Summary of 2018-19 winter seasonal trains of JR trains

Renovated E3 series for Toreiyu Tsubasa

Winter used to be a shoulder season to travel. However in these days, many foreign travelers visit Japan all year long. Especially northern Japan, such as Hokkaido is very popular for Asian tourist to see the snow. And New Year’s holidays from late December to Early January is the busiest season in Japan. This is very challenging to book a seat in New Year’s holidays period. Do not forget that early February is also busy season in Hokkaido because of Sapporo winter festival.

JR Group operate lots of seasonal trains during a winter season. In this post, I show you many seasonal trains that will run in major tourist spots until the end of February.

*Spring seasonal train schedule (March to May) will come up in late January.

JR Hokkaido (Hokkaido area)

SL Fuyu no Shitsugen train (Winter train to Kushiro marsh by Steam Locomotive)

This train is operated by steam locomotive. This is a cruising train that goes through Kushiro marsh. It is similar type train to Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko train. But this train is not operated by Norokko train. There are reserved seat only. You need to book it before boarding.

Operation dates

Jan 26,27
Feb 1-12,15-17,21-24

Timetable

Kushiro 11:05Shibecha 12:35
Shibecha 14:00Kushiro 15:40

This train stops at Higashi-Kushiro, Kushiro Shitsugen, Toro, and Kayanuma.

Ryuhyo Monogatari (means “the story of drift ice”)

Shiretoko is very popular destination in winter time for Ryuhyo (流氷=Drift Ice) viewing. Open air passengers car train, “Ryuhyo Norokko train” used to run in this season. But it was discontinued in previous season. This train will replace Ryuhyo Norokko train in Drift Ice season but this is not open air train. This train will be operated by a refurbished ordinary diesel fleet.

Operation dates
Feb 2 – Feb 28

Timetable

#1Abashiri 09:45Shiretoko-Shari 10:40
#2Shiretoko-Shari 11:30Abashiri 12:30
#3Abashiri 12:50Shiretoko-Shari 13:40
#4Shiretoko-Shari 13:48Abashiri 14:46

*This train stop at Kitahama and Hamakoshimizu.

JR East (Tohoku and Kanto area)

Genbi Shinkansen

Genbi Shinkansen that runs between Echigo-Yuzawa and Niigata is called the world fastest art gallery.
Genbi Shinkansen that runs between Echigo-Yuzawa and Niigata is called the world fastest art gallery.

This newest Shinkansen train is called “The World Fastest Art Gallery”. There are many artwork displayed in the train. This train is operated as train name, “Toki”.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-24
Jan 12-14,19,20,26,27
Feb 2,3,9-11,16,17,23,24
Mar 2,3,9,10,16,17,21,23,24,30,31

Timetable

Station
train#
Echigo
Yuzawa
Niigata
Toki 45108:2409:14
Toki 45312:4413:38
Toki 45515:2016:14
Station
train#
NiigataEchigo
Yuzawa
Toki 45211:2612:20
Toki 45414:0214:56
Toki 45616:4217:36

All trains stops at all stations between Echigo-yuzawa and Niigata.

You can find more information about this train at the post, The world fastest art gallery, Genbi Shinkansen.

Rapid DL Christmas Train

This train is originally operated as “SL Banestsu Monogatari”. But steam locomotive was breakdown. It is operated by diesel locomotive and old style carriages between Niitsu and Aizu-Wakamatsu.

Operation dates
Dec 8,9

Timetable
Niitsu 10:05 – Aizu Wakamatsu 13:35
Aizu Wakamatsu 15:25 – Niitsu 18:40
Niitsu, Gosen, Sakihana, Mikawa, Tsugawa, Hideya, Nozawa, Yamato, Kitakata and Shiokawa.

If you need more info about this train, please see the post, Popular Steam Locomotive train, SL Banetsu Monogatari.

Rapid Resort Minori

This train connects Sendai with Shinjo via Naruko Onsen. It is operated by specialized train. You can see some images at JR East Sendai branch site.

