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.
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 →
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.
Isaburo (いざぶろう) and Shinpei (しんぺい) are same local trains. The only difference is the direction. Isaburo is the train that departs from Hitoyoshi (人吉) to Yoshimatsu (吉松). Shinpei is operated from Yoshimatsu to Hitoyoshi. Both Isaburo and Shipei are the name of the key persons when the construction of this section was completed. Isaburo is the named from Isaburo Yamagata (山縣伊三郎) who was the minister of transportations and telecommunications. Shinpei is named from Shinpei Goto (後藤新平) who was the persident of Japanese Government Railways.
These trains are the local trains. But most of seats are reserved seat. And this train is not just local train but the cruising train and is operated by specialized car. This is one of the best local train in Japan. There is a crew attendant on the train. She shows you the scenery of Hisatsu line (肥薩線). Of course you don’t have any restriction to take this train by Japan Rail Pass.
Shiretoko is one of UNESCO World heritage site in Japan. Shiretoko cannot be accessed by only rail, you need to take the bus from the station. You have two way to access to Shiretoko. The first one is from Abashiri(網走) via Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). The other one is to access from Kushiro(釧路). The nearest station is Shiretoko-Shari(知床斜里). So if you want to save the money, take Abashiri via Shiretoko-Shari route. Let’s see the time and extra cost.
This is most popular route to access Shiretoko. Shiretoko-Shari is 40 minutes away from Abashiri by the local train. Abashiri can be accessed by Limited express train “Okhotsk” from Sapporo where is the biggest city in Hokkaido. But we only have 4 trips of express train from Sapporo. And one more trip is added in Ryuhyo (Drift ice) season. This seasonal train is called “Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze”. This express train is operated by the different type train set from regular trains. Please see the details on Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze. Then you need to take a local train to get Shiretoko-Shari. There are also only 9 local trains from Abashiri to Shiretoko-Shari. It is very limited access by rail. In Drift ice season, there are some additional train between Abashiri and Shiretoko-shari too. This train is called “Ryuhyu Norokko train”. This train is designed for Drift ice watching from the train. Please see the details about this train at Ryuhyo Norokko train.
If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following; 07:21 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Okhotsk 1 12:46 Arrive at Abashiri 13:25 Depart from Abashiri by the local train 14:12 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari 14:20 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company) *This website is in Japanese only. 15:10 Arrive at Utoro
If you stay in Abashiri, your sample itinerary is the following; 06:41 Depart from Abashiri by the local train 07:22 Arrive at Shiretoko-Shari 08:00 Depart from Shiretoko-Shari by bus (operated by Shari Bus company) *This website is in Japanese only. 08:50 Arrive at Utoro
These itineraries are based on 2010 summer schedule. If you travel in winter time, the bus service is very limited. The bus fare is 1,490 yen from Shiretoko-Shari to Utoro one way, from Utoro to Rausu at 1,310 yen, and some bus take you to directly to Rausu from Shiretoko-Shari at 2,410 yen.
Utoro(ウトロ) is located in the west coast side of Shiretoko Peninsula. It is the gate town to go around Shiretoko. You can access to Shiretoko Five Lakes, Kamuiwakka Falls and Shiretoko Pass from Utoro. And also you can access to Rausu(羅臼), the east side of Shiretoko Peninsula, via those sightseeing spot. It takes another 50 minutes from Utoro to Rausu.
You can access to Kushiro from Sapporo by Limited Express Super Ozora. We have 7 trips from Sapporo to Kushiro. So it is a bit more convenient than Abashiri. You can access to Rausu from Kushiro by bus. It takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes. We have four trips in weekdays. But we only have two trips in weekend. By the way, this bus line is the longest operated local bus in Japan.
If you stay in Sapporo, your sample itinerary is the following; 09:04 Depart from Sapporo by Ltd Express Super Ozora 3 13:03 Arrive at Kushiro 13:50 Depart from Kushiro by bus (operated by Akan Bus company) *This website is in Japanese only. 17:35 Rausu
If you stay in Kushiro, your can take the first departure at 07:35 from Kushiro. It will arrive at 11:05. We have another two departures in weekdays only at 10:05 and 16:00 from Kushiro. The bus fare is 4,740 yen one way. We have two departures at 06:40 and 12:45 from Rausu everyday. And another two departures at 09:10 and 16:50 in weekdays only.
If you want to enjoy Shiretoko and another sightseeing area in the east part of Hokkaido, take Abashiri via Shiretoko to Kushiro. You access to Lake Mashu, Lake Akan and Kushiro Marsh on the way to Kushiro from Shiretoko or from Kushiro. If you want to see Kushiro Marsh, take the local train from Shiretoko-shari to Kushiro. Please refer one of 7 days sample itineraries, Hokkaido 7 days. If you want to enjoy Shiretoko, save time and not to hesitate to spend extra cost, take the bus from Rausu. You must see Shiretoko both Utoro and Rausu.
Cape Erimo (=Erimo Misaki=襟裳岬) is located at south end of Hokkaido. There is more than 60m height cliff around the cape and 7km long shore reef to offshore. It is facing the open water of Pacific Ocean. A lot of harbor seals can be seen there.
You can access Cape Erimo by JR local line and bus without any additional charge by JR Pass, but Hokkaido Rail Pass does not cover the bus to Cape Erimo. Continue reading →