Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Travel by Hokkaido Shinkansen

As I wrote in an earlier post in July, hubby and I had been on a sightseeing trip to Hokkaido in mid-June for my birthday. I wrote in the post that I will write about the places we visited in Hokkaido in later blog posts but somehow I almost forgot about it. I had wanted to travel by Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train ever since it officially started its service in the month of March this year. It is the first Shinkansen bullet train line directly linking Hokkaido and Honshu islands through undersea Seikan Tunnel. Therefore for my birthday hubby arranged a sightseeing trip to Hokkaido, and we traveled by Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station in Hokkaido as well as used a few express trains to travel within Hokkaido. It was really a wonderful thrilling experience and we loved the travel by the newly introduced bullet train. Today I will write about our travel by various Shinkansen trains and express trains in Hokkaido. I will also write little bit about various colorful Ekiben boxed meals we had in the trains.


On 18th June, hubby and I left our home in Yurihonjo City at about 8.30 am and after about an hour of car drive, we reached Akita Railway Station in Akita City. We parked our car at a parking lot located within the station building, and went to the platform for Komachi train service of Akita Shinkansen bullet trains. We bought two Ekiben boxed meals from a shop located at the station platform and entered inside the Komachi bullet train. We traveled by Komachi train up to Morioka Railway Station in Aomori prefecture. The train started at about 10 am from Akita Station and it took about two hours to reach Morioka Station. We had a late breakfast of the Ekiben boxed meals in the relaxed atmosphere inside the train while enjoying the outside views. We reached Morioka Railway Station at about 12 noon. We got down at Morioka and the bullet train continued further on its journey to Tokyo. I have written in details about Akita Shinkansen in an earlier post in 2015. At Morioka Station, we walked up to the platform for Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet trains. On our way, inside the station building we saw a local traditional dance being performed by a few people of the public relations department of Morioka City. It was nice to watch the dance and song sequence.
Hubby clicked this photo of me sitting at our reserved seats inside Akita Shinkansen Komachi train

We are sitting at our seats inside the train

Ekiben boxed meal we had for breakfast

I am having breakfast

I am standing inside Morioka Railway Station building where some dance performance was going on

Hubby along with the dance troupe in the background


On reaching the platform for Hokkaido Shinkansen trains at Morioka Station, we saw a green colored bullet train at the platform though it was not the one we were to take. The train looked grand and so new, and we enjoyed seeing it in details. While waiting at the platform, we took a few photos of this bullet train, the platform and the faraway mountains and scenic views. At this point, I will briefly write about Hokkaido Shinkansen rail line. Hokkaido Shinkansen is a high-speed Shinkansen rail line that links up with the Tohoku Shinkansen in northern Aomori prefecture in Honshu and continues on into the interior of Hokkaido through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. Construction started in May 2005, and the section between Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto stations opened on 26 March 2016. Extension of the line to Sapporo is scheduled to open by March 2031. The line is operated by the Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido). The Hokkaido Shinkansen line length is 148.9 kilometers and has a standard track gauge of 1435 millimeters. The line has an operating speed of 140 kilometers per hour (km/h) through the 82 kilometers long Seikan Tunnel and 260 km/h elsewhere along the track line.
A Hokkaido Shinkansen bullet train waiting at the Shinkansen platform of Morioka Station

Mountains and scenic views as seen from the Shinkansen platform

Hubby clicking photos of the surroundings

I am standing at the platform along with the Shinkansen train in the background

A notification indicating that our train was scheduled to arrive at 12.37 pm


As written earlier in this post, Hokkaido Shinkansen train line directly links Hokkaido and Honshu islands through undersea Seikan Tunnel. Although people commonly use the term ‘Hokkaido Shinkansen’ to describe the bullet trains operating on this line, it is actually technically incorrect. In fact there are two types of train services that operate on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, and the technically correct terms for these trains are Hayabusa and Hayate. Hayabusa is limited-stop high-speed train service operating between Tokyo or Sendai and the northern terminus Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto since 26 March 2016. The train service runs for a distance of 823.8 kilometers and is operated on the Tohoku Shinkansen line by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Hokkaido Shinkansen line by the Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido). The train uses 10-car E5 series as well as H5 series sets of cars and operates at a maximum speed of 320 km/h between Tokyo and Morioka. Ten return services operate daily between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and one return service operates daily between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. Some services run coupled to 7-car E6 series Akita Shinkansen Komachi services between Tokyo and Morioka. Hayate is a semi-fast Shinkansen service operated on the Tohoku Shinkansen line by JR East since 2002 and on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line by JR Hokkaido since 26 March 2016. It also operates from Tokyo to as far as Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and is the second-fastest service on the Shinkansen lines, operating at a top speed of 275 km/h between Utsunomiya and Morioka. On the Tohoku Shinkansen line, Hayate service operates between Tokyo and Shin-Aomori. These trains are coupled with Komachi services as far as Morioka, where the Komachi cars are uncoupled and proceed to Akita Station via the Akita Shinkansen. On the Hokkaido Shinkansen line, Hayate service operates between Morioka or Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. These services are formed of 10-car E5 or H5 series train sets. One return service operates daily between Morioka and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and one return service operates daily between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.