Operation dates
Dec 1.2.8.9.15.16.22-24
Jan 12-14.19.20
Feb 2.3.9-11.16.17
Mar 2.3.9.10.16.17.23.24.30.31

Timetable
Sendai 09:13 – 11:00 Naruko Onsen 11:23 – Shinjo 12:26
Shinjo 15:01 – 16:00 Naruko Onsen 16:02 – Sendai 17:39

This train makes a stop at Matsuhima, Kogota, Furukawa, Iwadeyama, Yubikan, Kawatabi-Onsen, Naruko-Gotenyu, Naruko-Onsen, Nakayamadaira-Onsen, Akakura-Onsen, Mogami and Semi-Onsen.

Izu Craile

Renovated exterior looks very lovely.

This is another JR East’s new train. It runs between Odawara and Izu. All seats are Green reserved seat.

Operation dates
Dec 1.2.8.9.15.16.22-24
Jan 5.6.12-14.19.20.26.27
Feb 2.3.9-11

Timetable
Odawara 11:40 – 14:08 Izukyu-Shimoda
Izukyu-Shimoda 15:20 – 17:12 Odawara

You can find more information about this train at the post, Cruising train Izu Creile offers you very comfortable train experience to Izu peninsula from Odawara.

Toreiyu Tsubasa

The first ever Shinkansen cruise train, Toreiyu Tsubsa. (C) James Chuang

This is the first ever Shinkansen train that has foot Onsen bath in the car.

Operation dates
Dec 2,8,9,15,16,22-24
*This train will not run from January to March in 2019 due to an annual inspection.

Timetable

StationToreiyu Tsubasa #1StationToreiyu Tsubasa #2
Fukushima10:02Shinjo15:00
Yonezawa10:36Oishida15:16
Takahata10:44Murayama15:28
Akayu10:50Sakuranbo-Higashine15:34
Kaminoyama-Onsen11:08Tendo15:40
Yamagata11:26Yamagata16:13
Tendo11:37Kaminoyama-Onsen16:23
Sakuranbo-Higashine11:45Akayu16:45
Murayama11:50Takahata16:52
Oishida12:00Yonezawa17:07
Shinjo12:16Fukushima117:41

You can find more information about this train at the post, Toreiyu Tsubasa. First ever Shinkansen train that has foot bath.

POKÉMON with YOU train

Simply it is Pokemon theme train as you see google image above. It offers fun and it is very kids friendly train. It runs two locations in Tohoku region.

POKÉMON Train Kesennuma
Dec 1.2.8.9.15.16.22-31
Jan 1-6.12-14.19.20.26.27
Feb 2.3.9-11.16.17.23.24

IchinosekiKesennuma
11:0112:51
KesennumaIchinoseki
14:3716:35

Shu*Kura

Shu*Kura runs as promoting Niigata local product, especially Japanese Sake (pure rice wine). It is like Sake tasting train. You can enjoy many kinds of Sake on board.

This train runs on several routes in Niigata prefecture. There are three routes in this spring.

Koshino Shu*Kura
Dec 1,2

Joetsu-MyokoTokamachi
10:0212:32
TokamachiJoetsu-Myoko
14:5018:38

Yoino Shu*Kura
Dec 7,14

NiigataNagaokaa
18:1019:34
NagaokaNiigata
20:1621:34

Roman Shu*Kura
Dec 8,9

NiigataYahiko
09:3310:54
YahikoNiigata
13:3016:00

You can find more information about this train at the post, Enjoy premium Japanese Sake on board. Cruising train Koshino Shu*Kura.

Narita Express #8 and #41

E259 series is the fleet for Narita Express.

Narita Express runs Narita airport and downtown Tokyo or Yokohama, Ofuna. One round trip of Narita Express extend to run to Kawaguchiko via Shinjuku. You can get Lake Kawaguchi area from/to Narita airport directly by this train. But if you use this train by Japan Rail Pass or JR East Pass, the basic fare and limited express train seat fee between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko is not covered. Tokyo Wide Pass covers base fare fully but limited express train seat fee between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko is required. The seat fee is 400 yen for Ordinary class and 1,000 yen for Green class.

