The Hokuto is a limited express service that runs between Sapporo Station and Hakodate Station providing a speedy link between two of Hokkaido’s major cities. This train runs along parts of the Hakodate Main Line, Chitose Line and Muroran Main Line.
Previously this service was called the “Super Hokuto”, but its name was shortened to Hokuto in March 2020. The Hokuto is operated by JR Hokkaido, so it is completely covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The Hokuto stops at the following 15 stations.
Sapporo – Shin-Sapporo – Minami-Chitose – Tomakomai – Noboribetsu – Higashi-Muroran – Datemonbetsu – Toya – Oshamanbe – Yakumo – Mori – Onumakoen – Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto – Goryokaku – Hakodate
The key destinations are listed below with non-reserved train fares and example journey times given from Sapporo.
Sapporo is Hokkaido Prefecture’s capital city and has plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment facilities as well as sightseeing attractions. Famous attractions in Sapporo include the 19th century Sapporo Clock Tower, the Sapporo Beer Museum, and the Mount Moiwa Ropeway. The annual Sapporo Snow Festival is a popular event held every February when giant snow sculptures and ice statues are on display in Odori Park and the Susukino entertainment district.
A number of museums can be accessed from this station.
Sapporo Science Center is a 6 minute walk from this station. The Center has around 200 exhibits related to astronomy, robotics, and Hokkaido’s winter climate. There is also a planetarium which has a 50 minute standard show, and 30 minute shows for kids. Sapporo Science Center is open from 9.00 to 17.00 between May and September and 9.30 to 16.30 the rest of the year. It is closed on Mondays, the last Tuesday of the month, days following national holidays and between December 27th and January 4th. Entry to the exhibition rooms is 700 yen for adults and to the planetarium it is 500 yen. Children aged 15 or younger can enter for free.
Also nearby is the Sunpiazza Aquarium which exhibits such creatures as spotted seals, Asian otters, rockhopper penguins, and approximately 1,500 fish. Sunpiazza Aquarium is open from 10.00 to 18.30 from April to September and closes at 18.00 from October to March. Admission is 1,000 yen for adults and 400 yen for children aged 15 or younger. There is also a combination ticket for the aquarium with the Sapporo Science Center (which includes the exhibits and planetarium) for 1,750 yen. The aquarium is on the 2nd floor of the Sunpiazza Shopping Center which is a 5 minute walk from the station.
The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open-air museum of preserved buildings dating from the frontier period of late 19th century and early 20th century Hokkaido. Admission to this museum costs 800 yen for adults and 600 yen for senior high and university students. Children of junior high age or younger are admitted free. The Historical Village is an 18 minute bus ride from the station.
The Hokkaido Museum explores Hokkaido’s history through the relationship between the natural world and human culture. Admission costs 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for senior high and university students. Children of junior high age or younger are admitted free. There is also a combination ticket for both the museum and the Historical Village which costs 1,200 yen for adults and 700 yen for students. The Hokkaido Museum is a 15 minute bus ride from the station. For both the village and museum take bus 22 from bus stop 10 outside the station.
Both the Hokkaido Museum and the Historical Village of Hokkaido have the same opening hours. Between May and September they are open from 9.00 to 17.00 and between October and April they close at 16.30. They are closed on Mondays and between December 29th and January 3rd.
Transfer at this station to Sapporo Municipal Subway’s Tozai Line.
Train fare: 660 yen
Train time: 8 minutes
Northern Horse Park is a 17 minute taxi drive from Minami-Chitose Station. This theme park has horse and pony shows, horse riding tours with guides, horse-drawn carriage tours and also sled tours (in winter), as well as land car, cycling, balloon archery, laser shooting and other sporting activities.
Transfer at this station to the Sekisho Line and the Airport Branch Line of the Chitose Line.
Train fare: 1,600 yen
Train time: 28 minutes
Tomakomai is a port city with a number of ferry services linking Hokkaido to destinations around Japan. Four companies operate ferry services from this port.
Shin Nihonkai Ferry operate services to Akita, Nigata, and Tsuruga.
Taiheiyo Ferry operate services to Sendai and Nagoya.
MOL Ferry operate a service to Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Silver Ferry operate a service for Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture.
Donan Bus number 24 runs to the Tomakomai West Port Ferry Terminal from bus stop 1 outside Tomakomai Station and takes approximately 17 minutes.
Tomakomai is also a convenient base for visits to two nearby sights of outstanding natural beauty.
Mount Tarumae is a 1,041m high active volcano and registered as a Hokkaido Natural Monument. This mountain’s gentle slopes make hiking to the summit relatively easy, but from the top there are wonderful 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.
Lake Shikotsu is on the far side of Mount Tarumae and can be accessed by rental car or taxi from Tomakomai. Popular activities here include canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, hiking, camping and pleasure boat cruises. Shikotsu Onsen is a hot spring spa resort on the east side of the lake that is a 30 minute drive from Tomakomai Station. Popular resort hotels here are Kyukamura Shikotsuko, a traditional Japanese inn with hot spring bathing facilities and saunas and Resort Spa Mizu-no-Uta, a high-end luxury hotel with a hot spring spa, two restaurants, a café and a bar.
