The Hokkaido Shinkansen is a high speed railway line that connects Shin-Aomori Station in northern Honshu and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station on the island of Hokkaido through the undersea Seikan Tunnel.
This line is an extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen that runs from Tokyo to Aomori and so it provides a fast link between Tokyo and Hokkaido. Most services on this route are through services that run all the way from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.
Currently, the Hokkaido Shinkansen terminates at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, but the line is scheduled to be extended as far as Sapporo by 2031. At present, passengers bound for Sapporo must transfer to a limited express service at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. There is also a rapid shuttle service from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to the nearby city of Hakodate.
At JR Ueno Station shinkansen services bound for Hokkaido depart from platforms 19 and 20. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is operated by JR Hokkaido and so is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The Hayabusa is the most common service on the Hokkaido Shinkansen. Most trains are through services that run between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen and then continue on the Hokkaido Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.
There is also one Hayabusa service that runs from Sendai Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, and one return Hayabusa service that runs from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to Sendai Station.
There are also a small number of Hayate services on the Hokkaido Shinkansen that run either between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, or Morioka and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.
There are just four stations on Hokkaido Shinkansen.
Shin-Aomori > Okutsugaru-Imabetsu > Kikonai > Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto
These four stations are listed below along with locations of interest and transfer points. For destinations between Tokyo Station and Shin-Aomori Station please see our article on the Tohoku Shinkansen. Example ticket fares and journey times are given from JR Ueno Station. Tickets for reserved seats usually cost around 500 yen extra but this can go up and down in peak and non-peak travel periods. Reserved ticket pricing is given below.
Shin-Aomori Station serves the city of Aomori; the capital city of Aomori Prefecture. This region is famous for its seafood, apple orchards, and its dynamic summer festival. Aomori City’s top attractions are listed below.
- Aomori Museum of Art is exhibits the work of artists from Aomori and sometimes hosts concerts and plays. The museum is a 10 minute taxi ride south of Shin-Aomori Station.
- Sannai-Maruyama is an archaeological site and museum with reconstructed prehistoric buildings of the Jomon era (1000-300 BC). The site is a 10 minute taxi ride south of Shin-Aomori Station and close to Aomori Museum of Art.
- Aomori Prefectural Museum is a comprehensive facility with exhibits on the region’s history, archaeology, natural history, and Aomori’s most famous product: apples. To get there take the Ou Main Line from Shin-Aomori Station to Aomori Station and then walk for 20 minutes.
- Furukawa Market is a lively seafood market where customers can buy a good hearty lunch of fresh seafood on rice. The market is 5 minutes from Aomori Station.
- The Nebuta Matsuri is a famous summer festival in which gigantic illuminated floats are paraded through Aomori’s streets. Nebuta takes place each year in early August and is one of the “big three” festivals in Tohoku. It is extremely popular, so visitors will need to book their hotels early if they want to stay in Aomori at this time.
- Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse is a museum dedicated to the Nebuta festival. Floats from the parade are on display, musicians perform festival music, and visitors can learn the Nebuta dance or practice playing taiko drums. Visitors can also learn about the history of the festival and how the floats are made. To get there take a 7 minute train ride on the Ou Main Line from Shin-Aomori Station to Aomori Station. The museum is a 2 minute walk from the Station.
This station is also served by the JR Ou Main Line.
Train fare (reserved): 17,140 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 11 minutes
Okutsugaru-Imabetsu Station is located in the town of Imabetsu and is the last stop in Aomori Prefecture before the Hokkaido Shinkansen enters the Seikan Tunnel for Hokkaido. From here one can access the attractions of Cape Tappi in the nearby town of Sotogahama.
- Cape Tappi (or Tappizaki) is a scenic headland looking out over the Tsugaru Kaikyo Strait and when the weather is clear it is possible to see Hokkaido from here. The Tappizaki Lighthouse is a working lighthouse here which is 13 meters high and dates from 1932. A little further along this famously windy coastline is a stone monument to the novelist Dazai Osamu who grew up in this region.
- A 15 minute walk south of the lighthouse is the Seikan Tunnel Museum which has displays and life-size models depicting the history of the tunnel and how it was built. The museum is worth seeing because the 53.85 km tunnel, which connects the islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, is a triumph of Japanese engineering. It is the world’s longest tunnel that is partly undersea and it took 27 years (and US$7 billion) to build from the time construction began until it finally opened in 1988. Hokkaido Shinkansen services started using the tunnel in the spring of 2016. At the museum visitors can go down into the tunnel itself, 140 meters below the surface, and see some of the machines used to dig a passage under the sea.
