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A Prefect Pass to get around Hokkaido and Tohoku!
The JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass 

If you are traveling to Japan in winter, you should visit the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas at least once in your lifetime. The sceneries unique to the snowy country, and activities such as skiing are plentiful in the area, and snow events exclusive only at this time of year are also held at various locations. This time, we will tour around the northern land using "JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass", which is a great deal if you’re visiting the central Tohoku area as well as the southern area of Hokkaido. In this article, we will introduce train pass information and recommended routes using the pass!


What is the JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass?

The "JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass" is a pass that can be used for Shinkansen and limited express trains in the Southern Hokkaido area including Sapporo, Hakodate, and New Chitose Airport, and the Tohoku area. It is exclusive only for short-term visitors who have a non-Japanese passport and have been in Japan for 90 days or less. Information about the pass and how to purchase it are as follows. In this case, we purchased a pass before the trip in order to travel efficiently, and then exchanged it for a ticket after we arrived in Japan.


Validity period: 

5 days (flexible) within 14 days from issue date


Adults (aged 12 years and older) ¥20,790, Children (6 - 11 years old) ¥10,390
※Save around 5% on purchases made before coming to Japan!


Main Coverage: 

JR East (inc. BRT*)、 JR Hokkaido Lines、 Aomori Railway Line、 Iwate Galaxy Railway (IGR) Line、 Sendai Airport Transit Line
*BRT: bus rapid transit

●How to purchase: 

[From overseas]
After purchasing online or from representative travel agencies, etc., pick them up at sales locations that sell products for foreign tourists visiting Japan such as Japan Rail Pass by presenting your passport to redeem. 
[Within Japan]
Present your passport at the JR EAST Travel Service Centre at Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station to purchase. It is also available at main stations in the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas.


Recommended winter trips and recommended places to visit during spring and autumn seasons using the JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass


This time, we used the JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass to go around a tour course where Hokkaido and Tohoku in winter can be enjoyed to the full. In order to save time and travel around as many prefectures as possible, we flew to Sapporo in Hokkaido, then headed south to Hakodate and the Tohoku area, and from Tohoku we used the pass to travel to Tokyo Station. This time we did winter sightseeing, but it seems that there were lots of famous spots for viewing cherry blossoms in spring and autumn leaves in autumn, so we would like to go around Hokkaido and Tohoku again in different seasons. If you are planning go in the spring or autumn, we’ve made a list of the cherry blossoms and autumn leaves viewing spots in each prefecture as well, so please refer to it!


Lots of Local Food & Snowy Scenery in Tohoku


Day 1:

Enjoy delicious cuisines such as seafood and Hakodate ramen at the morning market in Hakodate (Hokkaido)! Enjoy the night view of Mt. Hakodate in the evening

Day 2:
Snow scenery at Hirosaki Castle Lantern Festival, Apple confectionery, Resort Shirakami in Hirosaki (Aomori)

Day 3:
Sightseeing around Akita Station in the morning, eat delicious local cuisine in Morioka (Iwate) in the afternoon, and look for Nanbu ironware 

Day 4:
Hanamaki Hot Spring (Iwate): snow scenery bath experience!

Day 5:
Enjoy the ruins of Sendai Castle in Geibikei (Iwate) and Sendai (Miyagi), and enjoy beef tongue before heading to Tokyo.

On the first day, sightseeing starts in Hakodate. We got to enjoy the famous squid cuisine and Hakodate ramen at the morning market, and enjoyed the night scenery from Mt. Hakodate. The fresh squid sashimi has a transparent look and crunchy texture! The night view we were looking forward to was even more beautiful as the air is clean in winter, so we were very impressed!

On the second day, we took the Shinkansen from Shin-Hakodate Hokuto Station to Shin-Aomori Station in the Aomori prefecture in the Tohoku region. When we arrived, we learnt that the Hirosaki Castle Lantern Festival was being held in Hirosaki, which is about 45 minutes by train from Aomori Station, so we headed there. We were super happy to see, touch and enjoy the snow! Following that, from Hirosaki Station, we boarded the "Gono Line Resort Shirakami" that we wanted to try riding at least once.

From the train window, the winter view of Sea of Japan, the snow-covered countryside, and the Shirakami Mountains can be seen in the distance! We were impressed by the amazing view of the snow. 

On the third day, after strolling around the parks and looking around in prefectural museums near Akita Station, we headed to Morioka in the Iwate prefecture. We ate the famous Wanko soba and bought Nanbu ironware, which we’ve always wanted to buy. It would be a good memorial of our trip ♡

On the forth day, we went to Hanamaki Hot Spring, one of the best hot spring areas in the Tohoku region. We soaked in the hot springs and enjoyed the snow scenery from the hot spring. At the famous rose garden, Christmas roses could be enjoyed in the greenhouse even in winter!