Operation dates
All Saturday, Sunday and Holidays

Timetable

Narita
Airport
Terminal 1
Narita
Airport
Terminal 2,3
TokyoShinjukuKawaguchiko
09:1509:1910:2110:4712:43
KawaguchikoShinjukuTokyoNarita
Airport
Terminal 2,3
Narita
Airport
Terminal 1
14:2016:1016:3317:2517:29

*Narita Express makes a stop at Shibuya, Tachikawa, Hachioji, Otsuki, Tsuru-Bunkadaigakumae, Fujisan and Fujikyu-Highland.

Rapid Holiday Kaisoku Fujisan

This train connects Shinjuku and Kawaguchiko (Lake Kawaguchi) directly. Transfer at Otsuki station is not required. But if you use this train by Japan Rail Pass or JR East Pass, the basic fare between Otsuki and Kawaguchiko is not covered.

Operation dates
All Saturday, Sunday and Holidays

Timetable

ShinjukuKawaguchiko
08:1410:26
KawaguchikoShinjuku
16:0018:04

*Rapid Holiday Kaisoku Fujisan makes a stop at Mitaka, Tachikawa, Hachioji, Takao, Sagamiko, Uenohara, Shiotsu, Otsuki, Tsurushi, Tsuru-Bunkadaigakumae, Mitsutoge, Fujisan and Fujikyu-Highland.

Rapid Resort Shirakami

HB-E300 Buna train set is the newest fleets for Resort Shirakami.

This train connects Akita with Aomori through Gono line that has one of the greatest scenery. This train is operated by the specialized train or the newest Hybrid train. This train has only reserved seat.

Operation dates and timetable

Station/train#AkitaAomoriOperation date
18:2013:29Dec 1-11.14-16.21-24.28-31
Jan 1-6.11-14.17-29
Feb 1-3.8-11.15-17.22-24
513:5319:40Dec 1-10.14.15.21-23.28-31
Jan 1-5.11-13.17-28
Feb 1.2.8-10.15.16.22.2
Station/train#AomoriAkitaOperation date
28:1013:27Dec 1-11.15.16.22-24.29-31
Jan 1-6.12-14.18-29
Feb 2.3.9-11.16.17.23.24
413:5118:56Dec 1-11.14-16.21-24.28-31
Jan 1-6.11-14.17-29
Feb 1-3.8-11.15-17.22-24
Station/train#AkitaHirosakiOperation date
310:5115:49Dec 1-11
Station/train#HirosakiAkitaOperation date
616:0620:45Dec 1-11

This train makes a stop at Oiwaki, Hachirogata, Moritake, Higashi-Noshiro, Noshiro, Akita-Shirakami, Iwadate, Juniko, WeSpa-Tsubakiyama, Fukaura, Senjojiki, Ajigasawa, Mutsu-Morita, Kizukuri, Goshogawara, Mutsu-Tsuruta, Itayanagi, Kawabe, Hirosaki and Shin-Aomori. If you need more information about this train, please refer Rapid Resort Shirakami.

Rapid Kirakira Uetsu

Rapid train, Kira Kira Uetsu runs between Niigata and Sakata on Uetsu line along the coast.

This train connects Niigata and Sakata or Ugo-Honjo on Uetsu line. You can enjoy local foods and beautiful coast scenery of Sea of Japan. It is operated by specialized train “Kirakira Uetsu”. You can see some images at JR East Niigata branch site.

Operation dates
Dec 1.2.7-9.14-16.21-24.28-31
Jan 1-6.11-14.19.20.26.27
Feb 2.3.9-11.16.17.23.24
Mar 1-3.8-10.15-17.21*.22*.23*.24*.29-31

Timetable
Niigata 10:11 – 12:51 Sakata
Sakata 16:10 – Niigata 18:31
Departure time at Sakata is 15:00 on Oct 13 and 14.

