Tag Archives: Hokkaido

Sample itinerary Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido 10 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days

Clock Tower is Sapporo’s icon.

I have posted the sample itinerary that includes Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido before. But at that time, Hokkaido Shinkansen was not open. Current train schedule and operation are completely different from that time. At this time, I revise all train schedule and update the information. And I add many more detailed information and help you to build your plan much more.

In this post, I would like to share this new itinerary. It is 10 days trip plan but I used 7 days JR pass. Local deals are added at the beginning and the end of the trip to shrink the total cost. But mostly JR pass covers the trip. Actually JR Pass 7 days gives you super saving! Continue reading

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

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

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
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 will be opened on March 26, 2016 between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. This will be the newest Shinkansen (Bullet Train) line technically. However this line is connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Many of trains run through Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto from Tokyo. You will be able to get Hokkaido from Tokyo directly by this Shinkansen train.

However Hokkaido Shinkansen will be partial open. You can get southern Hokkaido only. You still need to transfer to get most of Hokkaido. such as Sapporo. And also Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station is not located in downtown of Hakodate. You need to transfer to get Hakodate.

I mentioned many negative things at the beginning. But it will be much more convenient and faster than current trains. There are a few things that you need to know before taking Hokkaido Shinkansen. I would like to show you the detail of Hokkaido Shinkansen and will also give you some tips to use this Shinkansen line in this post.

*Additional info
JR Group has announced that Hokkaido Shinkansen is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass, a.k.a. JR pass.

Continue reading

Schedule of 2014 summer seasonal trains of Japan Railways

Moonlight Nagara is operated by 183 series.
Moonlight Nagara is very popular overnight train because it can be taken without limited express surcharge. (but reserved seat fee applicable)

Summer is not the best season to visit Japan except Hokkaido because of climate. It is very hot and humid. But local demand is quite high. Especially Obon season is one of three busiest period in Japan. Obon period is usually from August 13 to 16. In this year 2014, August 17 is Sunday. So the last day of Obon period is 17 of August. The trains to major cities will be very crowded. On the other hand, trains from major cities will be very crowded on August 13. Some of Japanese will start Obon vacation on August 10, Saturday. Anyway please keep that mid August will be very busy in your mind. You must reserve a seat if you travel in this period. Otherwise you have to stand up on the isle or passengers deck in very crowded train.

JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during all spring season. Especially JR Group add lots of the extra trains on those above holidays. It is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the popular trains and are operated in the popular spot. Continue reading

Schedule of 2014 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways

"Ohanami" is very popular outside party with viewing cherry blossom.  © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO
“Ohanami” is very popular outside party with viewing cherry blossom. © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

Spring is the best season to visit Japan because of the cherry blossom. And also between late April and the beginning of May is one of the busiest period. It is called “Golden Week” in Japan. April 29, May 3, 4, and 5 are National holidays. I recommen you to avoid travelling on those days. It’s not surprised if trains are full.

JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during all spring season. Especially JR Group add lots of the extra trains on those above holidays. It is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the popular trains and are operated in the popular spot. Continue reading

Hokkaido Unlimitd Train Ticket and Southern Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket for resident in Japan

Clock tower is the icon of Sapporo.
Clock tower is the icon of Sapporo.

JR East and JR Hokkaido have just announced that they will two types of unlimited ride ticket for trip to Hokkaido from Tokyo. If you go to Japan from outside of Japan, you have lots of choices, like Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass or Hokkaido Area Pass. But if you are in Japan as resident, you cannot purchase these tickets for overseas travellers. So if you want to go to Hokkaido by train, this ticket may be your choice. Only Japanese information will be provided by JR East (JR東日本). So I would like to share the information about this ticket with you here in English. 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 to Kyushu, Tohoku and Hokkaido in 5 days.

Thank you for supporting Japan!
Thank you for supporting Japan!

Dear readers,
I will leave Japan today and head back to Vancouver, Canada. I stayed in Japan for 9 nights and spend 5 days for my trip. It was crazy busy trip. I tried to take a train as many as I could. Continue reading

Overnight express train Cassiopeia, very popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Cassiopeia is most popular overnight train in Japan.
Cassiopeia is most popular overnight train in Japan.

*This train was discontinued in March 2016.

Cassiopeia is operated between Ueno and Sapporo. This train is like Japanese version Oriental Express and is the most luxurious in three luxurious overnight trains (other two are Twilight Express and Hokutosei) in Japan.

If you want to take this train by Japan Rail Pass, you need to pay some extra charges. You have to pay Limited Express surcharge and the accommodation fee. And also this train goes through non Japan Railway line between Morioka and Aomori. So you have to pay the basic fare for this non Japan Railway line. Even though you have to pay lots of the extra on Japan Rail Pass, many Japan Rail Pass user are interesting in this train. So I tell you that the extra cost, timetable, checking the availability and the types of accommodations.

