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.
Types and Prices
|Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket 5 days|
|Adult 29,800 yen / Child (6-12yrs) 14,900 yen|
|Southern Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket|
|Adult 23,000 yen / Child 11,500 yen|
Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket covers all part of Hokkaido and Seikan tunnel line from Kanita to the north. Southern Hokkaido Unlimited Train Ticket covers Sapporo, Otaru and Hakodate area. Please see the map above to get the details.
Selling and validity period
This ticket will be selling from March 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. This ticket can be used from April 1, 2013 to April 5, 2014. But ticket can be purchased within one month from the day of your departure.
ex) If you want to start to use the ticket on June 1, 2014, you can purchase the ticket after May 1, 2014.
You can purchase this ticket at Midori no Madoguchi (reservation window) at major stations in JR East area, reserved ticket vending machine in JR East area, Byu Plaza (JR East’s travel agent) or major travel agent in Japan. If you live in Tokyo area, most of stations have Midori no Madoguchi. Simple ask them about “北海道全線フリーきっぷ” or “みなみ北海道フリーきっぷ”. You can purchase it very easily.
This ticket includes these following train services:
- Base fare to Hokkaido from Tokyo area via Tohoku line. The pass covers only local and rapid trains.
- If you take overnight train Akebono, you don’t need to take Tohoku line. But you have to pay at least limited express surcharge for take Goronto seat (cheapest seat) 3,150 yen. If you take basic type berth, you need to pay another 6,300 yen.
- If you add limited express surcharge, you can take Tohoku Shinkansen. Limited Express surcharge is 6,500 yen for Tokyo to Shin-Aomori.
- There are non JR lines, IGR Iwate Ginga Railway and Aoimori Railway between Morioka and Aomori on Tohoku line. These non JR lines are not covered by this pass. So even if you take only local or rapid train from Tokyo to Aomori, you still need to pay some extra fare between Morioka and Aomori. If you take Tohoku Shinkansen on this segment, base fare is covered because is is owned by JR East. Extra base fare is 5,300 yen. If you want to avoid to pay this fare, the only choice is using Tohoku Shinkansen. But you have to pay limited express surcharge 3,030 yen for just Morioka to Shin-Aomori. Paying 3,030 yen is cheaper and faster choice.
- Unlimited ride by non reserved seat of any trains in Hokkaido and Seikan tunnel line from Kanita station and the north. Kanita is located just before Seikan Tunnel in Aomori Prefecture. Some of Limited Express Super Hakucho stop at Kanita. If you want to save your cost, take local train to Kanita and transfer to Super Hakucho at Kanita.
As you saw above, you have to pay some extra anyway. The cheapest choice is local train to Morioka and using Shinkansen from Morioka to Shin-Aomori at 3,050 yen. But it is long long way to get Morioka from Tokyo by only local and rapid train. It takes more than 10 hours and at least 7 transfers. It is not realistic.
I recommend you to use Akebono or Shinkansen. If you can book Goronto seat of Akebono, extra charge is 3,150. I think it is not a bad choice. But Goronto seat is very popular. Sometimes right after tickets are started to sell one month prior to departure date, it is sold out. Your next choice is type B berth. But you have to pay another 6,300 yen, total 9,450 yen. It is considerable. Because in this case, Shinkansen is much cheaper. And also, you have one more concern. If you take Akebono, you will spend one of your valid days of pass for just a few hours. Akebono depart from Ueno at 21:15. If you want to avoid to spend one day of your pass, you have to pay regular fare to the station where Akebono stop after 0:00. That is Mukarami station at 3:18. You know how much it is? Base fare is 6,030 yen to Murakami and 3,030 surcharge. Of course you have to pay another extra surcharge from Murakami to Aomori at 2,610 yen. Total extra fare is 11,670 yen. I don’t think this is a right choice. If you don’t want to use one day for a few hours, take Shinkansen. Akebono is not your choice.
If you take Shinkansen, you have to pay 6,500 yen. It is much more expensive than Akebono Goronto seat. But it is way faster. it takes only 3 hours and 20 minutes to get Aomori. Do you still want to save 3,000 yen just to avoid paying extra for only Morioka to Aomori? It does not make sense.
After you arrive at Aomori or Shin-Aomori, you have two choices, using limited express Super Hakucho to get Hakodate directly or local train to Kanita and transfer to Super Hakucho. The extra charge to Kanita from Aomori is only 500 yen.
Compare price and regular fare
I compare this pass and regular fare. When you purchase the return ticket for more than 601 km, 10% return discount will be applied. And also, you can stop over as many as you want. But you cannot go back. I think this is the biggest difference between the pass and return ticket.
Tokyo – Sapporo return
Just one way base fare is 14,080 yen. If you take exactly same route on the way back, 10% round trip discount for both way is applied. So return fare is almost same as Southern Hokkaido Unlimited Pass price. But this pass includes non reserved seat of limited express surcharge. So if you use this pass for only round trip to Sapporo, it is cheaper than regular fare.
Tokyo – Kushiro return
Just one way base fare is 15,850 yen. It is same situation as above. 10% round trip discount is applied too. In this case, round trip base fare is almost same as Hokkaido Unlimited Pass price. Again the pass includes non reserved seat of limited express trains.
Tokyo – Abashiri return
Just one way base fare is 16,690 yen. It is same case as return trip to Kushiro. The pass is much better deal.
Tokyo – Furano return
One way base fare is 15,220 yen. Of course 10% discount is applied. If you just compare the price and regular fare, regular fare is cheaper. But you can take limited express non reserved seat in Hokkaido. So even if you go to just Furano, Hokkaido Unlimited Pass is still cheaper.