Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is the hub to Hakodate and Sapporo when you get Hokkaido. This station is connected with Sapporo and Hakodate by conventional train, and Tokyo, Sendai and Aomori by Hokkaido Shinkansen.
I have posted the sample itinerary that includes Kyoto, Osaka and Hokkaido before. But at that time, Hokkaido Shinkansen was not open. Current train schedule and operation are completely different from that time. At this time, I revise all train schedule and update the information. And I add many more detailed information and help you to build your plan much more.
Hokkaido is very popular spot among foreign travelers. Hokkaido has nice yummy food, very attractive sightseeing spots and very different culture from mainland Japan. But some of you have short stay in Japan. You may not have enough time to visit Hokkaido. If you want to visit Hokkaido, I usually recommend you to spend 3 days minimum. However if you are okay to visit just the edge of Hokkaido, that is Hakodate, and okay with the short stay, you can visit Hakodate as day trip from Tokyo.
In Japan, the peak period during summer time is mid August that is called “Obon”. Most of Japanese go back to hometown and spend the time with family. All transportation will be busy from major cities at the beginning and back to major cities at the end. I wrote the busy dates and some tips to avoid this situation at the link below:
This brand new pass will be released in April, 2016. This pass covers Narita airport, Greater Tokyo, Gala Yuzawa, Nikko, whole part of Tohoku region, Hakodate, Otaru, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya and Sapporo. You also may use this pass to get Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone even though this pass covers these trips partially. You cannot use this pass to get central, northern and eastern Hokkaido, such as Furano, Asahikawa, Shiretoko, Kushiro. Japan Rail Pass (a.k.a. JR Pass) is better choice if you intend to visit these places.
Spring is the best season to visit Japan because of the cherry blossom. And also between late April and the beginning of May is one of the busiest period. It is called “Golden Week” in Japan. April 29, May 3, 4, and 5 are National holidays.
2016 Golden Week Calendar Apr 29 (Fri) Holiday Apr 30 (Sat) May 1 (Sun) May 2 (Mon) May 3 (Tue) Holiday May 4 (Wed) Holiday May 5 (Thu) Holiday May 6 (Fri) May 7 (Sat) May 8 (Sun)
May 2 and May 6 are regular weekday. But many residents in Japan will take extra day off and make longer holidays. Therefore it will be very busy from April 29 to May 8. I recommend you to avoid travelling during this period. I’m not surprised if trains are booked out.
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.
In Japan, the peak period during summer time is mid August that is called “Obon”. Most of Japanese go back to hometown and stay with family. All transportation will be busy from major cities at the beginning and back to major cities at the end. In 2015, the following dates will be busy.
Outgoing (from major cities) — August 12 and 13. Maybe August 7, 8 and 9 Incoming (to major cities( — August 15 and 16
If you travel during this period, I recommend you to avoid to make a trip to same direction as local tourist. It will be super busy.
And also, the public school is closed from July 20 to August 31 for summer break. This period is busier than usual too.
Spring is the best season to visit Japan because of the cherry blossom. And also between late April and the beginning of May is one of the busiest period. It is called “Golden Week” in Japan. April 29, May 3, 4, and 5 are National holidays. I recommend you to avoid travelling on those days. It’s not surprised if trains are full.
***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***
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.
In Japan, summer school break start from mid July and until end of August. And Obon period in mid August is one of two busiest period in Japan. (Other one is New Years day break) Most of train will be packed. There are so many standing passengers on isle and passenger’s deck.
Spring is the best season to travel. The cherry blossom can be seen throughout Japan from late March to late April. And also between late April and the beginning of May is one of the busiest period. It is called “Golden Week” in Japan. April 29, May 3, 4, and 5 are National holidays. If you can, lease try to avoid travelling on those days. Many trains are almost full.
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 SL Hakodate Christmas Fantasy. Enjoy winter scenery between Hakodate and Onuma.
If you will travel in Hokkaido only, Hokkaido Rail Pass is the best choice for you. But if you travel in other cities and areas, even just staying in Tokyo, you may consider about other passes. You should compare and find which one is more suitable for you.
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.
In summer season, the busiest period is mid August. This period is called “Obon (お盆)”. Everybody try to go back to hometown in this period. In this year 2012, August 10 to 19 will be Obon period. Especially the direction to go out from major cities on Aug 10-12 and the direction to go into major cities on Aug 17-19 will be much busier. These dates are weekend days. Everybody will try to move on these dates. If you travel in this period, try to go opposite direction. It makes you to travel much easier.