Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 3, from Oshamanbe to Sapporo by Hakodate line

Mt. Yotei is the highlight of this train trip.

This post is continued from the post, Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 2, from Sendai to Oshamanbe

I supposed to tell you about the second half of my trip on day 2. But I have too many things to tell you in one post. I will divide this part into a few posts. I will tell you the train trip from Oshamambe to Sapporo in this post.

Oshamambe to Kutchan

Oshamambe 13:16 (Hakodate line local train) 14:50 Kutchan

After lunch in Oshamambe, I continued my trip. From Oshamambe, I took a local train on Hakodate line to Sapporo via Kucchan and Otaru.

Actually this northern route is not a primary way to get Sapporo. Because a few local trains a day run on this segment between Oshamambe and Otaru in these days. Many limited express trains used to run but now all limited express trains run on Muroran line that is a southern route via Toya, Noboribetsu.

However I wanted to ride a local train on Hakodate line. This line may be closed when Hokkaido Shinkansen will be extended to Sapporo. Now JR Hokkaido is facing very serious financially situation. If something happens on this line, like damaged by severe weather, this line may be closed even before Hokkaido Shinkansen will open.

Anyway this trip on Hakodate line between Oshamambe and Otaru might be the last trip for me. I really enjoyed this 3 hours train trip.

It took 3.5 hours from Oshamambe to Otaru. If you take limited express from Oshamabe to Sapporo, it takes 2 hours and it is direct. This route does not make sense if you want to get Sapporo as early possible. And also there are a few trips running on this segment a day. It is very inconvenient. I do not recommend this route to everybody. But if you want something different, you may take this route. You can see deep forest, beautiful creeks and mountains, especially, Mt. Yotei.

This mountain is called “Ezo-Fuji” that means “Mt. Fuji of Hokkaido”. The shape of Mt. Yotei is stunning and looks very similar to Mt. Fuji. This is my most favorite mountain in Hokkaido.

When I traveled, I was very surprised because many passengers were on board from Oshamambe. I expected some foreign travelers to take this train to Niseko and Kutchan. Because I saw some passengers got off Super Hokuto at Oshamambe. And Oshamambe is not a tourist spot. But many passengers got off the train from another Super Hokuto and changed the trains at Oshamambe. I thought JR Hokkaido could keep this line easily until Hokkaido Shinkansen will be extended.

When I arrived at Kutchan station. Mt. Yotei was seen more clearly.

Kutchan to Otaru

Kutchan 15:12 (Hakodate line local train) 16:26 Otaru

Many passengers were waiting for the train to Otaru at Kutchan station.

After Kutchan, many more passengers were on board. I could not find any empty seats.

Many travelers change the trains at Kutchan. And also many more passengers joined at Kutchan. They stayed in Hirafu to ski and snowboard.

And also many more passengers got on the train at Yoichi station. Yoichi has Nikka whiskey distillery. This place is very popular among local tourists. After train departed from Yoichi, there were many standing passengers and it was like a commute train in peak hour.

After train left from Yoichi, I could see the ocean. It was not very close but the color of ocean was deep blue and it was very impressive.

I changed trains at Otaru. Many other passengers changed same trains too. Train from Kutchan and train to Sapporo were at same platform. I had 4 minutes to transfer. Usually 4 minutes is way enough to change trains. But in that day, the platform in Otaru station was super busy. I just was on board in time. Even 4 minutes was very tight.

Many passengers were at the platform of Otaru station.

Otaru to Sapporo

Otaru 16:30 (Rapid Airport) 17:02 Sapporo

Trip from Otaru to Sapporo is very convenient. The segment between Otaru and Sapporo is one of the busiest part in all Hokkaido train lines. It is a part of Sapporo urban commute network. Train runs very very frequently on this segment. But even this line is a commute line, this is very scenic. It runs along seashore line. The view is superb.

When I arrived in Sapporo station, it was peak hours and very busy.

I visited Sapporo Snow Festival after arrival at Sapporo station.

Continue to the post, Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 4, Sapporo Snow Festival and stay in Asahikawa.

