Category Archives: Hokkaido Area

Hokkaido is the second biggest island and north part in Japan. There is only Hokkaido prefecture in this island.

Hokkaido train operation status in fall 2016. Guide for substitute train and bus service.

Limited Express Okhotsk is suspended currently.
Limited Express Okhotsk is suspended currently.

Tomamu – Obihiro segment will open on 22nd December.

Hokkaido was hit by very severe typhoon in late August. Many train lines are closed by this storm and many trains are suspended currently. Substitute bus service and tentative train are operated but trip time is much longer than original schedule. And also the accommodation of some trains are totally different from Limited Express train interior. It offers just commute train accommodation. It is obviously inconvenient. If you cannot accept this situation, I recommend you to change your trip plan. It may not be a right time to visit there.

Anyway I will guide the substitute train and bus service in this post. Continue reading

Crazy? But not impossible. Sample plan of day trip to Hakodate from Tokyo

Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Night view form Mount Hakodate (C) Hokkaido Tourism Organization / JNTO

Hokkaido is very popular spot among foreign travelers. Hokkaido has nice yummy food, very attractive sightseeing spots and very different culture from mainland Japan. But some of you have short stay in Japan. You may not have enough time to visit Hokkaido. If you want to visit Hokkaido, I usually recommend you to spend 3 days minimum. However if you are okay to visit just the edge of Hokkaido, that is Hakodate, and okay with the short stay, you can visit Hakodate as day trip from Tokyo.

In this post, I will show you how to manage the day trip to Hakodate from Tokyo. Continue reading

JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass user guide. Perfect deal for the travelers who visit Tokyo and Sapporo by train.

Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Night view form Mt.Hakodate. Hakodate is one of the popular places in Hokkaido. ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO

This brand new pass will be released in April, 2016. This pass covers Narita airport, Greater Tokyo, Gala Yuzawa, Nikko, whole part of Tohoku region, Hakodate, Otaru, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Sapporo. You also may use this pass to get Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone even though this pass covers these trips partially. You cannot use this pass to get central, northern and eastern Hokkaido, such as Furano, Asahikawa, Shiretoko, Kushiro. Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) is better choice if you intend to visit these places.

In this post, I would like to show you the detail of this pass. And I show you some sample rate and compare the pass value and single fares. You may find this suits your plan or not. Continue reading

Hokkaido Rail Pass. The best deal for rail trip in Hokkaido for oversea visitors.

World famous Sapporo Snow Festival (C) Yasufumi Nishi / (C) JNTO
World famous Sapporo Snow Festival (C) Yasufumi Nishi / (C) JNTO

If you will travel in Hokkaido only, Hokkaido Rail Pass is the best choice for you. But if you travel in other cities and areas, even just staying in Tokyo, you may consider about other passes. You should compare and find which one is more suitable for you.

In this post, I show you the details about Hokkaido Rail Pass. And I will compare Hokkaido Rail Pass and Japan Rail Pass Continue reading

My trip from Hakodate to Ueno (Tokyo) on March 20, 2012 by sleeper train Hokutosei

I arrived at Hakodate from Minami-Chitose by Ltd Exp Hokuto 183 series. (C) JP Rail
I arrived at Hakodate from Minami-Chitose by Ltd Exp Hokuto 183 series. (C) JP Rail

(Read previous post)

This is the last post of my trip to Tohoku and Hokkaido in this past March. I will write about visiting in Hakodate and getting on sleeper express train, Hokutosei in this post. As probably you know, Hokutosei is one of the train that is very hard to book. I will tell you how I did it. Continue reading

My trip from Sapporo to Otaru and Hakodate on March 20, 2012 by Rapid Airport and Limited Express Hokuto

Odori koen (Odori Park) is one of the popular spot in Sapporo. (C) JP Rail
Odori koen (Odori Park) is one of the popular spot in Sapporo. (C) JP Rail

I had a trip from Aomori to Sapporo by Overnight Express Hamanasu on March 19, 2012. After arrival in Sapporo, I continued my trip in southern part of Hokkaido in just one day. I knew this was very busy trip. But I wanted to visit as many as possible.

Even though my itinerary was too busy to recommend you, my experience may give you some ideas to plan your trip. Continue reading

Hakodate station guide. How to change the train, Super Hakucho, Super Hokuto and other local trains.

