Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 7, Noboribetsu Onsen to Hakodate via Lake Toya

2017 Hokkaido
Express bus connects Noboribetsu and Lake Toya

This post is continued from Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 6, Takikwa to Noboribetsu Onsen.

On day 3, I visited Biei and Nobotibetsu Onsen. In this post, I would like to show you the last stretch of day 3 trip which is the trip to Hakodate via Lake Toya.

Noboribetsu Onsen to Lake Toya

Noboribetsu Onsen bus terminal 15:08 (Express bus) 16:13 Toyako Onsen bus terminal (Lake Toya)

I had JR pass. But I did not take a train and took the express bus “Iburi” from Noboribetsu Onsen to Toyako Onsen directly. If I went back to Noboribetsu station by bus, took train to Toya station and then took a bus to Toyako Onsen, I could save 1000 yen. But I had to change train and bus twice. And I had to spend at least 1 hour 40 minutes which include transfer time at both Noboribetsu and Toya stations.

That was why I chose this express bus. This express bus is operated by Donan Bus company. This bus company is major bus company in this area. It operates the local bus lines in Noborbetsu and Lake Toya too.

Express bus runs two round trips between Noboribetsu Onsen and Toyako Onsen daily. This bus pick up and drop off passengers at several bus stops at both Noboribetsu Onsen and Toyako Onsen. Reservation is not accepted to take this express bus. It is first come first serve basis. In peak season, extra bus may depart but it is not guaranteed.

When I took this bus, it was very quiet. There were only 5 passengers on board.

The bus is very ordinary highway coach. It does not equip a bathroom but it is only one hour ride.

On the way to Toyako Onsen, the bus ran on highway. The scenery was good. I could see the shoreline of Uchiura bay and Mt. Usu which is very active volcano in the distance.

I was very sleepy and I supposed to take a nap on board. But I could not sleep. It was nice one hour ride.

I got off the bus at Toyako Onsen bus terminal. And I had 30 minutes break there.

Toyako Onsen bus terminal is a hub of Lake Toya area.

Walking in Toyako Onsen

It was much colder than Noboeribetsu Onsen. I walked along lake shore and it was very windy.

Walking path was very nice even in very cold weather. There were many resort hotels in this Onsen town. Noboeribetsu Onsen and Toyako Onse are both very popular to stay in southern Hokkido area. In summer time, of course this place is much nicer. On this walking train along lakeshore, there are some “Ashi-ui” which means foot bath. Even if you just drop by this place for short time, you can have very tiny Onsen experience.

After this short stay in Lake Toya, I got on the local bus to get Toya station for 20 minutes

Lake Toya to Hakodate

In the bus to Toya station

Toyako bus terminal 16:42 (Donan bus) 17:01 Toya 17:34 (Super Hokuto 18) 19:24 Hakodate

The bus from Toyako Onsen to Toya station was very ordinary commute bus. By the way, if you take this type of bus in the city, like Kyoto, the fare is a flat rate. But if you take this type of bus in suburban area or country side, the fare is varied by the distance.

Usually there is a small ticket dispenser at the entrance. You need to get a numbered ticket.

The fare table is beside the driver seat. You can find the fare by the number.

After 20 minutes ride, I got Toya station. It was much quieter than Noboribetsu station but it might be busy in the afternoon in this station too.

I caught Limited Express Super Hokuto 18 to Hakodate.

I had a plan to eat Sushi in Hakodate. I needed to make my stomach be empty. But I was very thirsty and hungry. I spoiled myself on board.

Beer and dried squid were my snack on board.

Evening in Hakodate

Arrived at Hakodate station

I spent two hours to get Hakodate. I checked in Hotel Route Inn Grantia Hakodate. This is located just in front of Hakodate station and very accessible.

The room was very ordinary.
I got nice view from my room.

This hotel belongs to same group as the hotel in Asahikawa which I stayed in. Most of the hotels in this group have an Onsen public bath. This is one of the reason to stay in this hotel for me. It offers nice breakfast buffet too. It is nice hotel and recommended.

Hakodate held the winter event too. Fireworks display was one of this event. It was started at 19:40 and I could see it.

But I just watched the beginning of this event. Because I thought the restaurant might be crowded after fireworks. I thought I needed to enter the restaurant before fireworks ended. And also I was solo traveler and I felt very lonely when I watched fireworks.

I walked about 15 minutes to get “Marukatsu Suisan” which is very popular Kaiten Sushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant.