We used Hayabusa train service of the Hokkaido Shinkansen line for traveling from Morioka Station to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. Our train arrived from Tokyo direction at about 12.40 pm. We noted that Hayabusa train arrived coupled behind Komachi train. At Morioka station, the two train services uncoupled and the Komachi train proceeded towards Akita Station. We walked towards the Hayabusa train and noted that the train cars were of the E5 series type. The train looked sleek, elegant, bold, and really great. We loved the exterior design of the train which is broadly based on the experimental Fastech 360S train, with a color scheme of Tokiwa green for the upper body and Hiun white for the lower body, separated by a Hayate pink stripe. These colors project futuristic and advanced image with a feeling of speed. Environmental performance was taken into account to create the optimum design of the shape of the nose. The train has three classes of cars namely, ordinary, green, and gran class and prior reservation is required for entering inside the train. We had two reserved seats in the ordinary-class car. We entered inside car 1 of the train where our seats were located. We could not take any photos of the train exterior as there was hardly any time and the train started with a minute of stopping at the platform. On entering inside we noted that the seats had so much leg room. Ordinary-class cars have a seat pitch of 1040 millimeters and the seating is arranged in 3+2 abreast configuration. AC power outlets are provided for window seats and rows of seats at car ends. In addition, full-color LED displays with travel information are featured on both ends of the car. No smoking is allowed in all the cars. We settled in our seats and enjoyed the interior of the train which was very nice. We also enjoyed the outside views and the passing landscapes really appealed to us. It was lunchtime and we were a bit hungry so we bought an Ekiben boxed lunch from a trolley cart that was regularly wheeled around by the train-staff. Such trolley carts selling various food items, snacks, cold drinks, hot coffee, and alcohol are really so convenient for the travelers. We had the Ekiben and clicked a few photos in the relaxed atmosphere inside the train. It was so cool and peaceful inside and soon hubby dozed off. After about 75 minutes of travel we reached undersea Seikan Tunnel area. There was an announcement and a written indication on the LED display board that we were about to enter inside the tunnel. Everyone got excited, and it was a wonderful experience to imagine traveling under the sea. Unfortunately outside was completely dark and so we could not take any photos. While passing through the tunnel, I remembered about our sightseeing trip to the tunnel back in July 2009. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life in Japan and I had written a blog post about the experience that time. Unfortunately such sightseeing tours inside the tunnel were stopped prior to the introduction of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. I feel very lucky to have walked inside the undersea tunnel. It took about 24 minutes to pass through the tunnel. And suddenly the landscape of Hokkaido spread in our view, which definitely felt a little different from Honshu Island. We enjoyed the beautiful views. After about a total of 2 hours of travel, we reached Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto terminal station in Hokkaido at 2.37 pm. The journey was exciting, comfortable and fun. After getting down from the train, we took a few photos of us with the train for the sake of memories. While walking inside the station building we saw several cardboard cutouts of the players of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters professional baseball team that is based in Sapporo, Hokkaido. I would say that it is a very nice and appealing way to welcome visitors to Hokkaido.
Hayabusa train coupled behind pink Komachi train arriving at Morioka Station

Hubby about to enter inside car 1 of Hayabusa train

Display board inside the train indicating that the train is stopped at Morioka Station

Ekiben boxed meal for lunch

Hubby having coffee after the lunch

Display board inside the train indicating that the train is about to enter Seikan Tunnel

Display board inside the train indicating that the train is about to reach the terminal station Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto

Two Hayabusa train services are standing at the platform at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. We just got down from the left (front) one.

