Hokkaido Shinkansen: Travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido
When we were in Japan end-Feb, early-Mar, Hokkaido Shinkansen (Bullet Train) has not opened. But we did see a huge countdown clock at JR Sapporo for the Shinkansen’s opening on 26 March 2016. It sounded like a big deal! Of course, Hokkaido Shinkansen is only one of the few options to travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido. Will be writing more about the other options soon. For now, here’s some useful information you need to know about Hokkaido Shinkansen!
If you have the time to take the scenic route and appreciate all that Japan’s nature has to offer, take the train! There used to be two sleeper trains from Tokyo to Sapporo. However they have been discontinued: Hokutosei in August 2015 and Cassiopeia in March 2016.
Image Credit: www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018_hokkaido.html
Tokyo to Southern Hokkaido Route
Currently for trains, there’s only the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to bring you directly from Tokyo to Southern Hokkaido:
- Tohoku Shinkansen line connects Tokyo to Aomori which is at the northern tip of Honshu (Japan’s main island). The station at Aomori is Shin-Aomori.
- Hokkaido Shinkansen line connects Aomori on the main island to Hokuto, which is next to Hakodate in Southern Hokkaido). The station at Hokuto is Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.
Although they are 2 different lines, Hokkaido Shinkansen is really like an extension of Tohoku Shinkansen. There’s no need to change train at Aomori as most trains operate directly between Tokyo and Hokuto (Hokkaido).
The fastest train travels one way from Tokyo to Hokkaido in about four hours.
A reserved-seat ticket between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido will cost ¥22,690 one way. You must reserve seats. There is no non-reserved seating. Standing tickets can be purchased once the train is fully booked.
Southern Hokkaido to Hakodate/Sapporo
Even when you have reached Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station in Hokkaido, the journey is not over yet. Hokkaido Shinkansen only brings you to southern Hokkaido.
If you are going to Hakodate, take access train “Hakodate Liner” from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station at ¥360. It takes only about 15 to 20 minutes. All Shinkansen trains will connect to a Hakodate Liner, hence you wouldn’t need to wait for too long.
If you are going to Sapporo, it will take about another 3.5 hours and ¥8,000 one way to reach Sapporo JR. You can get discounted round trip at ¥15,000: www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/pticket/pdf/direction01.pdf).
Tip: If you are going to other parts of Hokkaido, use Hyperdia.com to search for that route. It is an awesome tool for you to plan your train journey in Japan. It has good train timetables and fare and other information.
Several Rail Passes to Consider
There are several rail passes to help you save money:
- JR East-South Hokkado Rail Pass: Only for overseas visitors with a short-term visa. Unlimited rides on the JR Hokkaido Lines and on JR East Lines around south of Hokkaido. Can be used on Hokkaido Shinkansen. ¥26,000 for adult when purchased overseas. Flexible 6-Day pass used within 14 days. More info: www.jreasthokkaido.com/e/index.html
- Japan Rail Pass: Only for overseas visitors. Valid for travel on all major forms of transportation provided by the JR Group in Japan, with a few exceptions. Can be used on Hokkaido Shinkansen. Available in 7, 14, 21-Day pass. Prices ranging from ¥29,110 to ¥59,350. More info: www.japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html#bm_002
- Hokkaido Rail Pass: Unlimited rides on all JR Hokkaido trains (except for Hokkaido Shinkansen) and some JR Hokkaido buses. Available in 3, 5, 7-Day and flexible 4-Day pass. Special prices for foreigners from ¥16,500 to ¥24,000. More info: www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/rail01.html
- Hokkaido Round Tour Pass (Hokkaido Furii Pasu): Unlimited rides on ordinary car unreserved seats on JR Limited Express (except for Hokkaido Shinkansen), local trains and some JR Hokkaido buses. 6 times on Ordinary Car reserved seats. Available in 7-Day pass at ¥26,230. More info: www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass/free.html
Have you tried Hokkaido Shinkansen? Would you recommend it? Do share with us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram.
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Travelled in February/March 2016
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