Most of Kaiten Sushi restaurant offer sushi at very affordable price. But this restaurant is not such a cheap restaurant. I spent 4,000 yen just for myself. It was not cheap but I knew it. This was the last dinner in my trip. I spoiled me again!

I was very very satisfied by nice fresh sushi.

Continue to the post, “Trip to Hokkaido in 2017 winter – Part 8, Hakodate to Tokyo“.


  1. Mac says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    We plan to visit Hokkaido in december this year. What I read from your post and other users that there is no best place to stay as a base, unlike Osaka or Kyoto.., where I easily do day trips from one city.

    My plan is to visit Sapporo, Asahikawa, Nobotibetsu, Hakodate, Otaru, lake Toya as well other places. Is it convenient to stay in Sapporo as a base? How to manage luggage if frequently change the hotels there?

    We will come/flyout from Tokyo.


  2. Jey says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I am planning to use JR East-South Hokkaido Pass for a 6days trip in Hokkaido covering Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Sapporo and Otaru (Travel date: estimate 21Mar2020 to 26Mar2020 – I will be departing from Tokyo and return to Tokyo).

    Lake Toya came across my mind when I read this article. As I will be departing to Noboribetsu from Hakodate, would like to know if Lake Toya during Spring (late March) worth to stop-by or stay for sight seeing (taken my travel period and limited days in Hokkaido into consideration).

    Thank you in advance for your advice.

  3. Michelle FROM Singapore says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    My family of 3 plan to visit Hokkaido in May 2020 (some cherry blossoms). This is our 1st time in Hokkaido and we will be using public transport only.

    Day 1-3 Arrive Sapporo, around Sapporo
    Day 4 Sapporo -> Hakodate (Activate JR Pass)
    Day 5-6 Hakodate
    Day 7 Hakodate->Lake Toya (Is Donan bus available and easier?)
    Day 8 Lake Toya->Noboribetsu (Donan bus or JR train?)
    Day 9 Noboribetsu to Sapporo
    Day 10 Depart Sapporo

    I added the cost of individual JR tickets, assuming that we take all the intercity trips by JR train (no bus) and the cost is just under the JR Hokkaido Rail pass 4 days flexi.
    Maybe I need to rearrange/change the plan ?

    Thank you for any suggestions.

  4. Elaine says:

    Dear Takeshi

    I’m planning a trip to Hokkaido this December. Our family consists of 3 adults and 1 child.

    We intend to plan this itinerary:

    Day 1
    arrive in Hakodate in morning with overnight stay.

    Day 2
    explore Onamu & Goryaku to catch the winter illumination (overnight)

    Day 3
    by JR train to Lake Toya after breakfast (sightseeing and if there’re suitable activities for family in Lake Toya, we may stay overnight. Any suggestion? Do we need 1 night stay in Lake Toya?)

    Day 3 afternoon /4 morning
    leave Lake Toya for Noboribetsu by JR train
    Intend to visit Hell Valley, historic village and Marine Park either on Day 4 or 5
    (Overnight in Noboribetsu onsen on either day 3 or 4, depending on Lake Toya visit )

    After Noboribetsu, proceed to Sapporo by JR train.

    For now, I m unsure of the sector in Lake Toya-Noboribetsu. I am unsure how we can get around Lake Toya to e.g. Lake Hill Farm for lunch, without own car.

    If we r not staying in Lake Toya, I guess we have to store our luggages in Toya station.

    Please advise how I can better plan day 3 & 4.

    Thank you

  5. Evon Yap says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thank you for your informative post.!
    My mum and I wish to travel from Noboribetsu Onsen and Toyako Onsen via the Donan express bus like you did.
    However I was unable to find the bus schedule and price online. May I trouble you to share with me:
    – The bus timings,
    – How much did you pay for the bus ticket
    – Was it the “High speed Donan Bus” you took?
    – Which part of Noboribetsu Onsen did you board the bus from?

    Thank you so much for your assistance.!

    • Hi Evon,

      I paid 1,700 yen one way. I took the bus just in front of Daiichi Takimotokan which is the biggest Onsen hotel in Noboribetsu. You can catch it at Noboribetsu bus terminal too. But I visited Jigokudani and this bus stop is the nearest from Jigokudani.

      The bus stopped at Daiichi Takimotokan before stopped at the bus terminal. The bus stops at the bus terminal at the last.

      The link shows you the departure time of the express at Noboribetsu bus terminal. So 09:10 and 15:10 are the departure time.


