Rail cruising in UNESCO World Heritage Shirakami mountains by Rapid train Resort Shirakami


Some of Resort Shirakami are operated by the newest Hybrid train.
Resort Shirakami is one of the most popular cruising train in Japan.

Resort Shirakami (リゾートしらかみ) is a rapid train that is operated between Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森). This train is named from UNESCO World Heritage site “Shirakami Sanchi (白神山地)”. If you have a plan to go to Shirakami Sanchi, this train will be one of your choice.

This is a kind of local trains but this is very special. This is a cruising train for sightseeing along Shirakami Sanchi and some spots along Gono line (五能線). It is operated by specialized train and it does not have any non reserved seat. This train is operated during the peak periods only, but it is very popular. Of course you can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge.

I will show you some images of this train and tell you the details.

Route and schedule

This train connects Akita with Aomori in 5 hours. Some of trains are operated between Akita and Hirosaki (弘前). This train goes through Gono line that goes along Nihonkai coastline. Gono line is one of the line that has a great scenery. This train is for the tourists who wants to enjoy this scenery. If you are hurry, please take Limited Express Tsugaru. You can transfer from Aomori to Akita in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

If you are looking for the access to Shirakami Sanchi, you may get off this train at Juniko station. You can get off at Ajigasawa station too. You cannot access the core of Shirakami Sanchi from Ajigasawa. But Ajigasawa has “Mini Shirakami”. This is 30 minutes away from Ajigasawa by car. It is not the core of Shirakami, but it has same scenery and same ecological system. You can access Shirakami Sanchi from Hirosaki or other major stations. If you are not interested in Gono line, this train might not be suitable for you.

Resrot Shirakami Buna formation is operated by KIHA40 Buna cars.
Resrot Shirakami Buna formation is operated by KIHA40 Buna cars.

This is a seasonal train. Three round trips are operated almost everyday in July, August and September. But there is one round trip on weekends and holiday only in shoulder season. Please check the most updated schedule at Seasonal trains information.

You may have an experience about a local culture on board. Some of the trains give you Tsugaru dialect story teller (津軽弁語り部) or Tsugaru shamisen (津軽三味線=Japanese musical instrument that has three strings).

You also can find some more information about this train at my trip report.
Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 Winter, Part 4 from Akita to Hirosaki by Resort Shirakami

Operation route

Stations Train #1, #2 Train #4, #5 Train #3 Train #6
Akita (秋田) X X X X
Oiwake (追分) X X X X
Hachirogata (八郎潟) X X X X
Moritake (森岳) X
Higashi-Noshiro (東能代) X X X X
Noshiro (能代) X X X X
Akita-Shirakami (あきた白神) X X X X
Iwadate (岩館) X X X X
Juniko (十二湖) X X X X
WeSpa Tsubakiyama (ウェスパ椿山) X X X X
Fukaura (深浦) X X X X
Senjojiki (千畳敷) X
Akigasawa (鰺ヶ沢) X X X X
Mutsu-Morita (陸奥森田) X X X X
Kizukuri (木造) X X X X
Goshogawara (五所川原) X X X X
Mutsu-Tsuruta (陸奥鶴田) X X X X
Itayanagi (板柳) X X X X
Kawabe (川部) X X X X
Hirosaki (弘前) X X X X
Shin-Aomori (新青森) X X
Aomori (青森) X X

X=Stop -=Skip

Operation dates

Please check the most updated information at Seasonal trains information.


View Resort Shirakami in a larger map

Accommodation and train formation

Resort Shirakami Kumagaera formation is operated by KIHA40 Kumagera cars. (C) JP Rail
Resort Shirakami Kumagaera formation is operated by KIHA40 Kumagera cars. (C) JP Rail

There are three types of trains for Resort Shirakami. These are HB-E300 Aoike formation (青池編成), KIHA-40 Buna formation (ブナ編成) and KIHA-40 Kumagera formation (くまげら編成). HB-E300 is the newest car for Resort Shirakami. It was introduced in December, 2010. There is not big difference between HB-E300 and KIHA-40 series in the seat configuration and layout. But HB-E300 is more comfortable and quieter. If you have a choice, take Resort Shirakami by Aoike formation.

The seat configuration is 2+2. The seat pitch is 1200mm. This is way bigger than most of Limited Express trains. And also there are some of compartment. If you will travel as party of 4, this compartment will be suitable.

