Sapporo. A mediocre beer. Also, the capital city of Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan’s far-flung north-eastern region. Famous for aforementioned beer, an impressive snow festival, and being a jump-off point for exploring the rest of the large island. How does one get there? Well, we know you’re a cheapo, but we doubt you’re so skint you’d rather undertake an arduous trek and ocean swim instead of opting for one of these somewhat more convenient means of transportation from Tokyo to Sapporo.
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Vanilla Air||¥5,067 (US$47)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Jetstar Japan||¥5,351 (US$50)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Skymark Airlines||¥9,690 (US$89)||Details|
|Tokyo => Sapporo||Japan Airlines||¥16,059 (US$148)||Details|
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 tickets for as little as ¥11,000 (or, fellow cheapos tell us, even less) for a round-trip. The standard range is ¥15,000 to ¥45,000. There are around 80 flights a day to New Chitose Airport in Sapporo from Haneda and Narita in Tokyo–the second busiest air route in the world. Flight time is reasonable—you’ll roll in an hour and a half after takeoff.
Look at LCCs–low cost carriers–for the best deals. It’s important to look at each carrier’s website, since travel booking websites often do not list LCCs. Check budget airlines like Vanilla, Peach, Jetstar, and Skymark for deals. Of special note is Airdo. Airdo (rhymes with hairdo) is Hokkaido’s own LCC, headquartered in Sapporo, and has flights not only between Sapporo and major cities in Japan, but also between Sapporo and smaller Hokkaido cities. For travelers living outside of Japan with non-Japanese passports, Airdo offers a “Welcome to Hokkaido” fare that can be purchased as little as one day in advance. The fare is only ¥8,800 (¥9,600 in peak summer season) one way, and users must present a non-Japanese passport and evidence of a ticket to and from Japan upon check-in. (And read this article for more info on cheap domestic flights.)
Bullet Train plus Express Train Combination
As of March 26 2016, you’re able to take the shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station. That’s in Hakodate, at the bottom of Hokkaido, which is … not so close to Sapporo. It is closer than Shin-Aomori though, which is still on the main island of Japan, which was until recently as far as you can currently 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 more than a decade away. This bottom bit took more than 10 years of development as it is.
It will take 4 hours 10 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (¥22,690 one-way), and then another 4.5 hours on express trains to get to Sapporo (¥8,000 to ¥9,000 one-way). You can book your Tokyo to Hakodate shinkansen tickets in advance here.
Note that this (one-way) train journey costs about the same as the 7-day JR Rail Pass, which gives you virtually unlimited rides on bullet trains countrywide, so if you have any further rail travel on your itinerary, you should seriously consider buying the JR Pass instead.
For roughly ¥9,000 each way, you can 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. You can rent a cabin—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, 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?
Got any other suggestions for getting from Tokyo to Sapporo? Leave us a comment.
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