THANK THE SNOW GODS FOR GOOGLE
It is not uncommon to hear that public transport in Japan is a little more than confusing and borderline intimidating for many first time travellers to the land of the rising sun. And I can honestly say that I was one of those confused and intimidated travellers during my first stay in Tokyo. I could hardly make heads or tails out of the different lines weaving and overlapping through the city. They have JR lines, Metro lines, buses, bullet trains that run local routes, rapid routes, communter express routes, special express, limited express, semi-express, express, rapid express, and limited express routes. Snow Gods forbid you get on the wrong one (that skips your stop) and ends up closer to the end of the line!
So how did I manage to make my way around on that first trip? I didn't, I let my local friends manage me. I was like a child closely following them as we walked into to stations, exited others, walked around corners to enter a seemingly separate station, and on it went until Dan-san said we reached our destination. After my first trip to Tokyo, I can’t say I had felt like I learnt how to get around that city.
So when my friends and I decided to spend a day in Tokyo before heading to Myoko Kogen, we all felt a little trepidation about our ability to successfully make our way from our Airbnb in Tokyo to our hotel in Myoko Kogen. Seriously, we had a few reservations about whether we would make it to our destination smoothly, and considered hedging our bets by starting the journey super early in the morning to allow for mistakes. However, while it would have been wonderful to travel with the confidence that we could afford to get lost, we couldn’t in good conscience sacrifice half a day of exploring Tokyo due to our insecurities. So we decided to bet on ourselves and our ability to make it Myoko Kogen without a hiccup.
And you know what? We totally crushed it! We made it there smoothly and without breaking a sweat thanks to our old mate, Google Maps.
My friends and I were staying near Otsuka Station, which is one stop away from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo.
We googled the directions via public transport to Myoko Kogen (or more specifically “Myokokogen Station Taguchi, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan”) and took screen grabs which detailed the trains, times, and generally the platform number as well. And just in case, we also made sure to get screen grabs of the two next departure times.
Our google maps search told us that the fasted way would be via 4 trains. This could have been a massive pain in the ass, but fortunately for us, we had already sent our snowboard bags to our hotel in Myoko Kogen directly from the airport (via Takkyubin. If you don’t know about Takkyubin, familiarise yourself!!!)
So, as directed by Google Maps we first jumped on the JR Yamanote Line (which is a greenish coloured line) to Ikebukuro Station. From there we switched to the JR Saikyo Line to Omiya Station, and then we jumped on the Hokuriku-Shinkansen (aka Hokuriku bullet train) to Nagano Station. From Nagano we took the regional train to Myoko Kogen Station where we called a cab that eventually delivered us to our hotel in Akakura Onsen.
The biggest worry for us before we started was whether we would take too long buying our connecting train tickets and inevitably miss our train. However, our worries were all unfounded. The various JR lines were charged to our Suica or Passmo cards, and we just ran up to the ticket counter in Omiya for the shinkansen and the ticket office in Nagano for the train to Myoko, where the helpful attendants issued tickets for our group with maximum efficiency.
If you’re heading to Myoko Kogen from Tokyo airport, you’ll still be making your way first to Nagano, before you head to Myoko Kogen.
Total Costs: ¥8,450
¥390 from Otsuka Station to Omiya Station by train (Yamanote Line), 33 mins
¥6.460 from Omiya Station to Nagano Station by by bullet train (Hokuirku-Shinkansen), 1 hr 12 mins
¥830 from Nagano Station to Myokokogen Station, 41 mins
¥770 per person (¥2,310 total) from Myokokogen Station to Hotel Myosin in Akakaura Onsen by taxi, 10 mins
Total Travel Time: 2 hours 36 mins excluding transfer times. Overall, it took my friends and I about 3 hours and 25 mins.
Note: There are so many trains running throughout the day that we did not have to book a seat in advanced. However, that being said, we bought our tickets about 5 to 10 minutes before departure so we were not able to get reserved seats together.
...OR THE HIGHWAY
If you’re not into taking the train, you may want to considering the following alternatives:
Nagano Snow Shuttle
A convenient option if you’re starting point is either of the international airports in Tokyo is the Nagano Snow Shuttle. This is a scheduled bus service that will take you directly to the Akakura Bus Stop in Akakura Onsen (located across the road from the Post Office), or to Hakuba Valley, Nqzawa Onsen or Shiga Kogen.
The one glitch with this option is that there are very limited departure times, so if you’ve missed the bus, you way be waiting for a while. Also, one thing I noticed when I checked the website today was that there were no more tickets listed as available. That leaves me to wonder if they stop running outside of peak season, or all the seats have been sold.
Total Costs: ¥11,300 from either Narita or Haneda Airport to Akakura Bus Stop
Time: 5 hours which includes a 30 minute lunch break in Nagano
Note: check with your accommodation whether they provide pick up services, otherwise you may need to catch a cab if you are not staying in the immediate surrounding area.
Shared Taxi Shuttle
That’s right, you can take a taxi direct from the Airport directly to your hotel door. So for that kind of convenience you can expect that you’ll have to fork over more cash.
I can’t say definitively how much this would cost as websites only provide approximate costs. If you’re interested, click on the link below and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to get a specific quote.
Total Costs: unsure, but it’s advertised as approximately ¥14,900 per person
Time: again, I’m unsure. It could be anywhere from 3 hours and half to 5 hours.
And last but not least, there’s always the option to rent a car and drive yourself to Myoko Kogen.
This option would provide you with the most freedom to travel on your own schedule and not worry about missing connections. Having your own car would also be super convenient when it comes to traveling in-between resorts, which you will definitely be doing. The only consideration is the cost factor…if that is indeed a factor to you.
If you are driving, google maps estimates the trip to take approximately 3 hours and 30 mins without traffic using toll roads. I would highly recommend getting a GPS or having it on your phone because, I’m assuming you’d be like me and struggle with directions like these:
Hanedakuko, Ota, Tokyo 144-0041, Japan
Take 首都高速5号池袋線, 関越自動車道 and 上信越自動車道 to 妙高野尻バイパス/国道18号線 in 妙高市 関川. Take exit 高速妙高高原ＩＣ from 上信越自動車道
3 h 39 min (300 km)
Take 県道39号線 to your destination in 関山
8 min (5.1 km)
Akakura Onsen Ski Resort
Japan, 〒949-2111 Niigata Prefecture, Myoko 赤倉北５１−３
SO THE CHOICE IS UP TO YOU...
So there you have it: My overview of how to get to Myoko Kogen from Tokyo. And as far as my two cents are concerned, I’d highly recommend taking the train. It runs like clock work, gives you opportunities to stock up on food, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and the transfers weren’t a bother at all (as long as you aren’t lugging your snow gear with you!). On a personal note, I absolutely love taking the train over any road-options because I don’t get motion sickness in a train, even when it’s flying at 300 km per hour!
To help with your google map searches, sometimes when you try to get the public transport directions a error message comes up. When this happens, just look up the area as it’s written below:
Myokokogen Station Taguchi, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Akakura Onsen Ski Resort, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Myokosuginohara Ski Area, Suginosawa, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Akakura Kanko Resort Ski Area, Tagiri, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan
Ikenotaira Hot Spring Ski Area, 関川池の平温泉, Myoko, Niigata Prefecture, Japan