Hokkaido – how to get to –

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How to get to Hokkaido

The island of Hokkaidō, the most northern part of Japan, is located about 850 km from Tokyo (calculating the distance to Sapporo), and for this reason most people choose the plane.

Since 2016 it is also available an extension of the Tohoku Shinkansen to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, passing through the Seikan tunnel. In this way, if you want to use the train, maybe to take advantage of the Japan Rail Pass, you can reach Hakodate, the main tourist town further south of the island, in about 4 and a half hours. To reach Sapporo, however, you will have to wait for the extension works of the Shinkansen to end, presumably towards, or perhaps beyond, 2030 (at the moment you need to ride another train for nearly 4 hours from Hakodate).

Below are the links available to get to Hokkaidō from various regions of Japan:

From TokyoFrom Kansai and nearbyFrom Nagoya/ChūbuFrom Chūgoku and ShikokuFrom Kyushu & OkinawaFrom northern Japan

Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) is virtually connected with direct flights, ANA and JAL to all Hokkaido main airports:

Sapporo (CTS), Hakodate (HKD). Asahikawa (AKJ), Kushiro (KUH), Obihiro (OBO), Wakkanai (WKJ), Memambetsu (MMB), Mombetsu (MBE), Nakashibetsu (SHB).

Hokkaidō is an island with a large extension (about 80 thousand square km), and if you plan to visit a particular area, to avoid spending time and money moving internally, it is good to look for a flight for your destination.

However, the flights mentioned above are mostly carried out by ANA and JAL, so they are not low cost carriers (in particular, only ANA flies to Wakkanai and, therefore, in the absence of competition, prices are never low), this way you can save some with low cost flights from Narita to Sapporo:

(JAL and ANA), Jetstar Japan, Air Do, Vanilla Air

Given the recent tourist developments, a low cost route from Narita to Hakodate has also been opened, with Vanilla Air.

By ferry

If you want to take a slightly adventurous trip, and are plenty of time, you can choose to reach Hokkaidō by ship. From the port of Tokyo there are no ferries, you have to reach the port of Ōarai, in the prefecture of Ibaraki (just under 2 hours from Tokyo Central, with a change to Mito Station), where you find a ferry, with two daily departures (by day and at night), for a total duration of 18 hours (different levels of service are available, including single cabins).

Please refer to the company’s website: https://www.sunflower.co.jp/en/

Osaka Itami Airport (ITM) is connected to:

  • Sapporo (CTS) ANA and JAL
  • Hakodate (HKD) ANA and JAL

From Kansai Airport (KIX) you can also find low cost flights to Sapporo (CTS) with Jetstar Japan, Peach Aviation

While Kobe Airport (UKB) also has direct flights to Sapporo (CTS) with ANA, Skymark and AirDo

Also from Nagoya Centrair Airport (NGO) you have several options to reach (low cost in red):

  • Sapporo (CTS) with: ANA, JAL, Jetstar Japan, AirDo, Skymark, AirAsia Japan
  • Hakodate (HKD) with ANA and AirDo 
  • Asahikawa (AKJ) with ANA
  • Memambetsu (MMB) with ANA

In the region, you can also find flights from the following local airports:

  • From Matsumoto (MMJ) to Sapporo with JAL and FDA
  • From Shizuoka (FSZ) to Sapporo with ANA
  • From Kanazawa Komatsu (KMQ) to Sapporo with ANA
  • From Toyama (TOY) to Sapporo with ANA

Sapporo (CTS) has direct links with:

  • Okayama (OKJ) with ANA and AirDo
  • Hiroshima (HIJ) with ANA and JAL
  • Matsuyama (MYJ) with ANA

Sapporo (CTS) has direct links with:

  • Fukuoka (FUK) with ANA, JAL, Skymark and Peach Aviation
  • Okinawa (Naha) (OKA) with ANA (with a 4 hours flight time, this is Japan’s longest direct domestic flight!)

