Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express, in case that you cannot make a reservation.

***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***

Twilight Express is one of the most popular train in Japan. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Twilight Express is one of the most popular train in Japan. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Twilight Express is very popular. Many tourists might think about taking this luxury overnight train. But you have a problem. Twilight Express cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to go to a reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you need to think about alternatives if you have a plan to take this train. I tell you several options for the case that you cannot make Twilight Express.

Twilight Express departs from Osaka at 11:50am and arrive in Sapporo at 09:52am, and depart from Sappro at 12:52pm and arrive in Osaka at 14:05pm. I try to make an alternatives as same schedule as possible.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Shin Osaka – Tokyo – Shin Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (overnight train Hamanasu used)

Overnight Express train Hamansu
Overnight Express train Hamansu

Osaka to Sapporo

14:40pm Shin-Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 476)
17:40pm Tokyo
17:56pm Tokyo (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 37)
21:28pm Shin-Aomori
21:38pm Shin-Aomori (Local train)
21:44pm Aomori
22:42pm Aomori (Hamanasu)
Overnight in the train
06:07am Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

22:00pm Sapporo (Hamanasu)
Overnight in the train
05:40am Aomori
05:46am Aomori (Limited Express Tsugaru 2)
05:51am Shin-Aomori
06:10am Shin-Aomori (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 4)
09:24am Tokyo
09:33pm Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 507)
12:30pm Shin-Osaka

Overnight express train “Hamanasu” is used. I think this is the best alternative. Because you don’t need to book your hotel in Sapporo or Osaka. All trains have non reserved seat except Hayate and Hayabusa on Tohoku Shikansen. But there are lots of trains. So if you make a small adjustment (take earlier train), you can make this trip. Hamanasu is not luxury overnight train. But two types of reserved seat on Hamanasu have very good reputation. It is quite popular and hard to get it. You may not be able to get a reserved seat either. But you can try anyway. See the details about Hamansu at my post.

Shin Osaka – Tokyo – Shin Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (no overnight trains used)

Osaka to Sapporo

09:40am Shin-Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 466)
12:40pm Tokyo
12:56pm Tokyo (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 27)
16:33pm Shin-Aomori
16:41pm Shin-Aomori (Super Hakucho 27)
18:53pm Hakodate
19:41pm Hakodate (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 21)
22:56pm Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

10:37am Sapporo (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 10)
13:52pm Hakodate
13:56pm Hakodate (Super Hakucho 34)
16:00pm Shin-Aomori
16:08pm Shin-Aomori (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 34)
19:48pm Tokyo
20:03pm Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 487)
23:18pm Shin-Osaka

All trains have non reserved seat except Hayate on Tohoku Shinkansen. So it is same story as the alternative plan above. But this is going to be very long day trip. You need to reserve your accommodation in Sapporo/Osaka because you don’t overnight in the train.

Osaka – Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (overnight train Nihonkai used)

Overnight limited Express train Nihonkai (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Overnight limited Express train Nihonkai (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Osaka to Sapporo

17:47pm Osaka (Overnight train Nihonkai)
Overnight in the train
08:45am Aomori
09:20am Aomori (Super Hakucho 95)
11:38am Hakodate
12:30pm Hakodate (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 9)
15:44pm Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

13:17pm Sapporo (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 14)
16:49pm Hakodate
17:07pm Hakodate (Super Hakucho 42)
19:05am Aomori
19:31pm Aomori (Overnight train Nihonkai)
Overnight in the train
10:27am Osaka

Overnight limited express train “Nihonkai” is used. But Nihonkai has two types of berth only. It does not have any non reserved seat. So if you cannot reserve your berth, you cannot make this trip. Nihonkai has basic berth only. It does not have any luxury atmosphere. See the details about Nihonkai at my post.

Shin Osaka – Tokyo – Ueno – Sapporo (overnight train Hokutosei used)

Hokutosei dining car (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Hokutosei dining car (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Osaka to Sapporo

15:13pm Shin-Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 522)
18:10pm Tokyo
Take Yamanote line from Tokyo to Ueno. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
19:03pm Ueno (Overnight Limited Express train Hokutosei)
Overnight in the train
11:05am Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

17:12pm Sapporo (Overnight Limited Express train Hokutosei)
Overnight in the train
09:38am Ueno
Take Yamanote line from Ueno to Tokyo. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
10:03am Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 467)
13:05pm Shin-Osaka

Hokutosei is as popular as Twilight Express. So it is very hard to get the seat too. But you can try it! See the details about Hokutosei at my post.

