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.

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 section. 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

Hokutosei_welcome
Welcome drink for Royal

Royal

Rate: 17,180 yen per person, based on one person.
This is the one that made Hokutosei be popular. There are only four rooms in the train. Since it is very popular, it is very hard to get this room. The bed size is 80cm x 190cm. But this room can be used for 2 persons. So if the extra bed is used, the bed size is 140cm x 190cm. The extra charge for the second person is 9.540 yen. This compartment equip 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), towels and some amenity kit. And also coffee or tea is delivered to the room in the morning. You will have a power outlet in the room. You can recharge batteries, using a laptop or other devices.

Images
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Twin Deluxe

Rate: 13,350 yen per person, based on two persons
There are eight rooms in the train. This compartment is almost square shaped, 192cm x 194cm. It has upper and lower berth. the bed size on lower berth is 80cm x 190cm and upper berth is 70cm x 190cm. Even if you want to use this room as single, you have to pay double. This room has a sink but not washroom in the room. This room equip TV, clock, Yukata (Japanese night wear), private sink and towel. This compartment does not have any power outlet.

Images
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Duet

Rate: 6,300 yen per person, based on two persons
This type of rooms are main stream in this train. This is like a standard twin room. These rooms are located on higher and lower section. Lower section is a bit more spacious, but upper section has better view. The bed size is a standard size, 70cm x 190cm. This room equip Yukata (Japanese night wear) and audio, but no power outlet in the room. If you travel with someone, you can use same amount of basic berth type B. This room gives you a great deal.

Images
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Solo

Rate: 6,300 yen per person, based on one person
This type of rooms is main stream in this train too. This is a standard single room. Those rooms are located at the both lower section and higher section. The bed size is a standard size, 70cm x 190cm. Yukata (Japanese night wear) and audio is included in the room, but no power outlet. We have these rooms on 3 cars, #5, #6 and #9. The rooms are a bit different between 5,6 and 9. You can stand up in the room at any lower section rooms, but you cannot on car #9. On car #5 and #6, the stairs are in the rooms. You can stand up to use this space. But on car #9, the stairs to upper section is shared with other room. So the room height is lower than car #5 and #6. So if you want to take this room, try to get the room on car #5 or #6. These rooms give you more comfortability. And also you can use this room at the same amount of basic berth type B.
Images
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Car #5 and #6 Overnight train Hokutosei Overnight train Hokutosei Overnight train Hokutosei Overnight train Hokutosei Overnight train Hokutosei

Basic berth type B

Rate: 6,300 yen per person
This is not a compartment. but a regular berth. One section consists of 4 beds. The bed size is a standard size, 70cm x 190cm. The rate is exactly same as Duet and Solo. If you travel of 4 persons, this accommodation will be one of your choice. Especially these berth on car #1 has the door and lock at every single section. It is like a semi compartment. But as long as you travel by yourself or with someone, I cannot find any reason to take this. And also this is smoking permitted on these cars. I think this would be the last choice for you.
Images
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Train Formation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
B DT DT DT SL SL/L D TD RL/SL RL/DT B

*RYL=Royal TD=Twin Deluxe DT=Duet SL=Solo B=Berth D=Dining Car L=Lounge Space
*Smoking is permitted on all cars except Car#1.

Dining Car “Grand Chariot”

French dinner
French dinner

This dining car “Grand Chariot” made Hokutosei be very popular when this train was introduced. Japan Railway have never had this kind of the fancy French cuisine dining on the train. Anyway the meal is not included in the rate. And the reservation for dinner must be done by three days prior to the departure date. You can choose the dining time, 18:00-19:20 or 19:40-21:00, if you take the train from Sapporo. If you take the train from Ueno, they have only one dining time, 19:45-21:05. 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. Dining car is the pub after 21:30. You don’t need to make a reservation.

If you take Royal, Room service is available for only the first dining time. But only Japanese dinner is available for the room service.

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. And also you can eat a light meal in the Pub time. 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.
Dining car images
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Lounge car and other public space

Lounge space is open for the public. Smoking is permitted in both lounge space and dining car. but it is not permitted in the dining car during dinner time.

*Since March 17, 2012, smoking is not permitted in both dining car and lounge car all time.

Lounge car images
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The shared shower rooms are located on Lounge car. You need to buy a prepaid card for using a shower. It is sold at dining car. The price is 310yen for 6 minutes. You need to decide the time when you buy a card. Even though you have a 6 minutes card, you will secure the space for 30 minutes.

Shower space images
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This train has both style washroom Western and Japanese.
Washroom images
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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 1 month 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.

