Breakdown of How to Travel from Tokyo to Hokkaido! Need the Best Way to Get There? Here’s How!

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Written by Editorial department

Hokkaido is a treasure trove of picturesque spots that are sure to impress your inner shutterbug and friends back home on social media. With UNESCO World Heritage sites like Shiretoko and more, Hokkaido boasts broad, sweeping landscapes, vibrant seasons and must-see landmarks like the Sapporo Clock Tower and Otaru Canal.

With so much to see and do, there are many travelers looking for the best way to get to Hokkaido from Tokyo.

A Guide to the Best Transportation Methods between Tokyo and Hokkaido
A Guide to the Best Transportation Methods between Tokyo and Hokkaido

There are many non-stop ways to get between Hokkaido and Tokyo, but each route has its perks. In this breakdown we’ll cover the merits and demerits of each route based on cost, travel time and accessibility. We’ll also add a few notes on which will help you enjoy the journey all the more.

1. What are the general ways to get from Tokyo to Hokkaido?

While people tend to mention “Hokkaido” as a single destination, Hokkaido is an especially vast area with considerable distance between each city. There are a number of routes and transportation methods available, but your best pick will depend ultimately on the region you plan to see and how you plan to get there. In broad terms, the major routes to expect will include either plane, Shinkansen (bullet train), ferry or rental car.

Traveling from Tokyo to Hokkaido By Plane

There are over 10 airports across the whole of Hokkaido, but New Chitose Airport provides easiest access to Sapporo Station.

Haneda Airport and Narita Airport are the two major airports that will get you there from Tokyo. These two airports have different travel points to note, so we’ll introduce them as separate starting points.

Starting at Haneda Airport

Travel from Haneda Airport has many perks, including its convenient access putting it only a 30-minute train ride from central Tokyo. The airport provides a large selection of domestic flights, making it a hub airport from Tokyo to many places across Japan. For Haneda to New Chitose, there are over 50 flights available on any given day.

Traveling from Narita Airport

Narita Airport is located in Chiba, the neighboring prefecture next to Tokyo. It services over 115 cities across the world, making it the world’s gateway to Japan. The airport is known for having a wider selection of international than domestic flights, but in recent years, the increased number of budget airlines in Narita’s LCC terminal has drastically increased the number of domestic flights.

There are 2 Airports To Fly from in Tokyo
There are 2 Airports To Fly from in Tokyo

Located about 1 hour by train and 1.5 hours from central Tokyo, it’s hard to say that Narita is in a convenient location. Narita also has three different terminals where the third is especially distanced from the other two. Factoring the time to get between terminals on the airport campus, it’s important to prepare enough time to get to your final terminal.

Just like Haneda and Narita Airports in Tokyo, you’ll need to ride a train or bus from New Chitose Airport in Hokkaido to get to the city. When comparing the cost of traveling from Tokyo to Sapporo Station, its important to include the time and fair for the transportation you use to get from Airport to station.

If you decide to take an LCC from Narita Airport, the distance between Tokyo Station and Narita Airport is greater than the distance between Tokyo Station and Haneda Airport, so the transportation cost and travel time will be that much greater.

Going from Tokyo to Hokkaido By Shinkansen

The Hokkaido Shinkansen line first opened in 2016, making it possible to travel from Tokyo Station to Hokkaido by bullet train.

However, the final Hokkaido Shinkansen is Shin Hakodate Hokuto Station (as of October 2019), so you will still need additional trains and/or buses if your final destination is Sapporo.

The Direct Shinkansen Line to Sapporo is Expected to Open in 2030
The Direct Shinkansen Line to Sapporo is Expected to Open in 2030

From Tokyo to Hokkaido By Ferry

Another option from Tokyo to Hokkaido is to travel by ferry, which offers a view of the Pacific Ocean along the way. While the ferry departs from Oarai Port and arrives in Tomakomai Port, there are convenient bus options that run from Tokyo St. to Oarai Port, and from Tomakomai Port to Sapporo St. For a discount, make sure to find ferry plans that include bus fare for an even more wallet friendly option to Sapporo.

A Leisurely Ferry Trip with Oceanside View
A Leisurely Ferry Trip with Oceanside View

Rental Car Options from Tokyo to Hokkaido

Renting a car is another option that will get you to Hokkaido by driving through Tohoku region. Driving can make for a fun roadtrip set to your own design, but the total trek will set you back 17 hours, so you will want to plan for this length of time.

