matsumoto is another of Central Japan’s most historic and enjoyable cities. From Matsumoto Station, take the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ to Nagano Station. There are many services each day – taking around 50 minutes – and local services – taking around 1.5 hours. For the daily train schedule, see our ‘Limited Express ‘Shinano’ Line Timetable’ page.
FROM KAMIKOCHI / between 3 to 4 hours (via Matsumoto)
There are no direct buses from Kamikochi to Matsumoto. To travel between the two, you can take the bus from Kamikochi Bus Terminal to Shin-Shimashima Station and once there, transfer to the Kamikochi Line bound for Matsumoto Station. The total journey takes around 2 hours and costs JPY2500 per adult and JPY1250 per child. For full details, see the following timetable and fares page. Once at Matsumoto, follow the directions above to reach Nagano – a total journey of between 3 to 4 hours using public transport.
FROM TAKAYAMA / between 2.5 to 3 hours
There is no direct public transport from Takayama Station to Nagano, presenting travellers with different options. For those traveling by train, the easiest option is to take the Limited Express ‘Hida’ north to Toyama – approximately 50 minutes – and then switch to the Hokuriku Shinkansen bound for Nagano. The total journey takes around 2.5 to 3 hours depending on which services you use. Alternatively, take the bus to Matsumoto Station and then switch to the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ headed for Nagano.
FROM SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA / approx. 3 hours
Regular bus services operated by the Nohi Bus company connect Toyama with the villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. It takes approximately 60 minutes to reach Toyama from the main village of Ogimachi. Adults should expect to pay around JPY1730 one-way or JPY3120 return. See the following page for information including timetables and fares to and from Toyama. Once at Toyama Station, take the Hokuriku Shinkansen to Nagano – taking around 50 minutes / JPY7040. A total journey of around 2.5 hours (depending on connection times in Toyama).
FROM KYOTO & OSAKA / approx. 4 hours
For visitors coming from Kyoto or Osaka, you have three options to reach Nagano: 1. also take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo and transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen to reach Nagano Station; 2. take the Limited Express ‘Thunderbird’ service to Kanazawa and transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen heading south to Nagano and Tokyo; or 3. take the Tokaido Shinkansen to Nagoya Station and transfer to the Limited Express ‘Shinano’ bound for Nagano. All routes take 4+ hours with options 2 and 3 being notably cheaper than option 1.
HOW TO: GETTING TO NAGANO FROM TOKYO BY SHINKANSEN
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! In this section you will find the following information:
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 seat using a Japan Rail Pass, and how to board and ride the shinkansen to Nagano.
OVERVIEW OF GETTING TO NAGANO BY SHINKANSEN
Japan has seven major shinkansen lines (with two additional minor lines) spanning the country, effectively connecting all areas in one huge network. One of those lines, 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 & TIMETABLES
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. In this section you will find the following information:
The JR Pass covers all services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line. The following three types of pass 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 travellers 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 traveller doing the popular Tokyo – Nagano – Kanazawa – Kyoto – Osaka (or the reverse) in a short period of time.
WHICH JR PASS SUITS ME BEST?
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 neighbouring 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 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 that 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
Nagano Station is the primary transport hub in northern Nagano Prefecture – an ideal area to base yourself when exploring the region’s many destinations – see below for what’s on offer in the region. For visitors headed to Nagano and looking for accommodation and dining in the city, we recommend the following:
HOTEL KOKUSAI 21
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. 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.
MONZEN TERRACE ENYA
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!
40 THINGS TO DO AROUND NAGANO & WHERE TO STAY
Host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, Nagano is known best for its long winter and world-class snow. Boasting the most ski resorts of any region of Japan, there is no doubt that when it comes to skiing and snowboarding, Nagano is one the best destinations in Asia. The mountains are just as big outside of winter and offer just as many reasons to visit in spring, summer and autumn. Our ’40 Things To Do Around Nagano & Where To Stay’ page has lots of great tips and suggestions of what to do while here and the best places to stay, both in the city and nearby.
JAPAN SKI RESORTS: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Nagano is home to more than eighty ski resorts, more than any other region of Japan. Needless to say, when you choose Nagano for your winter getaway you are spoiled for choice! Our ‘Japan Ski Resorts’ page has everything you need to know to start planning your ski and snowboard adventure including: LATEST NEWS & DEALS, THE BEST RESORTS IN NAGANO & JAPAN, FAQs and of course OUR SKI PACKAGES, ACCOMMODATION, TRANSPORT & TOURS.
BOOK WITH US! NAGANO’S NO.1 TOUR & CHARTER OPERATOR
Based in Nagano and operating all year round, we are a registered travel agent and the region’s No.1 tour and charter operator. We have the expertise and experience to help you get the most out of your time in the region including any destination or activity listed above. We can package your trip to Nagano and Central Japan including group and private tours, ski packages, accommodation, private charters, restaurants, ticketing and more!
Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations, in combination with any activity that suits your interests and schedule. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
For guests wanting to access the resorts in the comfort of their own transport, we can arrange a private tour or charter customised to fit your needs, starting and ending at any destination. We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide – whichever works best for you!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2022 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – Snow Monkey Resorts is Nagano’s No.1 tour and charter operator.
Got a question about visiting Nagano? Click on the INQUIRY button below or contact us and let’s get planning together!