Schedule of 2012-13 winter seasonal trains of Japan Railways

Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated during very popular Drift Ice season in Hokkaido.

Some part of winter season is the busiest period. Especially in Japan, New Years holidays are crazy busy. In this season, December 28 to 31, January 2, 3 and 6 are expected to be the busiest days. I recommend you to avoid getting a train on those days. The vehicle occupancy rate may be more than 200%. As long as trains have non reserved seat, you can get on anyway without any reservation. But you will be forced to stay on the isle or passenger’s deck without seat. There are many passengers without seats in the train during those busiest days.

As probably you know, it is icy freezing weather in Hokkaido and north part of Honshu island (Tohoku region). If you travel in these cold weather regions, please expect the delay due to snow or high wind. Please have time to spare in your itinerary. Don’t make a tight schedule.

Anyway JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during all winter season. But it is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the popular trains and are operated in the popular spot.

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

JR Hokkaido (Hokkaido area)

SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy train

This train is operated by steam locomotive between Hakodate and Onuma Koen (Onuma park) to enjoy Christmas atmosphere. There are reserved seat only. You need to book it before boarding.

Operation dates

December 1,2,8,9,15,16,22,23,24,25, 2012

Timetable

#1 Hakodate 08:35 Onuma Koen 09:15
#2 Onuma Koen 10:10 Hakodate 11:00
#3 Hakodate 14:11 Onuma Koen 14:52
#4 Onuma Koen 15:49 Hakodate 16:27

Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze

This limited express train is additional train of Limited Express Okhotsk between Sapporo and Abashiri. It is operated for Drift Ice season by KIHA 183 North Rainbow Express. This series is much better than standard 183 series for Okhotsk. If you go to Abashiri in this season. try to take this train.

Operation dates
February 1-28, 2013
*This train will be operated in March, 2013. But schedule is TBA.

Timetable

Sapporo 07:55 Abashiri 13:21
Abashiri 14:17 Sapporo 19:37

*This train stop at Iwamizawa, Bibai, Sunagawa, Takikawa, Fukagawa, Asahikawa, Kamikawa, Maruseppu, Engaru, Ikutahara, Rubeshibe, Kitami, Bihoro and Memanbetsu.

If you are looking for more information about the interior of KIHA 183 series North Rainbow Express, please refer the post, Furano Lavender Express / Koyo Express. This summer/fall express train is operated by same type of car.

Ryuhyo Norokko train

Shiretoko is very popular destination in winter time for Ryuhyo (流氷=Drift Ice) viewing. This train is operated in Drift Ice season for viewing by “Torokko” (open air type passenger’s car).

Operation dates
February 1-28, 2013
*This train will be operated in March, 2013. But schedule is TBA.

Timetable

#2 Shiretoko-Shari 08:55 Abashiri 10:00
#1 Abashiri 10:25 Shiretoko-Shari 11:22
#4 Shiretoko-Shari 11:57 Abashiri 12:57
#3 Abashiri 13:57 Shiretoko-Shari 14:55

*This train stop at Kitahama, Hamkoshimizu and Yamubetsu. Only train #1 stops at Katsuradai, Masuura, Mokoro and those three stations.

If you need more information about this train, please see this post, Ryuhyo Norokko train.

SL Fuyu no Shitsugen train (Winter train to Kushiro marsh by Steam Locomotive)

This train is operated by steam locomotive. This is a cruising train that goes through Kushiro marsh. It is similar type train to Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train. But this train is not operated by Norokko train. There are reserved seat only. You need to book it before boarding.

Operation dates

January 19,20,26,27, 2013 operation between Kushiro and Kawayu Onsen
February 1-28, 2013 operation between Kushiro and Shibecha.

Timetable

Kushiro 11:09 Kawayu Onsen 14:04 (1/19,20,26,27)
Shibecha 12:24 (2/1-28)
Kawayu Onsen 14:46 (1/19,20,26,27)
Shibecha 13:52 (2/1-28)
Kushiro 17:05(1/19,20,26,27)
Kushiro 15:10(2/1-28)

This train stops at Higashi-Kushiro, Kushiro Shitsugen, Toro, Kayanuma, Shibecha and Mashu.

Limited Express Nupuri

This train was started to operate in this past summer between Sapporo and Hakodate via Otaru, Kucchan and Niseko. In the winter season, it will be operated between Sapporo and Oshmanbetsu during Sapporo winter festival. There are lots of trains between Sapporo and Oshamanbetsu via Tomakomai, Noboribetsu and Datemonbetsu. If you just need a train on this section, you don’t need to take this train “Nupuri”. You can simply take Limited Express Super Hokuto/Hokuro.

