The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Summer in Tokyo can be oppressively hot. But one of the great things about the metropolis is that, despite its enormity, relaxing escapes to nature are not far away.

For generations, those seeking refuge from the city have headed northwest to Hakuba. Located on the western edge of Nagano Prefecture, Hakuba is dazzling in summer, when the valley is covered with lush greenery and the rivers and lakes beckon those seeking the perfect spot for an outdoor event.

Hiking was the main attraction for more than a century and half, but when the railroad came to the area in the late 1920s—bringing with it more people—the variety of outdoor options began to take off.

In 1998, the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games came to Nagano and put the area on the international stage. It was the first time the Paralympics had been held outside Europe. Hakuba’s Happo-one Resort hosted the downhill and Super-G Alpine skiing events, while Snow Harp in Kamishiro was the site of cross-country skiing.

The increased visibility of this winter wonderland opened the door to non-Japanese entrepreneurs looking to share the beauty of their adopted home with others. Jason Jansen, an Australian who settled in the area as far back as 1989, founded Ski Japan Holiday, a tour company and travel agency that touts not only skiing but the beautiful mountains, rivers, and lakes that make summer an equally appealing time to visit.

“I started promoting Hakuba to the Western market in 1994, and have been doing it ever since. At that time, there were a number of expats who lived in Tokyo and Osaka that had little knowledge of where to go or what to do in Japan,” Jansen remembers.

“We make a lot of the arrangements and provide logistics support behind the scenes and, often, when the customer gets their skiing itinerary, they may not know that it has been arranged by us.”

All that outdoor activity leaves one hungry and thirsty. Food and drink is another area of growing fame for Hakuba. The wonderful climate of the Nagano area has made it an important source of fruits and vegetables, and this is reflected in the local culinary offerings, such as wood-fired vegetarian pizza, falafel wraps, vegan sweets, and organic beer.

Craft beer is a growing trend throughout Japan, and Dan Cockburn opened Hakuba Brewing Company to create drinks that echo the rich character of the surrounding nature.

Hakuba Pale Ale is their most popular brew, and Cockburn describes it as “an easy drink made of moderately hopped pale, full of floral and citrus aromas and backed up by a rich malt flavor.”

Others on offer are: Hakuba Black, “a very hoppy porter with cacao and coffee flavors”; Hakuba IPA, “full of punchy tropical flavors and aromas”; and Hakuba Amber, “a very full and slightly sweet malt flavor balanced with some spice and pine notes.”

This summer, the brewery introduced its own Session IPA that is “slightly dry yet super easy to drink.” Session IPAs typically have lower alcohol content (3–5 percent) while still capturing the malt, hops, and fruity flavors of a standard IPA. It’s the perfect drink for hot weather and outdoor activities.

If you’re looking for the ideal destination that combines great nature, activities, and cuisine, there’s no better place than Hakuba.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.
The increased visibility of this winter wonderland opened the door to non-Japanese entrepreneurs