In my site, JPRail.com, the post that is written about Overnight Express Hamanasu is very popular. I got on Carpet car of Hamanasu on March 19, 2012 from Aomori to Sapporo. I would like to share this experience with you. And I tell you what I did before I got on the train.
* If you want to read whole part of my trip from the departure, please see the previous post, My trip from Osaka to Aomori via Tokyo, Matsushima and Kakunodate on March 19, 2012 by Tokaido, Tohoku and Akita Shinkansen.
- 1 How did I reserve this train?
- 2 Eat and shower before getting on Hamanasu from Aomori
- 3 Leaving from Aomori station by Hamanasu
- 4 Arriving at Sapporo station
How did I reserve this train?
As probably you know, Hamanasu Carpet car is so popular and it is very hard to reserve. So I decided to make a call to JR West Odekake net on one month prior to departure date. JR start to sell at 10:00am on the day of one month prior to departure date. But I could not make a call at 10:00 am sharp. I made it around 11:00 am in Japan time. All upper spaces had already gone. I could get lower section #9. Even though Japan Rail Pass cover fully Hamanasu Carpet, JR West still charge express surcharge. JR West do not take any Japan Rail Pass reservation. If you use JR West Odekake net, you need to pay express surcharge anyway. Japan Rail Pass cover only basic fare.
So I recognized how popular Hamanasu Carpet car was. The possibility to reserve Hamanasu Carpet after arriving Japan would be almost 0%.
Eat and shower before getting on Hamanasu from Aomori
I arrived at Aomori station at 19:51 from Shin Aomori by Super Hakucho. I have almost 3 hours to eat and rest before getting on Hamanasu. As you know, Hamanasu does not have any shower and dining facilities. There is only soft drinks vending machine. If you want to take a shower, eat something or purchasing something to eat and drink, you need to prepare before boarding. I show you what I did in Aomori before boarding.
View Around Aomori station in a larger map
Aomori Machinaka Onsen (青森まちなか温泉=Aomori downtown hot springs)
I was going to get in another overnight train Hokutosei on next day. Hokutosei have a shower room. But I was afraid that I was not able to take a shower because the space is very limited. So I wanted to take a shower before getting on Hamanasu just in case. I found this facility, Aomori Machinaka Onsen. This is a public hot springs that is located in downtown Aomori. This facility does not have any information fro foreign travellers. It is 100% Japanese circumstance. I cannot recommend everybody to use this facility. However this is very convenient and you can enjoy shower and hot tub at very reasonable price. So I tell you how to use this facility.
1) When you go in the building, you will see the locker for your shoes. Take of your shoes and put it in this locker. Put 100 yen into the locker and lock it. When you open the locker, your 100 yen is refunded.
2) You see the reception desk ahead. The rate is 420 yen for adult and 150 yen for 6 year to 11 years. You can rent bath towel and facial towel at 200 yen. They also have Towels, disposable shaver and toothbrush at 350 yen. You can pay here. If you rent it, they take your shoes locker key. When you return the towels, you will receive your locker key.
3) Go to second floor. On the second floor, to the left for male (男湯) and to the right for female (女湯).
4) Go in the locker room. You can use the locker at 100 yen. This is same as shoes locker. Put 100 yen into the locker and lock it. 100 yen will be refunded when you open.
5) Enjoy hot springs and try to communicate to Aomori local people! This is Japanese style. Don’t wear a bathing suit!
If you want see the image, check their images gallery.
This hot springs facility have very casual Japanese restaurant, “Furukawa-tei (ふる河亭)”. Hamanasu departs from Aomori station at 22:40. So I decided to eat dinner here. I ate deep fried chicken dinner (Chicken, veg, miso soup and rice) at 650 yen and paid another 300 yen for small glass of draft beer. They don’t have any English menu. But if you try to eat here, you need to buy a ticket at the vending machine.
FamilyMart (Convenience store ) in front of Aomori station
We need to buy something eat before getting on Hamanasu. This train do not have any dining car and on board sales. There are a few soft drink vending machine. The train arrive Sapporo at 6:07. But the train might be late. So I recommend you to buy something to eat for breakfast.
There is FamilyMart in front of Aomori station. It is very easy to access from the station. And they open 24/7.
Lovina (station shopping complex)
This is located at Aomori station. This five stories building have about 50 shops. But most of shops open until 20:00. If you arrive by 20:00, you can get some food here. There is only one shop that open until 22:00. It is Italian Tomato Cafe Jr. You can eat some light meal, like pasta and pastry. You can see the menu here. It is in Japanese, but there are lots of images and you may be able to guess it.
I did not eat at this restaurant in Aomori. But I have had a meal at other location. This is one of major family restaurants and very typical family restaurant. It is 10 minutes away from Aomori station. I introduced this restaurant in the post, Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate too. They open until 2:00 am. This is only common restaurant where you can stay after 22:00 around Aomori station.
Leaving from Aomori station by Hamanasu
Aomori station is not a big station. There are 3 platform. But one of three is used for Aoimori Railways. Platform #3-#6 are used for JR trains. It is easy to find the direction. (Station map)
Hamanasu was supposed to come into Aomori station platform #3 around 22:15. But it was late and came around 22:30. If you cannot reserve any reserved seats unfortunately, you must be platform by 22:00 at the latest to get a seat in non reserved seat car. If you get it this train in high season, you need to show up much earlier. When I got on, only Carpet car was sold out. Another reserved seat, Dream Car had lots of empty seat. Some passengers could use one whole block (=4 seats). There were lots of space left in type B berth too. It might be easier to reserve than Carpet and Dream. Japan Rail Pass cover only basic fare if you take type B berth. But if you want to take Hamanasu and secure your space before boarding, consider about this berth. The additional cost is express surcharge 1260 yen + accommodation fee 6300 yen.
I got on Carpet car. I have got on Nobi Nobi seat of Sunrise Seto before. This is very similar to Carpet car. But this Carpet car is much better than Nobi Nobi seat. Because I could use pillow and blanket. Sunrise’s Nobi Nobi do not have anything. This is a big difference for sleeping. Especially my space had small space underneath stairs. This is very useful to store my carry bag.
I have received some comments about safety for ladies tourist. Because there is no walls among the spaces. There are some spaces just for ladies. But I saw many female passengers at other spaces. When I got on Sunrise Seto, I have seen many young female passengers at Nobi Nobi seat. Of course I cannot guarantee it. But it is much safer than what you think in my opinion.
I tried to wake up until the train went into Seikan tunnel. But I was to tired to keep my eyes open. zzzzz
Arriving at Sapporo station
When Hamanasu was reaching Tomakomai, the train stopped. The conductor said the freight train ahead of Hamanasu had a problem. He did not know what kind of problem it was. After 5 minutes, he said the freight train hit a deer. It takes sometime to recover. As a result, Hamanasu was late for 84 minutes! This experience taught me that we must have something to eat!
Before I arrived at Sapporo, I spent my time in small lobby space. I found the power outlet there. I plugged my laptop in, but it did not work. I have received several comment about a power outlet in Carpet car. I did not check it but Section #17 suppose to have it.
That was very nice train. Especially if you can get Carpet car, you can get very deep sleep. Dream car was good. But Carpet car is much better than Dream car.
I continued the trip to Otaru, Hakodate and headed back to Tokyo by overnight train Hokutosei. Please read the post, My trip from Sapporo to Otaru and Hakodate on March 20, 2012 by Rapid Airport and Limited Express Hokuto