12 thoughts on “Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 3, from Oshamanbe to Sapporo by Hakodate line”

  1. Hi, takeshi san. I will be travelling to Hokkaido last week of December. Places I am interested in going are hakodate, niseko, otaru, and sapporo. I understand Niseko is the place if you want to ski but accomodations are pricey. Is it possible to just spend the day in Niseko and stay in different place in Hokkaido in the evening? If possible, where do you suggest ( is it possible to fo back to Sapporo after spending the day in Niseko?)

      1. Thanks a lot, Takeshi san. If I do have a regular jr pass, can i use it in this trip? Do you have a time schedule of the train from sapporo to niseko and vice versa?

          1. Takeshi san, allow me to ask these questions…
            1. If the places I wanna go in Hokkaido are just Sapporo, Niseko, Otaru, Noboribetsu, and Hakodate, do I need to buy Hokkaido pass?
            2. We will visit Otaru and Noboribetsu in different days (or is it possible in one day?) but we will stay at Ibis Styles Sapporo. will that be okay?
            3. Do we need to book ahead to have a ski lesson in Niseko? Which ski resort is the best place for first timers? Thanks for the help, Takeshi.

            1. Hi Baby san,

              1. How do you visit Hakodate? Are you staying overnight there? If so, are you going back to Sapporo? I want to see whole part of your trip plan, such as duration, arrival/departure airport.

              2. One day trip to Noboribetsu and Otaru is not recommended. You should visit these places in different day. You can visit both places as day trip.

              3. I have never stayed in Niseko so I have no idea.


              Takeshi /

              1. Takeshi san, these are my plans for our trip. Hope you can help me if some things are not advisable or if you have better suggestions…

                Dec. 24-arrival at Narita 12noon
                25- Disney
                26- city tour (Is it possible to visit mt. Fuji in the morning and go to places like Shibuya in the afternoon?
                27-travel to Hokkaido (stop first in Hakodate for some sightseeing then continue travelling to Sapporo)
                28- Otaru then back in Sapporo
                29- Noboribetsu then back to Sapporo
                30- Niseko then back to Sapporo
                31-travel to Osaka (by plane if the airfare is affordable)
                1- USJ
                2- Kyoto and Nara
                3- Osaka city tour then go to Kansai airport (8pm flight)

                Do I need to get a JR pass even if we will fly from Sapporo to Osaka? Please guide me also with the dates I have chosen like is it okay if USJ wil be on Jan. 1?
                Thanks a lot, Takeshi san.

                1. Hi Baby san,

                  If you take the flight to Osaka, you can use JR East South Hokkaido Rail Pass.

                  You can use this 6 days coverage for 24, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31.

                  You can take express bus to Fuji but I recommend you to spend one whole day for Fuji.

                  You may use Kansai thru pass 2 days for 2 and 3.

                  Single ticket is okay for trip to USJ.

                  If you don’t take the flight to Osaka, JR pass is recommended. In this case, you may use JR pass from 27 to 2. You can use other deal for 24, 25 and 3.

                  But if you use JR pass from Sapporo to Osaka, it’s very very long trip. Please keep it in your mind.

                  You should visit Disneyland on 26. 25 is much busier because of Christmas. Jan 1 is okay for USJ. Usually Jan 1 is slower than 2 and 3.


                  Takeshi /

                  1. Thanks, Takeshi san. Yes our flight on the last day is in Osaka. We do have tickets already for that. What we still don’t have is the Sapporo to Osaka flight. Still waiting for airline sale for that. Hoping there will be….if not, i guess i have to purchase the regular jr pass and change some of the schedule?

  2. In 2013, we did a Japan Hour tour of Sapporo (&Otaru) ~ Hakodate~Aomori~Tokyo by train, including Shinkansens where we can.

    Yes, Takashi Sen, the train rides to and fro Otaru were the best. Passengers on each side of the train would suddenly shoot up from their seats to take photos/videos of the waves coming on the shoreline as the train passes. It was kind of funny to see everybody reacting to the amazing scenery in the same way. I wish tourists can be given some info on the things to look out for when we board the train. Then, I would get ready in time!

    Good suggestion you think, Takeshi Sen?

    1. Hi Elaine,

      I really love this segment. The scenery is amazing even though this is commute line for local residents.
      I always try to share my experience with readers but my website is not enough to spread the info. Municipal government, local tourist office and JR Hokkaido should be involved more.


      Takeshi /

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