On the fifth and final day in the Tohoku region, we went to Geibikei in Ichinoseki. Along the Satetsu River, there’s a limestone cliff which stands at a height of more than 50m which stretches for about 2km. Since it was winter, we took a kotatsu boat to enjoy the view. A kotatsu is a heating apparatus in which the upper part of the heat source is covered by a parapet and a futon is draped over it. It was my first experience with Japanese kotatsu, but it was warm and cosy ♪ After that, we went to Tokyo after visiting famous places such as Sendai Castle Ruins and trying Sendai's famous "Beef Tongue". If you have time on the way back to Tokyo, do consider to stop by at Fukushima / Aizu-Wakamatsu and Ouchi-juku! If you would like to experience skiing and snowboarding, we also recommend making a dash from Sendai to Zao (Yamagata).


Scenic spots in Hokkaido & Tohoku throughout various seasons and sample itineraries for each season

(1)Enjoy the cherry blossoms, castles and hot springs in the spring!


Day 1 Hakodate (Hokkaido):
See the pink carpet while overlooking the city of Hakodate from Goryokaku Tower 

Day 2 Hiromae (Aomori):
Enjoy the castle and cherry blossoms at Hiromae Park!

Day 3 Kakunodate (Akita):
Samurai residence, make the best memories of your trip at the Hinokinai River bank 

Day 4 Nyuto Onsen (Akita):
Enjoy the superb view of Yamazato and seven unique hot springs 

Day 5 Aizu-Wakamatsu (Fukushima):
See the illuminations at the Sakura Festival at Tsuruga Castle Park


If you visit Japan in the spring, why not make the theme of your trip "Sakura"? In Hokkaido and Tohoku, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom from mid-April to early May.
Goryokaku Tower in Hakodate and Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki are the 2 spots famous for sakura viewing, which is known for having about 2 million people attend the Sakura Festival every year. And on the third day is Kakunodate, Akita Prefecture, which is also one of the highlights of the trip. It is one of the best cherry blossom viewing spots in Tohoku, the samurai residence and Hinokinaigawa Tsutsumi Park have also been included in the "100 Best Cherry Blossom Spots in Japan". After enjoying Kakunodate, get on JR Tazawako Line to see Lake Tazawa and head to Nyuto Hot Spring village, which is famous as a secluded hot spring that the Japanese people who are big hot springs lovers would choose. Seven hot springs is a general term for the hot springs around the foot of Mt. Nyuto in Towada-Hachimantai National Park, so the atmosphere of a Japanese mountain village can be enjoyed. On the final day, visit the Sakura Festival in Tsuruga Castle Park in Aizu-Wakamatsu. The illuminations at the castle park are also famous!
For those who want to spend a little more time sightseeing in Hokkaido, try checking out Hokkaido Shrine and Maruyama Park in Sapporo, which are also famous as cherry blossom spots too!


(2) Enjoy the autumn leaves in Hokkaido and Tohoku!


Day 1 Hakodate (Hokkaido):
Visit scenic spot!former Iwafune garden (Kosetsuen) 

Day 2 Hirosaki (Aomori): 
Hiking up Mt. Iwaki  

Day 3 Morioka (Iwate): 
See Morioka Castle Ruins Park, Conquer three Best Noodles of Morioka

Day 4 Zao Onsen (Yamagata):
Impressed by the spectacular view of Zao Ropeway 

Day 5 Urabandai (Fukushima):
Go to Goshikinuma and then to Lake Hibara


There are lots of spots for viewing autumn leaves in the Hokkaido and Tohoku areas! First, head to the scenic spot in Hakodate, the former Iwafune Garden (Kosetsuen). The autumn colours are so beautiful that you will sure be forgetting the passing of time, especially beautiful are the maple leaves. The next day, move to Hirosaki in Aomori prefecture and head to Mt. Iwaki. Mt. Iwaki, also known as Tsugaru Fuji, the contrast between the red and green of the autumn leaves which is beautifully overwhelming can be observed. On the third day, head to Morioka Castle Ruins Park. Speaking of Morioka, the “three best noodles" - Morioka’s chilled noodles, jajamen, and Wanko soba, are famous, so do give them a try! On the 4th day, head to Zao Onsen in the Yamagata Prefecture. If you ride the ropeway, you can see the autumn leaves underneath like a red carpet. On the final day, head to Urabandai to see the the autumn colours at Goshikinuma(the Five Coloured Lakes)and Lake Hibara. Trekking is also highly recommended!


(3)How is the JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass different from the JR East Pass

The difference between the "JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass" introduced in this article and the famous "JR East Pass" is that the area where they can be used is different. The JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass also covers the southern area of Hokkaido, of which is not included in the JR East Pass.
The JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass is priced at adults (12 years and older) 20,790yen / children (6 -11 years old)10,390yen.
JR EAST PASS charges adults (12 years and older) for 20,360yen and 10,180yen for Children (6 -11 years old). 
※Save around 5% on purchases made before coming to Japan!
You should consider which one to buy after you've built your itinerary and where you want to see the sights.


Refer to the following for more information on the facilities mentioned in this article




JR Hokkaido Rail Passes








JR Tohoku-South Hokkaido Rail Pass Reservation

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