Extra charges for Japan Rail Pass user

Japan Rail Pass cover only basic fare on Japan Railway. So you have to pay these extra charges.

Extra basic fare: 5,330 yen (for non Japan Railway line between Morioka and Aomori)
Extra express surcharge: 2,940 yen (between Ueno or Omiya and any stations in Hokkaido)

And also you have to pay the accommodation fee. Please see the next chapter.

Types of Accommodation

Welcome drink for Cassiopeia Suite and Cassiopeia Deluxe
Welcome drink for Cassiopeia Suite and Cassiopeia Deluxe

Cassiopeia Suite with View

  • Rate: 25,490 yen per person, based on two persons.
  • TV, clock, private shower, private washroom, welcome drink (a bottle of wine, a small bottle of whiskey, water and soft drink), coffee, Yukata (Japanese night wear), bath towel, facial towel
  • There is only one room in the train. This room has a huge glass window. It is so hard to get this room.
  • Images:
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia
    These following images are facilities. Cassiopeia Suite, Maisonette type has same as these things.
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia Suite, maisonette

  • Rate: 25,490 yen per person, based on two persons.
  • TV, clock, private shower, private washroom, welcome drink (a bottle of wine, a small bottle of whiskey, water and soft drink), coffee, Yukata (Japanese night wear), bath towel, facial towel
  • There are six rooms in the train. This room is two levels. The first floor is the bedroom and the second floor is the living. The extra bed can be put in the living room and can be used for 3 persons. The extra charge for third person is 13,350 yen.
  • Images:
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia Deluxe

  • Rate: 17,180 yen per person, based on two persons.
  • TV, clock, private shower, private washroom, welcome drink (a bottle of wine, a small bottle of whiskey, water and soft drink), coffee, Yukata (Japanese night wear), bath towel, facial towel
  • There is only one room in the train. This room is one level suite and has a higher ceiling than Cassiopeia Suite maisonette. The sofa can be converted to the extra bed and can be used for 3 persons. The extra charge for third person is 9.540 yen.
  • Images:
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia Twin (double decker)

  • Rate: 13,350 yen per person, based on two persons.
  • TV, clock, private washroom, welcome drink (soft drink), coffee, Yukata (Japanese night wear), facial towel (No private shower in the room. need to use the shared shower room at 310 yen for 6 minutes.)
  • This type of rooms are main stream in this train. This is like a standard twin room. These rooms are in the double decker car. Those rooms are located at the both lower level and higher level. But some of these rooms are located at the single level of this train. A few of these rooms at single level can be used for 3 persons. The extra charge for third person is 9.540 yen.
  • Images (Lower floor):
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia
  • Images (Upper floor):
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia
  • Images (located at single level):
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia
  • Images (Triple type):
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia
  • Images (Facilities):
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Cassiopeia Compart

  • Rate: 22,890 yen per room, based on two persons.
  • TV, clock, private washroom, welcome drink (soft drink), coffee, Yukata (Japanese night wear), facial towel (No private shower in the room. need to use the shared shower room at 310yen for 6 minutes.)
  • This room is designed for the handicapped person. We only have one room in the train
  • Images:
    Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Train Formation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
CSV/CSM CSM/CDX D CC/CT CT CT CT CT CT CT CT L

*CSV=Cassiopeia Suite with View CSM=Cassiopeia Suite Maisonette CDX=Cassiopeia Deluxe CT=Cassiopeia Twin CC=Cassiopeia Compart D=Dining Car L=Lounge Car
*Smoking is permitted on Car#2, 3, 5, 6 and 11.

Dining Car / Lounge Car

Meal is not included in the rate. And the reservation for dinner must be done by 23:00 on three days prior to the departure date. But simply you can make a reservation at the same time as booking for the room. You can choose Kaiseki Gozen (懐石御膳=Traditional Japanese style cuisine) or French four course. Japanese dinner is 5,500 yen. French course is 7,800 yen. And also you have to choose dinner time from 17:15-18:15 or 18:30-19:50 or 20:10-21:30. Dining car is the pub after 20:30. You don’t need to make a reservation.

If you take Cassiopeia Suite or Cassiopeia Deluxe, Room service is available for only the first dining time, 17:15-18:15. And Also you can choose Cassiopeia Tokusei Bento (カシオペア特製弁当=Cassiopeia Special Dinner Box) at 3,500 yen. Of courese you need to order this dinner box three days before the boarding.

