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.
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
This train has not run in the last few years. Please do not use this train in your trip plan.
This is a seasonal operation of Limited Express Okhotsk that connect Sapporo (札幌) and Abashiri (網走) in Hokkaido. This train is operated from late January to early March for Ryuhyo (流氷=Drift ice) viewing. The operation, like time required and route, is completely same as Limited Express Okhotsk. But this seasonal train is operated by specialized car. The accommodation is much better than regular train of Limited Express Okhotsk.
This itinerary includes many popular spots throughout Japan in 14 days. This itinerary starts from Tokyo. But if you want to start from Osaka, you can start from Day 11 to Day 14, and then start from Day 1 to Day10. Actually 14 days in not enough to see all popular spots in Japan. I include Hokkaido in this itinerary. But it does not include Shiretoko because of not enough time. I could not include south part of Kyushu, Hakone and Mt. Fuji either. If you can give up Tohoku part, you can get more time in Hokkaido. Of course you can go to Shiretoko.
Fall is good season to travel in Japan. JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during this season. But it is too many to introduce all seasonal trains. So I pick up the popular trains and are operated in the popular spot.
Both Cassiopeia and Hokutosei very popular. Many tourists have a plan to take one of these trains. However these overnight trains cannot be reserved online. The only way to reserve it from outside of Japan is calling Odekake net 078-341-7903 in Japanese and you have to pick up your ticket in JR West, Shikoku or Kyushu stations. You cannot pick up it in other areas, like Tokyo. Otherwise You need to be the reservation window at the station in Japan. Ticket is started to sell one month prior to the departure date. That means it may be sold out when you arrive in Japan. So you must have a back up plan when you try to make a reservation after arrival.
Furano is one of most popular spot in Hokkaido. Especially July is the busiest season because the bloom of Lavender. You can enjoy Furano in not only summer season but also autumn. You may see the fall color leaves in September. The scenery in autumn is breathtaking too. Furano can be accessed directly from Sapporo by Limited Express Furano Lavender Express / Furano Koyo Express from July to mid October. There are three round trips in the peak season. But if you want to have a nice rail excursion and enjoy the scenery from the train, I recommend you to take this train “Furano Biei Norokko train”. Of course you can take this train by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge. Let’s see the details about this train.
Furano Lavender Express (フラノラベンダーエクスプレス) and Furano Koyo Express (フラノ紅葉エクスプレス) are limited express trains to Furano (富良野) directly from Sapporo (札幌). These trains can be used by Japan Rail Pass with no extra charge. Furano is one of very popular spot in Hokkaido for the tourists. These trains are the seasonal operation trains because the lavender season in summer time and the fall color leaves in September are busy periods. So when you build your itinerary, please check the latest operation date before you put this train in your plan.
When you go to southeastern Hokkaido, The limited express Super Ozora and the limited express Super Tokachi take you there. Super Ozora connects Sapporo and Kushiro. Super Tokachi connects Sapporo and Obihiro. These trains are very popular and the reserved seats are sold out often.
Both trains are fully covered by JR Pass and Hokkaido Rail Pass. If you have a plan to take these trains, I strongly recommend you to reserve your seat.
I would like to share the information about these trains information and the timetable.
The limited express Okhotsk and Taisetsu take you to Abashiri from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Abashiri is well known as the place to see a drift ice viewing tour in the winter time. And also when you go to the world heritage site, Shiretoko, you may use this train for Abashiri and transfer to a local train to Shiretoko-Shari. If you need the information about the access to Shiretoko, please see one of my posts, “How to get to Shiretoko“.
You can ride on this train by Japan Rail Pass with no restriction. I would like to show you the information about the limited express Okhotsk and Taisetsu.
Hokkaido is very popular destination in these days. Especially Sapporo is very well known because it is the biggest city in Hokkaido and it holds the biggest winter festival in the world. Hakodate is located in southend of Hokkaido. This small city is also very popular among tourists. It is also the gate city of Hokkaido if you take a train or a ferry.
If you have JR Pass, JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass, the train trip to Hakodate or Hokkaido is fully covered. Actually we can get Sapporo in same day from Tokyo and even Osaka, Kyoto and Nagoya by the Shinkansen and the limited express trains. However it is such a long long trip. I would like to show you the sample trip plan. You will find the trip time to reach Hokkaido from Tokyo, Nagoya Kyoto and Osaka.