How to get to Hokkaido?

, by Ayaka

By plane, by train, or by ferry? There are many ways to access Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. This article goes over the best travel options to Hokkaido from Tokyo, Osaka, as well as other nearby Asian cities and further afield.

An airplane flies above frost-laden trees.

Visiting Hokkaido, the most northern island of Japan, is at the top of many people’s travel bucket lists and is super popular for its pristine landscapes and scenery, incredible food and warm people that live in Japan’s last great wilderness.

This article is for travellers planning a trip to Japan’s northern island. It covers all the different ways you can get to Hokkaido from Tokyo or Osaka. The article also covers common flight routes to Hokkaido from South East Asian hubs like Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong & Singapore as well as major cities in Europe, North America and Australasia. There are plenty of options to begin your trip to this snowy northern island and there is a good fit to make your visit smooth from start to finish.

How to get to Hokkaido from Tokyo

With Tokyo being the central hub for travel in and out of Japan, many people will find themselves passing through during their journey. Luckily, there are multiple options for travellers to get to Hokkaido from Tokyo – from the straightforward methods to the more scenic routes.

Sapporo Station - How to get to Hokkaido
Travel by train to Hokkaido to Sapporo Station

From Tokyo by Train

Travellers looking for a more leisurely trip and a unique Japanese travel experience have the option of taking the bullet train from Tokyo. We know its probably on our bucket list already, but travelling through the Japanese countryside on the Shinkansen bullet trains is something we all have to do at least once in our lives!

From 2016 it has been possible to travel from Tokyo to southern Hokkaido by Shinkansen. Traveling through upper Honshu and through the undersea Seikan Tunnel, you will arrive in Hokkaido at the current final station in Hakodate.

To travel from Tokyo the trip takes about 4 hours. The train line is currently under further construction all the way to Sapporo, with completion expected in 2030.

It is even possible to use the Japan Rail Pass to ride the bullet train to Hokkaido, so take advantage if you have the chance!

Flying from Tokyo

Traveling to Hokkaido from one of Tokyo’s airports is perhaps the most straightforward option. Narita International Airport (NRT) has flights throughout the day to New Chitose Airport (CTS), which is located just outside of Sapporo.

There are also daily flights to local Hokkaido airports in Kushiro and Memanbetsu, if that ends up being more convenient for your destination.

Using the Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) offers more options for travel within Japan and to Hokkaido. Haneda has multiple flights throughout the day to Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport, but also includes flights to other airports in Hokkaido such as Hakodate, Kushiro, Obihiro, Asahikawa, Wakkanai, Memanbetsu, Nakashibetsu and Monbetsu. Although some of these only fly once a day, using Haneda Airport gives you many options for your destination.

The flight time from Tokyo to Sapporo is usually 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Night lights at Hakodate Port in Hokkaido
Hakdodate is one of the main arrival ports for ferries from the Japanese mainland into Hokkaido

From the Tokyo area by Ferry

While not in central Tokyo itself, but not too far away in the neighbouring prefecture of Ibaraki there is a ferry to Hokkaido from the port of Oarai. It’s about a two hour train trip or drive from central Tokyo to Oarai and from there the trip takes a total of 18 hours and arrives in Tomakomai, the fifth largest and one of the port cities of Hokkaido. Read more about this service here.

There are two sailings a day – an all-day trip and an overnight ferry, both which include options for cabins, public baths and saunas, play areas for children and other entertainment options. It even includes pet-friendly cabins and dog runs!

For those travelling with children or in groups, a ferry ride can be a unique and fun experience! It is the “slow boat” though, so if you’re short on time this may not be the best choice for you.

Driving from Tokyo

The most slow-paced but perhaps the most scenic method of getting here from Tokyo is to drive yourself. Hokkaido is well-known for its relaxed easy driving and its beautiful panoramic views, so why not get a head start and drive from Tokyo?

It’s not really possible to pick up a rental car in Tokyo and drop off the same car in Hokkaido. If you wish to continue driving onwards in Hokkaido, you can drop off the rental car at Aomori Ferry Terminal and pick up another rental car at Hakodate Ferry Terminal after crossing the Tsugaru Strait. Make sure you have a valid license to drive in Japan!

