Summer Tour to Hokkaido – First Plans

From July 20th, we’ll be spending three weeks cycle touring in Hokkaido. This is a summary of our plan so far. We’ll say a little about Hokkaido, how we’re getting there from Fukushima, and what we want to do when we’re there. We’ve also included some useful links for other tourists who are planning a similar trip.

Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost main island.

Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island.

About Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, and the most recently settled. It has a cooler climate than the rest of the country, which means that it can support a different kind of agriculture; uniquely in Japan, Hokkaido is famous for dairy products. Its cooler climate makes it a very popular destination for cycle tourists, especially during the summer months when the rest of Japan is hot and humid. Hokkaido is not densely populated, which further adds to its appeal for cycle tourists. It is home to several of Japan’s national parks, and has many areas of undisturbed forest, as well as dramatic volcanic mountain ranges. Its natural beauty is another big draw for us. We had a great time in Sapporo when we visited during Winter last year, and so we’re excited to see summer in Hokkaido too.

Hokkaido's warm summer climate.

Hokkaido’s warm summer climate.

Getting there

We looked into a few different ways of getting to Hokkaido from our home in Fukushima. This table outlines the costs and respective times for some different transport options.

Method Time Costs
(two people, one way)
Seishun 18 Ticket Two days ¥11,000 Train ticket for five trips
¥8,000 shipping bikes
¥4,000 shipping panniers
¥23,000 total cost
Ferry via Sendai 36 hours ¥18,000 passenger fares
¥6,000 bikes fare
¥4,000 shipping panniers
¥6,000 train to Sendai
¥34,000 total cost
Fast trains
– bullet train to Aomori
– express train to Sapporo
8 hours 30 mins ¥40,610 passenger fares
¥8,000 shipping bikes
¥4,000 shipping panniers
¥52,620 total cost
Hokutosei sleeper train
(Koriyama to Sapporo)
18 hours ¥51,000 passenger fares
¥8,000 shipping bikes
¥4,000 shipping panniers
¥63,000 total cost
Fly from Sendai 6 hours ¥62,000 passenger fares
¥8,000 shipping bikes
¥4,000 shipping panniers
¥6,000 train to Sendai
¥90,000 total cost

The Seishun 18 ticket offers the best compromise between speed, cost and comfort, in our opinion. We will ship our bags and bikes ahead of us, and travel by local train up to Aomori, where we’ll stay overnight, before travelling by local train again into Hokkaido.

When we’re there

Hokkaido has a lot to offer. We’re still trying to choose what to include on our trip, and what we have to leave out. What do we know so far? Our friends Clare and Andy are English teachers from the UK, who live just outside Sapporo. They are also keen cycle tourists, so we’re looking forward to riding with them for a few days. David wants to visit the northern tip of Hokkaido, at Cape Soya, and nearby Rishiri Island. Sapporo holds a annual summer festival, and this year it runs from July 21st until August 15th – roughly the same time as our trip.

Reading list

Here are a few links to do with cycle touring in Hokkaido.

Long Ride Home: Pete Gostelow’s Long Ride Home journal includes a section where he’s warming up in Hokkaido.
Peter Westcoast’s Autumn in Hokkaido journal
David and Adele Arthur toured Hokkaido on folding bikes.
Adam and Beth made this great documentary about their trip, Cycling Japan’s Abandoned Rail.

Can you help?

Do you have any tips on cycle touring in Hokkaido? Have you been there in summer? Is there something that you think is unmissable? Are there any horror stories you want to share? Please let us know in the comments below.

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