Nov 8, 2016
Two of Japan's major urban areas are separated by a heaving geography of mountains, lakes, grumbling volcanoes, the world's largest metropolis, and, very importantly, a stretch of sea (the Tsugaru Straits between Honshu and Hokkaido). It's really the latter that makes land journeys from Osaka to Sapporo troublesome (if you're in a hurry and don't like flying). The opening of the Hokkaido Shinkansen (March 2016) with services between Aomori (Honshu) and Hakodate (Hokkaido) was welcomed with much fanfare. It wasn't long though before some people began questioning the economics of it. Buses from Osaka to Sapporo don't exist. The same can be said for Shinkansen and other trains leaving flights to Sapporo as the only direct option. Here we break down the major travel options and look at how much they cost. (All prices in Japanese Yen)
The prices below are based on bookings made one month prior to departure using each airline's homepage. Flights from Osaka could make use of 3 airports; Itami (ITM), Kansai International Airport (KIX), and Kobe Airport Terminal (UKB). Arrivals will be at New Chitose Airport (CTS)
Flight times with the above are between 1 hrs 45 mins and 2 hrs
|Business Kippu||~ 44,000||~ 89,000|
|Tabiwari||~ 9,000||~ 18,000|
|Premium Fare||~ 56,000||~ 113,000|
|Premium Tabiwari||~ 27,000||~ 43,000|
|Airport||One way||One way J Class charge||Return||Return J Class charges|
|KIX||~ 12,000||1,000 - 5,000||~ 22,000||1,000 - 5,000 (out) / 7,000 - 40,000 (in)|
|Itami||~ 15,000||4,000 - 35,000||~ 31,000||4,000 - 35,000 (out) / 4,000 - 5,000 (in)|
Kansai International seems to be the cheaper option then. The scope in 'surcharges' for J Class is pretty vast with little explanation offered other than it might just be down to times and availability.
Low Cost Carriers
|Peach||~ 5,000||~ 11,000|
|Jetstar||~ 6,000||~ 12,000|
From New Chitose Airport, the JR Rapid Airport train service takes 37 mins to JR Sapporo Station. Fares between 1,070 yen and 1,590 yen.
Shinkansen and other trains
It probably goes without saying that a journey of the scale of Osaka to Sapporo by Shinkansen will require a few transfers/changes, 2 in fact.
Route: Shin-Osaka (Nozomi Shinkansen) - Tokyo Station (Shinkansen Hayabusa) - Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (Limited Express Hokuto) - JR Sapporo Station
Basic fare: 18,140 yen (Don't concern yourselves too much with this, it means almost nothing. Paying this alone will not get you on any trains in Japan, you need to pay the 'seat fee' too. It's frustrating to explain but Japan likes to break down journey fares into nonsensical categories.). The various seat options and how much they cost, we've detailed in the table below.
|Nozomi||Unreserved seat||Reserved seat||Green seat||Time|
|4,870||5,500||10,480||2 hrs 33 mins|
|Hayabusa||Reserved seat||Green seat||Gran Class||Time|
|10,930||18,500||26,720||~ 4 hrs|
|Ltd. Exp. Hokuto||Unreserved seat||Reserved seat||Green seat||Time|
|1,290||1,550||5,400||3 hrs 30 mins|
|Journey Total||35,490||43,690||60,740||~ 10 hrs 50 mins|
Taking only local trains would clearly turn Osaka to Sapporo into a journey of Biblical scale.
Bus and boat
There's no way to take a bus directly to Sapporo from anywhere on the island of Honshu. This will be a journey to take in stages with long breaks in between each.
The most logical first leg of the route would be Osaka to Tokyo with night buses taking around 9 hrs. There's a wide scope in fares with this. Expect somewhere between 3,000 - 9,000 yen.
From Tokyo your next destination will be Aomori.
Willer Express operate buses between Tokyo (Shinjuku) and Aomori Station or Aomori Port. You're looking at a journey time of around 10 hrs for this. Costs between ~ 5,000 yen and ~ 8,000 yen
Next, you'll need to make the ferry crossing from the island of Honshu (the one you're on) to the island of Hokkaido.
Ferries from Aomori to Hakodate (Hokkaido) take around 4 hrs.
With Seikan Ferry ...
... crossings from Oct. to May: 1,600 yen (adult) / 800 yen (child)
... crossing from June to Sept.: 2,000 yen (adult) / 1,000 yen (child)
With bicycles: 800 - 1,000 yen
With motorbikes: 2,400 - 4,000 yen
With cars: 12,800 - 20,000 yen
All of the above costs dependent on size and season.
Check out Japan Bus Online to search for bus services between Hakodate and Sapporo. A quick search will turn up fares from ~ 4,000 yen for the ~ 5-hr journey
Journey total: If you can score the cheapest bus seats ~ 14,000 yen
Driving and boat
Osaka - Tokyo: Time ~ 6 hrs / Highway tolls ~ 12,000 yen
Tokyo - Aomori: Time ~ 8 hrs / Highway tolls ~ 14,000 yen
Crossing from Aomori - Hakodate: See above
Hakodate - Sapporo: Time ~ 3 - 4 hrs / Highway tolls ~ 6,500 yen
We've sourced these times and costs from NEXCO (the people who operate the country's highways). It should be noted that we aren't familiar with which junction is best for which part of each destination. The times listed here are only for junction to junction and don't take into account the time required to drive within each city.
24 hrs of rent-a-car in Japan might be around 8,000 yen for a basic subcompact model.
Journey total: Very roughly indeed ~ 60,000 yen. However, this doesn't take into account gas/petrol needed for the trek, or accommodation if you're going to split the journey over two days, which would seem to be the best way to do it.
It goes without saying that flying is the way to go for journeys from Osaka to Sapporo. Even some of ANA's expensive seats can be booked for similar prices as the Shinkansen/train options. The train, bus, boat combinations look to be quite a slog and really only something to be considered for more drawn out trips rather than attempts to get between the two cities in one stretch. At comfortably over 60,000 yen, driving solo makes little sense. Sharing a motor with 2 or 3 others, however, could make for a fun road trip.
How about you guys? Ever made the journey from Osaka to Sapporo? If you've got any travel tips, be sure to leave them in the comments.
For more travel ideas and transportation costs for travel within Japan, check out our 'How much?' series. Here's a few to get you started ...
See us on ...
A Q&A and blogging community about life in Japan (plus a load of life-in-Japan stats!). Get your questions answered, share your experience! | Inquiry -> KyodoNewsDigital International Media | Tokyo, Japan | +81 3 6252 6402