Operation dates
February 9-11, 2013

Timetable

Sapporo 07:57 Oshamanbetsu 11:45
Oshamanbetsu 14:08 Sapporo 18:27

The train will stop at Otaru, Yoichi, Kucchan, Niseko and Kuromatsunai.

Limited Express Asahiyama Zoo
Limited Express Asahiyama Dobutsuen

Limited Express Asahiyama Dobutsuen

This train connects Sapporo with Asahikawa and is operated by Asahiyama Zoo featured train. Asahiyama zoo in the most popular zoo in Japan. This train has only reserved seat. (Japanese site link)

Operation dates
December 22-29, 2012
January 2-6,12-14,19,20,26,27, 2013
February 2-17,23,24, 2013

Timetable

Sapporo 08:30 Asahikawa 10:07
Asahikawa 16:05 Sapporo 17:46

Train makes a stop at Iwamizawa and Takikawa.

Niseko Express

This train connect Sapporo with very popular ski area, Niseko.

Operation dates
December 28-31, 2012
January 1-6,12-14, 2013
February 2,2, 2013

Timetable

Sapporo 07:57 Niseko 09:57
Niseko 16:00 Sapporo 18:27

This train stops at Otaru, Yoichi and Kucchan.

This express train is operated by KIHA 183 Niseko Express. If you are looking for more information about the interior of these cars, please refer the post, Furano Lavender Express / Koyo Express. This summer/fall express train is operated by same type of cars.

JR East (Tohoku and Kanto area)

Rapid Zipangu Hiraizumi

This train connects Ichinoseki and Morioka (both Shinkansen station) with newest UNESCO World Heritage Hiraizumi directly. This train is operated by the specialized train “Zipangu” that has observation cars. Please see this link that is given by one of my visitor James. It is in Japanese but you can get some images.

Timetable and operation dates

Ichinoseki 11:10 Morioka 12:36 Dec 29-31, 2012, Jan 1-6,17-29, 2013
Ichinoseki 15:30 Morioka 17:05 Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22,23,24,29,30, 2012, Jan 1-6,12-14,17-29, 2013
Morioka 09:41 Ichinoseki 10:55
Morioka 13:07 Ichinoseki 14:17 Dec 29-31,2012, Jan 1-6,17-29, 2013

This train makes a stop at Hanamaki, Kitakami, Mizusawa and Hiraizumi.

Rapid Resort Minori

This train connects Sendai with Shinjo via Naruko hot springs resort. This train is operated by the specialized train. This train has only reserved seat.

Operation dates
December 1,2,7-9,14-16,21-24,28-31, 2012
January 3-6,11-14,18,25, 2013
February 1-3,8-11,15-17,22-24, 2013

Timetable

Sendai 09:25 Shinjo 12:28
Shinjo 15:00 Sendai 17:37

This train makes a stop at Matsuhima, Kogota, Furukawa, Iwadeyama, Yubikan, Kawatabi-Onsen, Naruko-Gotenyu, Naruko-Onsen, Nakayamadaira-Onsen, Akakura-Onsen, Mogami and Semi-Onsen.

Some of Resort Shirakami are operated by the newest Hybrid train.
Some of Resort Shirakami are operated by the newest Hybrid train.

Rapid Resort Shirakami

This train connects Akita with Aomori through Gono line that has one of the greatest scenery. This train is operated by the specialized train or the newest Hybrid train. This train has only reserved seat.

Operation dates and timetable

Station/train# Akita Aomori Operation date
#1 08:25 13:34 Dec 1-31, 2012
Jan 1-7,11-29, 2013
Feb 1-3,8-11,15-17,22-24, 2013
#5 14:10 19:19 Dec 1-31, 2012
Jan 1-6,11-28, 2013
Feb 1-2,8-10,15,16,22,23, 2013
Station/train# Aomori Akita Operation date
#2 08:18 13:16 Dec 1-31, 2012
Jan 1-7,12-29, 2013
Feb 2,3,9-11,16,17,23,24, 2013
#4 13:54 18:52 Dec 1-31, 2012
Jan 1-7,11-29, 2013
Feb 1-3,8-11,15-17,22-24, 2013

This train makes a stop at Oiwaki, Hachirogata, Moritake, Higashi-Noshiro, Noshiro, Akita-Shirakami, Iwadate, Juniko, WeSpa-Tsubakiyama, Fukaura, Senjojiki, Ajigasawa, Mutsu-Morita, Kizukuri, Goshogawara, Mutsu-Tsuruta, Itayanagi, Kawabe, Hirosaki and Shin-Aomori. If you need more information about this train, please refer Rapid Resort Shirakami.

Resort Yamadori

This train connects Takasaki with Manza-Kazawaguchi via Naganohara-Kusatsuguchi. If you cannot get Limited Express Kusatsu, you might take this train from Kusatsu. You can use Joetsu Shinkansen from Tokyo to Takasaki. This train will be operated by specialized train “Resort Yamadori (JR East Japanese link)”.

