Sunday, June 5, 2016

Tohoku Solo Trip 2016 東北一人の旅 - Hokkaido Shinkansen 北海道新幹線,Shin Hakodate Hokuto JR Station 新函館北斗駅

Hayabusa E5 series continues its journey from Shin Aomori northwards to Hokkaido.
Dream came true! A new chapter for Shikansen unveiled on 26 March 2016 when the first phase of Hokkaido Shinkansen line from Shin Aomori to Shin Hakodate Hokuto began operation. Hokkaido Shinkansen is still in the infancy stage as the connecting line to the buiest city center of Sapporo is currently under construction and will only open after 2030. Still a long way to realise the dream to travel between Tokyo and Sapporo within the shortest possible amount of time by land transport. Wanted very much to try out this new line and since I was already in Aomori, the prefecture nearest to the island of Hokkaido, I could not convince myself not to step onto Hokkaido again via this alternative mode of transportation (relied on domestic flights on previous visits). Was determined to experience Hokkaido Shinkansen and spent some time tweaking my itinerary even after arriving in Japan. Managed to squeeze out a short 2.5 hours stay in Hakodate and this did not include the time spent on board the train (another 2.5 hours).

Purchased this commemorative set of stamps at the post office. Stamps depicted prominent landmarks and attractions in both Aomori Prefecture and Hokkaido.

Top left: Purple stripe; Top right: Snowflakes motifs on the carpet.
Shin Hakodate Hokuto JR Station (H70), on the Hakodate main line and Hokkaido Shinkansen line. This newly named and refurbished train station was formerly known as Oshima Ono (渡島大野駅). Hokkaido Shinkansen line runs in the existing Seikan Tunnel which has a portion under the seabed. When the high speed train exits from the underground tunnel, an announcement would be made over the PA system to inform passengers that the train has reached the other side of Tsugaru Strait (津軽海峡). Tried to use the GPS to locate my position when the train was travelling in the Seikan Tunnel, but it failed to receive any reception on both occasions (to and return). There are also some visual differences between the existing Hayabusa E6 series and the E5 series which runs on the Hokkaido Shinkansen line. Pink stripe on the train body is replaced by purple colour (reminded me of the beautiful lavender in Furano) and the aisle carpet has snowflakes motifs on it (the long winter season experienced by this northern most island of Japan).  

Hakodate Liner connects Hakodate to Shin Hakodate Hokuto.
Convenient and not so convenient? 

  • To Hakodate: Time taken from Shin Aomori to Shin Hakodate Hokuto takes around an hour by Shinkansen. As the terminus station of current Hokkaido Shinkansen is not located in Hakodate, all passengers who are making their way to Hakodate have to transfer to Hakodate Liner. This will mean another 15 - 20 minutes spent on rail before finally reaching the final destination. Though the route is not straightforward, the seamless transfer between the high speed and conventional trains was able to make up for that. 
  • To Sapporo: For the time being, Limited Express Hokuto will still be the fastest land transport to commute from here to the capital city of Hokkaido.

What else to expect here? Made use of the 15 - 20 mins interval in between trains to explore the train station's facilities. Here, passengers can do their last minute shopping for popular Hokkaido sweets brands such Shiroi Koibito and Rokkatei at Kiosk, or enjoy snacks in the cafe or make an enquiry on nearby attractions in Hokuto city in the tourist information center. I have never been to Hokuto city before, but after browsing through the sightseeing brochures and online website, it did spark some interest to visit this remote city next time!  

Hokuto-shi Tourism Guide Website:


Commemorative stamps:

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