The Chitose Line is a railway line in Hokkaido that links the cities of Sapporo, Chitose and Tomakomai.
At Sapporo Station Chitose Line services depart from platforms 4, 5 and 6. This line is operated by JR Hokkaido and so is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
This article is about local services on the Chitose Line, for transportation to the New Chitose Airport visit the Rapid Airport Service article.
Strictly speaking the Chitose Line runs from Shiroishi Station in eastern Sapporo as far as Numanohata Station in Tomakomai. However, in reality Chitose Line services do not start or finish at those stations, but run between Sapporo Station and Tomakomai Station. All 17 stations on this route are listed below.
Sapporo – Naebo – Shiroishi – Heiwa – Shin-Sapporo – Kami-Nopporo – Kitahiroshima – Shimamatsu – Megumino – Eniwa – Sapporo Beer Teien – Osatsu – Chitose – Minami-Chitose –Uenae – Numanohata – Tomakomai
There is also an Airport Branch Line that connects Minami-Chitose Station directly to New Chitose Airport Station. The key destinations are listed below with fares and journey times given from Sapporo Station. The fares and journey times are for a Local train that stops at all stations.
Sapporo is Hokkaido’s capital and a lively city with plenty to see and do. Established in the 19th century, this city’s attractions include several grand 19th century buildings such as the Sapporo Clock Tower, the Old Hokkaido Government Office, and the Hoheikan guest house in Nakajima Park. Other popular attractions include the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens, Hokkaido University Museum, and the ropeway ride to the top of Mount Moiwa. Sapporo also hosts a Snow Festival each February during which delicate ice sculptures and giant snow statues decorate the city’s streets and parks.
Transfer here to the Hakodate Main Line, the Gakuentoshi Line, the Namboku Subway Line, and the Toho Subway Line.
This station in Sapporo is a 10 minute walk from Sapporo Beer Museum and a 15 minute walk from Hokkaido Railway Technology Museum.
The Sapporo Beer Museum is located in a converted brewery and has displays featuring the complete history of Sapporo Beer. There is also a bar where you can taste different varieties of Sapporo Beer, and a beer garden with several restaurants where you can enjoy a “Ghengis Khan” menu of barbecued lamb, or enjoy an all-you-can eat crab and sushi option. The Sapporo Beer Museum is open between 11.00 and 20.00 (with last entry at 19.30) and is free to enter.The Sapporo Beer Garden is open between 11.30 and 22.00 (with last orders at 21.30).
Hokkaido Railway Technology Museum has exhibits of historical photographs, models, a diorama, and also some historic vehicles on display including a rare JNR Class C62 steam locomotive. This museum is open only on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month between 13.30 and 16.00. However, it is completely free to enter.
Train fare: 200 yen
Train time: 2 minutes
This station is convenient for three of Sapporo’s museums and an aquarium.
Sapporo Science Center is a museum and planetarium with around 200 exhibits related to astronomy, robotics, and Hokkaido’s winter climate. It is a 6 minute walk from the station.
The Sunpiazza Aquarium shows a variety of creatures such as spotted seals, Asian otters, rockhopper penguins, as well as 1,500 fish. The aquarium is a 5 minute walk from the station inside Sunpiazza Shopping Center.
The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open-air museum of historic buildings dating from the frontier period of late 19th century and early 20th century Hokkaido. It is an 18 minute bus ride from the station.
The Hokkaido Museum has exhibits exploring Hokkaido’s history through the relationship between human culture and the natural world. It is a 15 minute bus ride from the station.
All three museums are closed on Mondays, but the aquarium is open every day.
Transfer here to the Tozai Subway Line.
Train fare: 340 yen
Train time: 12 minutes
This station in Sapporo is a 10 minute walk from the Mori-no-Yu day spa which features indoor and outdoor hot spring baths and a dry sauna. Bathing in the natural mineral waters is believed to be good for one’s general health, and you can also drink a cup of the waters which is said to be good for one’s digestion. In addition to the bathing facilities there is a restaurant on site which serves traditional Japanese fare and a yakiniku style barbecue with beef and lamb options. Open every day from 9.00 to 22.00 (with last entry at 21.30), admission to the spa costs 700 yen for adults (750 yen on weekends and holidays), 300 yen for children aged 6-12, and is free for children aged 5 or younger.
Train fare: 340 yen
Train time: 16 minutes
The top attraction in Eniwa is an agricultural theme park called Ecorin Village. At Ecorin Village you can view a variety of gardens, farmyard animals, sheep dog shows, sheep races, tractor tours, and the world’s largest tomato plant. A free shuttle bus from the west exit of Eniwa Station will take you there in 15 minutes.
