Direct access to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train)

H5 series will run on Hokkaido Shinkansen as Hayabusa and Hayate. This fleet is same series as Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work),  JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
H5 series will run on Hokkaido Shinkansen as Hayabusa and Hayate. This fleet is same series as Tohoku Shinkansen E5 series. (C) By Sukhoi37 (Own work), JR Hokkaido H5 series shinkansen set H1 approaching Sendai Station on a test run,CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Hokkaido Shinkansen will be opened on March 26, 2016 between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. This will be the newest Shinkansen (Bullet Train) line technically. However this line is connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Many of trains run through Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto from Tokyo. You will be able to get Hokkaido from Tokyo directly by this Shinkansen train.

However Hokkaido Shinkansen will be partial open. You can get southern Hokkaido only. You still need to transfer to get most of Hokkaido. such as Sapporo. And also Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station is not located in downtown of Hakodate. You need to transfer to get Hakodate.

I mentioned many negative things at the beginning. But it will be much more convenient and faster than current trains. There are a few things that you need to know before taking Hokkaido Shinkansen. I would like to show you the detail of Hokkaido Shinkansen and will also give you some tips to use this Shinkansen line in this post.

*Additional info
JR Group has announced that Hokkaido Shinkansen is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass, a.k.a. JR pass.

Continue reading Direct access to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train)

Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express, in case that you cannot make a reservation.

***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***

Twilight Express is one of the most popular train in Japan. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Twilight Express is one of the most popular train in Japan. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Twilight Express is very popular. Many tourists might think about taking this luxury overnight train. But you have a problem. Twilight Express cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to go to a reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you need to think about alternatives if you have a plan to take this train. I tell you several options for the case that you cannot make Twilight Express.

Twilight Express departs from Osaka at 11:50am and arrive in Sapporo at 09:52am, and depart from Sappro at 12:52pm and arrive in Osaka at 14:05pm. I try to make an alternatives as same schedule as possible. Continue reading Alternatives of Overnight train Twilight Express, in case that you cannot make a reservation.

Overnight Express Train Twilight Express, most popular overnight train between Osaka and Sapporo

***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***
Overnight Express train Twilight Express
Overnight Express train Twilight Express

Twilight Express is operated between Osaka and Sapporo. This is the longest service operation train in Japan. It takes more than 22 hours to reach Sapporo from Osaka. (If you take other way, it takes 22 hours 45 minutes.)

When you use a berth or a bedroom, Japan Rail Pass does not cover any accommodation charges and even Limited Express surcharge either. Even though you have to pay lots of the extra on Japan Rail Pass, the experience on board will be worthy. First class hospitality, the beautiful scenery and the sunset on the Sea of Japan, will be very memorable moment in your trip.

Anyway I tell you that the extra cost, timetable, checking the availability and the types of accommodations. Continue reading Overnight Express Train Twilight Express, most popular overnight train between Osaka and Sapporo

SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy. Enjoy winter scenery between Hakodate and Onuma.

SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy arrived at Onuma-Koen station. (C) Takuji Okubo

Before you read this article, I would like to let you know that this post is written by one of my frequent visitor, Takuji san. He offered me to share his experience about SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy train. I would like to thank you, Takuji san for your work.

*This train was discontinued in December, 2014.

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It’s December, Christmas is coming soon and I would like to introduce a train of the festive season. This steam train with Christmas decoration runs in Hakodate Hokkaido area during the Christmas season every year. “On the seasonal SL train “Hakodate Christmas Fantasy”, our train crews wear Santa Clouse costume to bring the mood for Christmas.” (JR Hokkaido) I have taken this train in 2010 and I would like to share the information. Continue reading SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy. Enjoy winter scenery between Hakodate and Onuma.

My trip from Aomori to Sapporo on March 19, 2012 by Hamanasu Carpet car.

Hamanasu just arrived at Aomori station (C) JP Rail.com
Hamanasu just arrived at Aomori station (C) JP Rail.com

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. Continue reading My trip from Aomori to Sapporo on March 19, 2012 by Hamanasu Carpet car.

Access to Wakkanai from Sapporo. Limited Express Soya / Sarobetsu

When you go to Wakkanai at North end of Hokkaido, these trains take you there. Soya (宗谷) and Sarobetsu (サロベツ) take you to Wakkanai. Soya is operated between Sapporo and Wakkanai. But Sarobetsu runs between Asahikawa and Wakkanai.

Both trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see the details about these trains. Continue reading Access to Wakkanai from Sapporo. Limited Express Soya / Sarobetsu

Direct transfer to Abashiri for Drift ice in Shiretoko by Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze

KIHA183 North Rainbow Express is one of the trains to be used for Furano Express trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
KIHA183 North Rainbow Express is one of the trains to be used for Furano Express trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

This train has not run in the last few years. Please do not use this train in your trip plan.

This is a seasonal operation of Limited Express Okhotsk that connect Sapporo (札幌) and Abashiri (網走) in Hokkaido. This train is operated from late January to early March for Ryuhyo (流氷=Drift ice) viewing. The operation, like time required and route, is completely same as Limited Express Okhotsk. But this seasonal train is operated by specialized car. The accommodation is much better than regular train of Limited Express Okhotsk.