Images

KIHA40 series (Kumagera set)
Exterior
Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail

Interior
Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP RailResort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail

Public space (performance area)
Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail

Sanitary space
Resort Shirakami Kumagera set (C) JP Rail akebono-shirakami-tsugaru-akita 108

HB-E300 series
HB-E300 ordinary seat HB-E300 ordinary seat

Train formation

HB-E300 Aoike formation

1 2 3 4
R R(B) R R

R=Reserved ordinary seat R(B)=Reserved ordinary seat in comapartment

KIHA-40 Kumagera formation

1 2 3 4
R R(B) R R

R=Reserved ordinary seat R(B)=Reserved ordinary seat in comapartment

KIHA-40 Buna formation

1 2 3 4
R R(B) R(B) R

R=Reserved ordinary seat R(B)=Reserved ordinary seat in comapartment

Photo Credit
Kiha48 (Buna) by Rsa (Rsaが東能代駅で撮影) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
HB-E300 by Rsa (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
HB-E300 by Rsa (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
HB-E300 by Rsa (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

14 thoughts on “Rail cruising in UNESCO World Heritage Shirakami mountains by Rapid train Resort Shirakami”

  1. Hi!

    I am planning to visit Shirakami Sanchi during summer break in August:

    1. Does the resort shirakami gets easily full during this time? I live in Tokyo, and have not yet booked seats…

    2. Of the six trains mentioned above (#1, #2, etc.), can I know which is the Aoike formation train?

    3. Is there possible route using resort shirakami/gono line if I want to visit Anmon Falls?

    Thank you very much for any feedback!

    1. Hi Jerry,

      1) If you travel in mid August (Obon season), it’s booked out pretty quickly. But you cannot book it yet anyway at this point. The ticket is on sale at 10:00 am on the day of one month prior to departure date.
      ex) Trip date August 11, start to sell at 10:00 am on July 11

      2) Train #2 and #5 will be Aoike formation in August.

      3) I have never been there. But it’s not accessible. You have to take a bus from Hirosaki for 1 hour and then take taxi for 30 minutes. But I don’t know you can catch a taxi in remote area. This place is not good for public transportation. You may need to drive by yourself.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Hi,
    First of all, thank you for sharing a lot of information about Japan train travel. Very useful in assisting me to make itineraries. :)

    I plan to visit Japan in 8-18 October 2015 and using JR Pass. I would like to know if it’s possible to take both Resort Shirakami and visit Lake Towada from Tokyo? I think about staying overnight in one of most interesting cities in these area, before going back to Tokyo. Do you have any suggestion which city is most enjoyable?
    And which is the most efficient route, Akita-Aomori by Resort Shirakami first or Lake Towada first? Any information will be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Hi Deasy,

      Thanks for your comment for my website!

      You can visit both by JR pass from Tokyo. But one night two days trip for both is very busy. Because you will spend one day each at least for Tokyo-Akita-(Shirakami)-Aomori/Hirosaki and Tokyo-Hachinohe-Towada-Aomori/Hirosaki.
      And Aomori is the best place to stay but Hirsaki is more attractive and can be made in this trip.

      If you see Hirosaki, I recommend you to take Shirakami first. If you visit Towada first, you don’t have a time to see this town.
      Check the train timetable at Hyperdia or Shinkansen timetable can be found at JR East site.
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/index.html
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      And Lake Towada bus timetable can be found at the link below:
      Hachinohe-Towada http://www.jrbustohoku.co.jp/route/detail/?PID=9&RID=13
      Aomori-Towada http://www.jrbustohoku.co.jp/route/detail/?PID=9&RID=14

      I understand it will be very very busy trip. But Oirase rapid on the way to Towada is very very scenic. Highly recommended to drop by.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Takeshi,
        Noted. I really appreciate your prompt answer. I try to make the most of my next trip, yes I know it’s not easy. I must concern about every little details to make it smooth, but that what makes traveling in Japan always interesting.

        どうもありがとう :)

  3. Which side of the train should I sit for the scenery facing the Sea of Japan? I would like to get a window seat if possible ^^

  4. Hello! I love your website, it’s been so interesting and helpful! :)

    I am hoping to take the Resort Shirakami from Aomori to Akita on May 5 this year, but I realized I cannot make advanced reservations online. Do you have any idea how I can make reservations?
    Also, if it can only be bought after arriving in Japan, can it be bought at any JR Midori-no-Madoguchi counter or must the counter be in Aomori?

    I’ve been having a hard time planning this… Really appreciate your help!

    Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Thanks for your comment about my website. :)

      Unfortunately you have to book it after you arrive in Japan. You can book it at any Midori-no-Madoguchi in Japan.

      May 5 will be in Golden Week in Japan. It’s one of the busiest period in Japan. So you have to expect that it will be full. So try to book it right after you arrive in Japan.

      I hope you will make it.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Hello,
    We are planning a trip on the Resort Shirakami line with a 2 hour stop at the Koganezaki Furofushi Onsen.

    Can you say if the train runs in the Winter? And would we need reservations?
    We plan to leave Akita in the am on the 14th of January.

    Is there a schedule of the train times for January?

    Thank You

  6. Hello. We were hoping to catch the Resort Shirakami train from Aomori/Hirosaki to Akita via the Gono Line on the 28th of October 2011. A few weeks ago, the the route still appeared at Hyperdia, but now I can no longer find it.

    Might you know if that train is no longer in service due to it being a seasonal train?

    Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hello Keith,
      I checked JR East Akita branch website again. All three round trips of Resort Shirakami are operated as usual until November 27, 2011. So it will be no problem!
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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