The main rail route between Sapporo and Eastern Hokkaido on the JR Sekisho and Nemuro lines, the limited express train passes through the forested mountains and land of sprawling fields. You can easily get off the train for relax, outdoors or wine tasting.
DURATION: Limited express 4 hours
ORDINARY FARE: ¥6820 (Valid for 3-day)
BEST TIME: June to October. December to March for winter wonderland.
Tomamu ›› Skiing or overlooking the dramatic unkai (sea of clouds) at this Hokkaido’s most inland resort with its high-rise hotels.
Shintoku ›› Shintoku is famed for high-quality soba, the train station area has some excellent noodle shops and restaurants. It is worth a stopover for lunch.
Obihiro ›› Discovering Tokachi’s cosmopolitan capital with its numerous reputable restaurants, sweet shops and onsen sento (bathhouses).
Ikeda ›› The scenic Wine Castle is a few minutes’ walk from the train station. Of course you can taste wine of the day.
0km to 44.0km
Sapporo to Minami-chitose
The limited express train Tokachi for Obihiro and the limited express train Ozora for Kushiro (via Obihiro) depart from Sapporo. The first stop of the limited express train on the JR Chitose Line is Shin-Sapporo. Local trains on the JR Sekisho Line leave from Chitose.
44.0km to 87.0km
Minami-Chitose to Shin-Yubari
JR Sekisho Line officially starts at Minami-Chitose (all trains stop here), the junction for New Chitose Airport and Tomakomai. The line crosses the JR Muroran Line at Oiwake (in Iburi Region). Before passing through Takinoue, look out on the right for a red brick hydroelectric power plant (built in 1925) along the Ryusenkyo gorge.
Shin-Yubari is a southern gateway of Yubari (in Sorachi Region), once the ‘capital of coal’ and 117,000 people lived here in 1960. You will find the mining remnants and declining towns along Yubari-gawa.
121.3km to 142.6km
Shin-Yubari to Tomamu
The line from Shin-Yubari to Shintoku, in the deep Hidaka Mountains, was completed in 1981, with many tunnels and bridges. There are no local trains this section, but the ordinary ticket (or the Seishun 18) users can be take the limited express train’s non-reserved seats (need to change trains at Shintoku).
The peaceful village Shimukappu (in Kamikawa Region), once Hokkaido’s most inland village, embraced by the majestic forest in the mountains.
142.6km to 176.4km
Tomamu to Shintoku
Tomamu is one of Hokkaido’s most accessible ski resorts, with its own train station at the base of slopes. Free shuttles buses, timed to meet all trains, make a few minutes run to the Resort Center.
A few kilometers after Tomamu the train heads into Shin-Karikachi Tunnel (5810m) on the border between Kamikawa Region and Tokachi Region. From where, the dramatic highland farm spreads out of the train.
The refreshing highland town Shintoku is a main gateway of Western Tokachi and the end of the JR Sekisho Line. The train enters the vast Tokachi Plain on the JR Nemuro Line.
If you plan to head north to Furano on the JR Nemuro Line, the alternative JR buses run between Shintoku and Higash-Shikagoe (in Minamifurano), from where you can catch a train.
Tokachi Region’s capital and transport hub, Obihiro boasts numerous reputable restaurants, sweet shops and onsen sento (public bathhouses). A well-laid-out city center was modeled on Washington DC, which makes an ideal for pleasant strolling. It is hot in summer and cold in winter.
From Obihiro Station bus terminal located at the north gate, local buses run to Shikaribetsu-kohan Onsen, Kamishihoro, Nukabira Gensenkyo, Tokachigawa Onsen, Hiroo and Rikubetsu.
244.4km to 348.5km
Ikeda to Kushiro
Soon after Atsunai you meet the Pacific Ocean and enters Kushiro Region. A few kilometers after Onbetsu, the train passes into the peaceful brackish marsh Pashikuru-numa and the fishing town Shiranuka.
Kushiro is Eastern Hokkaido’s largest port town and one of Japan’s premier fishing bases facing the Pacific Ocean. Summer is often cool and grey, but a foggy night on the river bank is fantastic. A wide variety of tasty seafood and sushi fascinates many travelers.
The scenic rail lines head east for Nemuro on the JR Hanasaki Line and north for Abashiri on the JR Senmo Line. Long-distance buses run to Akanko Onsen, Kitami and Rausu.