Hokkaido Shinkansen

JR Hokkaido: A Guide to Japan’s Northernmost Railway Company

Japan’s railway system is one of the most efficient and reliable in the world. Among the many railway companies operating in Japan, Hokkaido Railway Company, or JR Hokkaido, is one of the most popular.

Hokkaido Shinkansen
Hokkaido Shinkansen

Established in 1987 after the privatization of Japanese National Railways, JR Hokkaido operates a vast network of trains and buses that connect the different regions of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

With its modern and comfortable trains, excellent service, and stunning views of Hokkaido’s natural beauty, JR Hokkaido has become a favorite among both locals and tourists.

Whether you’re planning to explore the bustling city of Sapporo, the scenic countryside of Furano, or the snowy landscapes of Niseko, JR Hokkaido offers a convenient and affordable way to travel around Hokkaido. With its various types of train services, including limited express, express, and local trains, you can choose the best option that suits your budget and travel style.


Hokkaido Trains
Hokkaido Trains

JR Hokkaido, also known as Hokkaido Railway Company, is a railway company that operates in the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido. It was established on June 1, 1987, after the privatization of Japanese National Railways (JNR).

Before the privatization, JNR was responsible for the operation of all railways in Japan, including Hokkaido. However, due to the huge debt that JNR had accumulated, the Japanese government decided to privatize the company and divide it into six regional railway companies, including JR Hokkaido.

Since its establishment, JR Hokkaido has been providing railway services to the people of Hokkaido. The company operates a total of 1,106.9 km of railway lines, including the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which connects Hokkaido to the main island of Honshu via the Seikan Tunnel.

The history of JR Hokkaido is closely linked to the development of Hokkaido itself. The railway played a crucial role in the development of the island, as it allowed people and goods to travel easily between different parts of Hokkaido. The railway also helped to connect Hokkaido with the rest of Japan, which contributed to the economic growth of the island.

Today, JR Hokkaido continues to provide railway services to the people of Hokkaido, as well as to tourists who visit the island. The company is committed to improving its services and contributing to the development of Hokkaido.

One major event in JR Hokkaido history was the opening of the Seikan Tunnel in March 1988. With the tunnel finally linking Honshu and Hokkaido, it became easier for people and goods to travel between the two islands.

Routes and Services

Hokkaido Trains
Hokkaido Trains

JR Hokkaido operates 21 railway lines spanning 3,176.6 kilometers of narrow-gauge tracks, providing a vital transportation network for the residents of Hokkaido. The company also operates bus services within Sapporo City and other areas of Hokkaido.

One of the most popular train routes is the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which connects Shin-Aomori Station in Aomori Prefecture on Honshu Island to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido. The journey takes around four hours and offers stunning views of the Hokkaido countryside.

Another popular route is the Super Ozora service between Sapporo and Obihiro, which passes through scenic areas such as the Tokachi Plains and the Hidaka Mountains. The train is equipped with comfortable seats and offers a dining car serving local Hokkaido cuisine.

For travelers looking to explore Hokkaido’s natural beauty, the Furano Biei Norokko train is a great option. The train runs from Asahikawa to Furano and Biei, passing through fields of lavender and other colorful flowers in the summer months.

Aside from regular train services, JR Hokkaido also operates special sightseeing trains such as the Hokkaido Wine Express and the Hokkaido Deer Express, which offer unique experiences for tourists visiting Hokkaido.

For those looking to travel by bus, JR Hokkaido Bus offers services within Sapporo City and other areas of Hokkaido. The company also operates express buses connecting major cities in Hokkaido, such as Sapporo, Asahikawa, and Hakodate.

For more information on JR Hokkaido’s routes and services, visit their official website.

Train Types

Hokkaido Shinkansen
Hokkaido Shinkansen

When traveling with JR Hokkaido, passengers have access to several train types. The type of train you choose will depend on your destination, budget, and travel preferences. Here are the main train types available:

Train Type Description
Local Train A train that stops at every station along the route.
Limited Express A faster train that stops at fewer stations and requires a limited express ticket for boarding.
Rapid Train A train that stops at fewer stations than a local train, but more than a limited express train.
Special Rapid Train A faster train than a rapid train that stops at even fewer stations.
Express Train A train that stops at even fewer stations than a special rapid train, making it faster.