The following schedule is applied to the train that runs on the *mark dates. This train extends to run to Akita.
Niigata 09:32 – 12:03 Sakata 12:05 – 13:47 Akita
Akita 14:07 – 16:03 Sakata 16:10 – 18:31 Niigata

On Oct 26, 27 and 28, Kira Kira Uetsu will run by a different timetable as follows:
Akita 08:51 – 13:01 Niigata
Niigata 13:59 – 19:12 Akita

HIGH RAIL 1375

This train runs on Oumi line which goes on the highest elevation in all JR lines. You can enjoy mountain fresh air by riding this train.

Operation dates
Dec 1.2.8.9.15.16.22-24
Jan 5.6.12-14.19.20.26.27
Feb 2.3.9-11.16.17.23.24

Timetable

KobuchizawaKomoro
10:3012:31
KomoroKobuchizawa
14:2216:54

JR Central (Chubu, Tokai and Hokuriku)

Overnight Rapid Moonlight Nagara

This is very popular and hard to book a seat. This train does not have any non reserved seat. You cannot take this train without seat reservation. This train is operated by old type Limited Express train set. But there is no berth or compartment.

Operation dates
To Ogaki – Dec 21 to Jan 2
To Tokyo – Dec 22 to Jan 3

Timetable

stationstimestationstime
Tokyo23:10Ogaki22:48
Shinagawa23:18Gifu22:59
Yokohama23:36Nagoya23:20
Odawara00:31Toyohashi00:17
Numazu01:08Hamamatsu00:55
Shizuoka01:50Shizuoka01:55
Hamamatsu03:11Numazu03:19
Nagoya05:24Yokohama04:41
Gifu05:42Shinagawa04:58
Ogaki05:50Tokyo05:05

If you are looking for more information about Moonlight Nagara, please see the post, Rapid train Moonlight Nagara.

JR West (Kansai, Hokuriku and Chugoku)

Hanayome Noren

This is new train that will start to run in this fall in Kanazawa. This train takes you to Wakura Onsen in Noto peninsula.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,7-9,14-16,21-25,28-30
Jan 4-6,11-14,18-20,25-27
Feb 1-3,8-11,15-17,22-24

Timetable

KanazawaWakura Onsen
#110:1511:42
#314:1515:32
Wakura OnsenKanazawa
#212:0713:21
#416:3017:54

The train makes stops at Nanao and Hakui. All seats are reserved. You cannot take this train without booking.

Belles montagnes et mer

This is new train that will start to run in this fall in Takaoka. This train runs on both Himi line and Johana line.

Operation dates
Himi line (between Takaoka and Himi)
Dec 2,9,16,23
Jan 6,13,20,27
Feb 3,10,17,24
Johana line (between Takaoka and Johana)
Dec 1,8,15,22
Jan 5,12,19,26
Feb 2,9,16,23

Timetable

Shin-TakaokaHimi
#110:0110:55
#313:5414:58
HimiShin-Takaoka/Takaoka
#211:0512:10
#415:1515:48*

Train #4 runs between Himi and Takaoka only. It does not go to Shin-Takaoka.
Train makes stops at Takaoka, Fushiki and Amaharashi.

TakaokaJohana
#519:3810:22
#5313:0813:55
JohanaTakaoka
#5210:4211:30
#5414:1014:59

Train makes stops at Shin-Takaoka, Tonami, Fukuno and Fukumitsu.

Hello Kitty Shinkansen

This is one of scheduled Kodama train that is operated by specialized “Hello Kitty” wrapping fleet.
This train will be introduced in the end of June.

Operation dates
Dec 1~4,8~25,29~31
Jan 1~20,24~31
Feb 1~12,16~28

Timetable

HakataHiroshimaOkayamaShin-Osaka
Kodama 7306:408:139:5711:13
Shin-OsakaOkayamaHiroshimaHakata
Kodama 74111:2912:3213:5515:38

This train stops at all stations between Shin-Osaka and Hakata on Sanyo Shinkansen line.

