Bus and Train Travel
Whether to take the bus or the train isn't usually a choice, because there is often only one form of public transportation to the place you're going. Not all train lines in Nagano Prefecture are JR, so budget in additional charges if you are traveling on a JR pass.
Shinkansen service has effectively shortened the distance to the Alps from the east: the trip on the Nagano Shinkansen takes about 90 minutes. With the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen line extension in 2015, it's now possible to take a Shinkansen directly from Tokyo to Kanazawa in 2½ hours. From Kyoto and Nagoya the Alps are three hours away on the Hokuriku and Takayama lines. Unless you are coming from Niigata, you will need to approach Takayama from the south, taking the Shinkansen to Nagoya Station and changing there to an express train JR.