Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate

Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry
Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry

In this website, the pages of overnight trains, such as Twilight Express, Cassiopeia, Hokutosei and Hamansu, are very popular. You can save time and money to take an overnight train. I understand why it is so popular. However as I explained you about reservation in the post “How to reserve seat”, we do not have any online reservation to get a seat or berth before departure. I already explained about the alternatives of several overnight trains in the following links:

Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express
Alternatives of Overnight train Cassiopeia and Hokutosei

But these alternatives on the above links are not enough. I think most of travellers are very stressful because they cannot reserve a seat before departure. Now I would like to share the information about another option to get Hokkaido by overnight transfer. It is the ferry services between Aomori and Hakodate. It is not covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the fare starts from 1710 yen and they have a midnight ferry service too. It may be considerable for some of the travellers. Let’s see the details.

Ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate

There are two ferry companies, Seikan Ferry and Tsuguaru Kaikyo Ferry. Seikan Ferry is cheaper than Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry. I show you the details and difference.

Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry

Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry is more expensive than Seikan Ferry. But this ferry service has several types of accommodation. There are lots of facility in the ship, such as cafeteria, public shower room, souvenir shop. They have 8 round trips a day. The timetable as of December 2011 is the following:

from Aomori from Hakodate
Aomori dep Hakodate arr Hakodate dep Aomori arr
02:40 06:20 03:10 06:50
05:20 09:00 07:40 11:20
07:40 11:30 12:00 15:40
10:00 13:40 14:00 17:50
14:20 18:00 17:30 21:10
17:05 20:45 20:15 23:55
19:10 23:00 22:05 01:45
22:25 02:05 23:50 03:40

*Some of ferries will be suspended in holiday season.

This ferry company has 4 vessels. Blue Dolphin is a flagship vessel. It is called “Casual Cruise Ferry”. You can find some interior and accommodation images of all vessels in the following link:

This ferry service is introduced in this English website, Casual Cruise.asia too.
The one way fare starts from 2220 yen for adult. Child (6-12 yrs) fare is half price.

You can take Standard class with no reservation mostly except New Year’s holiday season and mid August. But if you want to take upper class, such as suite, you should make a reservation. Please see the details at English site.

Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry global site

The vessels of Seikan Ferry are older and smaller than Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry.

I will tell you about the location of terminals later.

Seikan Ferry

Seikan Ferry used to be operated for the cargo truck only. They added a passengers service in 2000. So the accommodation is very simple. They have 8 round trips a day. The timetable as of December 2011 is the following:

from Aomori from Hakodate
Aomori dep Hakodate arr Hakodate dep Aomori arr
02:00 05:50 02:00 05:50
04:30 08:30 04:30 08:30
08:10 12:10 08:10 12:10
11:35 15:25 11:35 15:25
14:35 18:25 14:35 18:25
18:00 21:50 18:00 21:50
20:30 00:20 20:30 00:20
23:30 03:20 23:30 03:20

*Some of ferries will be suspended in holiday season.

The interior is like carpet room. You can find some images of the vessel in the following link:
http://userdisk.webry.biglobe.ne.jp/014/939/84/N000/000/000/124384253742016112134_PICT0069.JPG

But most of vessels have a shower room. It is free of charge. There are some vending machine, but no restaurants. And also you may find some bank beds in the ship. You can use it at free of charge. It is first come first serve.

The one way fare is 1540 yen for adult (half price for child 6-12 yrs). But they add a fuel surcharge 270 yen on top now. You can take this ferry with no reservation most of times. But sometimes this ferry service does not accept a foot passenger.

I will tell you about the location of terminals later.

Location of terminals

Aomori Ferry terminals

Both Seikan Ferry and Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry have terminals at almost same place. Please look at the map below.


View How to get Aomori Ferry terminals in a larger map

It is not close, but you can walk from JR Aomori station. It is 2.5km to Seikan Ferry terminal and 3.0km to Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry terminal. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes. You can take a taxi at JR Aomori station. The taxi fare is around 1500 yen.

Hakodate Ferry terminals

Both terminals are a bit away from Hakodate city center. Please see the map below.


View How to get Hakodate Ferry Terminal in a larger map

You can walk to Seikan Ferry terminal from JR Goryokaku station in 25 minutes for 2km. You can walk to Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry terminal from JR Nanaehama station in 18 minutes for 1.5km. But both Goryokaku and Nanaehama station are not very convenient. You cannot catch the many trains. Especially if you arrive early morning, there are no trains that you can take. I recommend you to take a taxi to Hakodate station. The fare is about 2000 yen.