OO (maru maru) no Hanashi

This is the newest train by JR West. This train runs along the coast of Sea of Japan. Please check the images at the following link:
JR West official site

Operation dates
Weekend and holidays until the end of February, 2019 except December 29,30 and January 1.

Timetable
Shin-Shimonoseki 09:59 – 10:08 Shimonoseki 10:21 – 12:18 Nagatoshi 12:22 – 12:57 Higashi-Hagi
Higashi-Hagi 14:13 – 15:31 Nagatoshi 15:33 – 17:39 Shimonoseki 17:43 – 17:50 Shin-Shimonoseki
This train makes a stop at Kawatana-Onsen, Kogushi, Takibe, Kottoi, Hitomaru, Hagi and Senzaki (to Shin-Shimonoseki only).

SL Yamaguchi

SL Yamaguchi is one of most popular train by steam locomotive. (C) soryofu / JNTO

Due to Sanyo line closure by heavy rain storm, steam locomotive could not be sent to Yamaguchi line from the base. This train has been suspended. This train will be back on September 29. After this date, this train will run as normal schedule and the original operation days.

This train is operated by C57 type steam locomotive between Shin-Yamaguchi and Tsuwano. This train has only reserved seat. (Japanese site link)

Operation dates
Sep 29,30
Oct 6-8,13,14,20,21,27,28
Nov 3,4,10,11,17,18,24,25
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-24
Jan 1-3

Timetable
Shin-Yamaguchi 10:50 – Tsuwano 12:59
Tsuwano 15:45 – Shin-Yamaguchi 17:30
This train makes a stop at Yuda-Onsen, Yamaguchi, Niho, Shinome, Choumonkyo, Jifuku, Nabekura and Tokusa.

JR Kyushu (Kyushu)

Limited Express Yufuin-no-Mori

The newer fleet KIHA 72 series is used for two round trips of Yufuin no Mori. As of July, 2015, one more car was added to this train set. Not it is five cars formation.

It is very popular train that connect Hakata and Yufuin. Currently Kyudai line near Yufuin is damaged and this segment is closed. Yufuin no Mori will run but it will be different route and different timetable until July 13. Kyudai line will be opened on July 14. It will be back to normal on this date.

Station/train#HakataKurumeYufuinOitaBeppu
#109:2409:5911:36
#310:2410:5812:3913:2513:36
#514:3515:0716:44
Station/train#BeppuOitaYufuinKurumeHakata
#212:0913:4614:16
#414:4114:5915:5017:3118:06
#617:0818:4719:18

Limited Express Aso Boy!

This train suppose to run between Mt. Aso and Kumamoto by the train that have the panoramic windows at the both end. But due to massive earthquake in last year, this segment is still closed. This train will run between Beppu and Asp.

This train has only reserved seat. Please see the post, Access to Mt. Aso from Kumamoto. Kids friendly train, Limited Express Aso Boy! to get the details about this train.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,14-16,21-31
In 2019
Jan 1-6,11-14,18-20,25-27
Feb 1-17,22-24

Timetable

Station/train#BeppuOitaAso
#9210:0510:2912:16
Station/train#AsoOitaBeppu
#9115:1616:5817:11

This train makes a stop at Nakahanda, Miemachi, Ogata, Bungo-Takeda, Bugoogi and Miyaji too.

Limited Express Umisachi-Yamasachi

Limited Express train Umisachi-Yamasachi is operated by refurbished KIHA125 series.
Limited Express train Umisachi-Yamasachi runs southern Kyushu along Nichina coast.

This train goes through Nichinan coastline. Please see the details at my post.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-24,28-31
In 2019
Jan 1-6,12-14,19,20,26,27
Feb 2-5,7-12,14-17,23,24

Timetable

Stationsto Nangoto Miyazaki
Miyazaki (宮崎)10:1117:15
Minami-Miyazaki (南宮崎)10:1717:10
Aoshima (青島)10:3616:48
Kitago (北郷)11:0016:22
Obi (飫肥)11:1216:00-16:12
Aburatsu (油津)11:3215:50
Nango (南郷)11:4715:35

This train makes stops at Tayoshi, Kodomo no Kuni amd Nichinan too.