The two Hayabusa trains and I

I am standing near the entrance of car 1 of the Hayabusa train by which we just finished traveling

I am standing at the Shinkansen platform of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

I am standing inside the station building of Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

I am standing next to the life-sized cardboard cutout of the player Otani Shohei of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball team


At Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, we took a train named Super Hokuto to travel up to Sapporo Station. So we walked from the Shinkansen platforms to the platforms for Super Hokuto train. Super Hokuto is a limited express train service between Sapporo and Hakodate, and is operated by JR Hokkaido. The service was started in March 1994, and is operated by KiHa 281 and KiHa 283 series tilting DMUs. While waiting at the platform, we got wonderful views of fields and mountains right in front of us. We were very surprised to see a couple of horses grazing in the field. Super Hokuto train arrived at the platform at 3.20 pm. We noted that the train was of the type KiHa 281 series. The front of the train and the car doors were cobalt blue colored and the other areas of the cars were unpainted stainless steel colored. We entered inside and sat down at our reserved seats. The train traveled along the sea front for a long time and we got astonishing views of the vast sea. We traveled for a distance of 300 kilometers and the maximum operating speed was 120 km/h. It took us about 3.5 hours to reach Sapporo Station, and we reached Sapporo at about 6.45 pm.
Hubby standing at the platform for Super Hokuto train at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

I am standing at the platform for the limited express train

Fields and mountains as viewed from the platform

Two horses in the field as viewed from the platform

The horses grazing in the field

Super Hokuto train is arriving at the platform. Cobalt blue color of the train front is so vivid.

Train tracks and the sea as viewed from inside the train on our way to Sapporo

Nice view

Vast blue sea as viewed from the train

We sitting inside the train at our reserved seats


Next, at Sapporo Station we took a train named Super Kamui to travel further up to Asahikawa Station. We had to change the platform and reached the platform for the Super Kamui service just 5 minutes before the arrival of the train. Super Kamui is a limited express train service operated by JR Hokkaido since 2007 on the Hakodate Main Line connecting Sapporo and Asahikawa in Hokkaido. Services run every 30 minutes, with a journey time of 1 hour and 20 minutes for the 136.8 kilometers between Sapporo and Asahikawa, giving an average start-to-stop speed of 102.6 km/h. The maximum operating speed of the service is 130 km/h. Services are formed of five-car 785 series and 789-1000 series EMUs. All seats are non-reserved, except for car 4. We had already purchased tickets earlier for the non-reserved cars. Super Kamui train arrived at the platform at 7 pm. We noted that the train was of the type 785 series. All the cars of the train were unpainted stainless steel colored. We entered inside one of the non-reserved cars and sat down at two empty seats. It was already dark, so we could not get any outside views. Earlier we had bought an Ekiben boxed meal at Sapporo Station, and we had it as a light meal in the relaxed atmosphere inside the train. After about 80 minutes of travel, we reached Asahikawa Station at 8.20 pm. After getting down from the train, we walked inside the station building which is rather huge. While walking, we saw a life-sized cardboard cutout of the professional baseball player Otani Shohei of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball team based in Sapporo. We also saw an animated cutout of Super Kamui train. In addition, we saw a life-sized nude bronze statue of a woman sculpted by Sato Churyo. It was too funny to see hubby observing the statue in details. After leaving the station building, we hired a taxi and went to a hotel located nearby where we stayed for two nights.
I am standing at the platform for Super Kamui train at Sapporo Station

Super Kamui train is arriving at the platform. Unpainted stainless steel color of the train front is seen here.

We are sitting inside the train at two unreserved seats

Ekiben boxed meal we had inside the train

Delicious food

Hubby having the food

We reached Asahikawa Station and I am standing inside the station building

I am standing next to a cardboard cutout of the player Otani Shohei of Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters baseball team

I am the driver of Super Kamui train

Hubby appreciating a life-sized bronze statue of a woman located inside the station building

Nighttime view as seen from the window of our hotel room located near Asahikawa Station


