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The Hokkaido Rail Pass is a discounted pass that covers the entire area of Hokkaido, Japan's most northern island. From the area in the south of Naka-Oguni to the most northern town of Wakkanai, as well as Hokkaido's main cities Sapporo and Hakodate, those who have reserved a Hokkaido Rail Pass will get access to one of the most unique and scenic regions Japan has to offer.
The rail pass is only available to international tourists to Japan and offers unlimited access to JR Hokkaido rail lines, as well as some buses for 5, or 7 consecutive days. This rail pass offers great value for those who want to explore Hokkaido. Much of travel within the area of Hokkaido foregoes Shinkansen and is largely serviced through local and express trains and rail as well as bus service.
The Hokkaido Region: Japan's Northern Island
Hokkaido, Japan's second-largest island, and the largest prefecture, is famous for its unspoiled natural beauty. With numerous national parks, coastal plains, volcanic plateaus and unique wildlife, this region has a remarkable number of natural treasures.
Hokkaido sits all the way north of Japan's main island of Honshu and is connected via the underground Seikan Tunnel that allows access to the area via Shinkansen that travels underneath the Tsurugu Strait.
With a different climate from the rest of Japan, Hokkaido has various activities and attractions depending on the season. During the cold winter months, visitors to the region can experience the famous Sapporo Snow Festival, go skiing or snowboarding at one of the many ski resorts or see the Japanese red-crowned cranes at Kushiro Marshland. In the summer, the area is less humid than other parts of Japan, ideal for those who enjoy outdoor activities, cycling, camping and hiking. Due to the cooler climate, this is the last region in Japan to see the cherry blossom, usually the during the days of the first week of May.
Sapporo: The Capital of Hokkaido
The capital and largest city of Hokkaido is Sapporo, home to the aforementioned Snow Festival that attracts visitors from domestic and international travelers alike. Here, impressive and detailed snow sculptures are on display, often found in the shape of international landmarks and pop culture characters of international fame.
The distinctive Tanukikoji Shopping Street is found in here as well, an excellent location for local retail as well as a fantastic photo opportunity with its bright and colorful lights.
Also, admire the unique and gorgeous architecture that Sapporo has to offer. It's proximity to Russia and geographic separation from the rest of Japan gives much of Hokkaido a bit more of a Western feel that is still distinctly Japanese. Large, European influenced buildings and wider roads compared to the rest of Japan give Hokkaido, and especially Sapporo, a feel all its own.
The Hakodate Area
Also often visited is the town of Hakodate, home to the mountain with the same name. The view of the city from Mount Hakodate is stunning, especially at night with the city lights illuminating. Much of the city is situated on a strip of land on the Peninsula, sandwiched between two prominent bodies of water lending to its beauty.
Hakodate also hosts a prominent morning market during the day and beautiful historic district around the bay area. With the access granted by the Hokkaido Rail Pass, a trip out to this area can serve as an excellent day trip or a nice overnight venture to see one of the island's most charming destinations. Hakodate is located on the South area of the island, near Aomori, and is accessible from Sapporo via train that can be ridden and reserved using the Hokkaido Rail Pass.
The Furano Area
Another popular destination is that of Furano, found right in the center of the island. Furano offers some of the best natural scenery to be seen in Japan, with wide-open fields that are synonymous with Hokkaido along with splashes of vibrant colors brought on by plots of lavendar and other flowers. The rural setting of Furano also make it a popular destination for winter sports with its abundance of ski resorts and slopes.
The aptly named Furano Ski Resort features 28 different ski trails and is separated into the "Furano Zone" and "Kitanomine Zone." It is one of the most popular ski resorts in all of Hokkaido. Travel to Furano can be done via a short train ride from Hokkaido's capital, accessible and able to be reserved via the Hokkaido Rail Pass, and will make for a great day of outdoor fun.
A Culinary Capital of Japan
Hokkaido is also often cited as a major culinary destination for gourmets. The wide, open area of the island is perfect not just for nature, but agriculture. Some of the most luxurious of Japan's revered melons are grown in Hokkaido, and the area is world-famous for its dairy goods like milk, cream, and cheese. The northern area of the large island also boasts cold and nutrient-rich waters for cultivating amazing seafood.
Much of Japan's most luxurious eateries source ingredients such as fish and shellfish from this region. Through the Hokkaido Rail Pass, you'll have access to much of the island's most revered culinary destinations to try some of the best gastronomic experiences Japan has to offer.
Explore the north area of Japan with a JR Hokkaido Pass and discover the region's cultural heritage, where travelers will experience a distinct culture with stark differences compared to the Japan mainland.
Conditions of the JR Hokkaido Pass
- Only international tourists who have a temporary visitor entry status for Japan are eligible for this pass.
- Japanese passport holders can NOT use this pass.
- The voucher must be exchanged within a 3-month period from the date of issue.
- To exchange the voucher for the pass you will need your passport.
- The start date of the pass can no longer be changed once the pass has been exchanged.
JR Exchange Offices:
- Sapporo Station, JR Information Desk, daily from 8:30 am to 7 pm.
- New Chitose Airport Station, JR Information Desk, daily from 8:30 am to 7 pm.
- Twinkle Plaza Hakodate Station, daily from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on weekends and public holidays.
- Twinkle Plaza Asahikawa Station, daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
- Twinkle Plaza Obihiro Station, daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Twinkle Plaza Kushiro Station, daily from 10 am to 6 pm.
- Noboribetsu Station, ticket office daily from 7 am to 6:45 pm.
- Abashiri Station, ticket office daily from 5:50 am to 10:30 pm. Twinkle Plaza, weekdays from 9:30 am to 5 pm, closed on weekends and public holidays.
What is included and excluded with the JR Hokkaido Pass?
- All Limited Express, Rapid and local trains on JR Hokkaido lines
- JR Hokkaido buses within Sapporo
- JR Hokkaido Express buses between Sapporo-Otaru (Chuo buses are not included)
- Not included: buses between Sapporo-Asahikawa, Sapporo-Monbetsu, Sapporo-Hiroo, Sapporo-Kiroro, Sapporo-Obihiro, Sapporo-Erimo, Shin-Sapporo-Atsubetsu Stadium, JR Shiroishi Station-Sapporo Dome, and temporary buses.
- If you ride trains that overlap with the JR East lines, the boarding portion of the ticket will include the last station of the JR Hokkaido line which is Naka Oguni station, and the fare will cover the first (or last) stop on the JR Hokkaido line.
- There is an extra charge for sleeper trains and for the Twinkle buses.
- With the pass, no additional fee is required for reserved.
- Non-reserved Ordinary class cars can be accessed freely.
- You will need to purchase a ticket for both the express train and a reserved seat if you wish to board the Green Car.
- To access the platforms, show your pass to the JR Hokkaido staff located at the gate to the platform.
- For a reserved seat, ask the JR Hokkaido staff at the ticket office.
- It is a personal rail pass. Please always carry your passport when using the pass as station and train staff may check it.
- An unused voucher is refundable for one year from the date of issue.
- The voucher can be refunded if it has never been exchanged in Japan.
- A cancellation fee of 15% of the value of the rail pass, will be retained.
- No refund is possible for a voucher received by us more than one year from the date of issue.
- No refund is possible for a lost or stolen rail pass.