1. There's more to this forum than meets the eye!

    We have a vibrant community here conversing about all sorts of non-snow topics such as music, sport, politics and technology. Simply register to reveal all our Apr├Ęs topics or continue browsing and reading as a guest.

    NOTE: This notice may be closed.

    Dismiss Notice

Trip Report Shinkansen vs Flying - Tokyo to Niseko (Kutchan)

Discussion in 'Japan' started by Any, Nov 3, 2016.

  1. Heinz

    Heinz Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    Messages:
    25,326
    Likes Received:
    8,023
    Location:
    Adelaide
    Narita to Kutchan is Y27,000 according to Hyperdia and the pass is Y26,000 so it does pay off - just. Though if you were returning within the 14 days it would be a very good saving.
     
  2. Vermillion

    Vermillion Pool Room Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2005
    Messages:
    71,609
    Likes Received:
    26,073
    Location:
    Cranhole, Melbourne, VIC
    It also saves the hassle of buying individual tickets.
     
  3. Wiliam Lambert

    Wiliam Lambert First Runs

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2017
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    I absolutely agree that it is very confusing at Tokyo Station. Since i've been there many time now, I know where to go but I remember my first time going to Tokyo station was very terrifying. The station is huge and there's lots of people and a lot of different train lines. But now that I think about it it really isn't that bad because there are so many signs in English so it's not too hard to find your way around. But I think it can just be really overwhelming at first because there's so many people walking in so many different directions rushing to where they need to be. Also about the bento... yes there are many different places where you can buy it and it can be hard to choose which one to get it from but then again I wouldn't wait until i'm on the shinkansen either because your options are very limited and also they only come around once in a while with the food cart.

    Also, I have read a few times that you have to get your JR Rail Pass a day before.... but if I remember correctly.. I remember using it the day I got it.... But then again I haven't used the JR Rail Pass in years so I might be wrong...

    The first time I went to Japan I used the Japan Rail Pass a lot as I was traveling to many different cities in Japan so it was REALLY worth it. So I highly recommend it for those who will be using the shinkansen more than two times.

    Also if you are traveling on a shinkansen during the holiday season make sure that you reserve your seats. I once made the mistake of not reserving my seat and because it was the sometime in the first week of January people were all headed back into Tokyo after visiting their family in other cities so the Shinkansen was absolutely packed. I ended up standing the whole way from Hiroshima to Tokyo. That's 4 hours of standing!!!!! So just a heads up.

    And even for those of you who do not plan on getting a JR Rail Pass I would recommend getting a Suica card if you are going to be in Tokyo for a few days before you head up to Niseko etc. The reason I recommend the Suica card is because all you have to do is put some money on it and then you can just touch it at the ticket gate when you get on and get off. Which means you don't have to go through the hassle of figuring out how much the ticket is to get to where you're going. Also, the Suica card is actually a bit cheaper than buying a ticket each time. The Suica card costs 500 yen to get it and then if you plan on coming back to Japan again you can use it again when you come back and if you aren't coming back then you can return it and get your 500 yen back. If you still have money on it you'll have to spend it before you return it. So don't put too much money on it. And if you need somewhere to spend it you can use it at vending machines or convenience stores.
     
  4. MisterMxyzptlk

    MisterMxyzptlk Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2002
    Messages:
    25,206
    Likes Received:
    8,855
    We did the train to Hokkaido last year from Tokyo
    Kids didnt like it and your luggage really has to go by takkubin
    I would definitely do it travelling light and solo
     
  5. bingeely

    bingeely Hard Yards

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2017
    Messages:
    15
    Likes Received:
    3
    You can use a JR Pass the day you get it. The ticket attendant will ask you which day you wish to first use it, so you can get it earlier if you have time free. Since most of them are fixed consecutive days planning when to first start using it is a good idea. I've gotten off the plane, waited for the ticket office to open, and got the JR pass and booked a shinkansen for that morning all at once (they can do that for you too, which is really good, cause they are a general ticket office as well)
     
    Wiliam Lambert and Any like this.
  6. shabu_shabu

    shabu_shabu One of Us

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2013
    Messages:
    429
    Likes Received:
    594
    Hyst likes this.
  7. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2002
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes Received:
    3,489
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Shin-Hakodate yesterday. We were a party of seven and travelled in Gran Class. We hired a minivan and driver to take us from Shin-Hakodate to our accommodation in Niseko. We decided to do this as it was the easiest option and we're all of an age where the easiest option is a high priority! That said, I think that if it was just +1 and me, we probably would have gone by train the whole way to Kutchan as we enjoy train travel.

    The journey was way more comfortable and stress free than flying, although of course not shorter. And as others have pointed out, it cannot be done with much luggage (and skis would be a real challenge).

    The Shinkansen journey itself was only just over 4 hours. The journey is amazingly smooth and the landscape whizzes by. I actually would have been happy with a couple more hours on the Shinkansen - I got very absorbed in the book I was reading and it was a very comfortable environment for reading. You do not notice the Sendai tunnel at all - it seems to go by very quickly. The road part of the journey took about 3 hours, with some beautiful landscapes on the sea near Shin-Hakodate.

