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.
Tomamu – Obihiro segment will open on 22nd December.
Hokkaido was hit by very severe typhoon in late August. Many train lines are closed by this storm and many trains are suspended currently. Substitute bus service and tentative train are operated but trip time is much longer than original schedule. And also the accommodation of some trains are totally different from Limited Express train interior. It offers just commute train accommodation. It is obviously inconvenient. If you cannot accept this situation, I recommend you to change your trip plan. It may not be a right time to visit there.
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.
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.
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.
Summer is not the best season to visit Japan except Hokkaido because of climate. It is very hot and humid. But local demand is quite high. Especially Obon season is one of three busiest period in Japan. Obon period is usually from August 13 to 16. In this year 2014, August 17 is Sunday. So the last day of Obon period is 17 of August. The trains to major cities will be very crowded. On the other hand, trains from major cities will be very crowded on August 13. Some of Japanese will start Obon vacation on August 10, Saturday. Anyway please keep that mid August will be very busy in your mind. You must reserve a seat if you travel in this period. Otherwise you have to stand up on the isle or passengers deck in very crowded train.
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 recommen you to avoid travelling on those days. It’s not surprised if trains are full.
JR East and JR Hokkaido have just announced that they will two types of unlimited ride ticket for trip to Hokkaido from Tokyo. If you go to Japan from outside of Japan, you have lots of choices, like Japan Rail Pass, JR East Pass or Hokkaido Area Pass. But if you are in Japan as resident, you cannot purchase these tickets for overseas travellers. So if you want to go to Hokkaido by train, this ticket may be your choice. Only Japanese information will be provided by JR East (JR東日本). So I would like to share the information about this ticket with you here in English. Continue reading Hokkaido Unlimitd Train Ticket and Southern Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket for resident in Japan
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.
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.
Hokkaido is very popular destination in these days. Especially Sapporo is very well known because it is the biggest city in Hokkaido and is it the base city of the biggest winter festival in the world. Hakodate is located in southend of Hokkaido. This small city is also very popular among tourist. It is also the gate city of Hokkaido if you take train or ferry.
If you have JR Pass, JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass, train trip to Hakodate or Hokkaido is fully covered. Actually we can get Sapporo in same day from Tokyo and even Osaka by Shinkansen and Limited express trains. However it is such a long long trip. I would like to show you the sample trip plan and you will find the trip time from Tokyo and Osaka. Continue reading How to access to Hakodate and Sapporo in Hokkaido by railway.
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.