The long journey from Tōkyō to Hakodate isn’t as time-consuming as it used to be, thanks to the newly opened first segment of the Hokkaidō Shinkansen. That said, the shinkansen terminus serving one of the biggest urban centres in Japan’s northernmost prefecture is located about 16 kilometres from the heart of the city: hardly a convenient location for travellers staying in the downtown area. Bridging the gap is a new train service that links the shinkansen to central Hakodate, taking as little as 15 minutes each way.
Welcome aboard the Hakodate Liner.
NOTE: This post describes the short final segment of a long-distance train journey from Tōkyō to Hakodate. Click here to read my previous post documenting the main part of the trip, which was a 4.5-hour ride on the Tōhoku/Hokkaidō Shinkansen.
Country : Japan
Railway company : JR Hokkaidō
Railway line : Hakodate Main Line
Service type : Rapid
Service name/designation : Hakodate Liner
Rolling stock : 733-1000 Series EMU
Top operating speed : 120 km/h
Date of journey : Monday, 02 October 2017
Origin : Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (dep. 11:10)
Destination : Hakodate Station (arr. 11:25)
Distance travelled : 17.9 km
Journey time : 15 minutes
The Hakodate Liner was introduced on 26 March 2016 – the same day that Hokkaidō Shinkansen services to/from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station commenced. Several round trips are operated each day, timed to coincide with shinkansen arrivals and departures (with a few minutes built in to allow for transfers). Two stopping patterns are employed between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Hakodate:
– Rapid services (快速, kaisoku) stop only at Goryōkaku, taking as little as 15 minutes each way.
– Ordinary services (普通, futsū) stop at Nanae, Ōnakayama, Kikyō, and Goryōkaku, taking about 20 minutes each way.
Hyperdia is a useful tool for researching train schedules all over Japan. There’s also an official timetable published on the JR Hokkaidō website that shows interlocking schedules for the shinkansen and the Hakodate Liner, as well as limited express services going as far as Sapporo.
Let’s have a look at the route. Bear in mind that Google Maps may generate different results – including non-rail options – depending on the settings used, so the track shown below won’t necessarily reflect the actual path taken by the train. It should, however, give a general idea of the direction and distance involved.
A one-way trip on the Hakodate Liner from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station to Hakodate Station costs 360 yen.
Seat reservations aren’t possible, as this is just a regular commuter service using trains fitted with longitudinal (bench-type) seating.
If you’re using a Japan Rail Pass, the 360 yen fare is fully covered – no extra payment needed. Simply show the pass at a manned ticket gate and off you go. Don’t let the service name Hakodate Liner confuse you: this isn’t one of the so-called “home liner” services that JR Pass holders must pay an extra fee to use.
Four specially-built, 3-car 733-1000 Series EMU trains are used on Hakodate Liner services.
Here’s the unit I rode on the day I travelled to Hakodate: set B-1001, the first in its class. The uppermost image was taken before we departed from Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, and the bottom image was snapped after our arrival at Hakodate.
Now for a look at the interiors. This was taken on a different 733-1000 Series EMU trainset, just before I set off from Hakodate back to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto for a southbound shinkansen journey.
The trains are fitted with longitudinal seating, as well as hand grips and bars for standing passengers. Priority seats (for elderly travellers and other passengers with special needs) feature bright orange upholstery. There’s no dedicated luggage space – and the overhead racks aren’t large enough for bulky suitcases – so you’ll need to hang on to your roller cases and make sure they don’t dance about whilst the train is in motion.
TRANSFERRING FROM THE SHINKANSEN TO THE HAKODATE LINER
Changing trains at Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station is fairly straightforward. From the shinkansen platform…
…simply follow the signs labelled Transfer for JR Line (or 在来線 のりかえ, literally “conventional line transfer”) until you reach the enclosed stairs, escalators, or lifts leading up to the concourse. If in doubt, just follow the other passengers: this is as far as the Hokkaidō Shinkansen currently goes, so everyone will need to get off and either exit or transfer at this station.
At the concourse, walk through the internal transfer gates leading to the conventional line tracks. If you’re using a JR Pass, go through the sliding glass door and into the manned counter area; a staff member will inspect your pass and wave you through via the door on the other side.
Follow the signs to Track 1, where Hakodate Liner services are normally berthed. I don’t know if it happens for all shinkansen arrivals, but at the time of my journey there was a uniformed member of the station staff positioned at the transfer area, holding a sign labelled 函館 行き (For Hakodate) and waving passengers down to the correct platform. I do apologise for the blurriness of the next image – snapped this on the fly as I was making haste towards my train.
Down we go to the platform … and there’s our train parked at Track 1 on the right.
There’s a station map available on the JR Hokkaidō website, but bear in mind that (1) it’s in Japanese only and (2) the image isn’t as clear as it should be, leaving some details hard to interpret even if you can read Japanese. Google Maps has a street-view version available – I’ve embedded a couple of frames above – if a virtual walk-through suits you best.