By train

To reach the island of Hokkaidō, from the Tōhoku region you can use the Shinkansen, with the following main travel times to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (plus 3,5 more hours to Sapporo):

  • From Fukushima, 4 hours
  • From Sendai, 2 hours and 50 minutes
  • From Morioka, 2 hours and 5 minutes
  • From Shin-Aomori, 1 hour and 5 minutes

By plane

Sapporo (CTS) has direct links with:

  • Aomori (AOJ) with ANA and JAL
  • Hanamaki (HNA) with JAL
  • Akita (AXT) with ANA and JAL
  • Sendai (SDJ) with ANA, JAL, Skymark and AirDo
  • Niigata (KIJ) with ANA and JAL
  • Fukushima (FKS) with ANA
  • Yamagata (GAJ) with JAL and FDA

By ship

Given the proximity, some ship connections are also available:

  • From Aomori to Hakodate, in about 3, 4 hours by ferry, more connections available per day (link, in Japanese: http://www.seikan-ferry.co.jp/)
  • From Niigata to Otaru, in about 18 hours (link: https://www.snf.jp/pdf/english.pdf)

How to get around within Hokkaido

As already mentioned, Hokkaido is a very extensive island, and the surface is the same as the island of Ireland.
Moreover, as you can see by looking at a map, it is made up of numerous peninsulas and points, which make the distances even longer.

Here’s how to move around the island:

By plane

For those in a hurry, with internal flights of 45 – 50 minutes you can reach, from Sapporo, even the most remote places of the north or the eastern part.

As a general rule, JAL aircraft depart from the Sapporo local airport, Okadama (OKD), while ANA operates from the main airport, Shin-Chitose (CTS).
There are no low-cost companies.

By train

The vast landscapes of the island of the north are a joy for the eyes for those who want to move on rails. However, do not expect speed like in the rest of Japan, since, apart from a hundred kilometers to the south, in Hokkaido the Shinkansen basically has not reached yet.

The main railways of Hokkaido

Here are the main distances by Limited Express Trains from Sapporo to different locations:

  • Otaru: 30 minutes (with quick local train)
  • Sapporo Airport: 37 minutes
  • Asahikawa: 1 hour and 25 minutes
  • Noboribetsu: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Obihiro: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Furano: 3 hours and 20 minutes
  • Hakodate: 3 hours and 40 minutes
  • Kushiro: 4 hours and 30 minutes
  • Wakkanai: 5 hours and 10 minutes
  • Nemuro: 6 hours and 30 minutes
  • Shiretoko (via Abashiri): 9 hours

As you can see, especially a trip to the north (Wakkanai) or to the east (Nemuro, Shiretoko) is quite demanding, and if you use the train, with or without Japan Rail Pass, you have to plan your journey well.

Japan Rail Pass available within Hokkaidō

Japan Rail Pass Hokkaido

A regional train pass to explore the whole island (excluding Hokkaido Shinkansen), for 3, 4, 5 consecutive days or 4 flexible days.

* not available for foreigners residing in Japan

Japan Rail Pass East-South Hokkaido

For those who want to travel to the Tohoku region, pushing to the Hakodate region, where the Shinkansen currently ends, and also includes limited expressions for Sapporo and Otaru.
Available in 5 or 6 flexible days.

* not available for foreigners residing in Japan

One Day sampo kippu (一日散歩きっぷ)

For Japanese and foreign residents, a ticket for unlimited use of local trains only for a day in the extended area of Sapporo.

For further insights on how to organize a Hokkaido itinerary, we are going to prepare a separated article, which will be published later on our site.

By car

Hokkaido, with its extensive road network, long and straight paths that remind the American routes, is a paradise for those who love to travel by car (in Japan, since almost everyone travels by train, on the contrary, use the car during a trip is seen as relaxing and enjoyable). In particular, we at Around Japan, in 2012 we made a tour along the Hokkaido coast, for over 2300 km in 12 days, and it was an unforgettable experience!

You can virtually rent the car at any airport or at the main railway stations. However, be careful to organize your travels: especially in the north and east, the distances are noticeable, so organize stops and overnights to avoid finding yourself with 600 km of driving in just one day!

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