Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train is one of the country’s most recognizable symbols of modern technology. These masterfully engineered high-speed trains link Japan’s major cities in a jiffy, making them a practical way to tour this beautiful country. If you’re a train buff, you are already acquainted with these sleek machines.
Until recently, elegant Sapporo, the largest city on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, was difficult to reach via train, requiring cumbersome connections. The lengthy journey from Tokyo required a very full day or overnight train journey.
On March 26, the new bullet train from JR Tokyo to JR Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station made its debut. This new bullet train route cuts travel time to southern tier Hokkaido to a manageable four hours. Travelers will then make a seamless connection to Sapporo, shaving several hours off travel time.
The new route, priced higher than a comparable air ticket but much more in keeping with the Japanese preference for comfortable and efficient train travel, is estimated to take 7.5 hours in total, and cost about US$282. This makes it more important than ever for families to travel with a Japan Rail Pass (children under 6 travel free but are not guaranteed a seat; ages 6-11 pay a reduced rate), which includes the new route at no extra charge.
What’s Fun for Families in Sapporo
The city of Sapporo is well worth exploring. It played host to the 1972 Winter Olympics and its natural setting is a big draw in every season. Over 2 million visitors attend its annual Sapporo Snow Festival, Sapporo Yuki Matsuri held one week during the month of February.
Families with an interest in culinary travel will be delighted to sample this city’s delectable treats. It is the birthplace of miso ramen and home of Haskap, an edible variety of honeysuckle unique to Sapporo. Sapporo beer was first brewed on Hokkaido by the German-trained brewer Seibei Nakagawa in 1876. Though the craft of beer brewing, bottling and labeling has changed over the past 140 years, the Sapporo beer and related beverages available in Japan are still brewed there. Prized varieties of fresh fish from Sapporo, and a host of local confections, are also sure to please your palate.
For more information, visit the Japanese National Tourism Organization website.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.