Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 3, from Ueno to Akita by Akebono

Overnight Limited Express Akebono is one of the way to get Aomori. (C) JP Rail
Overnight Limited Express Akebono is one of the way to get Aomori. (C) JP Rail

This post is continued from Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 2, Tokyo station

At Ueno station before getting on Overnight Limited Express Akebono

Before you get on Overnight trains, you have to make sure that you should purchase some food and drink. So far, only Cassiopeia, Twilight Express and Hokutosei have a dining car and on-board sales. Other overnight trains, Akebono, Sunrise Seto/Izumo and Hamanasu do not have those services. Akebono does not have even vending machines. If you get on Akebono, you must finish dinner and get something to eat and drink before boarding.

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

I ate Ramen (noodle) and Gyoza (dumpling) at Ryumon (龍門). It was cheap and good. Just a few steps away from Ueno station, Asakusa exit. (C) JP Rail
I ate Ramen (noodle) and Gyoza (dumpling) at Ryumon (龍門). It was cheap and good. Just a few steps away from Ueno station, Asakusa exit. (C) JP Rail

When I took Akebono, I would get off at 06:38 in Akita station. I could eat brekfast after I got off. But we have to expect train may be late due to accident or weather. Especially in winter time, it often is late due to snow. So I bought some rice ball and a bottle of water.

By the way, Eki-Ben (Japanese box meal) and tea are available at Akita station for the train to Aomori from Ueno. Sales person with cart usually waits for passengers at Car#3. Akebono stops at Akita station for only 4 minutes. If you want to buy it, you have to be ready at the door of Car#3 before arriving at Akita. This is only change to get something to eat from Ueno to Aomori. But this service may not be available without notice. Don’t rely on this service.

Boarding

Many passengers took pictures. Some passengers looked travellers, other looked business man. (C) JP Rail
Many passengers took pictures. Some passengers looked travellers, other looked business man. (C) JP Rail

Before I went to my compartment, I took a look exterior and all passenger’s cabins.

Ueno and Tokyo 031 Ueno and Tokyo 035 Ueno and Tokyo 036 Ueno and Tokyo 040 - Copy

Of course, Goronto seats were almost full. It was sold out when I tried to book it at Narita airport. I could not go in Ladies Goronto seats. But as far as I saw it from outside, it was almost full too.

Goronto Seat has no amenities. But you can lie asleep. (C) JP Rail
Goronto Seat has no amenities. But you can lie asleep. (C) JP Rail

Even though late January to early February is the lowest season, most of Goronto seats were full at the time of Ueno departure. It was easy to find a big demand for Goronto seats.

And next I checked Type B berth (regular berth), it was almost empty.

Accommodation is completely same as Goronto Seat. (C) JP Rail
Accommodation is completely same as Goronto Seat. (C) JP Rail

I understand B berth is not a good deal. The difference between B berth and Goronto is only bedding linen and Yukata (Japanese kimono style nightwear). But price is 6300 yen difference. And also B solo is same price as B berth, B solo is a compartment and has privacy. I cannot find any reason to take B berth.

Then I went through B solo. It was 70% occupancy rate. I booked B Solo at Narita airport. I was very happy that I could get B solo because I did not expect to get it. But when I checked my compartment, it was lower section.

It is B solo lower section. There is a protrusion at right side of this picture. It is stairs to upper section. I really don't want to see this all time. (C) JP Rail
It is B solo lower section. There is a protrusion at right side of this picture. It is stairs to upper section. I really don’t want to see this all time. (C) JP Rail

B solo is very small compartment. But upper section is a bit more spacious. I still had 10 more minutes until departure time. I went to Midori no Madoguchi and tried to change to upper section. I made it!

B solo upper section is very small too. But I felt it was more spacious because of curved glass window from side to ceiling. (C) JP Rail
B solo upper section is very small too. But I felt it was more spacious because of curved glass window from side to ceiling. (C) JP Rail

At last, I went through most expensive compartment A Deluxe. It was full. Even though it is not cheap, there is a big demand. I understand it is very comfortable and spacious.

I had a can of beer and chips on the table. I watched night view through the window. it was the happiest moment. (C) JP Rail
I had a can of beer and chips on the table. I watched night view through the window. it was the happiest moment. (C) JP Rail

It was departure time after I saw A Deluxe. I went back to my compartment. I felt guilty a little bit because I saw lots of commuters saw me through the windows. They seemed to envy me so much!

It was long long day. Right after I finished to drink a can of beer, I fell in asleep. zzzz

Next morning

Whenever I go back to Japan, I wake up early morning in first couple of day because of jet lag. I woke up around 4:00 am. Akebono stopped at Atsumi Onsen. We can see a beautiful seashore line on this section. My compartment is mountain side. So I moved to next car. Next car is type B berth. There is an isle and folding seats at ocean side. I tried to see seashore line, but it was too dark to see.

I saw type B Berth again. There were 30 berths in car #4. But only two berths were occupied! Goronto seats were completely sold out. I did not understand why JR do not increase Goronto seat instead of B berth. All they have to do is taking out bedding linen and Yukata from B berth to sell it as Goronto seat. Of course if they can sell it as B berth, they can make more profit. But it was empty. When I travelled, it was shoulder season. But this occupancy rate is terrible. Whenever JR revise a timetable, rumor says Akebono will be discontinued. I really want Akebono to survive for a long time. I love this old style “Blue Train”. But honestly I am not surprised if it will be discontinued near future.

*JR East have announced that Akebono will be discontinued in March, 2014.

Arrived at Akita

It was a beautiful day. But there were lots of snow. It is as usual in Tohoku during winter time. (C) JP Rail
It was a beautiful day. But there were lots of snow. It is as usual in Tohoku during winter time. (C) JP Rail

As I mentioned above, Eki-Ben sales is available at the platform. It was announced before Akebono arrived at Akita. I found YouTube movie about Akita station Eki-Ben sales. Please see the movie below:

You can see how Eki-ben is sold at Akita station in YouTube movie.

I got off Akebono at Akita station. It was the first time to take Akebono. I was really satisfied and enjoyed this overnight train trip.

Tips for Japan Rail Pass user

If you can get Goronto seat, you don’t need to pay any additional. But you have to pay additional 9130 yen on top of Japan Rail Pass for B berth or B solo. I think it is not small extra. You can find many hotels less than 5000 yen in Akita or Aomori. If you take Tohoku or Akita Shinkansen, JR Pass covers all part of your trip to Akita or Aomori. Especially if you go to Aomori, the first departure Shinkansen from Tokyo arrive in Aomori at almost same time as Akebono arrival time.

If taking Akebono is what you want, it is okay. But if you want to save your time and money, Akebono may not meet your trip unless you cannot get Goronto. But Goronto is always full. It is very small change to book it after you arrive Japan and exchange JR Pass. As a result, I cannot recommend everybody to take this train.

Interior is old style “Blue Train”. I think most of cars are more than 30 year old. So don’t expect any luxury service on this train. If you want to feel old style train, I am sure you have a great trip.

Continue to Trip to Tohoku and Nagano in 2013 winter – Part 4, from Akita to Hirosaki by Resort Shirakami

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