Operation dates
December 2,9,16,23,24, 2012
January 12-14,19,20, 2013

Timetable

Takasaki 12:11 Manza-Kazawaguchi 13:58
Manza-Kazawaguchi 15:22 Takasaki 16:48

Resort View Furusato

This train goes straight to Minamiotari where is located on Oito line in North Alps area from Nagano. This train is operated by one of the newest Hybrid train. You can see some images in JR East Nagano branch website.

Operation dates
December 1,2,7-10,21-25,28-31, 2012
January 1-7,11-14,25-27, 2013
February 1-3,8-11,22-24, 2013

Timetable

Nagano 09:03 Minami-Otari 12:44
Minami-Otari 15:13 Nagano 18:28

*This train makes a stop at Obasute, Matsumoto, Hodaka, Shinano-Matsukawa, Shinano-Omachi and Hakuba.

JR Central (Chubu, Tokai and Hokuriku)

Moonlight Nagara is operated by 183 series.
Moonlight Nagara is operated by 183 series.

Overnight Rapid Moonlight Nagara

This is very popular and hard to get the seat. This train does not have any non reserved seat. This train is operated by old type Limited Express cars. But there is no berth or compartment.

Operation dates
To Ogaki – December 21, 2012 to January 5, 2013
To Tokyo – December 22, 2012 to January 6, 2013

Timetable

stations time stations time
Tokyo 23:10 Ogaki 22:49
Shinagawa 23:18 Gifu 22:59
Yokohama 23:36 Nagoya 23:20
Odawara 00:31 Toyohashi 00:17
Numazu 01:08 Hamamatsu 00:55
Shizuoka 01:50 Shizuoka 01:55
Hamamatsu 03:11 Numazu 03:19
Nagoya 05:24 Yokohama 04:41
Gifu 05:43 Shinagawa 04:58
Ogaki 05:53 Tokyo 05:05

If you are looking for more information about Moonlight Nagara, please see the post, Rapid train Moonlight Nagara.

JR West (Kansai, Hokuriku and Chugoku)

Twilight Express

As you know, this is most popular train in Japan. The extra departure will be operated in Holidays periods and mid February for Sapporo Snow Festival.

Operation dates
Regular departure is Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday to Sapporo, and Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to Osaka. And these following dates will be added.
to Sapporo — Everyday from December 21, 2012 to January 5, 2013, and from February 1, 2013 to February 13, 2013
to Osaka — Everyday from December 22, 2012 to January 6, 2013, and from February 3, 2013 to February 14, 2013

Timetable
Osaka 11:50 – Sapporo 09:52
Sapporo 14:05 – Osaka 12:52
If you need more information about Twilight Express, please refer the post, Overnight Express Train Twilight Express.

Overnight train Nihonkai is the best way to save the time from Osaka to Aomori (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Overnight train Nihonkai is the best way to save the time from Osaka to Aomori (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Overnight Limited Express Nihonkai

This train will be operated as a seasonal train after annual timetable revise on March 17, 2012. Only regular berth (type B berth) is available on this seasonal “Nihonkai”. You need to pay some extra anyway by Japan Rail pass.

Operation dates
to Aomori – December 28-30, 2012 and January 4-6, 2013
to Osaka – December 27-29, 2012 and January 3-5, 2013

Timetable

Osaka 20:38 Aomori 12:42
Aomori 16:21 Osaka 1027

This train makes a stop at Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Tsuruga, Fukui, Kaga-Onsen, Kanazawa, Takaoka, Toyama, Uozu, Itoigawa, Naoetsu, Niitsu, Tsuruoka, Sakata, Ugo-Honjo, Akita, Higashi-Noshiro, Takanosu, Oodate, Owani-Onsen, Hirosaki and Aomori.

Overnight Express Kitaguni

This train will be operated as a seasonal train after annual timetable revise on March 17, 2012. Non reserved seat is no longer available on this seasonal “Kitaguni”. Only Green class and regular berth (type B berth) are available. You need to pay some extra anyway by Japan Rail pass.

Operation dates
to Niigata – December 27-31, 2012 and January 1-6, 2013
to Osaka – December 28-31, 2012 and January 1-7, 2013

Timetable

Osaka 23:27 Niigata 06:54
Niigata 22:37 Osaka 06:49

This train makes a stop at Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Tsuruga, Takefu, Fukui, Komatsu, Kanazawa, Takaoka, Toyama, Uozu, Itoigawa, Naoetsu, Kakizaki, Kashiwazaki, Raikoji, Nagaoka, Mitsuke, Higashi-Sanjo, Kamo and Niitsu.

