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This is the last post of my trip to Tohoku and Hokkaido in this past March. I will write about visiting in Hakodate and getting on sleeper express train, Hokutosei in this post. As probably you know, Hokutosei is one of the train that is very hard to book. I will tell you how I did it.
Overnight train Hokutosei was discontinued in spring 2016.
If you want to read other parts of this trip, please see the following posts:
My trip from Osaka to Aomori via Tokyo, Matsushima and Kakunodate on March 19, 2012 by Tokaido, Tohoku and Akita Shinkansen
My trip from Aomori to Sapporo on March 19, 2012 by Hamanasu Carpet car.
My trip from Sapporo to Otaru and Hakodate on March 20, 2012 by Rapid Airport and Limited Express Hokuto
After I arrived at Hakodate station by limited express Hokuto, I looked around Hakodate station, like site inspection. Because Hakodate station is a primary transfer point from Honshu (mainland Japan) to Hokkaido. I would like to show you how to transfer at this station. You can get the details about transfer at Hakodate on this post, Hakodate station guide. How to change the train, Super Hakucho, Super Hokuto and other local trains..
I did not have much time and I got to be hurry. I jumped into a street car. Because I really wanted to go to Mt. Hakodate. The night view from this mountain is known as one of three best view in Japan. Hakodate city street car is one of the popular accesses to get Mt. Hakodate. Jujigai (十字街) that is third station from Hakodate station is the nearest Mt. Hakodate ropeway. When you get on, use rear door. The front door is for exit. You can pay the fare when you get off. But don’t forget to take a boarding (numbered) ticket. You need to use this with the fare.
After getting off a street car at Jujigai, I went up the hill and went through residential area for 10 to 15 minutes. There were lot of black ice on the road. It was very slippery.
When I was at the top of the mountain, it was flurries. But I still could see the view. It was a breathtaking!
Hokkaido is very popular destination for Asian tourist. I thought more than half of the visitors were from overseas. It was so international.
After I left from Mt. Hakodate, it was dinner time. I knew that the fresh seafood is very popular in Hakodate. But I picked up Lucky Pierrot. I dropped by Hakodate station store. (Find “H” on Google Map.) This is most popular hamburger restaurant in Hokkaido and very popular fast food restaurant for the domestic travellers too. I supposed to eat hamburger, BUT…
I ate Rice Omelette with Chinese Chicken (Deep Fried Chicken). When I saw the menu, this was most recommended. It was yummy and I was very satisfied with it. But I ate too much. Because I would eat some more on the train later.
Hakodate to Mori by Limited Express Super Hokuto
Hakodate 19:41 (Super Hokuto) 20:16 Mori
After I enjoyed dinner, I was back to Hakodate station. I could catch Hokutose to Ueno at Hakodate. But I moved back to Mori where is 30 minutes to north from Hakodate. I had two reasons to move to Mori. The first one is taking Super Hokuto by 283 series.
I took Hokuto by 183 series from Minami-Chitose. But I did not try to take 283 seires. I just wanted to see the difference. If you are not rail fan, you cannot find the difference in the train between 183 series and 283 series. Interior was almost same. 283 series are newer, have a powerful engine and tilting system. 283 series is much faster than 183 series. That is why Hokuto by 283 series is called “Super” Hokuto. Please see the post, Access to/from Sapporo and Hakodate. Limited Express Hokuto / Super Hokuto to get the details about Hokuto and Super Hokuto.
At second reason, I wanted to take Hokutosei a little bit earlier. I will tell you the reason later.
Mori was one of those local town. There was nothing special around Mori station. But Mori station is very well known for Ikameshi (=いかめし, sticky rice stuffed squid). This is one of most popular Eki-Ben, boxed meal that is sold at the station, in Japan. But when I was there, it was too late to buy.
Mori to Ueno (Tokyo) by Limited Express sleeper train Hokutosei
Mori 20:46 (Hokutosei) 09:38 Ueno
Finally I got on Hokutosei at the top of my wish list. I was so lucky to get B Solo. When I booked one month ago over the phone with Odekake net by JR West, I could not book it because it is too popular. It is not difficult to get common berth. But all compartments are too popular to book. I booked B berth anyway and after I arrived in Japan, I tried to book compartment whenever I saw Midori no Madoguchi. I finally got it on departure day in Otaru station. (See this post)
By the way, bed sizes on both B solo and B berth are completely same. But it was huge difference between B Solo and B berth. B solo is a compartment. I had a privacy.
I put other pictures, but they are not good. 🙁
Please refer the post, Overnight Express Train Hokutosei, most popular overnight train between Tokyo and Sapporo to see much better images.
