Opened in 2016, this shinkansen connects Honshu with Hokkaido (Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto) passes through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. The line officially starts at Shin-Aomori in Northern Honshu, but the many shinkansen pass directly through from Tokyo. You spend ten of minutes in the long tunnels feel like a subway shinkansen. Hokkaido Shinkansen line to Sapporo is under construction and expected to open in 2030.
Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto
DURATION: 1 hour
FARE: Ordinary fare ¥3190 (Valid for 2-day) / Shinkansen ticket ¥4000
BEST TIME: Year-round
Okutsugaru-Imabetsu ›› Watching the Tsugaru Strait backed by Hokkaido and tour the Seikan Tunnel by cablecar on Tappi-zaki.
Kikonai ›› Follow the spectacular coastal Oiwake Soran Line and explore the historical Matsumae and Esashi, home of Hokkaido’s Japanese culture dating back to the feudal period.
Shin-Aomori marks the end of the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo (713.7km) and the beginning of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. If you start your journey from the city center of Aomori facing the Mutsu Bay, take the train on the JR Ou Line for a few minutes.
BOARDING ›› Heading north out of Shin-Aomori along the west side of the Mutsu Bay and passes through several tunnels, the line merges with the JR Kaikyo Line (used only 1435mm gauge freight trains) at Odai branch point on the valley. From Odai, Japan’s only dual gauge tracks stretch north to Kikonai on Southern Hokkaido.
Operated by the JR Hokkaido, this modern shinkansen station sits on the northern part of the Tsugaru Peninsula and acts as a gateway to the dramatic cape Tappi-zaki (竜飛崎). You can switch to the local train from the next door station of Tsugaru-Futamata (津軽二股) for Aomori via Kanita and Minmaya. Imabetsu’s famous draw is its August Arama Festival (荒馬まつり), you will receive local’s heartwarming hospitality.
BOARDING ›› After passes through six tunnels, you enter the 53.85km Seikan Tunnel (青函トンネル) under the Tsugaru Strait. Keep an eye out for Tappi and Yoshioka maintenance stations in the tunnel. You finally meet the land of Hokkaido before arriving at Kikonai.
After crossing Seikan Tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait, Kikonai is the first shinkansen station on Hokkaido. It is a convenient gateway to the castle town Matsumae (松前) and the charming old trading center Esashi (江差). From here, the South Hokkaido Railway (道南いさりび鉄道) follows the scenic shoreline to Goryokaku continue to Hakodate.
BOARDING ›› The shinkansen passes through five tunnels and enters the agricultural Hakodate Plain.
Your Hokkaido Shinkansen journey from Honshu ends at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. Most people change trains to Hakodate and Sapporo.
CONNECTIONS ›› The electric train Hakodate Liner (はこだてライナー), timed to meet all the shinkansen, runs to Hakodate (15-20min / ¥360). IC cards are not available. Heading north to Sapporo, take the limited express train Hokuto (北斗) via the JR Muroran Line.
DETOUR: 17.9km South of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto
One of Japan’s first international trade ports opened in 1854, Hakodate is a romantic port town with an East-meets-West culture, historic buildings, lively markets, fresh seafood and coastal onsen. Motomachi district on a scenic hillside keeps a nostalgic atmosphere.
Hokkaido Shinkansen line to Sapporo is under construction and expected to open in 2030. So, let’s enjoy the virtual shinkansen trip from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto to Sapporo.
BOARDING ›› Soon after Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (148.8km from Shin-Aomori), the shinkansen enters Oshima Tunnel (32.675km), Japan’s longest terrestrial tunnel.
In the heart of the Oshima Peninsula, Yakumo is known as the only town which faces the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean (Uchiura Bay). The shinkansen station is about 3km west of the town center surrounded by rustic ranches.
BOARDING ›› After passing through Tateiwa Tunnel (17.035km), you meet the Uchiura Bay on the right.
Halfway between Sapporo and Hakodate, this coastal town is a major rail junction and a branch point of the JR Muroran Line. You will have enough time to explore the town if you change trains, but Oshamanbe offers traveler-friendly shokudo and onsen to keep you amused between train connections.
BOARDING ›› Heading northeast from Oshamanbe, the shinkansen passes through three long tunnels (totally 30km!) in Shiribeshi Region. Before arriving at Kutchan, look out for the beautiful mountain Yotei-zan (1898m) on the right.
Shiribeshi Region’s official capital, Kutchan is a convenient gateway for the Grand Hirafu and Hanazono ski resorts in the Niseko United ski resort. International skiers and snowboarders admire its best powder snow in the world.
BOARDING ›› From Kutchan, you spend two long tunnels (totally 30km!) again. The shinkansen leaves on the ground only once in the caldera village of Akaigawa, best known for the location site of Kiroro Resort.
Otaru is a nostalgic port town grew rapidly since the 1880s, a number of major trading companies and banks opened branch offices. This city has overtaken Sapporo in population during the Meiji period. The shibakoen station is about 3km south of the city center in the valley.
BOARDING ›› The shinkansen enters Sasson Tunnel (26.230km), the third longest and the last tunnel on the line.
Hokkaido’s modern capital and Japan’s fifth-largest city, Sapporo is a spacious and laid-back place. The compact city center is well-laid-out and it has a lot of parks dotted with Western-style historical landmarks, which makes a pleasant stroll.
CONNECTIONS ›› JR Hakodate Line still has another 136.8km for Asahikawa. There are direct trains to Hokkaido’s major cities and New Chitose Airport.