Sapporo. A common brand of Japanese beer. Also, the capital city of Hokkaidō, Japan’s northernmost island. Famous for the aforementioned beer, an impressive snow festival, and being Japan’s biggest city and transit hub this far north. Read on for the best ways to get from Tokyo to Sapporo.
Overview of getting from Tokyo to Sapporo
There are a surprising number of options for making the trip from Tokyo to Sapporo. If you have a JR Pass or a JR East–South Hokkaidō Pass we recommend taking the Shinkansen. Otherwise, flying will generally be the more economical choice — especially if you’re able to snag your tickets during a sale.
Quick Comparison of Tokyo to Sapporo Transport Options
|Train||★★★★☆||¥27,560–¥28,160, cheaper with discount passes||7.5 – 8 hrs||14kg CO2||Order via Klook or Japan Experience or JRail Pass|
|Flights||★★★★☆||¥9,500–¥45,000 (exc. transfers)||1.5 hrs (exc. transfers)||147.8kg CO2||Search flights|
|Ferry||★★☆☆☆||From ¥18,050 (inc. transfers)||19 hrs (inc. transfers)||20.5kg CO2||Search ferries|
|Roadtrip||★★★☆☆||Gas, rental + ¥10,850 to ¥33,000 ferry fee||From 16 – 23 hours (without stops)||47.8kg CO2 (for 4 people)||Search car rental|
Sapporo is approximately 500 miles (or about 800 km) from Tokyo as the crow flies.
Flights from Tokyo to Sapporo
Air is by far the easiest way to get from Tokyo to Sapporo. The flight time is reasonable 1.5 hours, though you have to take into account travel time to and from the airports. On the Tokyo side, different airlines fly out of both Narita and Haneda airports.
While the flights out of Haneda Airport are at least ¥2,000 more than the ones out of Narita Airport, it’s still worth comparing both as the cost of getting all the way out to Narita Airport could end up cancelling out the savings on cheaper plane tickets. Check out our guides on traveling between Tokyo and Narita Airport and also for Haneda Airport.
If you book early enough or during a sale, you can snap up return tickets from Tokyo to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport for as little as ¥9,500 (or, fellow Cheapos tell us, even less). The standard range is ¥15,000 to ¥45,000, with the higher fares coming in during peak periods such as Obon, New Year and Golden Week.
In normal times, there are around 80 flights a day to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo from Haneda and Narita airports Tokyo-side, making it one of the busiest air routes in the world. The disruptions caused by COVID-19 mean fewer flights each day, but you can still travel between Tokyo and Sapporo.
Cheap air tickets to Sapporo
It’s best to look at LCCs (low-cost carriers) for good deals. You can start by checking budget airlines like Peach, Jetstar, and Skymark. Skyscanner offers a good comparison of what’s available right now, and at what price.
|Tokyo Narita => Sapporo Chitose||Peach||¥4,031 (US$31)||2023-02-21||Details|
|Tokyo Narita => Sapporo Chitose||Jetstar||¥5,168 (US$39)||2023-03-01||Details|
|Tokyo Haneda => Sapporo Chitose||Japan Airlines||¥11,625 (US$89)||2023-11-18||Details|
|Tokyo Haneda => Sapporo Chitose||ANA||¥37,207 (US$286)||2024-01-06||Details|
See more on finding cheap domestic flights in Japan.
Air Do deals
Of special note is Air Do (rhymes with hairdo), Hokkaidō’s own carrier that’s headquartered in Sapporo. Air Do has flights not only between Sapporo and other major cities in Japan, but also between Sapporo and smaller, regional Hokkaidō airports like Memanbetsu.
For travelers living outside of Japan, Air Do offers a Welcome to Hokkaidō fare that can be purchased up to one day in advance. The fare varies, but a one-way flight is often ¥9,000 or less, going up to ¥9,800 in peak seasons. Users must present a non-Japanese passport and evidence of an international plane ticket to and from Japan upon check-in.
Getting from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo
New Chitose Airport is about 50 km from Sapporo, and there are regular direct trains and buses connecting the two. Trains take less than 40 minutes and cost only ¥1,150. For more details about airport trains and other transport options check out our guide to getting from New Chitose Airport to Sapporo.
Pro tip: Traveling with lots of luggage? Consider using a luggage delivery service to ship it onwards to your accommodation or the airport.
Trains from Tokyo to Sapporo
Can you take the bullet train from Tokyo to Sapporo? Yes. Most of the way, anyway.
Since March 2016 it’s been possible to take the Hokkaidō Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. That’s in Hakodate, at the bottom of Hokkaidō, which is … not so close to Sapporo. While there are plans to extend the Shinkansen to Sapporo, that isn’t scheduled to happen until 2030. In the meantime, there’s a limited express service between Hakodate and Sapporo.
Travel time and cost
It takes approximately 4-4.5 hours from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and then at least another 3.5 hours on express trains to get to Sapporo, with a combined total travel cost of ¥27,560–¥28,160 one-way (depending on non-reserved vs reserved). So it’s a mission — and an expensive one!
The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate on its own is ¥23,230–¥23,830. You can book Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Shinkansen tickets in advance online, or buy them at the station. Discounted “tokudane” tickets can sometimes be purchased through JR East’s web portal Eki.net (in Japanese only). For more details see our guide to getting discount Shinkansen through JR East.