You can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no restriction. Let’s see the details. Continue reading Direct transfer to Abashiri for Drift ice in Shiretoko by Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze

Drift ice watching in Shiretoko by Ryuhyo Norokko train

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

Ryuhyo Norokko train has been stopped operation because of carriage was too old. Other train replaced Ryuhyo Norokko train but it is operated by common fleet.

Ryuhyo (Drift Ice=流氷) viewing is most popular things to do in Hokkaido during the winter time. This sea ice reach around Abashiri from late January to late March. The best season to view this ice is mid February. This train, Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated in this Ryuhyo season between Abashiri (網走) and Shiretoko-Shari (知床斜里) where is the gate town to Shiretoko peninsula. This train goes on Senmo line (釧網本線) along the coast of Sea of Okhotsk. You have lots of change to see the sea ice from the train. And also Abashiri can be reached by Limited Express Okhotsk or seasonal tran, Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze from Sapporo. Both express train from Sapporo and Ryuhyo Norokko train are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Let’s see the detail about this train. Continue reading Drift ice watching in Shiretoko by Ryuhyo Norokko train

Alternatives of Overnight train Cassiopeia and Hokutosei, in case that you cannot make a reservation.

Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Overnight Limited Express train Cassiopeia (C) Sonic Rail Garden
***Hokutosei was discontinued as scheduled train in 14 March, 2015. Now Hokutosei runs as seasonal train until end of summer. It will be discontinued after it. Please find operation date at the post, Schedule of 2015 spring seasonal trains of Japan Railways.***

Both Cassiopeia and Hokutosei very popular. Many tourists have a plan to take one of these trains. However these overnight trains cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to be the reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you must have a back up plan when you try to make a reservation after arrival.

I tell you several options for the case that you cannot make Cassiopeia or Hokutosei. Continue reading Alternatives of Overnight train Cassiopeia and Hokutosei, in case that you cannot make a reservation.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train, Easy rail trip to Kushiro Marsh for everyone.

Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅
Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train goes through Kushiro marsh. (C) 640px-Kushiro_shitugen_norokko_train / 欅

Kushiro Shitsugen (Kushiro marsh) is national park and has the largest marsh wetland in Japan. It is well known as the home of endangered Japanese Cranes. JR Hokkaido’s Senmo line goes through this wetland and gives you a great scenery. Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train is operated on this line from late April to late September. This is the easiest way to enjoy a day excursion in Kushiro Shitsugen from Kushiro. And Kushiro can be reached by Limited Express Super Ozora from Sapporo easily. Both Super Ozora and Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.

Let’s see the detail about this train. Continue reading Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train, Easy rail trip to Kushiro Marsh for everyone.

Furano Biei Norokko train, Easy rail trip around Furano area for everyone.

Furano Biei Norokko train goes on Furano line. (C) 800px-Norokkogou-furano-biei / Birdman
Furano Biei Norokko train takes you one of most popular spot, Furano and Biei. (C) 800px-Norokkogou-furano-biei / Birdman

Furano is one of most popular spot in Hokkaido. Especially July is the busiest season because the bloom of Lavender. You can enjoy Furano in not only summer season but also autumn. You may see the fall color leaves in September. The scenery in autumn is breathtaking too. Furano can be accessed directly from Sapporo by Limited Express Furano Lavender Express / Furano Koyo Express from July to mid October. There are three round trips in the peak season. But if you want to have a nice rail excursion and enjoy the scenery from the train, I recommend you to take this train “Furano Biei Norokko train”. Of course you can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge. Let’s see the details about this train. Continue reading Furano Biei Norokko train, Easy rail trip around Furano area for everyone.

Direct transfer to Furano from Sapporo. Limited Express Furano Lavender Express / Furano Koyo Express

KIHA183 Crystal Express is one of the trains to use for Tomamu-Sahoro Express trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
KIHA183 Crystal Express is one of the trains to use for Tomamu-Sahoro Express trains. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Furano Lavender Express (フラノラベンダーエクスプレス) and Furano Koyo Express (フラノ紅葉エクスプレス) are limited express trains to Furano (富良野) directly from Sapporo (札幌). These trains can be used by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge. Furano is one of very popular spot in Hokkaido for the tourists. These trains are the seasonal operation trains because the lavender season in summer time and the fall color leaves in September are busy periods. So when you build your itinerary, please check the latest operation date before you put this train in your plan.

Seasonal trains information.

I will show you some images of this train and tell you the details. Continue reading Direct transfer to Furano from Sapporo. Limited Express Furano Lavender Express / Furano Koyo Express

Overnight express train Cassiopeia, very popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Cassiopeia is most popular overnight train in Japan.
Cassiopeia is most popular overnight train in Japan.

*This train was discontinued in March 2016.

