We are arriving at Narita at about 6:30 pm. We are renting a car and plan to stay in Hakuba the following night. We would like to stop somewhere in between Tokyo and Hakuba on the first night. Does anyone have a recommendation for a place to stay that is eary to find and on the route between Narita and Hakuba? Thanks in advance!
The closest town in Nagano where you could spend the night on your way to Hakuba would be Karuizawa. It is about 2.5 hours away from Tokyo by car, or 60~70 minutes from Tokyo by shinkansen.
Karuizawa has many nice hotels, cafes, and the Karuizawa Prince Shopping Mall all nearby Karuizawa Station. If you have time, I recommend taking a walk around its old town, Kyu-Karuizawa, as well.
If you’d like to reach Karuizawa sooner, taking the shinkansen from Tokyo would be best. You could rent a car from an agency in Karuizawa the next day and then drive to Hakuba from there.
You can see more about car rentals within Nagano Prefecture here.
I hope that helps answer your question. Let me know if I can help with anything else.