Hakodate station building (C) JP Rail
Hakodate station building (C) JP Rail

On March 26, 2016, Hokkaido Shinkansen was opened and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station was opened. Hakodate is not transfer point to get Aomori any more. You may get Aomori, Morioka, Sendai and Tokyo by Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. It takes about 20 minutes between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Hakodate.

I wrote about Shin-Aomori station on the previous post. Most of travellers who go to Hokkaido get on Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, and then Limited Express Super Hakucho from Shin-Aomori to Hakodate. Now it is time to transfer to Limited Express Super Hokuto/Hokuto to Sapporo at Hakodate. This will be your first step on Hokkaido!

I show you map and images. You may know how to transfer the trains, Super Hakucho and Super Hokuto. And also I show you about Hakodate station. Continue reading

How to access from New Chitose airport to Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa and other cities in Hokkaido.

New Chitose airport station is located at the underground of the terminal building. (C) JP Rail
New Chitose airport station is located at the underground of the terminal building. (C) JP Rail

Hokkaido is one of the best destination in Japan. New Chitose airport (新千歳空港) is the biggest airport in Hokkaido. Some of you may be start your trip from this airport. I would like to show you how to get the train to Sapporo, Otaru and Asahikawa from New Chitose airport. And also I will show you how to transfer other trains to most of major cities in Hokkaido. Continue reading

Access to Wakkanai from Sapporo. Limited Express Soya / Sarobetsu

When you go to Wakkanai at North end of Hokkaido, these trains take you there. Soya (宗谷) and Sarobetsu (サロベツ) take you to Wakkanai. Soya is operated between Sapporo and Wakkanai. But Sarobetsu runs between Asahikawa and Wakkanai.

Both trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see the details about these trains. Continue reading

Drift ice watching in Shiretoko by Ryuhyo Norokko train

Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated during very popular Drift Ice season in Hokkaido.
Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated during very popular Drift Ice season in Hokkaido.

Ryuhyo Norokko train has been stopped operation because of carriage was too old. Other train replaced Ryuhyo Norokko train but it is operated by common fleet.

Ryuhyo (Drift Ice=流氷) viewing is most popular things to do in Hokkaido during the winter time. This sea ice reach around Abashiri from late January to late March. The best season to view this ice is mid February. This train, Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated in this Ryuhyo season between Abashiri (網走) and Shiretoko-Shari (知床斜里) where is the gate town to Shiretoko peninsula. This train goes on Senmo line (釧網本線) along the coast of Sea of Okhotsk. You have lots of change to see the sea ice from the train. And also Abashiri can be reached by Limited Express Okhotsk or seasonal tran, Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze from Sapporo. Both express train from Sapporo and Ryuhyo Norokko train are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Let’s see the detail about this train. Continue reading

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train, Easy rail trip to Kushiro Marsh for everyone.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅
Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅

Kushiro Shitsugen (Kushiro marsh=釧路湿原) is national park and has the largest marsh wetland in Japan. It is well known as the home of endangered Japanese Cranes (丹頂鶴). JR Hokkaido’s Senmo line goes through this wetland and gives you a great scenery. Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train (釧路湿原ノロッコ号) is operated on this line from late April to late September. This is the easiest way to enjoy a day excursion in Kushiro Shitsugen from Kushiro. And Kushiro can be reached by Limited Express Super Ozora from Sapporo easily. Both Super Ozora and Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Let’s see the detail about this train. Continue reading

Furano Biei Norokko train, Easy rail trip around Furano area for everyone.

Furano Biei Norokko train goes on Furano line. (C) 800px-Norokkogou-furano-biei / Birdman
Furano Biei Norokko train takes you one of most popular spot, Furano and Biei. (C) 800px-Norokkogou-furano-biei / Birdman

Furano (富良野) is one of most popular spot in Hokkaido. Especially July is the busiest season because the bloom of Lavender. You can enjoy Furano in not only summer season but also autumn. You may see the fall color leaves in September. The scenery in autumn is breathtaking too. Furano can be accessed directly from Sapporo (札幌) by Limited Express Furano Lavender Express / Furano Koyo Express from July to mid October. There are three round trips in the peak season. But if you want to have a nice rail excursion and enjoy the scenery from the train, I recommend you to take this train “Furano Biei Norokko train” (富良野・美瑛ノロッコ号). Of course you can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge. Let’s see the details about this train. Continue reading

Ekiben (Boxed meal at the station or in the train) in Hokkaido

Oshamanbe Kanimeshi is one of the most well known Ekiben in Japan.
Oshamanbe Kanimeshi is one of the most well known Ekiben in Japan.