You can check the availability online for Cassiopeia. But you cannot see any informations about Hoktosei online.

Anyway 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 August, 2015.

station/direction Ueno to Sapporo Sapporo to Ueno
Ueno (上野) 19:03 09:38
Omiya (大宮) 19:30 09:10
Utsunomiya (宇都宮) 20:59 08:10
Koriyama (郡山) 21:53 06:38
Fukushima (福島) 22:59 05:58
Sendai (仙台) 23:30 04:54
Hakodate (函館) 06:35 21:48
Mori (森) 07:27 20:46
Yakumo (八雲) 08:05 20:20
Oshamanbe (長万部) 08:29 19:55
Toya (洞爺) 08:59 19:24
date-Monbetsu (伊達紋別) 09:11 19:10
Higashi-Muroran (東室蘭) 09:32 18:51
Noboribetsu (登別) 09:48 18:35
Tomakomai (苫小牧) 10:19 18:06
Minami-Chitose (南千歳) 10:41 17:46
Sapporo (札幌) 11:15 17:12


View Cassiopeia/Hokutosei in a larger map

50 thoughts on “Overnight Express Train Hokutosei, most popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo”

  1. We are planning to travel from Osaka to Hakodate via Aomori using JR. pass. In this route, there will be a section from Morioka-Hachinohe-Aomori on the Aoimori Railway. is this section covered by JR pass? If not, what’s the extra we have to pay? Thanks

    1. Hi Marianne,

      I wrote it at the chapter, “Extra charges for Japan Rail Pass user” in the post above.
      But this train will be discontinued in the end of this summer. Now it is very very hard to book. There is no online booking so you need to book after you arrive in Japan. The chance to book is very very slim. If you are okay to change your plan in case of booked out, you can use this train in your itinerary. Otherwise I don’t recommend to use this train in your plan. If you take daytime trains, there is no extra charge. JR pass covers fully.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Hi there,

    If you don’t recommend using Hokutosei to travel between Tokyo/Sapporo, what is your “preferred” option then? I will be using a JR pass during my time in Japan. I notice you also provide a few alternatives. Is your suggested route : Tokyo – Shin Aomori – Hakodate – Sapporo (overnight train Hamanasu used) the one that you recommend over Hokutosei ?

    Many thanks,
    Michael

    1. HI MIchael,

      If you want overnight option, Hamanasu is only choice and it can be taken without any extra by JR Pass. Daytime train option is available. But it’s such a long trip. If you take daytime option, I recommend you to stay somewhere on the way to Sapporo, like Hakodate.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. That’s great! Thank you. I prefer the overnight option as I want to maximize on daytime sightseeing rather than traveling. No extra charge if I use my JR pass also makes this option more appealing too. Cheers.

          1. Takeshi-san,

            Thank you for the information. We are thinking of doing the same trip as Micahel-san but we are thinking the Tokyo–>Shin-Aomori–>Aomori–>Sapporo Route as it leaves Tokyo around 6.30pm. We will be using JR Pass

            Please help clarifying if we need to reserve seats for every route. Also, do we need to pay accommodation fee (sleeper car) for the Aomori–>Sapporo Route and how do we reserve it?

            Thanks so much

            Por

          2. Hi Por san,

            You have to book for Tokyo-Shin Aomori and Aomori-Sapporo. Especially there is no non reserved seat for Shinkmansen between Tokyo and Shin Aomori. Please see the link below to get more info about booking:
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/how-to-reserve-seat.html
            http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/overnight-trains/hamanasu.html

            Hamansu does not run on some dates. Please see the link below:
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/seasonal-trains-schedule/suspension-and-schedule-change-of-overnight-trains-hokutosei-cassiopeia-and-hamanasu.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Can you recommend any travel agency can handle the reservation for either Cassiopeia or Hokutosei? I need the phone number so I can call to make arrangement for departure on Dec 22, 2014 from Ueno to Sapporo.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Unfortunately most of travel agent do not want to book just train ticket. I don’t know where you live. But you may find Japanese travel agent contact list at Japan Rail Pass website.
      http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en005.html

      You can click at one of the following places. You will see the list.
      Asia
      North America
      Europe
      Central & South America
      Oceania
      Middle East

      I have heard JTB in Australia takes reservation. But I’m not 100% sure.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. I am having Ordinary Japan Rail Pass. Wants to travel from UENO to TOYA by HOKUTOSEI on 25th October, 2014. How much additional amount in YEN I have to pay for a Solo or Duet or B type seat.

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