      Takeshi /

  6. Cornelia Lim says:

    Dear Takeshi

    I plan to visit Hokkaido and Tokyo from 14 Dec till 27 Dec 2019 and below is my itinerary. Can you comment on the itinerary and if I should use JR pass or local bus?
    14 Dec – From Chitose aiport take bus to Niseko Ski Resort (stay Niseko)
    15 Dec – Niskeo (stay Niseko)
    16 Dec – From Niseko take Donan bus to Lake Toya and then train to Noboribetsu (stay Noboribetsu)
    17 Dec – From Noboribetsu take train or bus to Sapporo (stay Sapporo)
    18 Dec – Day trip from Sapporo take train or bus to Biei and Furano (stay Sapporo)
    19 Dec – Sapporo (stay Sapporo)
    20 Dec – Day trip from Sapporo take train or bus to Otaru (stay Sapporo)
    21 Dec – From Sapporo take train or bus to Hakodate (stay Hakodate)
    22 Dec – Hakodate (stay Hakodate)
    23 Dec – From Hakodate take JR shinkansen or flight to Tokyo (stay Tokyo)
    24 Dec – Tokyo (stay Tokyo)
    25 Dec – Tokyo (stay Tokyo)
    26 Dec – Tokyo (stay Tokyo)
    27 Dec – From Tokyo take train to Narita airport

    Cornelia Lim

  7. CHEN says:

    Dear Takeshi, me & my husband are going to Hokkaido in mid-January 2019. Since it’s winter and we have no experience in driving on snow, we decided to just go around using public transport. Your articles have helped me lots in planning my trip. However, I’m not sure if JR Hokkaido pass pay out for the whole trip. This is my tentative itinerary, i hope you do not mind to check on my itinerary and advise me on the type of pass/tickets that suit my trip best (JR pass / S kippu, etc). It will be 7 full days & 7 nights trip as I will be arrived at new-chitose airport at 8.05 am.

    11 Jan (D1) Arrive – (JR Rapid Train) – Sapporo (Stay Sapporo)
    12 Jan (D2) Day trip to Otaru (Stay Sapporo)
    13 Jan (D3) Sapporo – (Chuo Bus) – Furano – (furano line) – Biei (Join Biei View Bus Tour)
    14 Jan (D4) Biei – (local train) – Furano (Stay Furano)
    15 Jan (D5) Furano – (Chuo Bus / JR ?) – Sapporo – (JR train) – Noboribetsu (Stay Noboribetsu)
    16 Jan (D6) Noboribetsu – (Hakodate line) – Lake Toya – (Hakodate line) – Hakodate (Stay Hakodate)
    17 Jan (D7) Hakodate – (JR rapid) – Sapporo/Jozankei (Stay)
    18 Jan (D7) Sapporo – (bus/JR) – New Chitose Airport (flight 9.20 am)

    Is the itinerary on D3 – D4 (sapporo furano / biei route)possible? or too tiring? It seems to be a bit difficult (so far I only found Biei View Bus Tour) to get sightseeing tour in the area during winter. I appreciate so much if you could give me some advice on the itinerary.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Chen,

      If you are okay with taking a train between Sapporo and Biei via Asahikawa, between Furano and Sapporo, you may use Hokkaido Rail Pass 7 days for the last or the first 7 days. You will pay a regular fare for New Chitose – Sapporo on day 1 or day 8. You can find all train timetables in the link below except the segment between Furano and Takikawa.

      Your itinerary looks okay. It’s not too much. It’s feasible.


      Takeshi /

      • Nigel says:

        Dear Takeshi & Chen

        Hi Chen, I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your thread to ask some questions as we have very similar itinerary and dilemma but I would be traveling 8D7N in late February 2019 instead.

        Hi Takeshi, I have opted to plan my itinerary based on the Hokkaido 5 Day bus pass instead of Hokkaido JR Pass. Based on the calculations, I would be able to save roughly ¥12,000 on transportation (for 2 pax) if I were to go with the bus pass. However, I am still on the fence about using the buses in winter as there had been several comments that the bus schedules during winter time is very likely to be affected due to bad weather and road conditions.

        Based on your experience, how often do the buses get affected during winter? Will it be okay to go with the buses, or should I spend an extra few for the Hokkaido JR pass, to ensure i get to all my planned destinations.

        • Hi Nigel,

          Actually I always try to avoid using a bus because I get motion sickness easily on the bus. So I don’t have so much experience. And it’s hard to say “How often” the bus delay.

