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.

Prices and valid period

JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass Flex 6 days

Purchase outside Japan or online Purchase inside Japan
Adult 26,000 yen 27,000 yen
Child
(6-11 years old)
13,000 yen 13,500 yen

*Child who is 5 years old and younger is free but you have to share the seat with child. If you want to have a seat for child too, you have to purchase child pass for even younger than 5 years old.
*This pass will be available from April 1st, 2016. If you want to purchase this pass in advance, you can purchase it at only authorized travel agent. But both JR Hokkaido and JR East do not provide the list of authorized agent. Please see the list of JR Pass travel agent and contact them. I think some of them sell this pass.

JR Pass official site

This pass is valid for Flex 6 days only. You can pick any 6 days in 14 days period. There is no Green pass choice.

One day means midnight to midnight, technically 0:00 to 23:59. Even if you start using the pass at 23:00. you spend one full day for just one hour. So try to start in the morning. It does not make any senses to start to use in the evening.

Coverage area

This pass covers eastern part of mainland of Japan, such as Tokyo, Kanto region, Tohoku region, and southern part of Hokkaido. Please see the coverage map in the link below:

Official press release from JR East and JR Hokkaido (See page 3)

This pass covers the following major spots in the area.

  • Tokyo
  • Yokohama
  • Nikko
  • Kamakura
  • Gala Yuzawa
  • Otsuki (gateway to Lake Kawaguchi)
  • Odawara (gateway to Hakone)
  • Izu peninsula (Atami, Ito, Shimoda)
  • Kusatsu
  • Karuizawa
  • Sendai, Matsushima
  • Akita, Kakunodate
  • Aomori, Hirosaki
  • Gono line (the route of Resort Shirakami)
  • Hakodate
  • Toya, Date-Monbetsu (gateway to Lake Toya)
  • Noboribetsu
  • Otaru
  • Sapporo

The following places are not located in the coverage area. You CANNOT use this pass to access these following places.

Of course western part of mainland, like Osaka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Shikoku and Kyushu are not covered either.

Valid trains and lines

H5 series will run on Hokkaido Shinkansen as Hayabusa and Hayate. This fleet is same series as Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work),  JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Hokkaido Shinkansen is covered by this pass. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work), JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

All JR trains that run in the coverage area are covered by this pass except Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo and Atami. But I would like to show you major trains.

I have checked the press release several times. I could not find any other express trains in coverage trains list. But in my understanding, the following express and rapid trains are covered.

JR deals covers basically JR trains only. But Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku ArchPass covers some “NON JR” railway trains. The following railways are NON JR companies but those are covered by Tokyo Wide Pass.

  • Tokyo Monorail (Haneda-Airport – Hamamatsucho)
  • Izu Kyuko Railway (Ito – Izukyu-Shimoda)
  • Limited Express Nikko and Kinugawa between Shinjuku and Tobu-Nikko, Kinugawa-Onsen
    *The trains from Asakusa station are not covered at all.
  • Aoimoi Railway
  • IGR Iwate Galaxy Railway
  • Sendai Airport Trains

If you arrive in or depart from Haneda airport, trip by Monorail is fully covered by this pass. But the JR ticket service desk is open from 7:45 to 18:30 only.
JR East Travel Service Center Haneda

You may not be able to exchange or purchase your pass at Haneda from early arrival and late departure. As of February 2016, the window at Haneda is open between 7:45 and 18:30 only.

In Tokyo, subway is not covered by this pass. You have to add single fare or city deal. Please see the coverage in Tokyo at the link below:

Guide to take trains in Tokyo. How to choose the best deal and the best route by train to get the major spots?

Compare single fare and JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass

When you think about purchasing this deal, you need to know this is paid off in your trip or not. I show you some sample.
*All rates are based on base fare and reserved seat limited express supplement in regular season.

Trip from Tokyo to Sendai

Total fare is 11,200 yen for one way. You need to have some more trips if you want to use this pass.

Trip from Tokyo to Sapporo

Total fare is 31,720 yen for one way. One way trip is enough to be paid off.
*Single ticket may be cheaper because JR East and Hokkaido will sell some discount ticekt. But I believe this trip is still enough to use this pass.

Trip from Narita airport to Tokyo

If you use the pass, you can use JR trains when you are in Tokyo and Osaka. So even though single fare and express surcharge combination is cheaper, pass will be cheaper and will be paid off. But this pass does not give you a big saving for this itinerary.

Trip between Karuizawa and Tokyo by Shinkansen

Total fare is 5,910 yen for one way. This is not enough to use this pass by only this trip.

Trip to Nikko or Kinugawa-Onsen from Shinjuku or Ikebukuro by direct limited express train, Nikko or Kinugawa

Total fare is 4,000 yen for one way to either Nikko or Kinugawa-Onsen. You have to use the pass more to get the worth of this deal.

