Launch of Hokkaido Shinkansen

Goryokaku_Park-smaller

From March 2016 there will be an even speedier way to reach Hokkaido, which has been voted Japan's best prefecture 7 years in a row. The new Hokkaido Shinkansen will take just 4 hours 10 minutes to zip you up to this northern island. Find out what Hokkaido has in store for visitors!

Japanese citizens have voted Hakodate in Hokkaido as the country’s most attractive tourist destination – which is great news for foreign visitors, as train travel to Hokkaido will be quicker than ever as of 26 March 2016.

The new Hokkaido Shinkansen route will connect Tokyo station with Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station in Hokkaido in just 4 hours 2 minutes via bullet train (‘shinkansen’ means bullet train in Japanese). This new, direct service will save travellers considerable time; at present this journey takes an average of 5 hours 50 minutes, including changes.  
Train man Hakodate 
In terms of tourist satisfaction, the survey by Brand Research Institute, a Tokyo-based think tank, found that Hokkaido was voted the number one prefecture by Japanese travellers, based on 77 criteria including attractiveness and willingness to visit. The nature-filled prefecture secured four out of ten spots for the most attractive destination in the country, with Sapporo gaining second place after Hakodate.
Gran Class on the Hokkaido shinkansen
Visitors to Hakodate, which is celebrated for its historical buildings, landscapes and gourmet cuisine, will have to take a short ride on the new ‘Hakodate Liner’ train to reach the area from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station. Must-see sights in Hakodate include:

* The night view from Mt. Hakodate - rated 3-stars by the Michelin Green Guide to Japan.

* Yunokawa Onsen – a hot spring resort with spas for people and monkeys.

* Hakodate morning market – one of the largest in Japan and where visitors can fish for their own fresh squid. You can also try squid-ink flavour ice cream!
 
* Goryokaku - a star-shaped fort that is a spectacular setting for cherry blossom viewing in spring (early to mid-May, so later in spring than on the main island of Japan) and home to Milkissimo; a gourmet Hokkaido gelateria serving up local flavours including corn, soy bean, pumpkin milk, purple sweet potato and Japanese rose yogurt.
Goryokaku Park
* Bayside Red Brick Warehouse district – historic red-brick buildings are now home to some 40 unique shops and cafes.

* Motomachi - Hakodate was one of the first ports in Japan to open its doors to foreign trade, some 150 years ago. As a result many traders from Russia, China and Western countries moved to the area and buildings such as foreign churches, old consulate buildings and residences can still be seen today.

* Onuma Park – just 20 minutes by train from Hakodate, this Quasi-National Park is a nature-lover’s paradise with an active volcano and island studded lakes. The park offers a variety of activities such as leisurely strolls around the lakes, cycling, camping and pleasure boat rides out to the islands.

Find out more about Hakodate on their website: www.hakodate.travel/en/.

The new bullet train route will extend the existing northbound shinkansen service – Hayabusa Shinkansen – which currently travels from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori station in northern Honshu. After leaving Shin-Aomori station, the Hokkaido-bound shinkansen will stop at two stations along the new route; Okutsugaru-Imabetsu Station and Kikonai Station, before reaching its final destination at Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station. The journey from Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station will take approximately 1 hour 50 minutes.

The interior layout of the shinkansen trains set to run this route will comprise of ten cars with three separate classes; ordinary cars with 658 seats, first-class (green) cars with 55 seats and Gran Class cars with just 18 exclusive seats. Despite the 198mph (318 km/ph) travel speed, Japan’s shinkansen provide a fantastically smooth, comfortable ride in each of its three classes.

Prices

Currently, most visitors to Hokkaido fly to the island. The new faster train service will make it easier for travellers to fit a train journey to Hokkaido into their itinerary and could save travellers money at peak times during the ski season and also for the popular Sapporo’s Snow Festival held every February. JR Hokkaido have announced that a reserved-seat ticket for bullet-train service between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido will cost ¥22,690 (£122) per adult. A ticket for travel between Shin-Aomori (at the top of Honshu, the island Tokyo is on) and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (on Hokkaido) has been set at ¥7,260 (£39). However this route is also covered by the JR rail pass, which allows non-residents of Japan unlimited access to bullet trains and JR lines (with a few exceptions) for just ¥29,110 (£154) for 7 days' of travel. It is important to note that the Hayabusa shinkansen is one of the few where there is no non-reserved seating. A seat reservation is mandatory. When all seats are booked out, a number of standing tickets will be available.

Travellers to Hokkaido’s popular ski resorts will also be able to make use of the new shinkansen route. Visitors heading to Niseko, for example, will be able to take a local JR train Shin-Hakodate Hokuto station to Niseko in 2 hours 40 minutes. Find out more about skiing in Niseko here: www.niseko.ne.jp/en/.

You can find out more details about the new Hokkaido Shinkansen here.