Train fare: 750 yen
Train time: 38 minutes
Sapporo Beer Teien Station
This station is a 10 minute walk from Sapporo Beer Hokkaido Brewery. This is a working brewery, but has free tours between 10.00 and 16.00 every day except Monday and the New Years’ holidays. The free tour lasts 1 hour and includes a free tasting of two beers. The tours, which must be reserved in advance, can be booked online at the official webpage. There is also a restaurant on site where you can continue your appreciation of Sapporo Beer together with a Ghengis Kahn style lamb barbecue.
Train fare: 860 yen
Train time: 41 minutes
This station is convenient for Chitose Salmon Aquarium. At this unusual facility you can view a variety of freshwater fish, learn about the life cycle of Hokkaido salmon, and in the Underwater Observation Zone glass windows provide a direct view into the ecosystem of the Chitose River. This aquarium also has a working salmon wheel which is used in the autumn to catch salmon for breeding purposes. The aquarium is a 13 minute walk from the station.
The city of Chitose is also a good base for visiting the hot spring resort of Shikotsu Onsen on the shores of Lake Shikotsu. Popular activities in this area include camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and pleasure boat cruises. For those who wish to stay here, Kyukamura Shikotsuko is an traditional inn with hot spring bathing facilities and saunas, that also organizes trekking, canoeing, and bird watching activities. Also in Shikotsu Onsen, Resort Spa Mizu-no-Uta is a luxury hotel with a hot spring spa, two restaurants, a café and bar, a patisserie, and a hamburger stand. This hotel has a free shuttle service to and from Chitose Station and day trippers can also use the hotel’s bathing facilities for a fee. Lake Shikotsu is a 40 minute bus ride from Chitose Station or 30 minutes by car.
Train fare: 970 yen
Train time: 47 minutes
Exit here for Northern Horse Park. This theme park has horse and pony shows, guided horse riding tours, horse-drawn carriage tours, and sled tours (in winter), as well as land car, cycling, balloon archery, laser shooting and other sporting activities. The park is a 17 minute taxi drive from Minami-Chitose Station.
Transfer here to the Sekisho Line and the Airport Branch Line for New Chitose Airport.
Train fare: 970 yen
Train time: 51 minutes
Uenae Station is located within Tomakomai City and is the closest station to Lake Utonai. This nationally designated wildlife sanctuary is a popular spot for bird watchers with over 250 different species recorded in the area. The conservation area features a number of walking trails and there is also a Nature Center with an exhibition hall, an observation room with telescopes, and staff who can give advice on what to see around the lake. A taxi from Uenae Station will take just 10 minutes to reach the Nature Center. However, there are no bus services from this station to the Nature Center. To access the Nature Center by bus go to Tomakomai Station. There you can take a bus bound for New Chitose Airport and get off at the Nature Center Iriguchi stop. The bus takes around 25 minutes and it is another 15 minutes’ walk to the Nature Center. The Nature Center is open from 9.00 to 17.00.
Train fare: 1,290 yen
Train time: 1 hour
Transfer here to the Muroran Main Line.
Train fare: 1,490 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
The port city of Tomakomai has several long-distance ferry services which link Hokkaido to destinations around Japan. There are four ferry companies operating from this port.
Shin Nihonkai Ferry have services to Akita, Nigata, and Tsuruga.
Taiheiyo Ferry have services to Sendai and Nagoya.
MOL Ferry have a service to Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Silver Ferry have a service for Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture.
To reach the port take Donan Bus number 24 from bus stop 1 outside Tomakomai Station as far as the Tomakomai West Port Ferry Terminal. It takes approximately 17 minutes.
Tomakomai is also a convenient base for visiting Mount Tarumae. This 1,041m high active volcano has gentle slopes which make for an easy hike to the top where you can enjoy superb views over the surrounding countryside. The hiking trail begins at the mountain’s 7th station which can be reached from Tomakomai Station in 20 minutes by taxi or rental car.
Transfer here to the Muroran Main Line and the Hidaka Main Line.
Train fare: 1,680 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 13 minutes
The Chitose Line is an important rail line as it links the Hakodate Main Line and the Muroran Line. Many rapid and local services on this line are through services that continue on the Hakodate Main Line beyond Sapporo Station, or on the Muroran Main Line beyond Tomakomai Station.
Important services that use this line include the Rapid Airport Service that runs regular services between New Chitose Airport and the destinations of Sapporo and Otaru.
This line also forms part of the route for southbound limited express services such as the Hokuto which runs between Sapporo and Hakodate, and the Suzuran which runs between Sapporo and Muroran.
The eastbound limited express services Tokachi and Ozora also use the section between Sapporo and Minami-Chitose Station on their way between Sapporo and the destinations of Obihiro and Kushiro.
A downloadable route map of the JR Hokkaido railway network can be found on their English language website together with a timetable and route finder which you can use to plan your journey.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.