Sapporo is the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture and a major tourist destination. As it's home to a huge snow festival and with great access to the rest of Japan's northernmost island, many visitors will travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido.
So, what is the best way to get from Tokyo to Hokkaido? Though the two areas are around 820km apart, Tokyo and Sapporo are actually well connected to each other. Whether you favor speed, budget, the route and its sights, or even a specific vehicle, we've got you covered.
- Table of Contents
- 1. Flights from Tokyo to Hokkaido (Sapporo)
- You can conveniently travel from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo by bus
- 2. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hokkaido
- 3. From Tokyo to Sapporo by Ferry
- 4. Getting a Rental Car and Driving from Tokyo to Sapporo
- Do your research, and enjoy your Hokkaido trip!
- Get Discount Train Tickets, Japan Rail Pass & More
1. Flights from Tokyo to Hokkaido (Sapporo)
The fastest way to get from Tokyo to Hokkaido is by airplane to Sapporo. Every day about 80 flights travel from the airports of Haneda and Narita to the New Chitose Airport, in a trip that takes about 1 hour and a half.
The ticket usually goes for 20,000-30,000 yen, but it’s possible to find cheaper options with earlier reservations or with less strict travel days/times.
You can conveniently travel from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo by bus
To access the JR train network you won’t need to leave the airport, which has convenient access to the trains. The “Airport Express” is a train that arrives at Sapporo Station in 33 minutes (available since March 14, 2020), departing at a frequency of 5/hour during the day, so you won’t need to wait long.
Since many commuters use it, if you want to secure a seat, you can wait for one of the following trains, or reserve ahead (for an additional fee).
The bus, instead, takes about 50 minutes from the airport to central Sapporo, it can store large suitcases, and every passenger has a seat. If you are staying in the areas of Odori or Susukino, or in areas not far from the center of the city, the bus will probably conveniently stop nearby.
2. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hokkaido
If you enjoy also the time spent traveling, try the JR. It will take longer, but you will be able to also enjoy the beautiful Japanese landscapes, the skylines of the various cities, and the flavors and colors of the season during which you are visiting.
If you use the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which opened in 2016, you will arrive at Sapporo Station in about 4 and a half hours, when traveling from Tokyo Station to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station, and a further 3 and a half hours by express train from there.
The price ranges around 15,000 yen, not including seat reservation, but your Japan Rail Pass may cover it. In total, it will take approximately 8 hours from Tokyo Station to Sapporo Station.
From the Shinkansen windows, you can enjoy the scenery changing from the heavily metropolitan of Tokyo, to the nature-rich ones of Tohoku. One of the most distinctive areas you will pass through is that of the Seikan Tunnel between Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido, which extends to the bottom of the Tsugaru Strait.
Although you won’t be able to see anything in the dark, it’s exciting to picture that you are actually traveling on the seabed.
From Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station, transfer to the express train and enjoy the sights of Hokkaido’s most scenic spots, like the landscapes in Onuma, Mount Komagatake, and Funka Bay, and take in the nature and streets of Hokkaido until you arrive in Sapporo.
If you have a lot of time, you can take advantage of discounted tour tickets and stop in various towns in Hokkaido and Tohoku. The JR homepage supports various languages, and it’s easy to navigate, so you can plan the perfect railway trip for you.
3. From Tokyo to Sapporo by Ferry
One of the things that makes you feel a little bit rich is traveling by boat. There are two cruises a day from Oarai Port in Ibaraki Prefecture (two hours driving from Haneda and Narita Airports), to Tomakomai Port in Hokkaido.
Travel time by boat is approximately 18 hours. The price varies depending on the room you choose, but if you want to watch your budget, it’s about 10,000 yen for a shared room, and 12,000 yen for a cabin.
There are also hotel-like rooms equipped with bath, toilet, and refrigerator, where you can spend your time with your family and friends. There are also facilities like public baths, where you can bathe while gazing at the ocean, restaurants where you can taste elaborate dishes, and a vast bridge, which all guarantee you won’t be bored during your cruise.
You can also find nice towels and origami that will be perfect as souvenirs.
There is a convenient direct bus from Tokyo Station to the Oarai Ferry Terminal, but you can also drive there, so if you were thinking about renting a car and enjoying the sights on the way, this would be a good option for you (especially if you are traveling with children).
You can arrive from Tomakomai Port to Sapporo city center in just over an hour, and you can sightsee around the city easily if you have a car. When booking online you can find round-trip discounts and other deals.
The website supports English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese.
Oarai Ferry Terminal
From a mobile phone/PHS/IP phone, call 029-267-4133 (Oarai Ship Reservation Center), or 0144-34-3121 (Tomakomai Ship Reservation Center).
Open: 9am-9pm (Saturday until 12pm)
Closed Sunday and national holidays
4. Getting a Rental Car and Driving from Tokyo to Sapporo
Some people may want to stop by some of the many places between Tokyo and Sapporo, and enjoy a richer trip. If you feel like putting some time and effort into it, traveling by rental car could be your perfect trip. You can easily visit all the places you want to see.
There are three major routes: The Pacific side, the Sea of Japan side, and the inland, all of which run for roughly 1,000km, but the landscapes are different and unique, making them irresistible to people who love to drive. Since you will have to cross the Tsugaru Strait, don’t drive for too long hours, and give yourself a couple of days.
You can also rent a car via a system called “drop-off,” which allows you to rent a car from Narita or Haneda, and return it at New Chitose Airport. There are several companies that offer multi-lingual service, and convenient options, and discounts, so do some research beforehand to find what best suits you.
Do your research, and enjoy your Hokkaido trip!
The way you travel will change your trip. Before you leave, do your research, study the various options, and choose the best method for you. Also, make sure to look into discount tickets and other offers, and have fun!
Text by Minna no Kotobasha
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*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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