The island of Hokkaido has an abundance of untouched and lush nature that travelers wishing to get away from the busy and hectic urban areas should put at the top of their must-visit destinations in Japan.
To get around the Hokkaido region conveniently and free of stress the next time you visit Japan, look into purchasing the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass.
The JR Hokkaido Rail Pass is a regional pass by JR Hokkaido available for non-Japanese passport holders staying 90 days or less in the country. With it, you can avail of unlimited rides on JR operated trains in the designated Hokkaido area for 3, 5, or 7 consecutive days, or 4 days of your choosing within a 10-day period.
There are different types of JR Hokkaido Rail Pass.
|Types of JR Hokkaido Rail Pass|
|Adults (12 years and older)||Child (6 years – 11 years)|
|3-Day Pass||16,500 yen||8,250 yen|
|Flexible 4-Day Pass||22,000 yen||11,000 yen|
|5-Day Pass||22,000 yen||11,000 yen|
|7-Day Pass||24,000 yen||12,000 yen|
If you are already in Japan, you can buy the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass at the following JR Travel Service Centers in Hokkaido:
|Where can you buy the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass in Hokkaido?|
|New Chitose Airport||Sapporo Station|
|Hakodate Station||Shin-Hakodate Station|
|Asahikawa Station||Noboribetsu Station|
|Obihiro Station||Kushiro Station|
You can also buy the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass outside of Hokkaido at the following JR East Travel Service Center locations:
|Where can you buy the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass outside of Hokkaido?|
|Narita Airport Terminals 1 and 2||Haneda Airport International Terminal|
|Tokyo Station||Shinjuku Station|
|Shibuya Station||Ikebukuro Station|
|Ueno Station||Hamamatsucho Station|
Outside of Japan, you can purchase a voucher from a travel agency in your home country before your trip. You can check the complete list of accredited travel agents in Asia, Europe, North America, Central America, South America, Oceania, Middle East, and Africa here.
Make sure to bring your voucher with you to Japan to be able to exchange it for the actual pass at any of the JR Travel Service Center locations in Hokkaido mentioned above. (Note: You cannot exchange your voucher at JR Travel Service Centers outside of Hokkaido.)
When you buy a JR Hokkaido 3-Day, 5-Day, or 7-Day Rail Pass, you will be asked to select a date for when you want to start using your pass. The starting date will count as day 1 of the validity period, and the expiration date will be midnight of day 3, day 5, or day 7.
In the case of the Flexible 4-Day Pass, the day you buy it in Japan or the day you exchange your voucher in Japan counts as day 1 of its 10-day validity period. Within that period, you can select any four days when you want to use your pass. Your pass is valid until midnight of day 10.
The following JR lines are covered by the JR Hokkaido Rail Pass:
- All JR Hokkaido limited express, express, rapid, and local trains
- All JR Hokkaido special trains
During the validity period printed on your JR Hokkaido 3-Day, 5-Day, or 7-Day Pass, you can enjoy unlimited train rides on JR lines in the Hokkaido region for 3, 5, or 7 consecutive days. Every time you are at a train station, you simply show your JR Hokkaido Rail Pass to a staff at a manned ticket gate to enter and exit.
In the case of the Flexible 4-Day Pass, a staff at the manned ticket gate at the train station will stamp your pass with the date of the day you use it. Throughout the day, simply show your pass every time you enter and exit the ticket gates. Follow the same process for the other three days you choose to use your pass.
With all the types of JR Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can board a non-reserved ordinary car straight away, or drop by a JR Ticket Office or Travel Service Center before your desired departure time to get a seat reservation (free of charge) on a reserved ordinary car.
JR Hokkaido Flexible 4-Day Rail Pass Sample Itinerary
Day 1: Hakodate to Sapporo
After checking out the must-see attractions in Hakodate, such as Fort Goryukaku, Red Brick Warehouses, Motomachi district, Mount Hakodate, Onuma Park, and Morning Market, travel on to Sapporo by taking the limited express train departing from Hakodate Station to Sapporo Station. The one-way trip takes about four hours, and is fully covered by your JR Hokkaido Flexible 4-Day Rail Pass. (Note: Without the pass, it costs 8,500 yen.)
Set aside at least two full days to get a good feel of Sapporo. Make sure to check out Odori Park, Susukino, Sapporo Beer Museum, Sapporo Factory, Historic Village, Shiroi Kobito Park, and Nijo Market. At one of your nights there, go to the top of Mount Moiwa via ropeway to enjoy picturesque views of the city after sunset.
Day 2: Sapporo to Wakkanai
Take the first train out from Sapporo Station to Wakkanai Station to arrive by noon. The one-way trip takes more than five hours, and is fully covered by your JR Hokkaido Flexible 4-Day Rail Pass. (Note: Without the pass, it costs 10,000 yen.)
Devote your first day touring Wakkanai Park and the city center. The next day, head to Cape Soya, which is the northernmost point of Japan, and Cape Nossapu, the easternmost point of Hokkaido, to enjoy fantastic views of the seas.
Day 3: Wakkanai to Asahikawa
Catch the first limited express train departing in the morning from Wakkanai Station to get to Asahikawa Station. The one-way journey is almost four hours long, and is entirely covered by your JR Hokkaido Flexible 4-Day Rail Pass. (Note: Without the pass, it costs about 8,000 yen. And, at this point of the trip, the train expenses stand at around 26,500 yen, so purchasing the pass has now proven to be cost-effective.)
Asahikawa’s city center has lots of shops, boutiques, and restaurants to check out. There is also the Asahiyama Zoo, about 40 minutes by bus from Asahikawa Station, where you can see penguins, polar bears, wolves, pandas, seals, leopards, and other wildlife.
For hiking and other outdoor activities, dedicate an entire day for Hokkaido’s highest mountain, Mt. Asahidake, which is about an-hour-and-a-half bus ride away. At its base, there is the Asahidake Onsen, which offers relaxing natural hot spring waters for muscle pains and other illnesses.
Day 4: Asahikawa to Otaru
After an incredible couple of days close to nature, it is time to leave Asahikawa for Otaru. Take the limited express train bound for Sapporo Station, and then transfer to a local JR line for Otaru. The one-way trip takes about three hours, and is still covered by your JR Hokkaido Flexible 4-Day Rail Pass. (Note: Without the pass, it costs 5,100 yen.)
Best known for its scenic canal area, Otaru is a quaint town that makes for an excellent day trip from Sapporo. Stroll along the canal, the Sakaimachi Street, and shop for some local chocolates, biscuits, and souvenirs.
For more information on the Hokkaido Rail Pass, visit the JR Hokkaido official website.