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Japan Railways Hokkaido helps visitors enjoy the big country in comfort, with a three- or five-day Hokkaido Rail Pass and good English-language information at major stations. Although there are no Shinkasen bullet trains yet, superexpress trains connect Sapporo south to Hakodate (and on to Honshu), and north and east to Asahikawa, Kushiro, Abashiri, and Wakkanai. A three-day pass costs ¥14,000, five-day ¥18,000; Green superior cars cost ¥6,000 extra. Train and car packages are available.
The train journey from Tokyo to Sapporo can take as little as 10 hours including connections. This trip involves a combination of the Shinkansen train to Hachinohe (3 hours, 10 minutes), the northernmost point on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, and a change to an express train for the remaining journey to Hakodate (2 hours, 20 minutes) and then on to Sapporo (3¼ hours). The JR Pass covers this route (the cost is ¥22,430 without the pass). The Hokutosei sleeper train provides greater comfort and eliminates the need to change trains, but the voyage takes 17 hours. The fare is ¥23,520 (¥9,450 for JR Pass holders).
East Japan Railway Information Line (03/3423-0111. www.jreast.co.jp/e.)
JR Hokkaido (JR Sapporo Station West Exit, Kita 6 Nishi 4, Kita-ku, Sapporo, 060-0005. 011/231–9908. www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html. Daily 8:30–7.)
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