Food & Nightlife
One of the great advantages of Hakuba Japan
is that there are various villages, each with a unique personality and vibe. Spread out across the villages and hamlets, there are lots of Hakuba restaurants and bars to sample a great range of Japanese cuisine and to do a little kanpai.
When you arrive in Hakuba you can pick up a good restaurant guide from the Happo Information Centre or your accommodation. During peak times you may need to make a booking to get into your chosen restaurant, although some places don’t take reservations so you’ll have to take pot luck. Hakuba restaurants pretty much cover the full gamut of cuisine. Some of the big hotels have buffet feasts if you’re hungry after a long day on the slopes. There are some western eateries, and an array of Japanese fare from sushi to noodle restaurants. Hakuba is also renowned for the many izakayas, the traditional Japanese bars that serve lots of snacks that generally have a very authentic and inviting atmosphere.
Happo Village has the highest concentration of restaurants. One example is Uncle Stevens (a little down the road from the Adam gondola) which is a festive Mexican restaurant with fantastically dangerous margaritas. Another is Ohyokkuri (bus stop 8), a little Japanese restaurant named after a local soup with dumplings in it. The restaurant is a gorgeous made-to-look-old building, with traditional wooden shared tables and some tatami seating.
It’s worth catching the Genki-Go bus into Hakuba town for dinner to get away from the touristy areas somewhat and experience some “real Japan”. There are a handful of restaurants near the train station, otherwise they’re a bit spread out. In downtown Hakuba you’ll find some variability in the amount of English spoken and potentially have fun with picture menus. Our favourite was the little cheap and cheerful Soba-jin (near bus stop 11) that specialises in noodles and tempura.
Hakuba Bars & Nightlife
The Hakuba nightlife is sometimes rather vibrant, which is rare for a Japanese ski area. It’s not like an Austrian-type party scene, but the nightlife can get going nonetheless.
Après drinking doesn’t appear to be a favourite pastime in Hakuba. There are restaurants that serve alcohol in the late afternoon, but many of the specific bars don’t open until later so you might as well go and have an onsen instead!
The bars vary somewhat from Japanese style to the more western Jacks Sports in the heart of Happo Village, or some late night dancing in Goryu Village at the Tracks Bar. A lot of international visitors pay a visit to “The Pub” next to the Mominoki Hotel in the Wadano Village for some western food, some Guinness, plenty of other bevvies, and some pool. Refreshingly they also accept credit cards.
Surprisingly there aren’t that many options for karaoke in Hakuba (damn it!!); an entertaining and quintessential Japanese pastime. A couple of the hotels have karaoke booths or there is a karaoke bar down near Hakuba station where you can sing your lungs out.
If getting a great coffee is a priority then make sure you visit Bamboo, the only cafe in Hakuba specializing in Starbucks style coffees. They offer a selection of cakes and snacks and offer free wifi internet. Bamboo is also a bar with a great range of après drinks and daily happy hours! There are two locations, just down the hill from the Happo gondola and right outside Hakuba station.
The Roots Café at the Kokusai base of Happo-One is definitely worth a visit, particularly if you’re there for child care or ski lessons with Evergreen. They serve up real coffee (which is sooo hard to find in Japan), an abundance of yummy vego food, and they have wifi.