This method of travel will take around 17 hours (without stops) on the shortest route, and longer if you take a different route so you need to plan your route over a couple of days at least. However, depending on your goals it might be worth it if you want to get the full experience of traveling in northern Japan.

Travel options from Tokyo to Hokkaido

How much?

How long?

Comfort

Train

23,000 JPY

4 hours

★★★★

Plane

5,000 – 25,000 JPY

1.5 hours

★★★

Ferry

Casual room 12,000 JPY

18 hours

★★★★★

Car

Fuel, accommodation, highway tolls

17 hours non stop

★★★

Useful travel sites for travel from Tokyo

How to get to Hokkaido from Osaka

In recent years the Kansai area, including Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, has had a large boom in popularity for overseas visitors to Japan.

While Tokyo is great for the contemporary, the Kansai area around Osaka and Kyoto is the heart of old Japan with all its history and traditions. Visitors wanting to see the places of historical interest often end up taking a visit to the Kansai area, which has led to it being a travel hub of its own.

Flying from Osaka

Kansai International Airport (KIX) offers a variety of flights to Hokkaido. For flights going straight to Sapporo there are even some budget airlines available, which can really lower the cost of your travels.

Osaka’s second airport Itami (ITM) also has a range of flights throughout the day, including the budget airlines Jetstar and Peach.

Flights from Kansai only take around 2 hours once you are in the air, so transfers between the regions are extremely easy!

From Osaka by Train

Taking the train to Hokkaido will bring you along a similar route – from Tokyo to the north it will be the same! However, in this instance you will first require a transfer to Tokyo Station from Osaka, where you can then ride the bullet train through to Hakodate.

Depending on if you have a Japan Rail Pass or not, it might even be cheaper than flying. Altogether the train trip between Osaka and Hokkaido will take you around 8 hours to get to Hakodate and 11 to reach Sapporo.

From the Kansai area by Ferry

Although there are no direct ferries from Osaka to Hokkaido, there are options available in the surrounding Kansai area, which is made up of Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto and the surrounding prefectures. One such option is the Tsuruga Ferry from Tsuruga in Fukui Prefecture, which is located about 200 km / 120 miles north of Osaka. From there a ferry launches that arrives in Tomakomai after a 20 hour trip.

Operated by the same company, there is also a ferry which arrives directly into Otaru from Maizuru City in Kyoto Prefecture. This ferry also takes around 20 hours, and arriving in Otaru, one of our most popular visitor spots. Visit the English language website of Shin Nikonkai Ferries here.

Both ferries offer a variety of restaurants, entertainment, and public baths that you can use to spend your time during the trip. You can also choose from a variety of rooms from public shared rooms to private luxurious cabins.

The flexibility of this ferry ride can be really appealing for those who want to take a leisurely trip to Hokkaido and love sea travel. Travelling on to the Japan Sea coast after visiting Kyoto would be a great combination and add a real flavour to your trip.

Canal and historic stone warehouses in Otaru.
The ferry from Maizuru arrives directly into Otaru

Travel options from Osaka to Hokkaido

How much?

How long?

Comfort

Train

23,000 JPY

6.5 hours

★★★★

Plane

5,000 – 25,000 JPY

2 hours

★★★

Ferry

Shared room 10,000 JPY

21 hours

★★★★★

Useful travel sites for travel from Osaka

Snowshoers resting by the Biei Blue River in Hokkaido
Once you’re here in Hokkaido you can explore places like the Biei Blue River

Short-haul

Hokkaido is a popular getaway for people living in nearby Asian countries. Just a short direct flight from many cities, visit Hokkaido in summer and you can escape the heat and humidity while a visit in winter transports you to a white winter wonderland.

Map showing flight routes to Hokkaido from the major Asian cities
How to get to Hokkaido – Flight routes from major Asian cities

How to get to Hokkaido from Taiwan

Travellers from Taiwan have more flight options than ever if they want to travel to Hokkaido. Of course those who travel from Tokyo have a myriad of choices to visit Japan’s most northern island, but now there are also direct flights between Taiwan and Hokkaido available now as well.