          As per the reviews among local tourists, it is very usual that bus runs behind the schedule. They said that it runs and lucky because it’s better than cancel. Train is more reliable than bus.

          This is not based on my experience. I cannot guarantee these reviews. You may be okay or may be not. It depends on the nature and nobody can say that.

          If I were you, I go for rail pass. But I like train much much more than bus in any seasons. The choice is yours.


          Takeshi /

  8. Alicia says:

    Hi Takashi
    My friend and I are flying from Singapore to sapporo arriving 22 Dec 2018 and leaving 28 December 2018. We are not sure during Winter what is the best things to do, we want to experience the winter in Japan hence we are visiting this period.We prefer to use public transport and our interest are in beautiful scenery and nature and good food and onsen stays. Is Hokkaido Rail Pass a good way to travel during our trip?
    Our itinerary is as below, and we are not sure whether it is workable.

    22 Dec Arrive at Chitose airport at 8 pm .JR Rapid train to Sapporo.
    23 Dec Visit Nikka Whisky Yoichi Distillery, Otaru and its areas
    24 Dec Hakadate or Lake Toya or Noboribetsu (cant decide)
    25 Dec Odori Park, Mitsui outlet, Suskino street
    26 Dec Hokkaido Shrine.. (not sure what else)
    27 Dec Sapporo Beer Musuem, Moiwa Mountain

    We are not sure what to see in Sapporo., therefore the itinerary is very skeleton. Hope you can help us.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Alicia,

      If you go to Hakodate, Hokkaido rail pass 3 days works for your trip. Otherwise you cannot get the worth of it unless you add other trip outside Sapporo. But Hakodate is 3.5 to 4 hours away from Sapporo by train. So you will spend 7.5 to 8 hours on board if you do it as day trip. You may find the timetable of trains in Hokkaido in the link below:

      If you give up Hakodate and visit Lake Toya and/or Noboribetsu, you can add other trip to get the worth of Hokkaido Rail Pass, such as trip to Furano.

      I visited Biei and Furano in my trip before visiting Noboribetsu. And also as I did, you can visit Lake Toya and Noboribetsu in one day.


      Takeshi /

    • Alicia says:

      Dear Takeshi

      Thank you for your kind reply.

      If i were to visit Lake Toya and Noboribetsu, Furano and Biei in one day (is it possible)? Also thinking of visiting Asahiyama Zoo. Could you please advise do i need a Hokkaido Pass.

      Thank you for your reply.

      • Hi Alicia,

        Do you mean that you will spend one day only to visit four places, Noboribetsu, Lake Toya, Furano and Biei? Or do you mean spend one day each for Furano and Biei, Noboribetsu and Lake Toya? If you intend to spend one day each (total 2 days), it’s possible. But one day is not enough to visit four places. If you go to Asahiyama zoo, you may combine with Furano and Biei. Hokkaido pass 3 days is recommended for these trips.


        Takeshi /

      • Alicia says:

        Hi Takeshi

        Thank you for your reply. Can we take the Donan bus or Chuo bus from Sapporo Station to Noboribetsu, in case the bus is suspended due to the weather.


        • Hi Alicia,

          If you take a bus to Noboribetsu, you have to pay a regular fare and you cannot get the worth of Hokkaido Rail Pass. Train is more stable than bus in snowy condition.


          Takeshi /

  9. ooi kuan pong says:

    Dear Takeshi

    My husband and I are flying to sapporo arriving 30 Nov 2018 and leaving 8 December 2018. We know that this period is not the best time to visit hokkaido but have no choice due to annual leave restriction. Your article is so interesting and hope you can verify my itinerary if it is doable.This is our first visit to Japan and we prefer to use public transport. Our interest are in beautiful scenery and nature and good food and onsen stays.
    30 Nov Arrive at Chitose airport at 8 am.JR Rapid train to Sapporo.
    1 Dec Sapporo – Day trip to Otaru
    2 Dec Sapporo to Hakodate by JR train
    3 Dec Hakodate to Lake Tayo by JR train. Onsen stay
    4 Dec Bus to Visit Noboribetsu. JR Train back to Sapporo
    5 Dec JR Train from Sapporo to Asahikawa then bus to Asahidaki and Sounkyu
    6 Dec Sounkyu onsen
    7 Dec JR Train back to Sapporo
    8 Dec Train from Sapporo to Chitose airport flight at 9.20 am
    (Will I make it if I take the earliest JR train at 6 am)

    Hope we can reach these places with either train or public bus and sufficient time allocated. Your comments is much appreciated.

    Thank you.

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