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!

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

  1. Hello Takeshi,

    My partner and I are visiting Japan in February 2018. I am having difficulty deciding if I should focus only on Hokkaido or Tokyo or visit both Tokyo and Hokkaido. The trip between Tokyo and Hokkaido costs a lot and I am not sure if I will be making much savings using the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass because I am not traveling long distance from Tokyo or Sapporo for day trips. At the moment, I am still trying to plan for both Tokyo and Hokkaido based on the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass.

    My itinerary is as follow:
    Day 1 (Tues) – Arrive at Tokyo Haneda at 10.30 pm and travel to Tokyo. Plan to use Tokyo monorail 490 yen.

    Day 2 (Wed) – Sightseeing around Tokyo. Plan to use Tokyo subway 24-hour pass 800 yen.

    Day 3 (Thurs) – Day trip to Yokohama from Tokyo. Train from Tokyo to Yokohama station 270 – 470 yen one way.

    Day 4 (Fri) – Day trip to Kamakura. JR Yokosuka Line Tokyo to Kamakura station or JR Shonan Shinjuku Line Shinjuku to Kamakura station, both 920 yen.

    Day 5 (Sat) – Sightseeing around Tokyo. Plan to use Tokyo subway 48-hour pass 1200 yen.

    Day 6 (Sun) – Sightseeing around Tokyo

    Day 7 (Mon) – Travel to Kawaguchiko and stay 1 night. Save 2500 yen direct limited express train Shinjuku to Otsuki station on JR Chuo line. Take Fujikyu Railway Line from Otsuki to Kawaguchiko station 1140 yen extra fare. If not using JR east-south pass, can take highway bus from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko station, 1750 yen from Shinjuku and 1800 yen from Shibuya.

    Day 8 (Tues) – Leave Kawaguchiko back to Tokyo. Reverse of Day 7.

    Day 9 (Wed) – Travel to Hakodate and stay 1 night. Cost 23000 yen without pass.

    Day 10 (Thurs) – Travel to Sapporo. Cost 8830 yen for east bound direct express train from Hakodate without pass.

    Day 11 (Fri) – Day trip to Otaru. Train fare 640 yen one way.

    Day 12 (Sat) – Day trip to Lake Toya. Cost 5400 yen one way on non reserved seat from Sapporo to Toya station without pass. Additional 330 yen for bus to Lake Toya OR day trip to Nobo cost 3960 yen non reserved without pass .

    Day 13 (Sun) – Sightseeing around Sapporo
    Day 14 (Mon) – Leave Sapporo to New Chitose airport. Plan to take JR Airport Express Train for 1070 yen)

    I plan to use the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass on day 4, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12.

    I have a few questions:
    1) Do you think it is a good idea to visit Lake Toya on the day I arrive at Hakodate and stay a night at Lake Toya instead of Hakodate or to do day trip to Lake Toya from Sapporo.
    2) I am not sure to do day trip to Lake Toya or Noboribetsu. I have read that it is harder to travel Lake Toya compared to Noboribetsu but it is advisable to stay overnight at Noboribetsu. May I know your advice?
    3) I am not sure if I have calculated my travel expenses correctly. May I know if you could confirm?
    4) Would you do both Tokyo and Hokkaido at the same trip?

    Thank you for reading my long comment Takeshi.

    1. Hi Karen,

      1. I recommend you to drop by Lake Toya and/or Noboribetsu on the way to Sapporo from Hakodate. I understand luggage may be issue. But if you make a day trip from either Hakodate or Sapporo, you will waste many hours.

      2. Both are not hard to get. I traveled both places in this past winter. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/trip-report/2017-hokkaido/trip-to-hokkaido-in-2017-winter-part-6-takikawa-to-lake-toya-via-noboribetsu.html

      In my opinion, Noboribetsu is more attractive as the place to visit. I strongly recommend you to stay overnight in Hakodate. Hakodate is my most favorite city in Japan. It’s very lovely.

      3. Your calculation is correct. You can get the worth of this pass.

      4. If I were you, I do both. I actually add some more if I have 14 days. But I’m crazy traveler. Don’t copy me.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi,
        I will take your advice 🙂 Yes, I notice you are a crazy traveler! I don’t think my partner can cope, he will be tired haha.

  2. Hi,
    Can I use 6 days flexi JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass travel for the following itinerary?
    I would like to use it to travel from :
    Sapporo to Noribetsu
    Noribetsu to Niseko
    Niseko to Hakodate
    Hakodate to Tokyo
    Tokyo to Yokohama (1day trip)
    Tokoyo to Lake Kawaguchi (1day trip)

    Day 1 – Airport Chitose to Sapporo Station
    Day 3 – Otaru
    Day 4- Noribetsu
    Day 5 – Lake toya
    Day 7-Niseko
    Day 8 – Hakodate
    Day 9 – to Tokyo
    Day 10 – to Yokohama
    Day 11 – Lake kawaguchi

    1. Hi April,

      You can use this pass. But when you go to Lake Kawaguchi, you need to pay extra for Otsuki – Kawaguchiko which is Fuji Kyuko railway and it’s not covered by this pass. Extra fare is 1140 yen one way.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

    1. Hi Neli,

      There is no choices other than regular seat version. If you want to take Green seat, you should use JR pass.
      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

      Even JR pass does not cover the highest seat, Gran class. You need to pay whole amount of seat fee if you want to take Gran class seat on top of any kinds of passes.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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