After keeping our baggage inside our room in the hotel located near Asahikawa Station, we went out to explore the downtown area and also to have dinner. The station building and an adjacent mall were so brightly lid. The downtown area seemed to be so alive. While walking along a paved pathway, we saw several life-sized bronze statues in various poses that were sculpted by Sato Churyo. One of the statues was quite interesting where a man sitting on a bench played a saxophone while a cat looked on. After walking around the downtown area for about 40 minutes, we saw a Ramen restaurant named Ichikura and decided to have dinner there. Hubby had a bowl of Ramen topped with a lot of chopped green spring onion leaves and I had a bowl of Ramen topped with a few scallops. In addition, we had Gyoza as a side dish. We shared our food, and all the dishes were delicious. After dinner we returned to the hotel and immediately retired to bed as we were rather tired due to all the traveling the entire day.
Brightly lit Asahikawa Station

A brightly lit mall in the downtown area

I am sitting along with the bronze statue of a man sitting on a bench and playing a saxophone

Hubby eagerly waiting for dinner to arrive inside Ichikura restaurant

Hubby’s bowl of Ramen

My dinner

Side dish Gyoza

Hubby relishing his dinner


On the day of my birthday on 19th June, we hired a car and traveled from Asahikawa City to Cape Soya situated in Wakkanai City. It is the northernmost point of Japan, and I will write about our visit to the cape in the next blog post. On the morning of 20th June, we visited a farm named Ueno Farm located in Asahikawa City itself. We saw various kinds of flowers at the farm about which I will write a blog post later on. On the afternoon of 20th June, we checked out of the hotel and went to Asahikawa Station, where we took Super Kamui express train service to travel back down to Sapporo Station. The train started at 2 pm and we enjoyed the outside views for sometime. We were rather hungry and remembered about the Ekiben boxed meal we had bought earlier at Asahikawa Station. We had it as late lunch in the relaxed atmosphere inside the train. After about 80 minutes of travel, we reached Sapporo Station at 3.20 pm.
Hubby waiting inside Asahikawa Station building

Hubby standing at the platform for Super Kamui train at Asahikawa Station

Hubby keeping our baggage inside the train

Hubby sitting inside the train and looks a bit tired due to sightseeing earlier in the day

Ekiben boxed meal we had for lunch inside the train

Delicious food

Hubby having lunch

We sitting inside the train


At Sapporo Station, we took Super Hokuto train service to travel further down to Hakodate Station. There was still almost an hour remaining for the departure of the train, so we took rest inside the station building for some time. Afterwards, we went to the platform for Super Hokuto service, and entered inside the already waiting train. The train left the platform at 4.32 pm, and we just relaxed inside the train. After almost four hours of travel, we reached Hakodate Station at 8.20 pm. That night we stayed at a hotel named Hakodate Kokusai Hotel located near the station itself.
Hubby walking inside Sapporo Station building

Hubby relaxing inside the station building

Hubby standing at the platform for Super Hokuto train at Sapporo Station

We sitting inside Super Hokuto train

Hubby having some snacks inside the train

We reached Hakodate Station and I am standing outside the station building


On the morning of 21st June, we had a fantastic breakfast at a restaurant located inside Hakodate Kokusai Hotel about which I will write a blog post later on. Afterwards we visited a few sightseeing spots located near Hakodate Station itself about which I will write yet another blog post later on. Then it was time for us to return home. At about 11.30 am, we returned to Hakodate Station and took a local train to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station from where we took Hayabusa train service of Hokkaido Shinkansen to return to Morioka Station. Hayabusa train started at 12.44 pm and soon afterwards we had Ekiben boxed meal for lunch inside the train. And it was once again a thrilling experience to pass through the undersea Seikan Tunnel. After about 2 hours of travel we reached Morioka Station. At Morioka Station we had to wait for about an hour for further travel by Akita Shinkansen Komachi train back to Akita Station.
Hubby standing inside Hakodate Station

Hubby standing at the Shinkansen platform for Hayabusa train at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

Display board inside Hayabusa train indicating that the train is about to enter Seikan Tunnel

Ekiben boxed meal we had for lunch inside the train

Delicious food

Hubby having lunch

We saw a huge kettle made of iron and weighing 330 kilograms exhibited inside Morioka Station building

Hubby waiting inside Morioka Station building and doing some office-related job


It was really nice to travel by various Shinkansen bullet trains as well as express trains in Hokkaido. It was also fun to have various local specialty colorful Ekiben boxed meals in the trains. It was a memorable trip.


4 comments:

wespeakjapaneseandenglish said...

Wow, great post!!!!!! I live in Fukushima. :-)

mukund said...

Nice to see your photos.....

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment wespeakjapaneseandenglish :)

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thank you very much for your comment Mukund ji.