The reason why I caught Hokutosei at Mori is “Pub time” at the dining car. Reservation must be done before boarding for dinner. But anyone can eat some light meals without reservation during pub time (after dinner time). I heard dining it was sometimes very busy during pub time. Dining car for Pub time usually open around 21:00 to 21:30. If I took Hokutosei at Hakodate, departure time was 21:48. Pub time might be started already and miss the table.
I waited for pub time at lobby car. It was next car to dining car. This space was used as waiting space for the dining car. Right after we heard announce to open for pub time, dining car was full. If you come to dining car late, you may be able to get the table. But if you want to get the table at the time of open, you should wait at the lobby car.
Actually I was not hungry so much. But I did not want to miss this opportunity. I ordered Mushroom and Bacon Pasta at 1,200 yen.
I don’t recommend it to everybody because it was not cheap. Late days, dining car is very rare in Japan. If you can understand the worth to enjoy the meal on board, I strongly recommend you. Otherwise you should buy something before boarding.
After I enjoyed the meal, I took a shower. If you want to use shower, it is located in lobby car. But you should secure the time and shower booth before using. You can get a card to use shower booth in dining car.
I spent some more time in lobby car. Because I wanted to see Seikan tunnel that is the longest tunnel in the world. Even though it was dark, I found when the train went into the tunnel. Finally I had done everything I wanted. I went to the bed. zzzzzz
Next morning I went to dining car again for breakfast. You don’t need to make a reservation. They open at 6:30.
The price is 1,600 yen for both Western and Japanese. It is not cheap. It is same story as pub time. It depends on that you can find the worth or not.
Hokutosei arrived at Ueno on time.
If you use Japan Rail Pass, you need to pay lots of extra to take this train. So I cannot recommend this train to everybody. However overnight train services are very rare in Japan these days. Hokutosei might be discontinued after Hokkaido Shikansen will open in 2015. I was happy to take this old style sleeper train. I was very impressed with this experience.
I’m staying near Ueno station. How should I travel if I want to go to Hakodate by train?
Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen is only choice now.
Takeshi / JPRail.com
Would you think it is better to drive from Ueno to Hakodate & to Sapporo ?
Or is better by train?
I have never driven from Tokyo to Hokkaido. So I cannot say many things. But you need to take a ferry between Hokkaido and mainland. It’s such a long drive and you may get tired.
Takeshi / JPRail.com
We hope to visit Japan in February 2016.
I would really like to try to book a sleeper car but I realize that trying to do it in English from California is hopeless. In the US there a re a couple of travel agencies that specialize in train trips (for rail fans) – Is there a Japanese travel agency that books train excursions? If Cassiopeia or Hokutosei is running next winter might be a way to get a reservation.
Thanks for a great web site! I am traveling from here (San Francisco) to Boston with my daughter this summer on Amtrak, she loves train travel too.
Unfortunately Hokutosei will be done in this August. Even though the official announcement has not been made yet, Cassiopeia is expected to be discontinued in October as well. Since Hokkaido Shinkansen will open in next March, Seikan tunnel must be empty during night time for inspection and test run. There is no room for overnight trains. All conventional line’s trains other than cargo trains will be discontinued by next March.
I am so disappointed. I love overnight train trip. But it is getting harder and harder to enjoy overnight train trip in Japan.
P.S. Sounds good to have a big train trip from SF to BOS. It’s exciting!
Takeshi / JP Rail
Hi Takeshi san,
I am planing to travel from tokyo to Sapporo on 29 Dec and travel back on 2 Jan to Tokyo. Can I use JR pass on Hamanasu in both trip?
Hi Pop san,
JR pass covers Hamanasu.
But as I mentioned, it’s almost impossible to book this train now. You might have to stay isle or passengers deck all through the night. Please keep it in your mind.
Takeshi / JPRail.com
I just want to know, because I want to travel by one of those trains- will I be able to order a car to wait for me at the railway station right from this train, or rent some place to stay – an apartment or hotel number? Thanks
Sorry. I don’t understand what you mean? Do you mean you can book car# at the station?
Takeshi / JP Rail
I totally agree with you, traveling by the sleeper trains is a must (at least once), especially the older blue carriage trains (or the osaka – Sapporo train). They have a great retro feel to them and give a fell of the Golden era of rail travel. Breakfast in the dinning car was wonderful
Further the view is much more interesting than the shinkansen as you go through towns and farmland at street level and the views are not blocked sound attenuation barriers.
Thank you for leaving comment again!
That was very nice trip. Especially Hokutosei may be discontinued when Hokkaido Shinkansen will open in 2015. I would like to try Akebono between Aomori and Ueno next time.
Takeshi / JP Rail