Sapporo. A common brand of Japanese beer. Also, the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan’s far-flung north-eastern region. Famous for the aforementioned beer, an impressive snow festival, and being a jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the large island. Read on for the best ways to get from Tokyo to Sapporo.
Quick Comparison of Tokyo to Sapporo Transport Options
|Train||★★★★☆||¥10,700–¥14,920, cheaper with discount passes||7.5 – 8 hrs||8.7kg CO2||Japan Rail Pass|
|Flights||★★★★☆||¥9,500–¥45,000 (exc. transfers)||1.5 hrs (exc. transfers)||108.9kg CO2||Search flights|
|Ferry||★★☆☆☆||From ¥18,050 (inc. transfers)||19 hrs (inc. transfers)||CO2 Undetermined||Search ferries|
|Roadtrip||★★★☆☆||Gas, rental + ¥10,850 to ¥33,000 ferry fee||From 13 – 22 hours (without stops)||47.2kg CO2 (for 4 people)||Search car rental|
Flights from Tokyo to Sapporo
Air is by far the easiest way to get from Tokyo to Sapporo, and if you book early enough or during a sale, you can snap up return tickets 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.
The flight time is reasonable—you’ll roll in about an hour and a half after takeoff.
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.
Best Value Flights To Tokyo
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Spring Japan||¥4,678 (US$33)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Peach||¥4,712 (US$33)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Jetstar||¥5,638 (US$36)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Japan Airlines||¥15,388 (US$107)||Details|
Air Do deals
Of special note is Air Do (rhymes with hairdo), Hokkaido’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 Hokkaido destinations like Memanbetsu.
For travelers living outside of Japan, Air Do offers a Welcome to Hokkaido fare that can be purchased as little as 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 a ticket to and from Japan upon check-in.
Taking the Bullet and Express Trains from Tokyo to Sapporo
Can you take the bullet train from Tokyo to Sapporo? Yes. Most of the way, anyway.
It is closer than Shin-Aomori though, which is still on Honshu, the main island of Japan—until 2016 that was as far as you could go by bullet train. The Hakodate leg is the first section of the Hokkaido Shinkansen, which will gradually be expanded to Sapporo and beyond. However, that’s nearly a decade away. This bottom bit took more than 10 years of development as it is.
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 ¥27,900–¥28,160 one way (depending on non-reserved v.s reserved). So it’s a mission—and an expensive one!
The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate on its own is ¥23,310–¥23,830. You can book Tokyo to Hakodate Shinkansen tickets in advance online, or buy them at the station.
Getting a Japan Rail Pass for travel to Hokkaido
A one-way train ride from Tokyo to Sapporo costs about the same 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 Hokkaido, and you have further rail travel on your itinerary, you should seriously consider buying a JR Pass to economize.
Taking the ferry from Tokyo-ish to Sapporo-ish
For roughly ¥11,000 each way, you can also take a ferry from Oarai in Ibaraki Prefecture (an hour and a bit from Tokyo) to Tomakomai, an hour south of Sapporo by train. There are early evening and late night departures, and the whole trip takes about 19 hours. Be aware that fares do vary depending on the time of year and whether you choose the twilight or overnight options with the latter being slightly pricier. Although they largely stick around the amount mentioned above, during peak travel times they 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.
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 Oarai takes an hour and 45 minutes using the Limited Express Tokiwa and local Kashima Rinkai Line combination, costing ¥4,220. On the other side, the train journey from Tomakomai to Sapporo can either be made on a Limited Express service in 47 minutes for ¥2,830, or on local lines with one change in an hour for ¥1,680. Keep an eye out for bus and ferry deals in Hokkaido 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 Hokkaido 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 Honshu and with different ferry ports to choose from, and plenty of stunning scenery along the way. While a 15-hour journey packed in a tiny car may not be any fun, rentals like DreamDrive mean it can be part of your trip, with plenty of great stop-offs to choose from in Tohoku along the way.
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 Oma 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 Oma (to the north) adding an extra hour to this.
Aomori City and Oma have ferry routes to Hakodate, with the latter being closer to Hokkaido 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 range from ¥14,400 to ¥25,100 while those from Oma range from ¥10,850 to ¥20,070.
From Hachinohe to Tomakomai
Hachinohe is to the east of Aomori prefecture, and is an hour closer than Aomori Prefecture, taking either 7-8 hour or 14 hours depending on your toll choices.
The ferry from Hachinohe goes to Tomakomai which is only an hour’s drive from Sapporo with tolls or an extra half-hour without. Fares for this ferry are ¥21,000 for less than 4m, ¥27,000 for less than 5m and ¥33,000 for less than 6m, but remain the same throughout the season. Keep an eye out for 10% dscounts on return fares and for fares booked online, which can help with the cost.
Things to do in Sapporo and the rest of Hokkaido
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 Hokkaido 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 May, 2022.