From the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) multiple flights every day arrive directly into New Chitose Airport. Operated by major airlines like ANA and Japan Airlines, air travel between Taiwan and Hokkaido has become quick and easy.

The flight time from Taiwan is only around 3 hours and 30 minutes, so very quickly you can be enjoying the epic scenery and wilderness ! Even short journeys are convenient due to the ease of travel from Taipei to Sapporo.

There are a couple of more options to fly to Hokkaido from Taiwan too.  There is a direct flight from Taipei to Asahikawa in central Hokkaido operated by the LY airline, this is the best place to fly into if you want to go to Daisetsuzan National Park. LY also operate a flight from Taipei into Hakodate.

How to get to Hokkaido from South Korea

With Japan and South Korea being so close to each other, it of course is the case that travel between the two countries is easy as well.

Travellers from South Korea will be excited to know that visiting is quick and easy- in fact, traveling from Incheon to Sapporo is faster than traveling from Sapporo to Okinawa!

Incheon Airport (ICN) offers several flights direct to New Chitose Airport from various major airlines.

A direct flight from Incheon to Sapporo only takes 3 hours, so if you took a morning flight you could be eating butter-corn ramen in Sapporo by lunchtime!

There is also a seasonal flight from Incheon to Asahikawa Airport, which is the nearest airport to Daisetsuzan National Park.

The close proximity of South Korea and Hokkaido means little travel time, so more time enjoying your trip to Japan’s great northern wilderness!

How to get to Hokkaido from Hong Kong

The Hong Kong International Airport is a major travel hub and offers many options for travel all over Japan.  Both Japan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines offer direct flights to New Chitose airport from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG).

A non-stop flight from Hong Kong to Sapporo will only take 4 hours and 30 minutes, so it is a relatively short trip to get you here!

Due to recent travel restrictions there are some days this flight does not occur, however, so it might be more reliable to fly through Tokyo’s Haneda or Narita Airport, or even the Osaka-area Kansai Airport. From there your options to continue on to Hokkaido are numerous, including ferry, train, domestic flight, or for the adventurous- a rental car and a road trip!

How to get to Hokkaido from Singapore

Though Singapore and Hokkaido are relatively close to each other their climates are very different! Although Singapore tends to be hot and humid, that kind of weather only occurs in the very height of summer here, and the rest of the year tends to be cooler than Singapore (or much much colder in the winter!)

If you’re looking for an experience very different from Singapore, a trip to Japan’s Northern Island is a great choice!

Although currently there are no direct flights from Singapore’s Changi Airport to any of Hokkaido’s airports, a short transfer at either Haneda or Narita Airport will quickly get you to enjoying yourself in our great outdoors in no time.

By flying into Haneda Airport you will find yourself with more options for flight times, and due to its location in Tokyo you are closer to other options for transportation, like ferry or train. Narita Airport, however, caters to more international airlines, so it might be more convenient when making the initial trip to Japan!

Travellers warming their feet in the hot pools at Lake Kussharo in Hokkaido
Explore beautiful locations such as Lake Kussharo

Long-haul

Most visitors to Hokkaido coming from outside Asia will transit at either Tokyo or Osaka. Of the two airports in Tokyo, Narita has the most international flight connections. Tokyo Haneda closer to downtown Tokyo, which makes it a great option if you want to add a day or two exploring the worlds greatest metropolis before escaping to Hokkaido’s wilderness. Whilst less well known than Tokyo, a layover in Osaka will give you a night to experience some of Japan’s liveliest food, drink and nightlife.

How to get to Hokkaido from Australia & New Zealand

Hokkaido has long been a popular winter destination for skiers and snowboarders coming from the southern hemisphere. Many summer visitors from down under first came in winter but found themselves drawn back in the summer months to discover more of our culture.

