All limited express trains between Hakodate and Sapporo pass through this route, via the JR Muroran Line (室蘭本線) in Iburi Region and the JR Chitose Line (千歳線) in Ishikari Region. The main attraction along the route is Shikotsu-Toya National Park (支笏洞爺国立公園), one of Hokkaido’s most popular destinations and easily accessible from Sapporo or New Chitose Airport.
DISTANCE (via Chitose): Hakodate to Sapporo 318.7km, Muroran to Sapporo136.2km
DURATION (limited express): Hakodate to Sapporo 3.5 to 4 hours, Muroran to Sapporo 1.5 hours
ORDINARY FARE (via Chitose): Hakodate to Sapporo ¥6270 (Valid for 3-day), Muroran to Sapporo ¥2860 (Valid for 2-day)
BEST TIME: Year-round.
Toya ›› The closest station to Toyako Onsen on the southern shore of Toya-ko. Hokkaido’s most active volcano Usu-zan offers dynamic views and geological sites.
Muroran ›› Just 7km off the main line from Higashi-Muroran, this industrial city boasts eastern Japan’s longest suspension bridge and photogenic coasts.
Noboribetsu ›› Hokkaido’s most famous onsen town nearby the steaming Jigoku-dani (hell valley). Relaxing your body and mind.
Shiraoi ›› The Upopoy Ainu National Museum and Park is situated on the calm lake Poroto-ko.
Chitose ›› Hokkaido’s airline hub offers a good link for Japan’s clearest lake Shikotsu-ko surrounded by beautiful mountains.
112km to 153.8km from Hakodate
Oshamanbe to Toya
From Oshamanbe on the on the JR Hakodate Line, the JR Muroran Line follows the scenic shoreline along the Uchiura Bay passes through eight tunnels to Toya, where you enter Iburi Region.
Some local trains stop at the hidden station Koboro, sandwiched between the long tunnels and there are no roads from here. You will find pleasant beaches with campsites near the train stations from Rebun to Toyoura.
Toya is the gateway to Toyako Onsen in the western part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park. Local buses run from the train station. Take at least stay one night off your trip.
153.8km to 189.5.km
Toya to Higashi-Muroran
Look north to see the two volcanos of the rugged Usu-zan (737m) and the triangle-shaped Showa-shinzan (398m) between Toya and Date-Monbetsu. You can walk to the historic temple Usu-Zenko-ji from Usu.
Date-Monbetsu was founded by Tohoku-born samurai chief in 1869. After passing through some tunnels along the Uchiura Bay, keep an eye out for the 1380m-long Hakucho-ohashi, Eastern Japan’s longest suspension bridge across Muroran Port.
Higashi-Muroran is where the 7km-long branch line for local trains heads west to Muroran.
7km Southwest of Higashi-Muroran
The heavy industrial city Muroran sits on the Etomo Peninsula, between the Uchiura Bay and the Pacific Ocean, with a natural harbor. There are several scenic walks and viewpoints around the town.
207.0km from Hakodate
Noboribetsu is the gateway to Noboribetsu Onsen, one of Japan’s most famous hot spring resorts near the hell valley. Frequent buses run from the train station.
Known as the lakeside Ainu village of Poroto Kotan facing the pleasant Poroto-ko (‘large lake’ in Ainu), Shiraoi is home to Upopoy (‘singing in a large groupe’ in Ainu) National Ainu Museum and Park.
From Shiraoi, the train runs on Japan’s longest straight rail line (28.7km). Look out for lovely racehorses backed by the volcano Tarumae-zan (1041m).
The coastal industrial city of Tomakomai has one of Japan’s vital commercial ports and the major gateway to Hidaka Region for Erimo-misaki . At the west side of the train station, the Oji Paper Mill has 200m-high chimneys and the world’s fastest papermaking machine. The train station offers unique seafood ekiben (railway boxed meals) at the ticket gate.
247.5km to 277.7km
Tomakomai to Chitose
JR Chitose Line branches off from the JR Muroran Line (for Iwamizawa) at Numanohata, but all trains run from Tomakomai direction and you enter Ishikari Region. At Minami-Chitose, the 2.6km branch line turns southwest to New Chitose Airport and the JR Sekisho Line heads east for Kushiro.
277.7km to 307.8km
Chitose to Shin-Sapporo
Chitose is famous for its Hokkaido’s airline hub and a convenient gateway to the lake Shikotsu-ko. Beer lovers should head for the Kirin Beer Park Chitose at Osatsu or Sapporo Beer Hokkaido Brewery at Sapporo Beer Teien by local train.
Shin-Sapporo is a convenient transport hub in Eastern Sapporo. There are some hotels, shopping malls and family-oriented attractions within a short walking distance from the train station. All trains stop here and JR buses run to the Historical Village of Hokkaido in Nopporo Forest Park.
Hokkaido’s 150-year-old 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.
About half of the rapid trains from New Chitose Airport for Sapporo continue to the nostalgic port town Otaru (32min). There are also frequent trains for Asahikawa on the JR Hakodate Line.