At the end you will also need to travel by Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry, the straight that separates Japan’s main Honshu Island and Hokkaido. Considering the total cost of highway tolls, ferry fee, rental car fee and fuel, the total cost of renting a car can add up.

Rental Car Options for the Most Travel Freedom
Rental Car Options for the Most Travel Freedom

2. The Costs and Time per Each Travel Option

Here’s a breakdown of just how much you may spend per each transportation option. This comparison is based on data as of March 2020.

A Full Cost and Time Comparison per Travel Method
A Full Cost and Time Comparison per Travel Method

Flights Departing from Haneda Airport

You can get from Tokyo Station to Sapporo Station via a flight from Haneda Airport in 3 steps:

  1. Take a train or limousine bus from Tokyo St. to Haneda Airport
  2. Fly from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport
  3. Take a train or highway bus from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo St.
The Route from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport.
The Route from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport.

Below are approximate travel time and costs for routes starting from Haneda Airport:

1. From Tokyo Station to Narita Airport

If going by train...

Keikyu Line
Start at Tokyo St. by taking the JR Tokaido Line to Shinagawa St. Here you’ll transfer to the Keikyu Line and ride it to the Haneda Airport Domestic Terminal Station.
Total travel times average 30-40 minutes for a total fare of 460 yen.

Tokyo Monorail
Start at Tokyo Station by taking the JR Yamanote Line to Hamamatsucho St. Here you’ll transfer to the Tokyo Monorail and ride it until Haneda Airport Terminal 2 Station.
Total travel times average 30 minutes for a total fare of 649 yen.

(Prices shown are cost when using an electronic IC prepaid transportation card)

If going by bus...

Board the bus at Tokyo Station Yaesu North Exit (Tekko Building).

Total travel times average 50-60 minutes for a total fare of 950 yen (*bus departing at 3:55am is 1,900 yen).

2. From Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport

The flight from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport takes approx. 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Prices for economy fare range between 8,000 and 40,000 yen.

3. From New Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station

  • By train: total travel time by JR Rapid Airport train is about 40 minutes for a fare of 1,150 yen
  • By bus: total travel time is about 75 minutes for a fare of 1,100 yen

Adding the approximate travel times of all 3 steps, you can expect a trip from Haneda Airport to Sapporo Station. To take about 4-5 hours.

For cost, the cheapest flights can afford a trip for around 10,000 yen, but it is more realistic to expect somewhere between 20,000-40,000 yen based on average fare of flights from Haneda.

LCCs Departing from Narita Airport

LCC is an acronym for low cost carrier, which are airlines that offer bottom-line costs by simplifying the operation costs and flight-related services they provide. Conversely, traditional airline companies like Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways are referred to as “full-service carriers” to differentiate between the two.

Route from Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport
Route from Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport

LCCs offering flights from Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport include Jetstar Japan, Spring Airlines Japan, and Peach Aviation. Each company has different pricing, services and operating rules. LCCs often after low base fares for flight, but depending on carrier, you may see additional charges in addition to the plane fare. Please make sure to take note. Just like Haneda Airport, the route via Narita Airport can be broken into 3 steps:

  1. Take a train or limousine bus from Tokyo St. to Narita Airport
  2. Fly from Narita to New Chitose Airport
  3. Take a train or highway bus from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo St.

Below are approximate travel time and costs:

1. Tokyo Station to Narita Airport

If going by train...

JR Sobu Rapid Line
Start at Tokyo Station and take the JR Sobu Rapid Line to Narita Airport Terminal 2·3 Station.
Total travel time averages 90 minutes for a fare of 1,342 yen

Narita Express
Start at Tokyo St. and take the JR Narita Express to Narita Airport Terminal 2·3 Station
Total travel time is about 50 minutes at a fare of 3,072 yen

Keisei Main Line
Start at Tokyo St. and take the JR Yamanote Line to Nippori Station. Transfer here to the Keisei Main Line and get off at Narita Airport Terminal 2·3 Station
Total travel time is about 90 minutes for a fare of 1,199 yen

Skyliner
Start at Tokyo Station and take the JR Yamanote Line to Nippori Station. Transfer here to the Keisei Main Line and get off at Narita Airport Terminal 2·3 Station
Total travel time is about 55 minutes at a fare of 2,664 yen

(Prices shown are cost when using an electronic IC prepaid transportation card)

If going by bus...