SL Chirstmas train / SL Tsuwano Inari train

This train is operated as SL Yamaguchi during summer season. In winter time, it is operated as these trains on specific dates by C56 type steam locomotive between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano. This train has only reserved seat.

Operation dates
December 22, 2012 as SL Christmas train
January 1-3, 2013 as SL Tsuwano Inari train

Timetable

Shin-Yamaguchi 10:47 Tsuwano 12:46
Tsuwano 15:20 Shin-Yamaguchi 17:04

This train makes a stop at Yuda-Onsen, Yamaguchi, Shinome, Choumonkyo, Nabekura and Tokusa. The train that departs from Shin-Yamaguchi stops at Niho and Jifuku too.

Rapid Kiyomori Marine View / Rapid Setouchi Marine View

This train is usually operated as Rapid Setouchi Marine View between Hiroshima and Mihara via Kure line. The operation of this train is extended to Miyajimaguchi instead of Hiroshima until January 14, 2013. This train is operated by specialized train. Please check the images at the following links (JR West official site): Exterior | Reserved seat | Non reserved seat

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-24,29-31, 2012
Jan 1-3,5,6,12-14, 2013 (Train operation between Mihara and Miyajimaguchi until Jan 14.)
Jan 19,20,26,27, 2013 (Train operation between Mihara and Hiroshima only after Jan 19.)
Feb 2,3, 2013

Timetable

Miyajimaguchi 09:35 Hiroshima 10:06 Kure 10:52 Mihara 12:28
Mihara 13:25 14:59 Kure 15:19 Hiroshima 16:07 Miyajimaguchi 16:39

This train makes a stop at Tadanoumi, Takehara, Akitsu, Yasuura, Aki-Kawajiri and Hiro too.

JR Kyushu (Kyushu)

Limited Express Aso Boy!

This train is operated to Mt. Aso from Kumamoto by the train that have the panoramic windows at the both end. This train has only reserved seat. (Japanese site link)

Operation dates
December 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-31, 2012
January 1-6,12-14,19,20,26,27, 2013
February 2,3,9-11,16,17,23,24, 2013

Timetable

Station/train# Kumamoto Tateno Aso Miyaji
#101 10:26 11:19 12:01 12:06
#103 13:54 14:32 15:10 15:21
Station/train# Miyaji Aso Tateno Kumamoto
#102 12:20 12:25 12:58 13:37
#104 15:40 15:44 16:26 17:10

This train makes a stop at Shin-Suizenji, Suizenji, Higo-Otsu and Akamizu too.

Umisachi-Yamasachi stop at Obi station for 10 minutes. You can buy some local food at the platform. (C) JP Rail

Limited Express Umisachi-Yamasachi

This train goes through Nichinan coastline. Please see the details at my post.

Operation dates
December 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-25,27-31, 2012
January 1-6,12-14,19,20,26,27, 2013
February 2,3,9-11,16,17,23,24, 2013

Timetable

Stations to Nango to Miyazaki
Miyazaki (宮崎) 10:06 17:14
Minami-Miyazaki (南宮崎) 10:11 17:09
Tayoshi (田吉) 10:15 17:06
Kodomonokuni (子供の国) 10:25 16:51
Aoshima (青島) 10:29 16:48
Kitago (北郷) 10:57 16:23
Obi (飫肥) 11:06-11:16 16:00-16:13
Nichinan (日南) 11:23 15:54
Aburatsu (油津) 11:26 15:50
Nango (南郷) 11:42 15:35

A Ressha de Iko (A列車で行こう=Take the ‘A’ train)

This train is the newest train in Kyushu and connect Kumamoto with Misumi. Misumi is the gateway station for Amakusa.

Operation dates
December 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-31, 2012
January 1-6,12-14,19,20,26,27, 2013
February 2,3,9-11,16,17,23,24, 2013

Timetable

Station/train# Kumamoto Uto Misumi
#1 10:36 10:46 11:14
#3 14:08 14:18 14:46
Station/train# Misumi Uto Kumamoto
#2 11:21 11:48 11:59
#4 14:53 15:20 15:31

Rapid Hitoyoshi

This train is operated by 58654 type steam locomotive during summer season. But steam locomotive is in regular inspection in winter time. Therefore it is operated by diesel locomotive. This train has only reserved seat. (Japanese site link)

Operation dates
Dec 22-31, 2012 and Jan 1-6, 2013

Timetable

Station/train# Kumamoto Shin-Yatsushiro Isshochi Hitoyoshi
to Hitoyoshi 09:44 10:25 11:41/11:51 12:13
Station/train# Hitoyoshi Isshochi Shin-Yatsushiro Kumamoto
to Kumamoto 14:38 14:58/15:08 16:30 17:13

This train makes a stop at Yatsushiro, Sakamoto, Shiraishi and Watari.

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