September 1, 2017

Tokyo to Hokkaido with Hokkaido Shinkansen

On my recent family trip to Japan, I decided to include Hokkaido as part of the itinerary. The island has been in my list of places to go for years!

We only had a week to spend so I researched aka googled to get an idea on where to go, what to visit etc. Taking flight to Sapporo is easy but to get to other places of interest around the island, the train fares aren't cheap.

At the same time, I knew Hokkaido Shinkansen had started operation from March 2016. I googled to find out the ticket price and came to know about the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is covered by the rail pass. The rail pass does not come cheap either but if used wisely, it is really value for money.

So instead of flying, we bought the rail pass and went to Hokkaido by this Hayabusa Shinkansen.

The service operates between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto in Hokkaido. The fastest one takes approximately 4 hours, with maximum speed of 320km/h. Hakodate is a city and port located on the island's southern tip. It will take another 3 hours 40 minutes if you are heading directly to Sapporo.

The shinkansen crosses the Tsugaru Strait, connecting the islands Honshu and Hokkaido through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. The track level is about 100 metres below the seabed and 240 metres below sea level. The geological surveying began in 1946! Mann.. reading all these engineering megastructure gave me goosebumps. Such technology!

The Hayabusa Shinkansen are normally operated by 10-car E5 series trainsets. It features the premium Gran Class (leather seats, complimentary food and drinks) in addition to Green Car and Ordinary Car. The Green Car offers a luxurious experience so riding the Gran Class to Hokkaido is gonna be awesomer (is there such word?) but rakyat marhaen like me only ride the Ordinary Car haha.

But fret not, the Ordinary Car is good enough; there's plenty of legroom, the cabin is spacious and what's important to us these days, power outlet (for each seat) to charge the phone, power bank, laptop etc.

If you are hungry or thirsty during the journey, the on board sales have decent selection of drinks, snacks, sandwiches and bento boxes.

Ordinary Car *image from google*

And then, there's also other facilities like bidet toilet, multipurpose room and women-only powder room (how cool!).

automatic bathroom sink

Anyway, about the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass. It is priced at 26,000 yen for adults and 13,000 yen for children if bought outside Japan. Make sure you bring your passport together as they need the passport details. If you buy it in Japan, it is 27,000 yen for adults and 13,500 yen for children.

The standard fare from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is 22,690 yen. Train to Sapporo will cost you another 8,830 yen. So you do the math!

The pass can be used on any 6 days within its 14 days validity period so it was perfect for my trip.

For more information on the pass, train routes and timetable, check their website.

Sakura in the upper part of Japan blooms later so we could see the beautiful cherry blossom along the way. But sorry no sakura photos cos the shinkansen was so fast by the time I wanted to snap photos, it was gone hahaha.   

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