Total travel time is approx. 80-90 minutes for a fare of about 1,000 yen

2. Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport

The flight from Narita Airport to New Chitose Airport takes about 1 hour 50 minutes. Economy seats will cost about 4,900-28,000 yen

3. New Chitose Airport to Sapporo Station (identical to taking a flight from Haneda)

  • By train: total travel time by JR Rapid Airport train is about 40 minutes for a fare of 1,150 yen
  • By bus: total travel time is about 75 minutes for a fare of 1,100 yen

If you add the travel time of all 3 steps, the trip from Narita Airport to Sapporo Station should take about 4.5 to 5.5 hours total.

The cheapest flights may bring total travel costs down to about 7,000 yen, but you will need to check for potential additional costs per the rules of your airline carrier. Make sure to note details like ticket purchasing fees, loading fees and baggage weight limits.

Another tip is to check carrier policies for cancelled flights. In some cases, a flight maybe cancelled by unforeseen reasons like poor weather, in which you may only receive a refund voucher for the same company (no cash refunds). In other cases, your flight may be rescheduled for another day, where you still need to front the costs of any hotel expenses.

Shinkansen (Tokyo Station〜Shin Hakodate Hokuto Station〜Sapporo Station)

The final station of the Hokkaido Shinkansen (as of October 2019) is Shin Hakodate Hokuto Station. Here’s how to get all the way to Sapporo Station in 2 easy steps:

  1. Take the Shinkansen from Tokyo St. to Shin Hakodate Hokuto St. (approx. 4 hours)
  2. Take a train or high-speed bus from Shin Hakodate Hokuto St. to Sapporo St. (approx. 3.5 hours)
Access from Tokyo Station to Sapporo Station by Shinkansen
Access from Tokyo Station to Sapporo Station by Shinkansen

The entire trip takes roughly 8 hours by Shinkansen.

For budget-friendly travel costs, the [JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass] is available to overseas travelers. We’ll introduce some travel pass prices here.

If visiting Japan (on a short term visa of 90 days or less) with a foreign passport, you can purchase an exclusive discounted ticket for 26,900 yen if purchased outside Japan. (13,450 for children ages 6-12). This pass offers unlimited rides on JR Hokkaido Lines (Southern Hokkaido) and JR East Lines (Kanto and Tohoku areas) for 6 days of your choice over a 14-day period that stars when you receive your pass. You can use the pass for an unlimited number of times on Shinkansen and limited express trains. This includes bullet train travel from Tokyo to Shin Hakodate Hokuto, making the JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass a great option.

Ferry

Here is a breakdown of how to get from Tokyo to Hokkaido by ferry.

Access From Tokyo to Sapporo By Ferry
Access From Tokyo to Sapporo By Ferry

1. Tokyo ⇨ Oarai Port

A direct bus will take you from Tokyo St. to Oarai Port for 2,280 yen (1,140 yen for children), a trip that takes approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes.

2. Oarai Port ⇨ Tomakomai Port

The fare to ride is 9,900-57,200 yen depending on season and room type. Total travel time averages 18 hours.

3. Tomakomai Port ⇨ Sapporo Station

To get from Tomakomai Port to Sapporo St., you can take a bus from the Tomakomai West Port Ferry Terminal to Tomakomai Station and take a train to Sapporo St., or you can take a high-speed bus from Tomakomai West Port Ferry Terminal to Sapporo St..

If going by train...

If by train, Start at Ferry Terminal and take the High-Speed Tomakomai Bus operated by Hokkaido Chuo Bus to Tomakomai Station Bus Stop. From Tomakomai Station take the JR Chitose Line Limited Express Super Hokuto and get off at Sapporo Station. Total travel time is approx. 80 minutes for a fare of 3,080 yen.

If going by high-speed bus...

If by high-speed bus, Start at Ferry Terminal and take the Tomakomai High-Speed Bus directly to Sapporo Station. Total travel time averages 2 hours at a fare of 1,330 yen.

By ferry, the trip takes approx. 23 hours; an entire day. However, if taking the less expensive room option you can get to Sapporo for only 14,200 yen. Between October 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, there's an extra special discount available through the Pacific Story plan.

On the Pacific Story plan, the total cost including high-speed buses from Tokyo Station to Oarai Port, and between Tomakomai Port and Sapporo Station would total 10,260 yen. In terms of cost, this is a very wallet-friendly way to get from Tokyo to Hokkaido.

Rental Car (expressway, ferry)

If journeying by rental car, the total drive from Tokyo to Sapporo without breaks would still set you back 17 hours. However, adding in breaks or detours for sightseeing will likely make your drive a two-day trip. Express tolls can cost about 20,000 yen, the Tsugaru Kaikyo Ferry from Aomori to Hakodate costs 20,000 yen. Adding in the rental car fee and 1,000 km worth of gas, you can expect this route to be long and the possibly most expensive way to travel.

