Trip to Otaru from Sapporo and trip from Sapporo to Hakodate on March 20, 2012 by Rapid Airport and the limited express Hokuto

2012 spring trip to Tohoku and Hokkaido
Odori koen (Odori Park) is one of the popular spot in Sapporo. (C) JP Rail
Odori koen (Odori Park) is one of the popular spot in Sapporo. (C) JP Rail

I had a trip from Aomori to Sapporo by Overnight Express Hamanasu on March 19, 2012. After arrival in Sapporo, I continued my trip in southern part of Hokkaido in just one day. I knew this was very busy trip. But I wanted to visit as many as possible.

Even though my itinerary was too busy to recommend you, my experience may give you some ideas to plan your trip.

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.

Sapporo to Otaru by local train

Sapporo 08:17 (Local train) 09:06 Otaru

The seat is very common as Rapid train. (C) JP Rail

After I said Good-bye to Hamanasu, I rushed to change the train to Otaru. I supposed to have one hour at Sapporo station to have breakfast. But Hamanasu delayed for 80 minutes. I needed to catch up with my original schedule! I jumped into the train to Otaru.

It was about one hour trip to Otaru by local train. The train was not bad. If you take Rapid train, you can take reserved seat, U seat without any extra by JR Pass. But this train did not have any U seat.

This line go along the sea shore line between Zenibako station and Asari station.

This is the best section on the way to Otaru from Sapporo. The train pass this section about 30 minutes after Sapporo departure. Don’t miss it.


To get Otaru canal, just go straight down from the station. Very easy access in 10-15 mins (C) JP Rail

After I arrived at Otaru station, I went to Midori no Madoguchi to book U seat on the way back to Sapporo. And also I checked a space availability for B Solo (basic compartment) on Hokutosei. When I tried to book B Solo one month prior departure date, I could not book it. It was too popular to book it! I booked B berth (basic sleeper) anyway. After I arrived in Japan, whenever I saw Midori no Madoguchi, I checked the space. But I could make it. I thought this was the last chance to check at Otaru. I did not expect I could get it. But a station staff told me, “Yes, we have only one available.” YES! I finally did it! I was so happy to have a privacy on Hokutosei. Anyway, after I left Otaru station, I went straight to the famous Otaru canal.=

Actually this canal was the reason why I came to Otaru. I was very impressed to get there. But I had only one hour to stay in Otaru. I walked around the canal and headed back to the station.

It is very easy to access to Otaru from Sapporo. If you stay in Sapporo, I recommend you to visit this beautiful port city, Otaru.

Otaru to Sapporo by Rapid Airport

Entrance door of U seat car

Otaru 10:04 (Rapid Airport @ U Seat) 10:36 Sapporo

I booked U seat on the way back to Sapporo. My seat was on the right side. It was opposite side of sea shore. But there were lots of empty seat. I enjoyed the view of shore line again.

Otaru station

Otaru station building

By the way, Otaru station is very small and very easy to get the direction. There are only 2 platforms and 4 tracks. Track numbers are 1,2,4 and 5. There are only one exit and one ticket gate. These platforms and the ticket gate are connected by underground walkway. Usually Rapid Airport depart/arrive at track 4 or 5. Please see the following images of Otaru station.

Otaru station escalators and stairs to the platform #4 and #5.
Underpath to the platform #1 and #2. Track #3 is not existed.
Rapid Airport at track #5
Overview platform #4 and #5 from the track #2.
The platform #1 and #2 from track #4
Old fashioned station name signage
Passengers waiting for the train at Track #4.
Rapid Airport at track #1


Sapporo station south exits. (C) JP Rail

To visit this city, Sapporo is one of my object in this trip too. But I had three things to do in less than 2 hours.

First of all, I walked down to Clock Tower, the landmark of Sapporo and Odori Park.

Sapporo subway is rubber-tyred metro. (C) JP Rail

There were lots of snow. March was not spring but still winter in Hokkaido.

I went back to Sapporo station by subway. Because I had never taken it. And also I need to save time to eat Ramen (Japanese style Chinese noodle in soup). I really love Ramen.

I went to 10th floor at Sapporo ESTA. This is one of the shopping complex around Sapporo station. There are 9 Ramen restaurants in this building. It is called Sapporo Ramen Kyouwakoku (Republic of Ramen). Sapporo is well known as home town of Miso Ramen.

Miso Ramen (left) / Entrance of Ramen Kyouwakoku (right)

Of course I tasted it.