Trip to Nikko from Tokyo by Shinkansen and local train

If you stay at east side of Tokyo, like Shinagawa, Tokyo, Ueno, this route may be faster than direct express from Shinjuku.
Total fare is 5,580 yen for one way. Tokyo Wide Pass is cheaper than only this round trip cost.

Trip to Gala Yuzawa from Tokyo by Shinkansen

Total fare is 6,870 yen for one way. You can get the worth of this deal easily by only this trip.

Trip to Odawara, Atami or Izukyu-Shimoda from Tokyo by limited express train, Odoriko or Super View Odoriko

Total fare is 2,940 yen to Odawara for one way by Odoriko and 3,190 yen for one way by Super View Odoriko.
Total fare is 3,800 yen to Atami for one way by Odoriko and 4,180 yen for one way by Super View Odoriko.
Total fare is 6,260 yen to Izukyu-Shimoda for one way by Odoriko and 6,640 yen for one way by Super View Odoriko.
If you visit Shimoda, this pass is cheaper.
*Shinkansen runs from Tokyo to Odawara and Atami. But this Shinkansen line, “Tokaido Shinkanse” is not covered by this pass because Tokaido Shinkansen does not belong to JR East but JR Central that is different company.

Trip between Narita Airport and Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shinjuku or Yokohama by Narita Express

Total fares are 3,020 yen for Tokyo, and 3,190 yen for Shinagawa or Shinjuku.

Trip between Haneda Airport and Hamamatsucho by Tokyo Monorail

Single fare is 490 yen for one way.

Fares in downtown Tokyo

You can take any local trains, like Yamanote line, Chuo line by this pass. But the fares in downtown Tokyo is quite reasonable. If you take a local train from Tokyo to Shinjuku, the fare is 200 yen. When you calculate the fares and compare this pass and single fare, you can ignore the fares in downtown Tokyo. It does not help to get worth very much.

Assessment

If you travel from Tokyo to southern Hokkaido, like Hakodate, Otaru and Sapporo by train, this is a good deal. You may add trip to Nikko, Izu, Fuji and Hakone , Gala Yuzawa, any places in Tohoku region. If you use this pass, you must be sure that you do not visit outside coverage area, such as, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Hiroshima, Kyushu, Takayama, Kanazawa and Nagoya. This pass does not cover eastern and northern part of Hokkaido either, such as Furano, Asahikawa, Kushiro, Shiretoko, Abashiri and Wakkanai.

You may be wondering which one is better, this deal or Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass). JR Pass 7 days is sold at 29,100 yen. But you have to use this pass in 7 consecutive days.

On the other hand, JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass Flex 6 days is sold at 26,000 yen. Price is a bit cheaper and you can pick any 6 days in 14 days valid period. But the coverage area is much smaller than JR Pass. JR Pass covers throughout Japan.

If you want to visit Kansai area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and/or Kobe, this deal does not suit your trip plan. If you visit both Kansai area and Hokkaido from Tokyo, even 14 days JR pass is way cheaper than single fare.

I hope this post will help you to pick up the right deal for your trip!

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

  1. Takeshi-san,

    Is it possible to “pay the difference/purchase” Green Car seats using the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass?

    Milton

    1. Hi Milton san,

      If you use Green by these passes, you have to pay full fare of Green car seat fee and limited express surcharge.

      e.g.
      Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto
      Ordinary reserved seat fee 11,330 yen
      Green car fee 18,500 yen

      You have to pay 18,500 yen, not 18500-11330= 7,170 yen, even though JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass. If you take Green car by Hokkaido rail pass, same rule applies.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    Planning a trip to Hokkaido and Tokyo. Would you give me some advices as what type of rail passes to buy. Below is my itinerary

    Day 1 – Arrive New Chitose Airport 8.10am to Tomamu
    Day 2 – Tomamu -> Sapporo
    Day 3 – Sapporo -> Otaru -> Sapporo
    Day 4 – Sapporo -> Noboribetsu -> Lake Toya
    Day 5 – Lake Toya -> Hakodate
    Day 6 – Hakodate -> Tokyo
    Day 7 – Tokyo
    Day 8 – Tokyo
    Day 9 – Tokyo -> Haneda Airport

    Thank you.
    Elizia

    1. Hi Elizia,

      JR pass 7 days is your choice.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      JR East South Hokkaido rail pass is cheaper than JR pass but it does not cover Tomamu.