Summing Up: A Comparison of the Good and Bad of Each Mode of Travel

At this point you should have a full idea of travel time and cost to get from Tokyo to Sapporo St., whether by plane, bullet train, ferry or car. Next we’ll show a full comparison of all methods so you can see the pros and cons of each laid out.

If Taking a Plane from Haneda Airport

Pros
Short travel time (3.5 to 5 hours)
Cons
High cost (up to approx. 40,000 yen)
Subject to weather conditions (cancellations may occur per weather)
Going via Handea Airport means Short Travel Times
Going via Handea Airport means Short Travel Times

If Flying with an LCC from Narita Airport

Pros
May be the cheapest option depending on the flight (as low as 4,490 yen)
Cons
Extra time may be needed to get to Narita (30 to 60 minutes more than Haneda. Total fare approx. 2,500 yen)
Luggage restrictions may apply (additional charges may occur depending on weight)
Subject to change per weather conditions (refund may not be available in case of cancellation)
LCCs departing Narita Airport may be the Best Wallet-Friendly Choice
LCCs departing Narita Airport may be the Best Wallet-Friendly Choice

If Going By Shinkansen

Pros
More reliable operations regardless of weather
Low-cost options available if using a [JR East-South Hokkaido Rail Pass]
Cons
Fairly long travel time (around 8 hours)
Operation on the railways is very reliable
Operation on the railways is very reliable

If Going by Ferry

Pros
Low-cost (prices from 10,260)
Offers the possibility to travel in leisure aboard a ship
Cons
Lengthy travel time (around 1 day)
Going by Ferry Means Traveling via the Spacious Leisure of a Ship
Going by Ferry Means Traveling via the Spacious Leisure of a Ship

If Going By Rental Car

Pros
The most flexible option in respect to the degree of freedom it affords
Cons
Expensive (20,000 yen in expressway tolls, a 20,000 ferry fare + rental car and gasoline expenses)
Takes time (over a day)
The rental car allows you to travel as freely as you like
The rental car allows you to travel as freely as you like

Let’s sum up. If looking for shortest travel time, flying is your best option. If looking to travel in a relatively short amount of time, without worry of weather, Shinkansen is your best bet.

You can also travel smoothly, with less transfers on the bullet train. If time and expense are not a concern, you may consider the scenic route, driving through Tohoku by rental car. If you want a budget-friendly, smooth ride to Hokkaido, the low and slow option offered by ferry is for you.

Travel-worthy and Memorable Ways to Travel

Enjoy a leisure ride on a cost-effective ferry. If you haven’t travelled by ferry before it may be hard to imagine. Ferry-bound travel is not just a way to get from point A to point B, but a ride that’s packed with perks of its own. Unlike a plane or train, a trip onboard a ship is a memory in itself that we’d like to lay out below.

The One-of-a-Kind Travel Experience of an Ocean Voyage
The One-of-a-Kind Travel Experience of an Ocean Voyage

MOL Ferry Sunflower

For ferries, we recommend “Sunflower,” operated by MOL Ferry.
This newly built ship was put into service in 2017, stylized with luxurious private suties and relaxing Japanese-style rooms. Enjoy a carefree ocean voyage for only 10,800 yen each way, with choices of departure times late into he night.

The Novelties of a Trip Aboard the Sunflower:

1. A leisurely trip with insta-perfect views of the Pacific Ocean at Dawn & Dusk

A Breathtaking Sunrise on the Pacific
A Breathtaking Sunrise on the Pacific

A full day’s ferry ride means the rare chance for photos as the sun rises and falls against the Pacific Ocean. Set sail and the dusk will begin to fade into quiet night. As the moonlit ocean awaits you can enjoy the full blanket of starry skies on a clear night.

In the morning, the dark skies give way to the break of dawn and bring with it a stunning view of the sun as it breaches the horizon. This is one picture-perfect view that’ll impress all you friends on social media and back home. The sun then climbs the skies, making the ocean spread like a shimmering sea before your eyes.

Inhale the deep ocean-scented breeze and recharge the senses. On a lucky day, you may even spot a few dolphins.

2. Full Range of Activities Onboard

Music Events While Aboard
Music Events While Aboard

On your ride, you’ll find plenty to enjoy inside the ferry as well. With event programming and a full range of onboard facilities there are countless ways to enjoy your trip.

From musical performances and magic shows, to juggling, portrait drawing and hula dancing and more, there’s plenty to participate in. You can even access 100+ movies for free via smartphone or tablet.