Shin Osaka – Tokyo – Ueno – Sapporo (overnight train Cassiopeia used)

Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Osaka to Sapporo

12:40pm Shin-Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 472)
15:40pm Tokyo
Take Yamanote line from Tokyo to Ueno. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
16:20pm Ueno (Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia)
Overnight in the train
09:32am Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

16:12pm Sapporo (Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia)
Overnight in the train
09:25am Ueno
Take Yamanote line from Ueno to Tokyo. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
10:03am Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 467)
13:05pm Shin-Osaka

Cassiopeia is as popular as Twilight Express. So it is very hard to get the seat too. And also Cassiopeia is not operated everyday. See the details about Cassiopeia at my post.

Shin Osaka – Tokyo – Ueno – Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (overnight train Akebono used)

Reserved seat (Goron to seat) is almost same as basic berth. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Reserved seat (Goron to seat) is almost same as basic berth. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Osaka to Sapporo

12:40pm Shin-Osaka (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 472)
15:40pm Tokyo
Take Yamanote line from Tokyo to Ueno. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
21:15pm Ueno (Overnight Limited Express train Akebono)
Overnight in the train
09:56am Aomori
10:24am Aomori (Super Hakucho 11)
12:22pm Hakodate
12:30pm Hakodate (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 9)
15:44pm Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

12:22pm Sapporo (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 12)
15:38pm Hakodate
15:55pm Hakodate (Super Hakucho 40)
17:51am Aomori
18:25am Aomori (Overnight Limited Express train Akebono)
Overnight in the train
06:58am Ueno
Take Yamanote line from Ueno to Tokyo. The train comes every 2-3 minutes. It takes 8 minutes.
07:33am Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari 503)
10:30am Shin-Osaka

Akebono is basic type of overnight train. But this train has a reserved seat. So if you will use Japan Rail Pass, you can take this train with no extra cost. This train does not have any non reserved seat. If you cannot make a reservation, you cannot take this option. See the details about Akebono at my post.

Osaka – Tokyo – Shin Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (overnight train Sunrise Seto or Sunrise Izumo used)

Osaka to Sapporo

00:34am Osaka (Sunrise Seto/Izumo)
Overnight in the train
07:08am Tokyo
08:12pm Tokyo (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayabusa 1)
11:22am Shin-Aomori
11:34am Shin-Aomori (Super Hakucho 11)
13:35pm Hakodate
14:00pm Hakodate (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 11)
17:25pm Sapporo

Sapporo to Osaka

12:22pm Sapporo (Super Hokuto/Hokuto 12)
15:38pm Hakodate
15:55pm Hakodate (Super Hakucho 40)
17:56pm Shin-Aomori
18:14pm Shin-Aomori (Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 34)
21:24pm Tokyo
22:00pm Tokyo (Sunrise Seto/Izumo)
Overnight in the train
05:24am Himeji
05:47am Himeji (Special Rapid train)
06:48am Osaka

Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo are basic type of overnight train. But this train has a reserved seat. So if you will use Japan Rail Pass, you can take this train with no extra cost. This train does not have any non reserved seat. If you cannot make a reservation, you cannot take this option. Be careful when you take Sunrise trains from Tokyo. These trains do not stop at Osaka. The first stop in the morning is Himeji. So you need to go back to Osaka from Himeji by Shinkansen or Special Rapid train. See the details at my posts, Sunrise Seto or Sunrise Izumo.

If you need more alternatives, please see the post about overnight ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate. You have to pay some extra. But you can stay overnight in the vessel and you don’t need to worry about booking a hotel after you arrive in Japan.

14 thoughts on “Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express, in case that you cannot make a reservation.”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you for your answers and blogposts – very informative indeed!

    I am intending to travel from Kyoto to Hokkaido with a JR Rail pass and I understand from the recent posts that overnight trains from Tokyo into Hokkaido have started to cease operations. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for trains from Kyoto to Sapporo (non-overnight) with a stopover for a night stay? Which town would be better for an overnight halt and the next earliest train into Sapporo the first thing in the morning?

    As I have a JR pass, I wouldn’t mind stopping over in one of the northern-most town in Honshu.

    Regards,
    Gerad

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you for making such a great website. I am wondering if you can help me work out the best trains to get for my trip. I will need to travel from Osaka to Hakodate on October 25, 2014 with my boyfriend and both of us will also have a bike as luggage (which we can pack up into a box/bag). We will need to then travel with the bikes from Sapporo to Tokyo on November 9. We are not planning on buying Japan Rail Passes as we are mostly spending our time bike riding while in Japan.