For those traveling on a budget, the local train is the most affordable option. However, it is also the slowest. The limited express train is faster and more comfortable, but it requires a limited express ticket in addition to the basic fare ticket. The other train types listed above offer varying degrees of speed and comfort, with the express train being the fastest.

It’s important to note that the train types available may vary depending on the route and time of day. For more information on train types and tickets, visit the JR Hokkaido website.

Fares and Tickets

JR Hokkaido Rail Pass

When traveling with JR Hokkaido, there are various fare options available to choose from. One of the most popular options is the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on JR Hokkaido trains for a set period of time. This pass can be purchased online or at major train stations in Hokkaido, and is available for both adults and children.

For those who prefer to pay for individual tickets, there are several options available as well. Basic fares are calculated based on the distance traveled, and additional charges may apply for certain sections of the journey. If you plan on traveling frequently, it may be more cost-effective to purchase a prepaid IC card, such as Suica or Pasmo, which can be used on various modes of transportation throughout Japan.

It is important to note that when using a rail pass, there may be certain restrictions and rules to follow. For example, if you get off outside of the valid area, you must pay the normal basic fare and charge for the additional section. Additionally, the rail pass cannot be used for JR buses or reserved seats on certain trains.

When purchasing tickets or passes, it is recommended to plan ahead and make reservations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Online reservations can be made using the official JR Hokkaido website or through various travel agencies.

Travel Tips

When traveling with JR Hokkaido, there are a few tips that can help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Plan ahead: Before you start your journey, it’s a good idea to plan out your itinerary and make sure you have all the necessary information about train schedules, fares, and routes. You can find all this information on the JR Hokkaido website or by asking at the ticket counter.
  • Get a rail pass: If you plan on doing a lot of traveling by train, it’s worth considering getting a JR Hokkaido Rail Pass. This pass allows unlimited travel on JR Hokkaido trains for a set period of time and can save you a lot of money. You can purchase the pass online or at a JR Hokkaido ticket counter.
  • Be punctual: Trains in Japan are known for their punctuality, so make sure you arrive at the station on time. If you’re running late, you can use the “eki ben” service to purchase food and drinks on the platform so you don’t miss your train.
  • Be respectful: Japanese culture places a high value on politeness and respect, so make sure you follow local customs and etiquette when traveling on trains. This includes things like not talking loudly on your phone, not eating smelly foods, and giving up your seat to elderly or disabled passengers.
  • Stay connected: If you need to stay connected during your journey, most JR Hokkaido trains offer free Wi-Fi. Just look for the “JR East Free Wi-Fi” network and connect.

By following these tips, you can make the most of your journey with JR Hokkaido and enjoy all that Hokkaido has to offer.

Future Plans

JR Hokkaido has several future plans to improve its services and expand its network. Here are some of the most notable future plans:

  • Extension of Hokkaido Shinkansen: JR Hokkaido plans to extend the Hokkaido Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo, which is planned to open by 2030. This extension will bring significant benefits to the region, including increased tourism and economic growth. (Wikipedia)
  • Introduction of new trains: JR Hokkaido plans to introduce new trains that are faster, more comfortable, and environmentally friendly. These trains will be equipped with the latest technology and amenities to provide passengers with a better travel experience.
  • Improvement of existing stations: JR Hokkaido plans to improve its existing stations by adding new facilities and amenities, such as shops, restaurants, and waiting areas. These improvements will make the stations more comfortable and convenient for passengers.
  • Expansion of freight services: JR Hokkaido plans to expand its freight services to meet the growing demand for transportation of goods. This will help to support the region’s economy and improve logistics.

These future plans demonstrate JR Hokkaido’s commitment to providing high-quality services to its customers and contributing to the development of the region. With these plans in place, JR Hokkaido is well-positioned to meet the needs of its customers and support the growth of the region’s economy.