- Hotel Tappi is a hot spring onsen resort hotel overlooking the Tsugaru Kaikyo Strait. Here you can bathe in natural mineral waters while enjoying a view of the ocean.
- For more details of the attractions at Cape Tappi download the official English language Sotogahama tourist brochure.
Okutsugaru-Imabetsu Station is located beside Tsugaru-Futamata Station on JR East’s Tsugaru Line. To get to Cape Tappi, take the Tsugaru Line from Tsugaru-Futamata Station for 15 minutes and get off at Minmaya Station. Cape Tappi can be accessed by a 30 minute bus ride from JR Minmaya Station.
Train fare (reserved): 18,850 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 29 minutes
Kikonai Station is the first shinkansen stop in Hokkaido and the gateway to the southwestern part of the island. The Michi-no-Eki roadside station just outside Kikonai Station includes a tourist information office that can provide information on seasonal events as well as local and regional attractions. This service station also has free Wi-Fi internet access, a bicycle rental service, and a souvenir shop selling local gourmet products. Here are some local attractions:
- The Hokkaido Shinkansen View Spot Observation Deck offers a good view and plenty of photo opportunities of shinkansen trains as they approach Kikonai. The observation deck is about 36 minutes from Kikonai Station on foot, or 8 minutes by taxi.
- At Cape Saraki (or Sarakimisaki) visitors can view a replica of the Kanrin Maru warship. Originally built in 1855, the Kanrin Maru was Japan’s first warship to use steam driven propellers and carried Japan’s first embassy across the Pacific Ocean to the U.S.A in 1860. The original ship sank in a typhoon off Cape Saraki in 1871. Now a replica of the ship is on show by a field of 50,000 tulip flowers that create a colorful display each May. To get to Cape Saraki take a 9 minute ride on the South Hokkaido Railway Line from Kikonai Station to Izumisawa Station. From Izumisawa Station it is a 19 minute walk along the coast to Cape Saraki.
- View Onsen Notoya is a hot spring spa hotel overlooking the sea which is a 23 minute walk (or a 6 minute bus ride) north of Kikonai Station.
- Samegawa Jinja is an impressive shrine dating from 1625 at the foot of Mount Yakushiyama. The shrine is best known for the Kanchu Misogi purification ritual which is held here every year from January 13th to 15th. During this ritual four young men wearing only loincloths pour cold water over each other and on the final day they take a dip in the sea. This festival is accompanied by food stalls at the shrine and a fireworks display. Samegawa Jinja is an 18 minute walk or 7 minute taxi ride from Kikonai Station.
- Mount Yakushiyama is a popular sightseeing location in May when its slopes are covered in pink phlox flowers. There is an observation point at the top of the mountain with a fine view over the town.
- Specialty foods in Kikonai include wagyu beef, scallops, and mutton barbecue. Download an English language gourmet guide to Kikonai with local restaurant recommendations and a map showing their location.
- From Kikonai it is easy to access other parts of southwestern Hokkaido. Regional highlights are the hot springs at Shiriuchi and Fukushima, another Seikan Tunnel Museum in Fukushima, and Matsumae Castle which is Japan’s most northern castle. For those who would like to explore this region by car, Times Car Rental and JR Hokkaido Rent-a-Car have offices just outside Kikonai Station. Download an English language tourist guide and map southwestern Hokkaido.
Kikonai Station is also served by the South Hokkaido Railway Line.
Train fare (reserved): 21,130 yen
Train time: 4 hours and 6 minutes
Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station is the current northern terminus of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. This station is located in the city of Hokuto which is not a major tourist location. Most passengers will travel directly on from here to the cities of Hakodate or Sapporo.
A shuttle service called the Hakodate Liner runs between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station and Hakodate Station in 22 minutes or less. Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station is linked to Sapporo by the Super Hokuto Limited Express which takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes.
This station is also served by the JR Hakodate Main Line.
Train fare (reserved): 22,480 yen
Train time: 4 hours and 19 minutes
Travel times and fares given below are from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station.
Hakodate is Hokkaido’s third biggest city and has plenty of sightseeing attractions:
- Cable cars can be taken to the top of Mount Hakodate for a fine view of the city. The night view of the city’s twinkling lights is particularly famous.