Bento (弁当) is the classic boxed meal in Japan. Especially Bento that is sold at station is called “Ekiben”. “Eki” (駅) means station and “Ben” (弁) is an abbreviation of the Bento. Major department store hold an exhibition that show many Ekiben from all over Japan very often. Ekiben is one of the food culture in Japan. Nobody knows how many Ekiben we have in Japan now. According to Ekiben archives, it says more than 3000 Ekiben in Japan. Even though I pick up the popular Ekibens, it is too many to share the information with you in one post. First of all, I would like to show you the popular Ekiben in Hokkaido with you. Continue reading

How to access World Heritage Shiretoko by railway. Japan Rail Pass can be used to access there?

Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO
Shiretoko Pass is the highlight of Shiretoko peninsula. (C) JNTO

Shiretoko is one of UNESCO World heritage site in Japan. Shiretoko cannot be accessed by only rail, you need to take the bus from the station. You have two way to access to Shiretoko. The first one is from Abashiri(網走) via Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). The other one is to access from Kushiro(釧路). The nearest station is Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). So if you want to save the money, take Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari route. Let’s see the time and extra cost.


View How to get Shiretoko in a larger map

Access from Abasiri via Shiretoko-Shari

This is most popular route to access Shiretoko. Shiretoko-Shari is 40 minutes away from Abashiri by the local train. Abashiri can be accessed by Limited express train “Okhotsk” from Sapporo where is the biggest city in Hokkaido. But we only have 4 trips of express train from Sapporo. And one more trip is added in Ryuhyo (Drift ice) season. This seasonal train is called “Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze”. This express train is operated by the different type train set from regular trains. Please see the details on Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze.
Then you need to take a local train to get Shiretoko-Shari. There are also only 9 local trains from Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. It is very limited access by rail. In Drift ice season, there are some additional train between Abashiri and Shiretoko-shari too. This train is called “Ryuhyu Norokko train”. This train is designed for Drift ice watching from the train. Please see the details about this train at Ryuhyo Norokko train.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
07:21 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Okhotsk 1
12:46 Arrive at Abashiri
13:25 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
14:12 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
14:20 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
15:10 Arrive at Utoro

If you stay in Abashiri, your sample itinerary is the following;
06:41 Depart from Abashiri by the local train
07:22 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari
08:00 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
08:50 Arrive at Utoro

These itineraries are based on 2010 summer schedule. If you travel in winter time, the bus service is very limited. The bus fare is 1,490 yen from Shiretoko-Shari to Utoro one way, from Utoro to Rausu at 1,310 yen, and some bus take you to directly to Rausu from Shiretoko-Shari at 2,410 yen.

Utoro(ウトロ) is located in the west coast side of Shiretoko Peninsula. It is the gate town to go around Shiretoko. You can access to Shiretoko Five Lakes, Kamuiwakka Falls and Shiretoko Pass from Utoro. And also you can access to Rausu(羅臼), the east side of Shiretoko Peninsula, via those sightseeing spot. It takes another 50 minutes from Utoro to Rausu.

Access from Kushiro

You can access to Kushiro from Sapporo by Limited Express Super Ozora. We have 7 trips from Sapporo to Kushiro. So it is a bit more convenient than Abashiri. You can access to Rausu from Kushiro by bus. It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. We have four trips in weekdays. But we only have two trips in weekend. By the way, this bus line is the longest operated local bus in Japan.

If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following;
09:04 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Super Ozora 3
13:03 Arrive at Kushiro
13:50 Depart from Kushiro by bus (operated by Akan Bus company)
*This website is in Japanese only.
17:35 Rausu

If you stay in Kushiro, your can take the first departure at 07:35 from Kushiro. It will arrive at 11:05. We have another two departures in weekdays only at 10:05 and 16:00 from Kushiro. The bus fare is 4,740 yen one way. We have two departures at 06:40 and 12:45 from Rausu everyday. And another two departures at 09:10 and 16:50 in weekdays only.

Sample Itinerary

If you want to enjoy Shiretoko and another sightseeing area in the east part of Hokkaido, take Abashiri via Shiretoko to Kushiro. You access to Lake Mashu, Lake Akan and Kushiro Marsh on the way to Kushiro from Shiretoko or from Kushiro. If you want to see Kushiro Marsh, take the local train from Shiretoko-shari to Kushiro. Please refer one of 7 days sample itineraries, Hokkaido 7 days. If you want to enjoy Shiretoko, save time and not to hesitate to spend extra cost, take the bus from Rausu. You must see Shiretoko both Utoro and Rausu.