Sapporo to New Chitose Airport by Rapid Airport (Limited Express Super Kamui)

Sapporo 12:20 (Rapid Airport-Super Kamui #20) 13:01 New Chitose Airport

I got on Rapid Airport to New Chitose Airport. This train was operated as Limited Express Super Kamui before arriving at Sapporo station. I booked U seat again. Because this train had a power outlet. This might be a last chance to charge on this day.

After arriving at New Chitose Airport, I checked access between the station and the terminal building. Please refer the post, How to access from New Chitose airport to Sapporo, Otaru, Asahikawa and other cities in Hokkaido. to get the details about airport access and Rapid Airport.

Minami-Chitose to Hakodate by the limited express Hokuto

Mew Chitose Airprt 13:34 (Rapid Airport) 13:37 Minami-Chitose 13:45 (Hokuto #14) 16:49 Hakodate

Rapid Airport (right) and Super Tokachi to Obihiro (left) at Minami-Chitose station (C) JP Rail

After visiting New Chitose Airport, I moved to Minami-Chitose where is one station away from New Chitose Airport. I transferred Limited Express Hokuto to Hakodate. This station is a junction to Sapporo, Hakodate, Kushiro, Obihiro. Most of trains stop at this station.

The view was nothing special when I left Minami-Chitose by Limited Express Hokuto. But after stropping at Tomakomai, this train went along sea shore line.

Especially after Higashi-Muroran, I enjoyed the view of Uchiura bay on left hand side. I was so happy to have a local beer with this nice view!

It was 3 hours trip to Hakodate. But I felt much shorter trip.

If you want to continue reading after arriving at Hakodate, Please read next post, My trip from Hakodate to Ueno (Tokyo) on March 20, 2012 by sleeper train Hokutosei.


  1. Yamie says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Your blog has been a great source of information for me as I plan for my first trip to Japan in December. Thank you so much for it.

    I will be travelling from 17 Dec to 3 Jan 16 and am planning to stay in Sapporo from 23 – 27 Dec. Is it possible to stay in Sapporo but visit Hakodate, Sappporo and Otaru in the 4 days when I am there? As for the travelling, would it be a good idea to get the Hokkaido Rail Pass? Or should I consider the JR Pass instead since I am spending quite a few days in various places?

    Tokyo (1 Day) > Kyoto (1 Day) > Tokyo (4 Days) > Hokkaido (4 Days) > Osaka (2 Days) > Kyoto (2 Days) > Tokyo (3 Days)

    My travel plan will look really strange but I was trying to see some of spots before they are closed for the New Year Holidays, hence my sudden 1 day trip to Kyoto. At the same time, I am also considering the possibility to do a 1 day trip to Hakone with the Hakone Free Pass during one of the days when I am in Tokyo, possibly on 2 January. (Hopefully it will not be closed during the holiday.) Basing on this rough outline would Rail Pass be good, or should I consider ICOCA when in Osaka and Kyoto?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Yamie,

      If you intend to take a train to get Hokkaido, JR Pass is the best choice. But Hokkaido is not closed to even Tokyo. Please find the info about access to Sapporo at the link below:

      So before choosing the deals, you have make a decision to take a train to get Hokkaido or not. Of course domestic flight can be your choice to get Hokkaido from Tokyo.
      LCC flight, Jetstat and Vanilla air have reasonable fare.

      I’m wondering why you go to Kyoto before you go to Hokkaido. Do you want to visit Kyoto after and before Hokkaido? You will spend another 5 hours if you go to Kyoto twice.

      At this point, we cannot choose the deal. Please compare train trip and domestic flight between Tokyo and Hokkaido.
      If you take a train, JR Pass is your choice. But we cannot find which is the best, 14 or 21 days at this point. Especially if you cut Kyoto before going to Hokkaido, 14 days may be suitable.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Yamie says:

        Hi Takeshi-san,

        ありがとう。Well, I am toying with the idea of taking a flight from Tokyo to Hakkaido and then to Osaka. But that would have to depend on the price of the flight as two of my friends will be joining in mid-trip from Tokyo to Hokkaido and can only make a decision when the prices are out somewhere in March. As for the trip to Kyoto, it’s largely because some of the places where I intended to visit will be closed during 29 – 31 Dec. I am trying to work around the new year period to avoid the closure of most places, hence it would appear really odd on my planning. Thank you once again for taking time off to answer my enquiry.

