(http://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/1601_hokkaido.html) Choo choo! ... 4 hours later ... Choo choo! ... 5 hours later ... Choo ****ing finally! TL;DR - It's worth doing once. Especially if you haven't been on a Shinkansen before. With the new Hokkaido Shinkansen that opened in March I wanted to know if it was faster or cheaper or worthwhile to catch the train all the way from Tokyo to Niseko (Kutchan) instead of flying. I am just a tourist, however I've been to Tokyo and other parts of Japan many times, but I attempted to approach it from a first-time Tourists point of view. My train journey started in Tokyo because I assumed one had arrived and was in Tokyo sightseeing for a few days before heading up to Niseko for some fun. I kept a rough note of the costs involved, and paid special attention to check that understanding or reading Japanese wasn't required for the journey. I also purposefully went without internet access on my phone, so no ability to check or confirm things. The only exception is that I assumed one could load up some pdf timetables (this and this) on their phone (I used the offline documents feature of Dropbox), and can use hyperdia.com/en/ before leaving hotel in Tokyo (but not once on the move). The trip was really easy and required very little planning. So easy that it almost doesn't need instruction. So I'm not going to bore you with a big story. I included mostly just some notes of things I thought important or things that I hadn't read or confirmed elsewhere in researching the trip. In hindsight I should have taken more photos of the signs n stuff to follow, but it really was so easy that you can do it with minimal planning. The only stressful point during the day was at the start, I arrived at Tokyo station later than I planned. I got lost in the Tokyo underground flailing about trying to get to JR Tokyo station without using hyperdia at all, it seems I rely on the internet too much Using the JR Hokkaido Shinkansen timetable and the JR Hokkaido Timetable I identified 3 well-timed routes that would get me to Kutchan with minimal waiting around. 3 train changes are required, Tokyo station -> Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station -> Oshamambe station -> Kutchan station I was surprised to see at least 1 Shinkansen heading up to Hokkaido every hour of the day. Leaving the only bottleneck at the Oshamambe to Kutchan leg, with a train leaving only every 3 hours or so. The 3 conveniently timed routes I found: 06:32 (Tokyo) -> 10:58 (Hakodate). 11:09 (Hakodate) -> 12:20 (Oshamambe). 13:16 (Oshamambe) -> 14:50 (Kutchan) 10:20 (Tokyo) -> 14:37 (Hakodate). 15:15 (Hakodate) -> 16:25 (Oshamambe). 16:40 (Oshamambe) -> 18:13 (Kutchan) 13:20 (Tokyo) -> 17:51 (Hakodate). 18:11 (Hakodate) -> 19:23 (Oshamambe). 20:00 (Oshamambe) -> 21:37 (Kutchan) Ticketing, I didn't use a JR-East-South Rail Pass. However I'd recommend a tourist use one. 6 days of unlimited JR travel for ¥27,000 is a pretty good deal. This pass includes unlimited JR in Tokyo (somewhat useful), the Shinkansen (¥22600 one way), and any JR trains in Hokkaido also (including Hakodate -> Oshamambe -> Kutchan). You don't use the ticketing machines with this pass, but instead wave the pass at the people standing to the side of the ticket gates as if you're some sort of important FBI agent with a badge. However, the opening times to pickup this pass from various places (airport/etc) are quite limited (8:15AM–7PM). If your flight landed at 9pm like mine, you may have to pick up the pass in Tokyo the next day after you've already paid for a train ticket into town. A big problem with the JR-East-South pass is that according to JR's website you must reserve and pick up the Shinkansen tickets at least one day prior to travel (here). I don't know if this is true or not, but it could be a deal breaker for some. I had heard that some other Shinkansen don't require reserved seats (which would have been half the price). However all Hokkaido Shinkansen seats must be reserved. The only payment option available to me at the automated machine was with cash only (even tho I had ¥23,000 on my suica card). Shinkansen, I entered Tokyo station without a Shinkansen ticket, reservation, and no idea at all what to do really. It's only my second time at this station, and first time on a Shinkansen from here. I was a bit late, and had only about 10 minutes before the train was to depart, but had no problems buying a ticket from an automated machine and getting to the train on time. Tokyo Station has so many Bento shops it's ridiculous. You have so many options. You should buy something to eat on the train! You shove both the ticket and the reserved ticket into the gate ticket checker at the same time. Don't forget to get them back tho! You need to surrender them at Hakodate. The Shinkansen had almost no baggage storage. The overhead baggage compartments were smaller than the average train, far smaller than an aircraft. There is no room for luggage at the end of the carriages. There was a LOT of leg room tho. So much that if you weren't super tall you could fit an average sized suitcase between your knees and the chair in front of you. 4 hours cramped like this would suck tho. (http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/shinkansen/shinkansen03.html) There is no seat belt, no entertainment system, no usb power, no wifi, no pillows, no blankets, and no in flight meals or drink service. Like most Japanese hotels and facilities, the Shinkansen is heated to about 5000 degrees. wear a tshirt There is 1 x 110volt 220watt power outlet at the foot of each set of seats. A lady with a trolley of snacks & drinks for sale was moving up and down the train. It went past about once every hour. The coffee was terrible. From Tokyo to Sendai the train was very full. After Sendai there were many seats spare. The windows bow and flex with air pressure around the train. Especially when entering and leaving a tunnel. My phone's GPS and it's camera's rolling shutter couldn't cope with the speed. There are toilets on the train. But standing up to pee on a train taking random corners is a lot more challenging than aircraft turbulence! (no photo!) After going through the Fukushima region no one spontaneously exploded or started glowing (as the western media would have us believe) After Morioka there were mostly tunnels, usually with no phone service, so not much opportunity for photos.The average speed dropped to only about 200kph also. Hakodate to Oshamambe: My train from Hakodate In Hakodate the connection was a different platform, but its only a small station so was very easy to find. Surprisingly, there were fluent English speaking staff. They were very helpful. Purchasing a ticket from a machine was with 1000 yen notes and coins only. The station announcements on the train were also in English. Oshamambe to Kutchan: random picture of a train. (http://www.nisekotourism.com/getting-here/trains) Also includes a platform change. If your connection at Oshamambe is tight, the Oshamambe to Otaru train has one of those ticket machines that buses have. So you don't need to get a ticket beforehand. (check out the "Japanese buses" section here) Even if you have a ticket, I believe you're supposed to take a numbered ticket as you get on anyway.