Getting a Japan Rail Pass for travel to Hokkaidō
A one-way train ride from Tokyo to Sapporo costs almost as much as the 7-day Japan Rail (JR) Pass (¥29,650), which gives you virtually unlimited rides on bullet trains and other JR trains countrywide. So if are keen on taking the train to Hokkaidō you should seriously consider buying a JR Pass to economize.
The East–South Hokkaidō Pass, a regional rail pass from JR East, also covers the train journey between Tokyo and Sapporo. The pass is a little cheaper at ¥27,000, but is only good for six consecutive days of travel and doesn’t cover travel north of Sapporo.
What about local trains?
It’s…possible. But, the journey is impossible to complete in one day. You’re looking at 40 to 50 hours, including an overnight stop at some point when the trains stop running for the day. Plus, unless you have a Seishun 18 Ticket you’re looking at ¥22,290 or more one-way. If you really like the scenic route then it could be an interesting trip, but with 15 or more transfers it’s not necessarily going to be relaxing.
Also keep in mind that you’d still have to take the Shinkansen between Aomori (Honshū’s northernmost prefecture) and Hokkaidō, since local trains no longer run on the Seikan Tunnel tracks. Or you could take a ferry instead (see below for more details on ferries between Aomori and Hokkaidō).
Taking the ferry from Tokyo-ish to Sapporo-ish
You can also take a ferry from Ōarai in Ibaraki prefecture (1 hour and a bit from Tokyo) to Tomakomai, 1 hour south of Sapporo by train. There are early evening and late night departures, and the whole trip takes about 19 hours.
Tickets start from about ¥9,800, but be aware that fares do vary depending on the time of year and whether you choose the twilight or overnight option (the latter being slightly pricier). During peak travel times they can range from ¥17,200 to ¥22,200 for the cheapest option, so do check your dates online for the twilight and for the overnight services. You can book combo overnight ferry and Sapporo hotel packages starting from ¥17,900.
When booking, you can choose a cabin — either economy or something slightly fancier, depending on your budget. The cheapest option involves a bit of floor space in a communal room. There is a kind of boat restaurant/cafeteria, so you’ll be well-fed, in addition to well-bored by the time you arrive. Unless you’re moving large objects or trying to tap into your inner pirate, we have to ask, why not just take the bullet train or fly? But we salute you, seafarer. Each to their own.
The train journey from Tokyo to Ōarai takes 1 hour and 45 minutes, using a combination of limited express (JR Tokiwa or Hitachi service for Mito) and local Kashima Rinkai line trains, and costs ¥4,220. (Using regular trains costs ¥2,640 and takes about 3 hours). On the other side, the train journey from Tomakomai to Sapporo can either be made on a limited express service in 47 minutes for ¥3,360 or on local lines in an hour (with one change) for ¥1,680. Keep an eye out for bus and ferry deals in Hokkaidō when you book — they vary depending on season but can be a better option price wise, and smoother than catching multiple trains too.
Roadtripping from Tokyo to Sapporo
Unfortunately, you cannot drive directly to Hokkaidō as the Seikan Tunnel only takes bullet and freight trains. If you have the time, money, and the inclination, however, you can drive from Tokyo to Aomori prefecture in northern Honshū and then take a ferry across the strait. From there, you can continue on to Sapporo.
Pro-tip: There are plenty of great stop-offs to choose from in Tōhoku along the way.
Travel time and cost
The main thing that will influence the time and cost of roadtripping from Tokyo to Sapporo is toll roads. If you don’t mind paying around ¥15,150 in tolls, you can make the trip in about 16 hours. On the other hand, if you’d rather avoid the tolls you’re looking at over 23 hours driving. If you decide to go with the toll roads, make sure to check out our article on how to save money on tolls roads.
Ferries from Aomori to Hokkaidō
There are a few different ferry routes from which to choose. Keep in mind that car fares for the ferry are quite expensive, and while most companies include the driver’s fare in the price, additional tickets are required for other passengers, with some discounts available. There can be rate-changes depending on the time of year and vehicle size too, so be sure to check ahead for your specific journey.
From Aomori and Ōma to Hakodate
The drive from Tokyo to Aomori City takes around 8–9 hours on tolled roads or 15 hours if avoiding tolls, with the port in Ōma (to the north) adding an extra hour to this.
Aomori City and Ōma have ferry routes to Hakodate, with the latter being closer to Hokkaidō and therefore a little cheaper. From Hakodate, Sapporo is a 4.5 hour drive, taking you along the coast and through the mountains. Car fares from Aomori to Hakodate on the Tsugaru Kaikyō Ferry range from ¥15,400 to ¥26,100 while those from Ōma range from ¥11,650 to ¥20,870.
From Hachinohe to Tomakomai
Hachinohe is on the east coast of Aomori prefecture, and is 1 hour closer to Tokyo than Aomori City, taking either 7–8 hour or 14 hours depending on your toll choices.
The Silver Ferry from Hachinohe goes to Tomakomai which is only a 1 hour drive from Sapporo with tolls or an extra half-hour without. Fares for this ferry are ¥21,000 for vehicles less than 4m, ¥27,000 for vehicles less than 5m and ¥33,000 for vehicles less than 6m, but remain the same throughout the season.
Things to do in Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaidō
Once you’re there, you won’t be short of things to do. Sapporo is a fun place for foodies, and there are heaps of things to do and see in the city. Venturing out of the prefectural capital, the slopes of Niseko await powderhounds, and Hokkaidō road trips are an option for people keen to see other parts of the landscape.
While we do our best to ensure that everything is correct, information is subject to change. Originally published in July, 2016. Last updated in December 2022 by Maria Danuco.