Sample Itinerary

I show you some sample overnight schedule between Tokyo and Sapporo. As long as you get a seat on daytime train, you can go ahead. If you depart from Osaka, Kyoto or Nagoya, you can take Shinkansen to get Tokyo.

from Tokyo to Sapporo

20:04 Dep Tokyo – Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 41
23:38 Arr Shin-Aomori
*You can take a taxi from Shin-Aomori to Aomori Ferry Terminal. If you don’t want to stay in the ferry terminal for a long time, you can go to Aomori station.
23:52 Dep Shin-Aomoiri – Local train
23:59 Arr Aomori
*There are only one restaurant, Family restaurant Gusto, around Aomori station. It is 6 minutes away from the station. They open until 02:00am. You can see the location in the map of Aomori Ferry terminal above.
02:00 Dep Aomori ferry terminal (Seikan Ferry) or 02:40 Dep Aomori ferry terminal (Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry)
05:50 Arr Hakodate ferry teminal or 06:20 Arr Hakodate ferry terminal
*Take taxi to Hakodate station
07:04 Dep Hakodate – Limited express Super Hokuto 1
10:18 Arr Sapporo

from Sapporo to Tokyo

19:29 Dep Sapporo – Limited express Super Hokuto 22
22:47 Arr Hakodate
*There are many Japanese bistro (a.k.a. Izakaya) around Hakodate station. Mostly they open until midnight. But if you stay somewhere with minimum cost. I recommend you to go to Lucky Pierrot. This is most popular hamburger cafe in Hakodate. They open until 00:30am. It is 3 minutes away from the station. You can see the location in the map of Hakdate Ferry terminal above.
02:00 Dep Hakodate ferry terminal (Seikan Ferry) or 03:00 Dep Hakodate ferry terminal (Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry)
05:50 Arr Aomori ferry teminal or 06:40 Arr Aomori ferry terminal
Take taxi to Shin-Aomori station.
07:40 Dep Shin-Aomori – Tohoku Shinkansen Hayate 16 (If you arrive at Aomori ferry terminal by Seikan ferry, you can take Hayate 14 depart at 06:45)
11:08 Arr Tokyo

Conclusion

This way is very hard to do for first time traveller in Japan. I don’t recommend you all. But I hope this way may be helpful for the traveller who want to have more back up plan to go to Hokkaido. And also, there are lots of overnight bus service in Japan, such as Sapporo to Hakodate, Tokyo to Aomori. I don’t show you the information about overnight bus service here because this site is for rail travel. If you need overnight bus information, you can find it at this website.

I really hope Japan Railways build online reservation system for the overseas travellers.

4 thoughts on “Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate”

  1. Hi,

    I’m planning a trip to japan in June/July 2015. I’d like to cycle on the bridges between the islands near Hiroshima then travel to Sapporo to do some more cycling in Hokkaido. Is it possible to take the train from Hiroshima to Sapporo? Now that the Twilight Express will not be running by then?

    At
    Ken

    1. Hi Ken,

      It is possible. But it’s very very far. It takes around 14 hours more by daytime train.
      If you intend to stay somewhere between this, it’s okay. But if you want to go to Sapporo from Hiroshima directly, it’s not a good idea. I recommend you to take a flight.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Hello, Takeshi-san
    Do you you if there is some local regular bus from the hakodate seikan port to goryokaku station or to hakodate station?
    and from aomori station to the aomori port?
    Because if you take the taxi you lose all the money saved by taking the ferry :1500+2000+1500=5000yen,
    aomori to hakodate by super hakucho ltd.exp = 4830 yen…

    1. Hi Mauro,

      There are some bus services. But in Aomori, there are only 4 round trips. See the following link:
      http://www.tsugarukaikyo.co.jp/terminal/aomori/
      You will find 06:24 06:46 06:56. These timetable is from Aomori station, Shin-Aomori station and ferry terminal. The right side of this table is the timetable for Terminal – Shin-Aomori – Aomori. You will find another two tables below. Those timetable will be from January 1 to March 31. The fare is 200 yen. That’s all for Aomori. The reason why I did not mention this bus is no frequent services and no services in midnight.

      In Hakodate Seikan ferry terminal, there is no bus services.

      As I mentioned in the post. both terminal can be accessed by walk from the nearest station. If you really save your budget, walking is the best. If you can take Super Hakucho, that is faster. But Super Hakucho is not operated in midnight. These ferry services are just alternate route.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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