      You can add local deals, such as subway pass in Tokyo and single ticket to Haneda.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi San,
    Thanks for your great advise, we spent a great time during 2016 new year in Japan with your recommended JR pass. Now we are planning to visit Hokkaido / Sapporo in May.
    We fly to Tokyo Haneda on 11/05 night, hope to take train direct to Sapporo next day early morning after change ticket at airport. And return from Sapporo on 15/05 to Tokyo Haneda (flight on 16/05).
    Please help to advise the best suitable JR train pass with the fastest train arrangement / schedule to reach Sapporo. Can the pass also able to travel within Sapporo/Hokkaido to see attraction with Cherry Blossom? Thank you.

    1. Hi Charlotte san,

      You can find the timetable to Sapporo from Tokyo in the link below:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/01.pdf

      You can choose either JR pass or JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass as you probably see the post above. It depends on your trip in Hokkaido. If you travel in southern Hokkaido only, JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass is okay. But if you intend to visit other places in Hokkaido, like Asahikawa, Furano, Kushiro, Abashiri, JR pass is your choice.

      If you want to see cherry blossom, you should visit eastern or northern Hokkaido. Full bloom in Sapporo will be May 3. It’s too late to see it when you will be there. In mid May, even Asahikawa is too late. Kushiro, Wakkanai and Abashiri may be okay. But these places are quite far. You can find the timetable for the train to these places in the link below:
      http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi san,

    I’ll travelling to Hokkaido and Tokyo in late April-May for 12D11N. Planning my trip in the following order, should I get a JR pass – which one to get?

    New Chitose Airport – Sapporo – Otaru – Lake Toya – Hakodate – Hakodate Airport (fly to Tokyo)

    Narita Airport – Lake Kawaguchi – Hakone – Shinjuku – Shibuya – Narita Airport

    Thank you in advance! 🙂

    1. Hi Kelly san,

      JR pass is too expensive and JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass is also too expensive.

      When you in Hokkaido, in my rough calculation, total fares for trains are around 14000 yen. It’s even cheaper than Hokkaido rail pass 3 days. So single ticket is the best choice for your trip in Hokkaido.

      For return trip between Narita and Tokyo, you can find the deals in the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

      For trip to Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone, you can use Fuji Hakone Pass.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/fujihakone/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi san,

    Sorry. I have posted this query to you on the wrong site of yours. So reposting here.

    Quote:
    For passengers traveling on a JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass
    ##Passengers who plan on using JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass to travel on Shinkansen and some Limited Express services in the JR East and Hokkaido area can use this site to reserve seats before arrival in Japan.
    ##The JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass can be exchanged at the designated locations throughout Japan after you purchase an Exchange Order outside Japan.
    You can also purchase JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass in Japan if you present your passport

    Unquote

    Does it mean I can reserve a seat online before buying a JR East-South Hokkaido Pass? Will the system ask for details of my purchase when I make an online seat reservation? I have to book my seat for Tokyo-Hakodate then later to Sapporo because my travel date is 2 or 3 May 2017 during the Golden Week.

    Thanks
    Esther

  6. Hi Takeshi,
    Thanks for all the valuable information that you have been posting regarding the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass.
    I intend to travel from Sendai to Naroku Gorge. This pass covers the ride from Sendai to Furukawa but can you verify if the pass also allows one to go onwards to Naroku Gorge via the JR Rikuu-East Line line?
    Thanks!

      1. Takeshi,
        Thank you so much! I really appreciate your time and effort in answering all the queries. I, as well as many others, have gathered much information from all your replies! Really helpful!

  7. Hi jprail,

    Would this pass cover Asahikawa Station? And is this a better deal to travel Tokyo – Sapporo rather than JR nationwide pass?

    Thanks

    Andrew

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks for the information. I saw on the JR East website that I could reserved seats on Tokyo/Ueno to Shin – Aomori station using JR pass.

        My question is, if I booked the service up to Shin – Aomori station, what would I need to do for the Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and then up to Sapporo station? Would I need to change train between Shin Aomori and Shin Hakodate Hokuto or would I be able to keep on seating the on the same seat as my previous journey?

        And is it viable to leave Tokyo at 06:00 then have lunch at Hakodate and look around before continuing on to Sapporo because I have already got a hotel confirmation in Tomakomai. What would be the last train to leave Hakodate for Tomakomai?

        Thanks for the help

        Andrew

        1. Hi Andrew,

          When you pick up a ticket for Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, you can ask to change the destination. As long as the seat is available after Shin-Aomori, you can change it.

          By the way, if you will try to book a seat after February 1, this site will accept a booking for Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. Maybe you can make a booking for other trains in Hokkaido too.

          Please see the link below to find the timetable:
          http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/ttable/01.pdf

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi san,

    Can I reserve seats on the JR Hakodate Main Line from Kutchan to Oshamambe? I will be using the JR East South Hokkaido Rail pass.

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