    I think once the Shinkansen extends all the way to Kutchan (2031), the attractiveness of the Shinkansen will increase. For now, I think the Shinkansen option is probably best for those with time on their hands or who prefer train travel to flying.

    Here are some pictures from the journey:






     
  8. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    May 6, 2010
    Messages:
    26,707
    Likes Received:
    16,785
    Location:
    Perth
    @Chalkie, I did the journey in reverse last year (with hand luggage sized rollie case and a backpack) the entire way.

    A mate dropped us at Kutchan station in our own car (then had use of it for the week we were away, and parked it up top of the supermarket next door the morning we arrived back). But Taxis are fairly plentiful out the front of the Kutchan station and some of the hosts will collect you from the station instead of the welcome centre.

    The intermediate train from Hakodate to Oshamambe is still pretty lush - not quite as lush as the Shink, and not quite as fast, but still a decent train. The fly in the ointment (but I actually loved it) is the local train Oshamambe to Kutchan. This is the same old shitter that you catch into Otaru. It does the job, but man that thing is an antique (or a fleet of antiques).

    The changes at both Shin Hakodate and at Oshamambe are literally off at one platform and on at the other, so simple.
    Depending on the track you might have to climb some stairs with your bags and cross the tracks, but not always. This was no issue for us with a small bag, but the mother in law struggled just climbing the stairs with her dodgy knees, so Id rethink anyone doing this with mass bags or if they were injured/infirm.

    If they could upgrade the train from Oshamambe to Kutchan so you could catch the train direct Hakodate to Kutchan itd be almost as awesome as the Shink the whole way, and would make it so much more attractive to passengers. Itd also take a lot less time than the Shink expansion.
     
    JoeKing and Chalkie like this.
  9. Lady Penelope

    Lady Penelope One of some lot ... Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Messages:
    3,164
    Likes Received:
    7,926
    Location:
    Canberra
    So what is Gran class like, @Chalkie ? My children were asking this question this morning on our short stint on the Shink from Iiyama to Kanazawa.
     
    fennekeg likes this.
  10. Chalkie

    Chalkie One of Us Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2002
    Messages:
    3,219
    Likes Received:
    3,489
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Comfort max - the seat is very comfortable (not lie flat though). Drinks and meal served at your seat. Nicer loos. Small, quiet cabin. I think though next time we do it we will be content with Green Car reserved. We like to pick up our bento box of choice and delicious snacks (strawberry sponge cake from Daimaru...) at the station, and for our week down south we found the Green Car reserved to be perfectly comfortable for us. The great thing about the train is being able to get up and walk around whenever you want etc, and the Green Car seats seem perfectly comfortable to me.
     
    Telemark Phat, Lady Penelope and LMB like this.
  11. Telemark Phat

    Telemark Phat Pass the butter Ski Pass: Gold

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Messages:
    17,839
    Likes Received:
    12,404
    Location:
    Jindabyne
    Thought about doing the Train from kutchan to Myoko, but beyond the luggage issue the plane was so much cheaper.
     
  12. fennekeg

    fennekeg Addicted Ski Pass: Silver

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2018
    Messages:
    133
    Likes Received:
    220
    Location:
    Delft
    Just to set the record straight about seat reservations in combination with the rail pass, whether it's the JR-East-South pass or other passes:

    • Online reservations done via the English reservation site need to be picked up at 21:00 the day before you travel at the latest
    • If you manage to create an account for the Japanese reservation site, reservations can be made up to 1.5 hours in advance on the day itself, and picked up 6 minutes before you travel at the latest
    • If you just go to the ticket counter you can make a reservation for the next train up to 6 minutes before it departs, so on the day itself
    Other points:

    • You can make reservations starting from a month in advance (both online and at the ticket counter)
    • You can start using the rail pass on the day you pick it up. This means that if you arrive in Japan the same day you want to start using it, you cannot make reservations via the English website for that day. But you can make a reservation via the ticket counter for that day, or even at the rail pass pick-up counter together with picking up the pass.
    • When you have a rail pass, reservations are free (even via the Japanese site, it shows the full ticket price but when you pick up the reservations just show your rail pass and it's free)
    • Even though the reservations are free, you still need to show your credit card when you pick up the tickets. It has to be the same credit card as you entered when you created the account for making reservations. This also applies to the Japanese site
    • Most reservation pick-up points designated for reservations via the English website close earlier than 21:00
    • Ticket counters (Midori no madoguchi) often have longer opening hours than the reservation pick-up points designated for reservations via the English website (no guarantee that you can pick up your reservations there, but you can make new reservations). I think the designated pick-up points are guaranteed to have an English speaker at all times.
    • For green class you always have to make reservations, for ordinary class there usually are one or two cars with non-reserved seats. Other trains like the Narita Express and the shinkansen Tokyo-Hakodate are reserved seat only.
     
    #62 fennekeg, Mar 31, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
    Any likes this.
  13. Any

    Any One of Us

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2015
    Messages:
    744
    Likes Received:
    988
    Location:
    oz/japan/usa
    thanks for clearing this one up
    this explains the misinformation i had seen that you couldnt use/reserve with the pass the same day.
     
    Hyst likes this.