        • Hi Yamie,

          No problem. If you ask me after you fix your itinerary, I can give you some more advice.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

          • Melody says:

            Hello Yamie,

            I just did something similar with the tokyo-hokkaido-osaka route. I took Singapore Airlines, and they’re a member of the Star Alliance so I could get ANA flights at 10,000 one way. JAL has their Yokoso Japan fare as well. When I booked my tickets, it was peak because of the snow festival so even the budget liners ended up to be even more expensive 🙁

            Hope that helped 🙂

  2. Melody says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll be heading to Japan in Feb and am definitely taking your route for the Sapporo-Otaru leg.

    I do have a question though, and I hope you can help.

    After Sapporo, I will be going to Osaka via air.

    From Osaka, I will go:

    How should I go about this? Is it better for me to buy the 7day pass?

    Thanks lots,

  3. Budi says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    My name is Budi. I am planning have a trip to Japan for holidays end of this months.
    We are planning to Hokkaido and will arrive at New Chitose airport.
    Please give your advice regarding our planning route. We will buy JR pass for this trip.
    Our route are:
    Chitose airport to sapporo city,(1st day)
    Sapproro-otaru-jozankei(2nd day)
    Jozankei-lake toya(3rd day)
    Lake toya-lake numa-noboribetsu(4th day)
    Noboribetsu-hakodate(5th day)
    Please comment and advice for the route.
    can i use JR pass for traveling to all that places?
    Thank you

    • Hi Budi,

      JR Pass is not a right choice. There is Hokkaido Rail Pass. But even this pass is too much for your trip.
      I think you will take trains New Chitose – Sapporo, Sapporo – Otaru round trip and Noboribetsu – Hakodate only. You will take a bus for other segments.
      So single ticket is much cheaper for your trip.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. IK says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m back to Japan again this year 🙂 thanks for helping me with your suggestion for KANSAI area. i really enjoyed my trip last year.

    Now i’ll be back to Hokkaido, Otaru, Hakodate, Mt. Fuji and Tokyo. Do you think 7days enough?

    Please advise.

    Thank you.

  5. Will says:

    My friends and i are arriving in Narita dec 17th and were gonna head to Aomori the 18th and take a sleeper to Sapporo. We all have the JR pass and from what i’ve looked up its nigh impossible to reserve seats before we get to japan giving us only one day to reserve seats which is also apparently impossible? But my question to you would be how early should we line up for non reserved seats a few hours? We will be arriving in aomori around 4pm in the afternoon and the train leaves at 10:40. So how many hours should we get there early? 4-5? Thanks!

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Will,

      Dec 17 is weekday and it’s not peak period. I think Carpet car is very hard to get but you will be able to get another reserved car, Dream car.
      If you will not be able to get it, you have to wait for non reserved car at platform. I think if you go there 2 hours before, it will be fine. But I think 1 hour is okay. In December, you can’t wait for 2 hours at platform. Because it’s cold and freezing weather.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Will says:

        Hey thanks for the advice man! well ill try to reserve something as soon as i get my JR pass when we land and if not ill take your advice and just try to get an unreserved seat! We get there at 6 so we have 4 hours so we’ll just get some grub and then take our chances in the cold hahah! Thanks again!
        – Will

  6. Jessie says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I wanted to ask you one question. If I want to reserved U-seat on the train, do I have to pay extra? I will be using my JR Pass when I’m in Hokkaido..

    Thanks in advance,,


    • JPRail says:

      Hi Jessie,

      It will be covered by JR Pass fully. U seat is a sort of reserved seat. All reserved seat fee of daytime trains are included in the pass.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Fion says:

    Hello, can I check if you can take Limited Express Hokuto from Sapporo to Hakodate?

    Thanks in advance, your site is really informative and easy to understand! 🙂

  8. Yap CK says:

    Dear Sir/Mdm,

    This is Mr Yap from Singapore.. My family is travelling to Sapporo from Chitose Airport this coming December. We carry several 28 inch luggages.
    May In know if we take ordinary train seat, Is there space for large 28″ luggage?

    Please assist. Thanks and best regards.

    Yap CK

  9. Vlad says:

    Hello. I’m from Kharkov, Ukraine and in my country we just don’t have such beautiful railways. My native town is the center of railway transportation in this region and some modern trains were even bought from Corea I guess for or railways a few months ago for the upcoming Euro 2012 tournament, but still what I see at this pictures… I can’t even imagine, how much can such service cost – and it’s probably only benefit of railroad travel in my country – the are cheap. As well as rent apartments. Thank you, I’d wish this post would be longer)

  10. Andy says:

    Once again, great site, thank you. I lived for2 and a half years in Sapporo, and used the Sapporo Otaru rapid trains regularly, I loved the stretch by the sea, as the view is much better than the road.

    Your commentary brings back many great memories.


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