I went to Japan in early October. I was supposed to visit Hokkaido but a typhoon hit there. I was in Aomori but I gave up on visiting Hokkaido. I had some extra time in Aomori and spent this time to visit Seikan Train Ferry museum.
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.
Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen share the track between Tokyo and Omiya. So some types of trains are used on both Tohoku and Joetsu. I show you several types of trains that are used on Tohoku or Joetsu Shinkansen. If you are looking for the general information about these Shinkansens, please read Tohoku Shinkansen or Joetsu Shinkansen.
*If you are looking for the images of Akita, Yamagata or Nagano, please refer the following posts:
This pass covers eastern part of Honshu island (main island) in Japan, such as Tohoku region, surrounding Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Izu peninsula and most part of Nagano. You can take any trains in the coverage area with a few exception. If you will be a temporary visitor, you are eligible to purchase this deal.
The biggest difference from any other JR Passes is valid periods. You don’t need to use this pass in consecutive days. You can pick any 5 days within 14 days.
Let’s see the details about this pass. I also compare with other passes, such as JR Pass and Kanto Area Pass.
On March 26, 2016, Hokkaido Shinkansen was opened and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station was opened. Hakodate is not transfer point to get Aomori any more. You may get Aomori, Morioka, Sendai and Tokyo by Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. It takes about 20 minutes between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Hakodate.
Hokkaido Shinkansen was opened in March 26, 2016. You can get Hokkaido by Shinkansen directly without changing trains at Shin-Aomori.
I have received some questions about train transfer at Shin-Aomori station. Shin-Aomori is the last station of Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo. And this station is the place to change the train to Hokkaido, like Hakodate and Sapporo. Some travellers worry about the transfer. They are not sure how big Shin-Aomori station and how many minutes is a enough to transfer the trains.
In this website, the pages of overnight trains, such as Twilight Express, Cassiopeia, Hokutosei and Hamansu, are very popular. You can save time and money to take an overnight train. I understand why it is so popular. However as I explained you about reservation in the post “How to reserve seat”, we do not have any online reservation to get a seat or berth before departure. I already explained about the alternatives of several overnight trains in the following links:
But these alternatives on the above links are not enough. I think most of travellers are very stressful because they cannot reserve a seat before departure. Now I would like to share the information about another option to get Hokkaido by overnight transfer. It is the ferry services between Aomori and Hakodate. It is not covered by Japan Rail Pass. But the fare starts from 1710 yen and they have a midnight ferry service too. It may be considerable for some of the travellers. Let’s see the details. Continue reading Another idea of overnight transfer to Hokkaido, using ferry service between Aomori and Hakodate
JR East announced that they will sell Tohoku Ouen Pass (東北応援パス). “Ouen (応援)” means Supporting in Japanense. This pass will be sold for supporting Tohoku region where is seriously damaged by the great earthquake in this past March. This pass motivate tourists go to Tohoku region and spend money there to revitalize economy there. Anybody can buy this pass. If you travel outside from Japan, you can buy Japan Rail Pass or JR East Pass. But if you live in Japan as a student or work permit, you cannot buy these pass for visitors. This pass may be considerable for you.
This itinerary includes all part of Tohoku and covers many popular spots, such as Nikko, Zao, Matsushima, Hiraizumi, Oirase, Lake Towada, Shirakami Sanchi and Kakunodate, in 7 days. So you can simply use Japan Rail Pass 7 days. I also try to minimize an extra cost.
You may start this itinerary either from Tokyo or from Osaka. But if you can start this from Osaka, you need to take the overnight train Sunrise Seto/Izumo from Osaka to Tokyo. As long as you catch “Nobi Nobi seat” on Sunrise Seto or Izumo before the date change, you can travel without any extra charge. Continue reading Sample itinerary Tohoku 7 days by Japan Rail Pass 7 days
Resort Shirakami (リゾートしらかみ) is a rapid train that is operated between Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森). This train is named from UNESCO World Heritage site “Shirakami mountains (白神山地)”. This train runs on Gono line (五能線) along the shoreline of Sea of Japan. Gono line is known as one of the most scenic lines. The view is amazing.
This train is not an express train but this cruising train offers very comfortable interior. It is operated by specialized train and it does not have any non reserved seat. This train is operated on weekend, holidays and the peak periods only. If you use Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), JR East Pass, JR-East South Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can take this train with no extra charge.
***This train scheduled service was discontinued on March, 2012 due to small demand. It is operated as a seasonal operation train. Please refer the most updated operation date at Seasonal Trains Schedule.***
Nihonkai (日本海) is one of JR Overnight Express trains. It connects Osaka (大阪) with Akita (秋田) and Aomori (青森). This train has only the berth. So if you will use Japan Rail Pass, Japan Rail Pass does not cover an accommodation charge and also limited express surcharge. Even though Japan Rail Pass cover a basic fare, Nihonkai is still considerable way to get Aomori from Osaka. Let’s see the types of accommodation and extra charge. Continue reading Overnight limited express train Nihonkai
JR East started to operate 2 round trips of Hayabusa after suspension by earthquake. It takes more than 4 hours between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori. Extra 1 hour is spent to get Aomori by Hayabusa. Because there is maximum speed restriction between Omiya and Morioka due to the damage by earthquake. I hope it will be restored with 100% soon.
*JR East lifted a speed limit in some area. Now it takes about 3 hours 30 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori. It is still 20 minutes more than the regular timetable.
As of October 21, 2010, you can use Tokyo monorail that is operated between Haneda airport and Hamamatsucho (浜松町) by Japan Rail Pass. But you cannot exchange the actual pass because there is no Japan Railway station at Haneda airport. That means you cannot take Tokyo Monorail with no extra charge by Japan Rail Pass right after arrival at Haneda airport.
If you want to have more informations about access to Haneda, please refer this page.
Condition changed for taking Aoimori Railway
As of December 4, 2010, JAPAN RAIL PASS can be used for Aoimori Railway Line in the limited cases. If you want to take Ominato line at Noheji station, you can use Aoimori Line from Aomori or Hachinohe. But you cannot get off the train in Aoimori Railway line. And also if you use the overnight train, you have to pay the regular fare and surcharge for Aoimori Railway.
The reason why Japan Railway change the condition is starting to operate Tohoku Shinkansen between Hachinohe and Shin-Aomori. Before Tohoku Shinkansen was started to operate between Hachinohe and Shin-Aomori, this line was owned by Japan Railway. But after that, this section was transfered to the private company, Aoimori Railway. Ominato line was no longer connected with any Japan Railway lines.
Kyushu Shinkasen will be started to operate between Shin-Yatsushiro and Hakata on March 12, 2011. This section will be owned by JR Kyushu after that. I think we will not have any big changes. But Japan Railway did not announce anything about using Japan Rail Pass for Kyushu Shinkansen’ fastest train “Mizuho” and Tohoku Shinkansen’ fastest train “Hayabusa“. I will keep checking and let you know as soon as possible.
*Hayabusa except Gran Class can be used by Japan Rail Pass. But Mizuho cannot be used by Japan Rail Pass.
This lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Japan and very popular destination in Tohoku region. Especially in autumn season, many tourists visit this lake and Oirase rapid on the way to Lake Towada to see such an amazing fall foliage. JR Tohoku Bus operates the schedule bus to Lake Towada from either Hachinohe and Aomori. This bus service is covered by Japan Rail Pass. You can visit there without any extra charge.
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.
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.