We are planning to self-drive fr Tokyo to Nagano in late December this year. I have a few queries relating to the weather in December and the safety issueo. Will the roads from Tokyo to Nagano be snow-filled or even worst ice-filled?* How hard is it going to be driving up and down mountainous ice/snow filled roads? If that\’s the case, would traveling by shinkazen up to Nagano be a safer option? I understand the tickets for bullet train for 4 pax will be higher than hiring a car right? How much is it usually for hiring a driver with & without the car rental? What’s your recommendation?
Driving from the Tokyo area to the Nagano area, you will be using large expressways that are free of snow/ice. Depending on where you travel within Nagano Prefecture, you may encounter some snowy/icy roads, but most tourist destinations are not that difficult to reach. The roads aren’t particularly mountainous unless you will be driving towards ski resorts like Shiga Kogen or Madarao. Nevertheless, make sure to rent a car with 4WD and snow tires equipped.
You’re correct that a car would be cheaper taking the shinkansen for four people, but the journey may take 3 times as long by car. If you don’t feel comfortable driving yourself and would like to save money, traveling by express bus might be the best option. If you don’t want to deal with changing trains or carrying around baggage, Chuo Taxi is a popular shuttle service that runs between Narita/Haneda Airports and areas of Nagano Prefecture.
I can’t offer any advice on other hiring services, but if you have any other questions please let me know.