- The Motomachi district is a picturesque area with many historical Western-style buildings. These buildings are also illuminated at night. The bay area of Hakodate also has many historic red brick warehouses that have been converted into modern shopping and dining facilities.
- Goryokaku Fort was built in 1864 in the shape of a five-pointed star. Not much of the fort remains except for its outer moats and it is now the site of a park and of Hakodate Museum. Visitors can see the star shape very clearly though from the nearby Goryokaku Tower Observatory.
- Yunokawa Onsen is a hot spring resort area with many hotels and inns overlooking the ocean. Recommended hotels in this area are Hotel Bourou Noguchi, Hotel Banso, and Yunokawa Prince Hotel Nagisatei.
- Hakodate Morning Market is an active seafood market that opens at 5.00 (or 6.00 in the winter) and closes at noon. There is a restaurant arcade in the market where you can enjoy a fresh seafood rice bowl.
This station is served by the JR Hakodate Main Line and the Limited Express Super Hokuto. Hakodate tramcars can be boarded at the stop in front of the station.
Train fare: 360 yen
Train time: 22 minutes by Hakodate Liner
Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture. This cosmopolitan urban center has a rich cultural scene and plenty to see and do.
- Sapporo Clock Tower is a quaint building dating from 1878 that is considered the symbol of Sapporo. An 8 minute walk from the clock tower is the Former Hokkaido Government Office, which is another historical building dating from 1888. This distinctive red brick building contains a museum and is surrounded by a colorful flower garden.
- Take the ropeway and cable car to the top of Mount Moiwa for a glorious view over the city.
- The Sapporo Beer Museum and Sapporo Beer Garden are located on the historic site of the Sapporo brewery’s founding in 1876. Take a tour of the Meiji era red brick museum, taste some beers, and then enjoy a meal in the beer garden.
- The Historical Village of Hokkaido is an open air architectural museum with 52 historical structures dating from Hokkaido’s pioneering era in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These buildings were dismantled and then reconstructed at their current location to show how people lived in towns, farms, mountain villages, and fishing communities. One of the highlights of this establishment is its horse-drawn trams which take visitors on rides through the main thoroughfare.
- The Sapporo Snow Festival is a major event in Hokkaido with giant snow sculptures and ice statues on display in Odori Park and the Susukino district.
This station is served by JR Hokkaido’s Hakodate Main Line, Sassho Line, and Chitose Line. For more information on transportation in Sapporo, please see our Sapporo Station website.
Train fare (reserved): 8,830 yen (including Limited Express surcharge)
Train time: 3 hours and 20 minutes by Limited Express Super Hokuto
Tickets & Discounts
All services on the Hokkaido Shinkansen have ordinary seating, Green Car seating, and Gran Class luxury seating. The Japan Rail Pass can be used for either ordinary seating or Green Car seating. However, at the time you buy the pass, you must choose an Ordinary Pass or a Green Pass. For Gran Class seating an additional payment is required. There is no non-reserved seating on the Hokkaido Shinkansen, so seat reservations are compulsory.
There are also three alternatives to the Japan Rail Pass for those who wish to concentrate their travels in northern Japan.
- The Hokkaido Rail Pass covers all JR Hokkaido trains except the Hokkaido Shinkansen. Some JR Hokkaido bus routes are also included. 3-Day, 5-Day, 7-Day or Flexible 4-Day passes are available. For more details visit the official Hokkaido Rail Pass webpage.
- The JR East Tohoku and South Hokkaido Pass is a flexible 5 day ticket offering unlimited rides on railway services within designated areas between Tokyo, Tohoku, and Hokkaido which includes shinkansen and limited express services. For more detail visit the Tohoku and South Hokkaido Pass webpage.
- The JR East South Hokkaido Pass is a flexible 6 day ticket offering unlimited rides on railway services within designated areas between Tokyo and Hokkaido which includes shinkansen and limited express services. For more detail visit the South Hokkaido Pass webpage.
View a complete map of Japan’s shinkansen high-speed train network.
JR Hokkaido have complete timetables for Hokkaido Shinkasen services between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station which include connecting Super Hokuto and Hakodate Liner services. To look up train times, fares, and connections quickly on this route use online English route finders like Hyperdia or the Japan Transit Planner.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by Michael Lambe, T2/pixta(1,6), aokawa/pixta(2), Anesthesia/pixta(8), matya1234(9), goro2don2ban3/pixta(10). All rights reserved.