Cassiopeia is operated between Ueno and Sapporo. This train is like Japanese version Oriental Express and is the most luxurious in three luxurious overnight trains (other two are Twilight Express and Hokutosei) in Japan. Continue reading Overnight express train Cassiopeia, very popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Overnight Express Train Hokutosei, most popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Overnight Express train Hokutosei
Overnight Express train Hokutosei

This train was discontinued on March 13, 2015.

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. Continue reading Overnight Express Train Hokutosei, most popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo

Express train to Kushiro and Obihiro from Sapporo. Limited Express Super Ozora / Super Tokachi

Limited express Super Ozora
Limited express Super Ozora and most of express trains are covered by Hokkaido Round Tour Pass.

When you go to South East part of Hokkaido, these trains take you there. Super Ozora and Super Tokachi are operated on same route. Super Ozora connect Sapporo and Kushiro. Super Tokachi connect Sapporo and Obihiro. These trains are very popular and the reserved seats are sold out very often. Especially JR Hokkaido give you a great service in Green car. Sometimes Green car is sold out earlier than Ordinary class. Both trains are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. So if you have a plan to take these trains, I strongly recommend you to reserve your seat when you exchange your Japan Rail Pass.

I would like to share the information about these trains with you. Continue reading Express train to Kushiro and Obihiro from Sapporo. Limited Express Super Ozora / Super Tokachi

Express train to/from Abashiri and Sapporo. Limited Express Okhotsk / Taisetsu

Limited express train Okhotsk
Limited express train Okhotsk

Limited Express Okhotsk and Taisetsu take you to Abashiri from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Abashiri is well known as drift ice viewing in winter time. And also when you go to the world heritage site, Shiretoko, you may use this train to Abashiri and transfer to the local train to Shiretoko-Shari. If you need the information about the access to Shiretoko, please see one of my posts, “How to get Shiretoko“.

You can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no restriction. I would like to show you the information about these trains. Continue reading Express train to/from Abashiri and Sapporo. Limited Express Okhotsk / Taisetsu

Overnight train to/from Sapporo and Aomori. Express Hamanasu

Overnight train Hamanasu at Aomori station
Overnight train Hamanasu at Aomori station

Hamanasu was discontinued in mid March, 2016. There is no overnight train service options available to Hokkaido.

This overnight express train is operated between Aomori and Sapporo. If you want to save your time and you don’t want to spend your money for Hotel in Sapporo, this overnight train is the best choice. Especially when you want to transfer to Tokyo from Sapporo as early as possible, this train is connected with the earliest Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-Aomori. Continue reading Overnight train to/from Sapporo and Aomori. Express Hamanasu

Express train to/from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Limited Express Kamui / Lilac

Limited express train Kamui
Limited express train Kamui

These limited express trains, Kamui and Lilac connect Sapporo (札幌) and Asahikawa (旭川). Kamui and Lilac run on exactly same route. The only difference is accommodation. Lilac has Green seat and Kamui does not. But the reserved ordinary seat of Kamui is called “U seat”. It has better seat with some equipment. But it is a sort of Reserved Ordinary seat. So even Japan Rail Pass Ordinary can be used to take this seat.

In this post, I show you the details of these train. Continue reading Express train to/from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Limited Express Kamui / Lilac

Express train Sapporo to/from Hakodate. Limited Express Super Hokuto

Super Hokuto
Most of Hokkaido Limited Express trains are operating for a long transfer.

Super Hokuto runs between Hakodate and Sapporo. This train is connected to Hokkaido Shinkansen at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. So if you move from Tokyo to Sapporo, take Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen and take this train for Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo. Japan Rail Pass covers all these trains from Tokyo to Sapporo. Continue reading Express train Sapporo to/from Hakodate. Limited Express Super Hokuto

Connect Mainland (Aomori) with Hokkaido (Hakodate). Limited Express Hakucho / Super Hakucho

Limited Express Hakucho connect Honshu island with Hokkaido island.
Limited Express Hakucho connect Honshu island with Hokkaido island.

Super Hakucho and Hakucho is no longer running after Hokkaido Shinkansen opened in March, 2016. Now Hokkaido Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Hokkaido directly. Please see the following link to see the details of this Shinkansen line.

Direct access to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Hokkaido Shinkansen (bullet train)

Hakucho/Super Hakucho is operated between Shin-Aomori (新青森) and Hakodate (函館). These trains go through the longest tunnel in Japan, “Seikan Tunnel” and connect the main island in Japan, “Honshu” (本州) and Hokkaido (北海道). All these trains are scheduled to be connected with Tohoku Shinkansen at Shin-
Aomori station and Limited Express “Hokuto” and “Super Hokuto” to Sapporo at Hakodate. These trains used to connect Hachinohe with Hakodate via Aomori. But Tohoku Shinkansen was extended to Shin-Aomori on December 4, 2010. Departure location had been changed to Shin-Aomori instead of Hachinohe.

Both Hakucho and Super Hakucho are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the accommodation between Hakucho and Super Hakucho is very different. So I would like to show you the difference and other details. Continue reading Connect Mainland (Aomori) with Hokkaido (Hakodate). Limited Express Hakucho / Super Hakucho