Winter Experience of JR Train in Hokkaido (Part 2)

Continuing from Part 1 with useful information of transportation in Hokkaido, I was contemplating whether to write about our experience. I decided to go ahead because I know it will prep you better for whatever that might happen while travelling on the JR Train in Hokkaido during winter.I must mention again as in part 1, if you are planning your train and subway journey, is a really good website! Their app is not available in Singapore, but key in ‘Hyperdia’ in your app store and you should get some good ranking apps! :)

JR Train In Hokkaido

Tomamu > (Minami Chitose) > Noboribetsu

We were leaving Tomamu for Noboribetsu, and we have to change train at Minami-Chitose. If not, the train would bring us straight to Sapporo. We were scheduled to wait for an hour before the connecting train to Noboribetsu came.

There was another option with a 2-minute stopover. We wanted to go for it, but the JR staff advised us against it. Because the time is too short for the train transfer. The train arriving at Minami Chitose might be delayed and we will miss the connecting train. Thank God we heeded their advice, more on it later.

The snow was heavy and wind was strong when we left The Tower for Tomamu JR station. Read more about our experience in the cold while waiting for the train to Minami-Chitose. The ground was covered with snow, so a local advised us to get on the train first and then roll the luggage to our cabin. There’s no need to drag your luggage along the platform in the snow.

The train came quite late and by the time it was here, it was super duper crowded! We assumed it’s because most people were heading towards Sapporo. We boarded the train and were shocked to find people on our seats! We didn’t know how to communicate in Japanese and hence pointed to our tickets and in English said, “reserved seats”. The guy brushed us off and pointed to another cabin up front. Another tourist group from Hong Kong had the same problem too. In the end, we just grabbed any other seat that became empty.

Tomamu Tower 10 -

I did walk in the direction where the man pointed and it was the Green Car cabin (not valid for Hokkaido Rail Pass). Super luxurious, spacious and quiet. Read: Not crowded. There’s even a lady attending to them like an air stewardess. So I asked her about my ticket and she said I was on the correct train and rushed off.

Later we realised the truth!

Several trains were cancelled because of the bad weather condition (heavy snow). Hence the reserved cabins of the current train were turned into unreserved to squeeze in more people. Wah, at least we didn’t buy the standalone reserve ticket, otherwise it’s so not worth it!

Minami Chitose > Noboribetsu

As mentioned earlier, good thing we didn’t get the 2-minute transfer train option. Because firstly, our train from Tomamu really got delayed, although the connecting train was also delayed. Secondly, it will take more than 2 minutes to get from one train to the other. We had to carry our luggage up and down the overhead bridge without escalator. And then we had to ask around for the train track we should head to.

Rera Chitose Outlet mall -

That’s me in the photo, before the wind blew and I slid across the ice with my luggage. Didn’t fall! Phew. We were on our way to Rera, Chitose Outlet mall because we had an hour to kill at Minami-Chitose. Put your luggage in the station’s luggage locker if you have the budget. After we rushed back to the train station from the mall, we realised the connecting train was delayed further!

Noboribetsu > Niseko (The Snow Distruptions)

After a night in Noboribetsu, we headed off to Niseko and had a rather shocking experience. Without unpredictable weather conditions in Singapore, we were not prepared for all the last minute disruptions weather can cause. What happened next shed the light as to what happened yesterday from Tomamu to Noboribetsu.

Noboribetsu in Winter -

photo taken around Noboribetsu train station

On the morning we checked out of Noboribetsu, we asked the receptionist for the bus timings towards the JR station. To our horror, she told us in limited English that all train operations has ceased! *Gasp*  What?! Are we going to be stranded in Noboribetsu for another night?! We are going to miss our ski lesson at Niseko!!

The receptionist told us to go to the train station and wait for the train service to resume, depending on the weather. So we skipped our lunch plan at the Onsen Town and headed straight to the train station. Thank God we did that and reached early, because we managed to buy tickets for the next available train while other travellers who got off the same bus as us, but queued behind us, got a later one.

Noboribetsu 2 -

photo taken around Noboribetsu train station

But still… we spent the whole day waiting and travelling. The train delays made the schedule so unpredictable that we were prepared to stay at a very small rural town, Oshamambe (stopover station from Noboribetsu to Niseko) for the night. This is when our internet on mobile came in handy as we googled for accommodation options.

Because of the never-ending wait, not knowing when’s the next train, a group of travellers took taxi at Oshamambe.. but it’s too expensive for the two of us to take a taxi to Niseko! But thank God a train soon came! Phew, we reached Niseko grateful but super tired.

JR train in Hokkaido -

photo taken during a long wait in a crowded Noboribetsu train station

If the same thing happens to you, you will find a crowded Noboribetsu station with limited seats. So if you are trying to kill time and/or find food, you can go to a nearby cafe (straight ahead from the station exit) or buy food from a convenience store (that’s quite a distance away, turn right as you exit the station and keep walking straight).

Tip: We booked the next available train without paying for another train ticket because of the Hokkaido Rail Pass. Not sure about normal train ticket, but at least we didn’t have to worry about paying extra or getting refunds.

Read Part 1 of this post: Transportation In Hokkaido

Do you have other questions about taking JR train in Hokkaido? Ask us below or on our Facebook Page or Instagram.

Related Posts: 
Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016)
Tomamu, The Tower (Resort)
Pocket Wifi or Prepaid SIM Card in Japan?
Top 5 Things to Do in New Chitose Airport Sapporo

Bookmark this page >> Overview Itinerary: Hokkaido and Tokyo (Winter/Spring 2016) as I update it with links of useful tips and navigation around Japan.

Travelled in February/March 2016

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