A Ressha de Iko (A列車で行こう=Take the ‘A’ train)

Ltd Exp A Train runs between Kumamoto and Misumi is not covered by Northern area pass. (C) Jonathan Ayre

This train connects Kumamoto with Misumi. Misumi is the gateway station for Amakusa. JR Kyushu add one more trip after March 16.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-31
In 2019
Jan 1-6

Only two round trips, #1,#2,#5 and #6 will run on the following dates:
Dec 25-27
In 2019
Jan 4

Timetable

Station/train#KumamotoUtoMisumi
#110:3510:4511:12
#312:2312:3613:03
#514:3714:4715:15
Station/train#MisumiUtoKumamoto
#211:2011:4611:57
#413:5014:2214:31
#616:1916:5117:01

Limited Express Hayato no Kaze

Hayato no Kaze (C) JP Rail

This train runs between Kagoshima-Chuo and Yoshimatsu. It currently runs as the scheduled train and it runs everyday. However after March 17, this train will runs as the seasonal train. Please see the details at Limited Express Hayato no Kaze.

Operation dates
Dec 1,2,8,9,15,16,22-25,27-31
In 2019
Jan 1-6,12-14,19,20,26,27
Feb 1-17,23,24

Timetable

Station/train#YoshimatsuKirishima
Onsen
KareigawaKagoshima
Chuo
#111:2511:5212:0312:53
#315:0115:3215:4316:44
Station/train#Kagoshima
Chuo
KareigawaKirishima
Onsen
Yoshimatsu
#209:2610:3010:4111:11
#413:2314:1814:2514:54

This train makes stops at Kurino, Osumi-Yokogawa, Hayato and Kagoshima too.

10 thoughts on “Summary of 2018-19 winter seasonal trains of JR trains”

  1. Hi Takeshi
    We are getting a JR pass.

    We want to travel to Hokkaido from Honshu. Which JR train is covered by JR pass to cross to Hokkaido?

    We want to visit Hakodate, Lake Toyo, Noboribetsu, Otaru and of course Sapporo. Please advise what JR trains to take to these places and are they all covered by the JR pass?

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    This is a wonderful website, I wish I had found it earlier. We are in Sendai and have a JR Pass for the next 3 weeks. We would like to take some train journeys to see the mountains and snow. We do not have any hotel bookings so can go anywhere.
    Could you please recommend some scenic journeys. I like the sound of the Oumi High line for next weekend possibly but have no other ideas.
    Thank you
    Darren

    1. Hi Darren,

      Resort Shirakami is highly recommended. But this line is suspended when the weather is severe. So check the forecast and find the date when you should go.

      In Izu peninsula, Kawazu zakura (early bloom cherry tree) will be peak soon.
      https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6314.html

      Hokkaido is gorgeous in winter season to see snow and mountains. If you can stay there for a few days, this is recommended too.

      I did winter trip a few years ago. You may find some idea from my trip report in the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/trip-report/2016-winter-tohoku-chubu-chugoku/trip-to-tohoku-chubu-and-chugoku-in-2016-winter-part-2-akita-airport-to-kakunodate.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    Sorry to bother you again! I just wanted to ask, do you know if the sightseeing cruise between Onomichi and Tomonoura is covered by the JR Pass? I know it seems unlikely but it’s featured on the JR Website so I thought I’d ask. Thank you!

    Russell

    1. Hi Russell,

      I cannot judge it because this train has started to run in this past July. Please see the short movie below.
      https://youtu.be/ZuT2ovannbI

      I have taken this route a long time ago. As far as I remember, I could not see the ocean so much on this segment. Other segments, such as Tottori-Kinosaki onsen, Izumoshi-Masuda have better scenery.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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