There are flights to Tokyo from many Australian cities. while Aukland has connections to Tokyo and Osaka. Qantas also operate a direct flight from Sydney to Sapporo during the winter season, making it even easier to escape to the snow.

Common flight routes to Hokkaido from Australia & New Zealand

Depart

Fly via

Sydney(SYD)

Direct to Sapporo (Dec-Mar only), Tokyo Haneda (HND) & Osaka Kansai (KIX)

Auckland (AKL)

Tokyo Narita (NRT) & Osaka Kansai (KIX) (Oct-Feb only)

Melbourne (MEL)

Tokyo Narita (NRT) & Tokyo Haneda (HND)

Brisbane (BNE)

Tokyo Haneda (HND)

Perth (PER)

Tokyo Narita (NRT)

How to get to Hokkaido from North America

Jet across the pacific ocean and you will find yourself immersed in a different culture, while crossing the date line on the way home means you arrive earlier than you departed, time travel! Hokkaido is growing in popularity with North American visitors looking to enjoy their favourite outdoor activities whilst experience Hokkaido and Japan’s unique culture.

There are many flights to Tokyo’s two airports from North America, too many to list them all here. Hawaiian airlines also operate a direct flight to Sapporo from Honolulu.

Common flight routes to Hokkaido from North America

Depart

Fly via

Los Angeles (LAX)

Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND), Osaka Kansai (KIX) & Honolulu (HNL)

New York (JFK)

Honolulu (HNL), Tokyo Narita (NRT) & Tokyo Haneda (HND)

Vancouver (YVR)

Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND) & Honolulu (HNL)

Toronto (YYZ)

Tokyo Narita (NRT) & Tokyo Haneda (HND) & Honolulu (HNL)

Daisetsuzan Asahidake hiking (Photo courtesy of Aaron Jamieson Photography)
Traverse volcanic peaks in the Daisetsuzan Mountains (Photo courtesy of Aaron Jamieson Photography)

How to get to Hokkaido from Europe

Hikers and cyclists visiting Japan from Europe have long found themselves drawn to Hokkaido thanks to its endless opportunities for adventure.

The only direct flight to Hokkaido from Europe is from Helsinki, a popular route for Scandinavian skiers in winter. Otherwise, like other regions, Tokyo is the most common transit point with flights from many European capitals.

Common flight routes to Hokkaido from Europe

Depart

Fly via

London Heathrow (LHR)

Tokyo Haneda (HND), Osaka Kansai (KIX) & Helsinki (HEL)

Paris (CDG)

Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND), Osaka Kansai (KIX) & Helsinki (HEL)

Frankfurt (FRA)

Tokyo Narita (NRT), Tokyo Haneda (HND), Osaka Kansai (KIX) & Helsinki (HEL)

Rome (FCO)

Tokyo Haneda (HND) & Helsinki (HEL)

Travel tip – check out the Air Passes available for international visitors

If you’re not a resident of Japan and would like to visit a few different places on your trip, say Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kyoto and Kyushu, one option worth considering are the great value air passes and special offers available from the flagship Japanese airlines, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA). These are great deals and you’re bound to enjoy the highest levels of Japanese service on board.

The best way to travel to Hokkaido depends on you

Whether coming from outside of the country or continuing a trip from elsewhere in Japan to Hokkaido, there are multiple options for you to get to Hokkaido which can help you shape your perfect trip.

If you have lots of time and are looking for a truly unique travel experience, getting to Hokkaido via ferry, train, or even driving yourself will be memorable.

For those travellers on a tighter schedule who want to maximize their time in Hokkaido, we recommend flying and due to the popularity and convenience of low-cost airlines even travellers on a budget can find an easy way to do so.

Your journey is part of the experience, so make sure you take advantage of your trip from the very start!

And, of course, once you make it here the real fun begins! Whether you’re coming to get have an outdoor adventure, experience Hokkaido’s powder snow, eat some amazing fresh food, or spend a leisurely time in some of the numerous hot springs, we are waiting for you so we can help you plan your best and memorable trip to Hokkaido.

Ready to find out more?

See our Hokkaido hiking, cycling & nature tours