    Can you recommend the best trains to catch? And do you think we should we book them in advance now before we are in Japan?

    Thank you,
    Liv

    1. Hi Liv,

      Actually I don’t recommend you to take a train. First of all, trip to Sapporo from Osaka is a long long travel. The following link shows you the trip to Sapporo from Tokyo. If you depart from Osaka, add 2.5 hours on top of the schedule in the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html

      Next thing, travelling with baggage by train is very challenging.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/travel-tips/baggage/managing-luggage-how-to-carry-your-baggage-on-board-and-how-to-store-your-baggage-at-the-station.html

      If you are okay with this situation, you can go for the train trip. Regarding booking, basically you can’t booking from outside of Japan.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/how-to-reserve-seat.html

      I think domestic flight is better for your trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Hello again Takeshi,

    Is the time you posted here is the exact time of arrival/departure until February 2015? I will take the Twilight Express train. I understand I can’t reserve online so I will ask one of my Japanese friend to do it for me via phone. I will be leaving Osaka to Sapporo on February 4, 2015, so does this mean that I have to call on January 4, 2015 for reservation? Is the whole trip covered by JR pass?

    I apologize if I am asking too much questions. I am very excited to explore Japan next year.

    Thank you very much.

    Regards,
    Nadine

    1. Hi Nadine,

      I don’t recommend you to plan to use this train. Since JR announced this train will be discontinued on March 2015, it’s almost impossible to book this train. All tickets are sold out less than one second. Now it’s like a draw. Even travel agents in Japan do not accept to book this train.
      You can ask your friend. But the chance is very very slim. Your friend has to be ready for booking at 10:00 sharp on January 4, 2015. And he/she asks station staff to submit at 10:00 sharp. Otherwise no chance.

      If you use JR Pass, only base fare is covered. Your friend has to purchase limited express surcharge and accommodation fee. Those are not covered by JR Pass.

      Actually many local travellers give up to take this train. Please consider about taking other trains. Especially in that period, Sapporo will hold snow festival. In this season, trains are super busy. Other overnight trains to Hokkaido. like Hokutosei and Cassiopeia, are very hard to book too.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        That means I have to give up overnight train since it is the peak season.

        My other option is I will take JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin Aomori – transfer to JR Hakucho limited express to Hakodate – transfer again to JR Hokuto limited express to Sapporo. If I were to take this option, do I have to reserve seats in advance or will it be available once I arrive there?

        Thank you very much. I appreciate your help.

        Regards,
        Nadine

        1. Hi Nadine,

          These daytime trains are covered by JR Pass fully. So if you ask your friend to book these trains, you have to pay for the seat that is covered by JR Pass. That will be a huge waste.
          In my opinion, daytime train is okay to book after you arrive in Japan. There are lots of runs and much much easier to book than overnight trains.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

          1. Hello Takeshi,

            I checked on Hyperdia.com regarding the timetable of Shinkansen Hayabusa 27 going to Shin-Aomori. The departure time is 16:20, then transfer to 2 more trains – arrival time to Sapporo is 10:00. I am worried once I arrive there, there won’t be available non-reserved seats for me.

            Thank you very much.

            Regards,
            Nadine

          2. Hi Nadine,

            You have to try to book right after you arrive in Japan at KIX. You can exchange JR Pass there and book all trains that you need to take. Especially Hayabusa does not have any non reserved seat.

            I think you will take Hayabusa 27 and Super Hakucho 27 to Hakodate. And you will stay overnight at Hakodate. And then you will take Super Hokuto 1 to Sapporo and arrive there at 9:58. Both Super Hakocho and Super Hokuto have non reserved seat. In non reserved seat cars, you can be on board even if you can’t get a seat. That means you will be standee. I understand you don’t like to stand in the train for a few hours. But you can get on the train anyway.

            Most of passengers on Super Hakucho are transferred from Hayabusa. So once you get Shin-Aomori, you should rush to Super Hakucho if you can’t book reserved seat for Super Hakucho.

            You will stay in Hakodate and take Super Hokuto in early morning. I think this train will be okay because of early departure.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JP Rail

          3. Okay, I will take your advice, Takeshi.

            Thank you very much for your help. More power to your website.

            Regards,
            Nadine

  4. We are 4 will arrive Osaka on 6th Jul. We will like to take this Akebono train to Hokaido.
    Can we make reservation on line ? If can’t can we ask our Japanese friend in Tokyo make this reservation for us ? We would like to boook the Goronto seats. Please help advise what is the best way to book this prior to our arrival ? TQ

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