Two most popular spots in 7 days! Sample itinerary Kyoto and Hokkaido 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days pass

Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO
Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

I received some questions about possibility visiting Kyoto and Hokkaido in only 7 days. So I show you itinerary about Kyoto and Hokkaido.
We don’t use Japan Rail Pass for the transfer to downtown Tokyo from Narita airport because most of tourists stay in Tokyo for the first several days. You will start to use your pass from Tokyo station.

Day 1
06:23am Depart from Tokyo station by Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 501.
09:15am Arrive at Kyoto station. After arrival, enjoy exploring in Kyoto.
*Hikari departs at Tokyo station every 30 minutes. If you want to depart a bit later, you can take later Hikari. If you arrive at Narita or Haneda early morning, you can transfer to Kyoto on the arrival day.
*You can start this itinerary from Osaka / Kansai airport

Day 2
Full day free in Kyoto

Dotonbori(道頓堀) is most popular spot in downtown Osaka.
Dotonbori(道頓堀) is most popular spot in downtown Osaka.

Day 3
Transfer to Osaka station. You can take a local train to Osaka. Shin-Kaisoku (新快速=Rapid urban service) will take you to Osaka from Kyoto in 30 minutes. Shin-Kaisoku departs at Kyoto every 15 minutes. After arrival, exploring in downtown Osaka.
24:34(00:34 in Day 4) Take Sunrise Seto/Izumo at Osaka station. Overnight in the train.

Day 4
07:08am Arrive at Tokyo station
07:32am Depart from Tokyo station for Shin-Aomori by Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 15.
11:09am Arrive at Shin-Aomori station.
11:35am Depart from Shin-Aomori station for Hakodate by Limited Express Super Hakucho 15.
13:44pm Arrive at Hakodate station.
14:00pm Depart from Hakodate station by Limited Express Hokuto 11.
15:55pm Arrive at Date-Monbetsu. Catch a local bus to Toyako Onsen (洞爺湖温泉=Lake Toya Hot Springs Resort). Additional fare is 580 yen for one way.
Enjoy Japanese Onsen!

Day 5
Take a local bus to Date-Monbetsu station.
10:15am Depart from Date-Monbetsu station for Sapporo by Limited Express Super Hokuto 3.
11:47am Arrive at Sapporo. After arrival, enjoy sightseeing Sapporo or short trip to Otaru.

Downtown Sapporo  © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO
Downtown Sapporo © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

Day 6
10:37am Depart from Sapporo station for Hakodate by Limited Express Super Hokuto 10.
13:52pm Arrive at Hakodate station. After arrival, enjoy exploring in Hakodate.

Day 7
11:19am Depart from Hakodate for Shin-Aomori by Limited Express Hakucho 29.
13:28pm Arrive at Shin-Aomori station
13:42pm Depart from Shin-Aomori by a href=”http://jprail.com/trains/tohoku-shinkansen.html”>Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 28.
17:08pm Arrive at Tokyo.
*If you start this itinerary, take Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka. We still have lots of Hikari bound for Shin-Osaka.

Sample itinerary Hokkaido 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days

Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO
Night view form Mt.Hakodate ©Hokkaido Tourism Organization/© JNTO

This itinerary includes UNESCO world heritage site, Shiretoko and several highlights in Hokkaido.

We don’t use Japan Rail Pass for the transfer between downtown Tokyo and Narita or Haneda airport. This itinerary starts from/to Tokyo. Continue reading

Access to Kushiro and Obihiro from Sapporo. Limited Express Super Ozora / Super Tokachi

Limited express Super Ozora
Limited express Super Ozora and most of express trains are covered by Hokkaido Round Tour Pass.

When you go to South East part of Hokkaido, these trains take you there. Super Ozora and Super Tokachi are operated on same route. Super Ozora connect Sapporo and Kushiro. Super Tokachi connect Sapporo and Obihiro. These trains are very popular and the reserved seats are sold out very often. Especially JR Hokkaido give you a great service in Green car. Sometimes Green car is sold out earlier than Ordinary class. Both trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. So if you have a plan to take these trains, I strongly recommend you to reserve your seat when you exchange your Japan Rail Pass.

