I explain many deals in this site but these are mostly available for overseas tourist only. In this post, I would like to show you the deal for both resident and overseas tourist in this post. This deal, Peach / Vanilla Higashi Hokkaido Free Pass is designed for the trip to eastern part of Hokkaido. If you are under 25 years old, you can get this pass at U25 discount rate.
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.
Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated during very popular Drift Ice season in Hokkaido.
Some part of winter season is the busiest period. Especially in Japan, New Years holidays are crazy busy. In this season, December 28 to 31, January 2, 3 and 6 are expected to be the busiest days. I recommend you to avoid getting a train on those days. The vehicle occupancy rate may be more than 200%. As long as trains have non reserved seat, you can get on anyway without any reservation. But you will be forced to stay on the isle or passenger’s deck without seat. There are many passengers without seats in the train during those busiest days.
As probably you know, it is icy freezing weather in Hokkaido and north part of Honshu island (Tohoku region). If you travel in these cold weather regions, please expect the delay due to snow or high wind. Please have time to spare in your itinerary. Don’t make a tight schedule.
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.
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.
Ryuhyo Norokko train has been stopped operation because of carriage was too old. Other train replaced Ryuhyo Norokko train but it is operated by common fleet.
Ryuhyo (Drift Ice=流氷) viewing is most popular things to do in Hokkaido during the winter time. This sea ice reach around Abashiri from late January to late March. The best season to view this ice is mid February. This train, Ryuhyo Norokko train is operated in this Ryuhyo season between Abashiri (網走) and Shiretoko-Shari (知床斜里) where is the gate town to Shiretoko peninsula. This train goes on Senmo line (釧網本線) along the coast of Sea of Okhotsk. You have lots of change to see the sea ice from the train. And also Abashiri can be reached by Limited Express Okhotsk or seasonal tran, Ryuhyo Limited Express Okhotsk no Kaze from Sapporo. Both express train from Sapporo and Ryuhyo Norokko train are fully covered by Japan Rail Pass.
Some part of winter season is the busiest period. Especially in Japan, New Years holidays are crazy busy. In this year, December 30, 11 (Fri) and January 4, 12 (Sun) will be busiest days. Please try to avoid taking a train on those days. the vehicle occupancy rate may be more than 200%. Sometimes it is almost impossible to get in or out from the train.
Even though Japan is very small country, Japan have several climate zone. It is icy freeeeeezing weather in Hokkaido. South part of Kyushu have very mild weather. It is very interesting season to travel. But if you travel in Hokkaido, Tohoku or Hokuriku region, please expect the delay due to snow. I do not recommend you to make a tight schedule.
Limited Express Okhotsk and Taisetsu take you to Abashiri from Sapporo and Asahikawa. Abashiri is well known as drift ice viewing in winter time. And also when you go to the world heritage site, Shiretoko, you may use this train to Abashiri and transfer to the local train to Shiretoko-Shari. If you need the information about the access to Shiretoko, please see one of my posts, “How to get Shiretoko“.