You don’t need to make a reservation for the breakfast. They open at 06:30. They have Japanese style and Western style. Both breakfast are same price at 1,600 yen.

They sell regular dinner box (Japanese Bento, Sandwich and so on) and drinks. If you cannot make a reservation for the dining car, you still can get something to eat. Of course you can get something before boarding.

Image (Dining car interior) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Image (Pub time menu) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Image (Breakfast menu) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Image (Cassiopeia Bento) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Lounge car is open for the public. You can enjoy the view through the panoramic glass windows. You can see the iamges of Dining car and Lounge car here on JR East website.

And also smoking is not permitted in Lounge car, but it is permitted in and dining car. Please don’t upset that!
*Since March 17, 2012, smoking is not permitted in both dining car and lounge car.

Image (Lounge car) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Image (Public washroom) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Image (Shared shower room) : Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia Overnight train Cassiopeia

Reservation and space availability

It is very difficult for Japan Rail Pass user to make a booking. Because you cannot make a reservation online. All you can do is going to the station to take it. Japan Railway starts to sell the ticket 30 days prior to the departure date. Most of Japan Rail Pass user start to use the pass right after arrival. So if you have a plan to take this train, you need to think about the back up plan. You have to expect that you won’t be able to make it!

*If you have a friend who speaks Japanese, you can ask to make a call to JR West odekake net at 078-341-7903. This reservation center can take a reservation for all JR trains. However you need to pay surcharge and accommodation fee. Japan Rail Pass do not cover any surcharge and accommodation fee on overnight trains. So it is not a big issue. And also you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu’s stations. You cannot pick up ticket in other areas, like Tokyo, Niigata, Aomori, Hokkaido.

But you can check the availability online. Please access this page on JR East website. It is in Japanese but it is not complicated. You will see like this table.

曜日 上野発 札幌発
1 17 O
18 O
19 O
20
21
22 X
23

From left to right, Month (月), Day (日), Week-day (曜日), Departure from Ueno (上野発), Departure from Sapporo (札幌発). So the second row means January 17, Monday. Cassiopeia is not operated from Ueno to Sapporo. So you see “-“. On the other hand, you see “O” from Sapporo. It means that lots of rooms are still available. Please see the sixth row. You see “△” departure from Ueno. It means almost sold out. If you see “X”, it means completely sold out. Please check in last minutes before you depart from your country.

Operation dates will be different after March 14, 2015. Please find it at Schedule of 2015 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways. I wrote the dates until September, 2015.

But you need to think about alternative in case that you cannot make it. If you need any ideas about a back up plan, please refer the post, Alternatives of overnight train Cassiopeia and Hokutosei. I suggest several itineraries.

Timetable

Timetable will be different after March 14, 2015. Please find it at Schedule of 2015 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways. I wrote the dates until September, 2015.

station/direction Ueno to Sapporo Sapporo to Ueno
Ueno (上野) 16:20 09:25
Omiya (大宮) 16:45 09:00
Utsunomiya (宇都宮) 17:50 07:50
Koriyama (郡山) 19:13 06:15
Fukushima (福島) 19:52 05:36
Sendai (仙台) 20:59 04:33
Ichinoseki (一ノ関) 22:08
Morioka (盛岡) 23:16
Hakodate (函館) 05:02 21:12
Mori (森) 05:52 20:18
Yakumo (八雲) 06:18 19:51
Oshamanbe (長万部) 06:43 19:15
Toya (洞爺) 07:13 18:42
date-Monbetsu (伊達紋別) 07:25 18:28
Higashi-Muroran (東室蘭) 07:44 17:57
Noboribetsu (登別) 08:00 17:37
Tomakomai (苫小牧) 08:33 17:06
Minami-Chitose (南千歳) 08:55 16:46
Sapporo (札幌) 09:32 16:12

Overnight Express Train Hokutosei, most popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Overnight Express train Hokutosei
Overnight Express train Hokutosei

*This train was discontinued as scheduled train on March 13, 2015. Now this train is seasonal operation. Please find the operation dates at Schedule of 2015 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways. It will run until August and it will be discontinued completely. Now it is VERY DIFFICULT to book for this train. I highly recommend you to avoid to use this train in your plan.

Hokutosei is operated between Ueno and Sapporo. This train is like Japanese version Oriental Express and is operated on the same route as the most luxurious overnight train, Cassiopeia. 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

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 will be discontinued in mid March. This train will run until March 21, 2016 normally. There is no train running between Shin-Aomori and Hakodate between March 22 and March 25, 2016. There is no way to get Hokkaido in this period.

On March 26,2016, Hokkaido Shinkansen will be opened. Hokkaido Shinkansen will connect 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