I would like to share the information about these trains with you. Continue reading

Access to Abashiri from Sapporo. Limited Express Okhotsk / Taisetsu

Limited express train Okhotsk
Limited express train Okhotsk

Limited Express Okhotsk and Taisetsu take you to Abashiri from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Abashiri is well known as drift ice viewing in winter time. And also when you go to the world heritage site, Shiretoko, you may use this train to Abashiri and transfer to the local train to Shiretoko-Shari. If you need the information about the access to Shiretoko, please see one of my posts, “How to get Shiretoko“.

You can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no restriction. I would like to show you the information about these trains. Continue reading

Overnight train to/from Sapporo and Aomori. Express Hamanasu

Overnight train Hamanasu at Aomori station
Overnight train Hamanasu at Aomori station

Hamanasu was discontinued in mid March, 2016. There is no overnight train service options available to Hokkaido.

This overnight express train is operated between Aomori and Sapporo. If you want to save your time and you don’t want to spend your money for Hotel in Sapporo, this overnight train is the best choice. Especially when you want to transfer to Tokyo from Sapporo as early as possible, this train is connected with the earliest Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Continue reading

Access to/from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Limited Express Kamui / Lilac

Limited express train Kamui
Limited express train Kamui

These limited express trains, Kamui and Lilac connect Sapporo (札幌) and Asahikawa (旭川). Kamui and Lilac run on exactly same segment. The only difference is accommodation. Only Lilac has Green seat and Kamui does not. But the reserved ordinary seat of Kamui is called “U seat”. It has better seat with some equipment. But it is a sort of Reserved Ordinary seat. So even Japan Rail Pass Ordinary can be used to take this seat.

In this post, I show you the details of these train. Continue reading

Access to/from Sapporo and Hakodate. Limited Express Hokuto / Super Hokuto

Super Hokuto
Most of Hokkaido Limited Express trains are operating for a long transfer.

Hokuto and Super Hokuto are operated between Hakodate (函館) and Sapporo (札幌). These trains are connected with Hakucho/Super Hakucho at Hakodate. So if you want to transfer from Tokyo to Sapporo, take Tohoku Shinkansen, Hakucho/Super Hakucho (Shinaomori-Hakodate) and then take these train at Hakodate to Sapporo. Japan Rail Pass cover all these trains from Tokyo to Sapporo. You may have other choices from Tokyo to Sapporo. Even though this is very long trip, there are many trains and this is the easiest to get the ticket. Continue reading

Connect Mainland (Aomori) with Hokkaido (Hakodate). Limited Express Hakucho / Super Hakucho

Limited Express Hakucho connect Honshu island with Hokkaido island.
Limited Express Hakucho connect Honshu island with Hokkaido island.

Super Hakucho and Hakucho is no longer running after Hokkaido Shinkansen opened in March, 2016. Now Hokkaido Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Hokkaido. Please see the following link to see the details of this Shinkansen line.

Direct access to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train)

Hakucho/Super Hakucho is operated between Shin-Aomori (新青森) and Hakodate (函館). These trains go through the longest tunnel in Japan, “Seikan Tunnel” and connect the main island in Japan, “Honshu” (本州) and Hokkaido (北海道). All these trains are scheduled to be connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-
Aomori station and Limited Express “Hokuto” and “Super Hokuto” to Sapporo at Hakodate. These trains used to connect Hachinohe with Hakodate via Aomori. But Tohoku Shinkansen was extended to Shin-Aomori on December 4, 2010. Departure location had been changed to Shin-Aomori instead of Hachinohe.

Both Hakucho and Super Hakucho are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the accommodation between Hakucho and Super Hakucho is very different. So I would like to show you the difference and other details. Continue reading

How to access to Hakodate and Sapporo in Hokkaido by railway.

Sapporo in winter time is so beautiful.
Sapporo in winter time is so beautiful.

Sapporo is the biggest city in Hokkaido and is very well known as the base city of the biggest winter festival in the world.

We can get Sapporo in same day from Tokyo and Osaka by Shinkansen and Limited express trains. And also we can take an overnight train too. Let’s see the sample itinerary. Continue reading

How to access to Cape Erimo (Erimo Misaki) by Japan Rail Pass.

Cape Erimo (Erimo Misaki)
Cape Erimo (Erimo Misaki)

Cape Erimo (=Erimo Misaki=襟裳岬) is located at south end of Hokkaido. There is more than 60m height cliff around the cape and 7km long shore reef to offshore. It is facing the open water of Pacific Ocean. A lot of harbor seals can be seen there.

You can access Cape Erimo by JR local line and bus without any additional charge by JR Pass, but Hokkaido Rail Pass does not cover the bus to Cape Erimo. Continue reading