Transfer at Tomakomai Station to the Hidaka Main Line.
Train fare: 2,830 yen
Train time: 45 minutes
Noboribetsu is famous for its volcanic hot springs, but it also has easy access to forested nature trails and a number of theme parks.
Noboribetsu Onsen is a hot spring resort which is 15 minutes by bus from Noboribetsu Station. There is a public bath where day trippers can take a soak in the natural mineral waters and many hotels here open their public baths to day trippers too. Jigokudani (literally “Hell Valley”) is a dramatic landscape of smoking rocks and sulfurous fumes which is 5 minutes on foot from the resort. Two traditional inns in this area are Dai-ichi Takimotokan and Kashoutei Hanaya. These ryokan offer old-fashioned hospitality, the finest local cuisine, and luxurious bathing facilities.
Noboribetsu Marine Park Nixe is an amusement park and aquarium which is 4 minutes on foot from Noboribetsu Station. The park features a replica Danish castle, an aqua tunnel for an undersea experience, and rides such as a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, and gondola ride.
Noboribetsu Date Jidaimura is a recreation of an Edo era village where you can dress up in historical clothes and watch dramatic samurai, ninja, and geisha peformances. This theme park is a 10 minute bus ride or 5 minutes by taxi from Noboribetsu Station.
Train fare: 4,250 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 11 minutes
Transfer here to the branch line of the Muroran Main Line for services bound for Muroran.
Train fare: 4,690 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 24 minutes
This station serves the town of Toyako which is named after the nearby Lake Toya. This scenic crater lake with its clear blue waters is a popular sightseeing destination with boating, hiking, canoeing, camping and horseback trekking all being popular activities. A ropeway leads up to observation decks on nearby Mount Usu from which you can view both the sparkling waters of the lake and the waves on Uchiura Bay. Toyako Onsen is a hot spring resort on the edge of the lake which has several luxury hotels. Of these the Lake View Toya Nonokaze Resort has standout facilities with indoor and outdoor mineral baths, a sauna, three restaurants, a patisserie/café, and a glass art gallery. The spacious guest rooms also have superb panoramic views over the lake.
Train fare: 5,830 yen
Train time: 1 hours and 52 minutes
This station is a convenient exit point for Onuma Quasi-National Park a picturesque area dominated by the Onuma and Konuma lakes and by the 1,131m high Mount Komagatake. Popular activities in this area include boating, canoeing, cycling, horseback trekking, fishing, and snowshoeing in winter. This area is particularly famous for its colorful fall foliage.
Train fare: 8,360 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 25 minutes
This station is currently the northern terminus of the Hokkaido Shinkansen which provides a direct link between Hokkaido and Tokyo.
Train fare: 8,910 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 34 minutes
This station in Hakodate is named after the star-shaped Goryokaku Fort which was built in 1866. The site of the fort is now a park, but its five-pointed star shape can be seen very clearly in its outer moats. Nearby Goryokaku Tower offers excellent views over the fort. A bus runs between the station area and the fort in 15 minutes or you can take a taxi and be there in 7 minutes.
Transfer here to the South Hokkaido Railway Line for services bound for Kikonai.
Train fare: 8,910 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 46 minutes
Hakodate is Hokkaido’s third biggest city and has numerous sightseeing attractions. Taking one of Hakodate’s tramcars is a good way to see the city and these can be boarded from a stop outside the Hakodate Station.
Hakodate’s most famous sight is the spectacular nighttime city view from the top of Mount Hakodate. To see it take a 3 minute cable car trip on the Mount Hakodate Ropeway.
Hakodate’s Motomachi district is a scenic area with many historical Western-style buildings which are illuminated at night. Hakodate’s bay area also has many historic red brick warehouses that have been converted into restaurants and shops.
Yunokawa Onsen is a hot spring resort with many hotels overlooking the sea. Yunokawa Prince Hotel Nagisatei has large indoor and outdoor mineral baths with views of the ocean, a mixture of Western and traditional Japanese style rooms, and facilities that include a sauna, a buffet restaurant with an open kitchen, and a souvenir shop. Bourou Noguchi Hakodate is a modern luxury hotel with indoor and outdoor baths overlooking the city, a dry sauna, a Sky Salon for twilight views, Western and Japanese style guest rooms, and private dining.
Hakodate Morning Market is a lively seafood market that opens at 5.00 (or 6.00 in the winter) and closes at noon. The restaurant arcade in the market is famous for its fresh seafood rice bowls.
Train fare: 8,910 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 51 minutes
There are 11 Hokuto services from Sapporo each day and 12 return services from Hakodate. To plan your trip use the timetable and route finder on the official JR Hokkaido English language website. A downloadable route map can be found on the same website.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by Michael Lambe and Angkana Unthaya. All rights reserved.