3. Lavish and Wide Array of Onboard Perks

The restaurant provides satisfying meal options.
The restaurant provides satisfying meal options.

Whether with family or a group, there’s plenty to enjoy including large, scenic public bath, ocean-side seating, free sauna, gift shop an full game corner. For small children there’s Kids Land. Equipped with a baby room with changing tables and nursery so families with young infants can travel with ease.

One surprising fact is there’s even a pet space and dog run! Each aspect of the ship is meticulously customized to please any guest at any age.

For meals you can expect a classy, spacious restaurant and a full course set for only 1,530 yen with a side of oceanside view. There are two full course sets to choose from: a Japanese set with dishes like tempura and sashimi, or a Western set featuring various meat dishes. Feel free to pick whatever suits your fancy.

4. Upgrade your Cabin for Optimum, Hotel-Like Private Comfort

The least expensive Tourist plan consists of beds with dedicated shelves separated by curtains, but you can also upgrade your room depending on how you prefer to travel.

The Tourist rooms come with separating curtains and private outlets
The Tourist rooms come with separating curtains and private outlets

For around 2,000 yen, you can upgrade to the Comfort plan that comes with a bed equipped with a TV (all seats have an electrical outlet) and a secure, private space. For around 7,000 yen, you can upgrade to a private room.

Various types of rooms including Japanese-style rooms, Western-style rooms, ocean-view rooms, and rooms where pets are permitted are also available options.

Premium Plan: Voyage with Private Balcony (Western-style room)
Premium Plan: Voyage with Private Balcony (Western-style room)

5. Eliminate any communications concerns with translation system

While traveling in Japan, language barriers can be an inconvenience. The Sunflower has anticipated this, installing translations systems throughout the ship for guests from abroad. You can use the system at each terminal by contacting an operator via video call who can then interpret for you. Additionally, the main ship (evening departure) is equipped with an automatic translation system called “ili PRO”. The system is available in Chinese, English, and Korean.

Questions and Concerns

Are there any safety concerns on the ferry?

According MOL Ferry, the company in charge of the ferry's operations, the company exercises the utmost caution when determining ship safety and cancellations in case of rough weather conditions like typhoons, low atmospheric pressure, or typhoon weather forecasts.

There may be last-minute cancellations of departures to ensure passenger safety, but guests can either opt to take another ship or receive a refund. When they anticipate stormy conditions that may cause severe rocking, they ask that those who are pregnant, injured, or sick make sure to give notice of their condition when making a reservation or boarding. The company has extensive measures in place to ensure the safety of each passenger.

Are there any concerns about the sanitation standards?

Since the newly built ship was put into service in 2017, the ship is still in pristine condition as of 2019.

Is there internet access?

Wired LAN is not available, and while it may be difficult to get a great connection while cruising, pocket Wi-Fi routers from docomo/softbank/au have been installed throughout the ship to offer Wi-Fi service without having to rely on the data of your own cell-phone carrier. Additionally, the ship's exclusive entertainment SSQ (SunFlower Smart QUEST) Service (around 100 movie titles, and others) can be accessed from your own smartphone or tablet devices. As an added benefit, these perks are provided free of charge.

There may be certain ocean areas where you have cell phone reception, but most cell phones will be out of reception while offshore. Since it's difficult to get a connection while cruising, you’ll want to use the coin-operated phones installed throughout the ship. (You can't make calls to the coin-operated phone from outside the ship.) However, you’ll have access to the free Wi-Fi, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Short Summary

Despite the price and package perks of a ferry, many are not sure what the trip entails. We hope at this point you know a little more about riding via ferry.

The trip is lengthy, but instead of time from Point A to Point B, the ship offers a novel chance to enjoy the journey. With impeccable views of the ocean, a lavish ship interior and full event programming there’s plenty to enjoy. Your time on a ferry is unlike any on land. In the company of your fellow traveler, you’ll find vacationing elderly couples, young budget travelers, and families enjoying a leisurely ride. Thanks to the array of service plans there something for everyone.

A tranquil trip and a colorful crew awaits you on the ferry. On a hectic and busy trip, this is one way to take it low and slow.
If you have some time to spare, the ferry is a highly recommended way to visit Hokkaido.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this full breakdown of the many ways to get to the hot spot destination of Hokkaido, along with one method you may not have known –the ferry.

With pros and cons for each method of plane, bullet train, ferry and car, we hope you’ll bookmark this article for planning your next trip to Hokkaido!