JR Pass trip idea no 3 – using the JR East Tohoku-South Hokkaido pass

This itinerary visits northern Tohoku and southern Hokkaido. There’s a variety of scenic and historic sights, with the added bonus of being generally less busy than Tokyo and Kyoto. I’ve mentioned in a previous post that regional rail passes can be really good value and cost less than a national JR Pass. This trip uses a JR East Tohoku South Hokkaido pass that has a flexible 6 days travel over a period of 14 days. This allows for a more spaced out itinerary, which is really useful getting up into this area. There are some long distances to be covered, and the shinkansen only goes as far as Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto.

The itinerary

Day 1 Tokyo to Hirosaki

(Day 1 of pass)

Take a morning shinkansen to Shin-Aomori, and change to a local train to Hirosaki. In the afternoon you could see Hirosaki castle or the zen temple area.

Stay Hirosaki

Day 2

You have all day for more sightseeing in Hirosaki. This could include the Neputa Mura, a museum about Hirosaki’s neputa festival, the Fujita Garden, old samurai houses, or indigo dying at the Kawasaki dye works.

Stay Hirosaki

Day 3 Hirosaki to Noboribetsu

(Day 2 of pass)

This involves a bit of travelling. First, local train to Shin-Aomori, or right into Aomori if you wanted to look around there. Then take a shinkansen from Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. From there, a Super Hokuto Express goes to Noboribetsu where you can take a bus to the onsen area.

Stay Noboribetsu

Day 4 Noboribetsu

Explore the hot springs of Noboribetsu, including Jigokudani (Hell Valley). Later on have a relaxing soak in an onsen.

Stay Noboribetsu.

Day 5 Noboribetsu to Sapporo

(Day 3 of pass)

Take the Super Hokuto Express train to Sapporo in the morning. You’ll get there by midday, leaving the afternoon free for sightseeing.

Stay Sapporo.

Days 6 and 7

Two full days are available for sightseeing in and around Sapporo. The pass could be used for a day trip to Otaru (Day 4 of the pass).

Stay Sapporo.

Day 8 Sapporo to Hakodate

(Day 5 of the pass)

Take a morning Super Hokuto train from Sapporo to Onuma Koen, and visit Onuma Quasi National Park in the afternoon. There are trails of varying lengths around the lakes, or you can take a boat trip. Continue on to Hakodate late afternoon. It’s only 30 minutes from Onuma Koen.

Stay Hakodate.

Day 10 Hakodate

A full day is available for sightseeing. Options include Goryokaku tower and fort, the Museum of Northern Peoples, Motomachi, Mt Hakodate, the morning market, and hot springs.

Stay Hakodate.

Day 11 Hakodate to Tokyo

(Day 6 of pass)

You could spend a few hours more in Hakodate before you leave, seeing anything you didn’t see the previous day. You will need to take a train to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station, and then take the shinkansen from there to Tokyo.

The important details

A JR East Tohoku South Hokkaido Pass costs 26,000 yen which is less than a 7 day JR Pass. The fares for the trains listed above add up to 68,070 yen including reserved seats, which are covered by the pass. The Hayabusa shinkansen has only reserved seats so do organise this in advance. You can reserve these before you arrive in Japan at the JR East website.

This itinerary is a suggestion only, and there is scope to add an extra day in some places, or leave something out. I have tried to space out the travel and not have too long a day travelling. Bear in mind that Tokyo to Hakodate is about 4 hours, and Hakodate to Sapporo is another 4 hours.

This is the third instalment in an occasional series about using JR Passes effectively. Do you have any questions about using the JR Pass? Or suggestions about what you’d like me to cover? Please feel free to contact me.

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For further information, the ebook Japan Just for You is a practical step-by-step guide to planning your trip to Japan, starting with developing your own personal trip concept. It’s now available on Apple, Amazon and Kobo, and other stores.