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Asahikawa, Hokkaido – May 2019

This was quite the tour! I'd been to Sapporo a few times in the past, and usually by sleeper train (I really miss the original Twilight Express), but this time I'd be travelling at much higher speeds. Thanks to the opening of Shinkansen services through the Seikan Tunnel, not only can you get to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto at lightning speed, you even get free wifi when you're under the ocean!

The trip started from Sendai. I'd spent the day before travelling from Osaka to Nara to Ogaki, eventually ending up in Capsule Hotel Topos Sendai Station West. This hotel is fantastic and I recommend anyone to stay here. Clean, tidy and there are even 'premium' capsules that provide extra room, security and comfort. After a good night's sleep, I was presented with the following steed at Sendai Station. I could have chosen a different path and started the day from Tokyo, but instead, I'd chosen to travel half-way up Tohoku to Sendai. The first northbound service starts from Sendai and gets you to Sapporo (and then Asahikawa) much quicker than a service starting further south.


Actually, I fib. That one was going in the other direction... this one was mine:

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You'll notice the coupled consists above. The front half goes all the way through to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, whereas the back half only goes to Shin-Aomori. Note that the whole train is reserved... so make sure you get your tickets early! But then again, as I found out later in the trip, changing reservations can be quite simple!


If you've got some cash to spend, then take Gran-Class above! Green, below, is just as comfy... but so is pleb-class, which I took. I do enjoy the on-platform smoking facilities.

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It was a very quick trip... thanks to free wifi and therefore free netflix!

Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station

This station is the location of the current terminus of the Hokkaido Shinkansen. The extension through to Sapporo is under construction and is expected to be completed by 2031. It actually used to be the location of Oshima-Ōno Station (渡島大野駅), but this was demolished/renamed/upgraded when the Shinkansen line was built through. Now the station serves as a transfer point to the Zairaisen. There are perfectly-timed express services, lined up with most Shinkansen arrival/depatures, ready to go in both directions. There are also freight trains! This is the main line from Sapporo through to Tokyo, so they're also quite frequent. I wish I had been paying attention to my freight train timetable, and not netflix, as I wasn't in the right spot when one flew straight past me!

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The view of the scenery from the station was already quite fantastic. You could tell you were on a different island from the 'main land'.


Transferring to the normal gauge express trains was easy enough... they've colour-and-flower/fruit coded the doors! You also get the Japanese translation... there'll be a test later.

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Before-long, the southbound and northbound expresses were in the station.

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Actually, I was too busy watching the southbound express come down from the mountain.. when I turned around my train was nearly ready to depart!


From here it was a quick trip through to Sapporo, where a quick transfer to the Kamui took place. This service is run by an EMU as the line between Sapporo and Asahikawa is electrified. Here it is arriving into Sapporo.


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The trip from Sapporo to Asahikawa is inland and the scenery was fanastic. There really is a lot of land up in Hokkaido and 99% of it seems to be used for agriculture.


Asahikawa Station has seemingly recently been elevated and the architecture is beautiful. Lots of wooden infrastructure and great views of the mountain ranges in all directions.


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There's also a lot of references to the animals of the famous Asahiyama Zoo.


I ventured straight to my lodgings as it had been quite a long day of travel. I'd chose Hotel WBF Grande Asahikawa - ホテルWBF, right next to the station as I'd assumed, if I requested a station on the rear-side of the hotel, it'd have a great railway view.


When I booked, I asked (via to have a railway view and they informed me the single I'd booked needed to be changed to a deluxe twin for this to occur. It seems that the railway-facing rooms are all twin rooms! The booking had been done a few months prior to travel and so, at check-in when they asked where my travel partner was, I was stumped. Why were they asking this? Oh yeah! I'd booked a twin room because I wanted the railway view, and so they assumed two people were staying. I'd forgotten the reasoning at this point and they nearly down-graded me back to a single room, until one of the staff saw the "loves trains" note on the booking and let it proceed. Hah. Anyway... the room was fantastic and the view?...


That'll do nicely. Bags dumped, it was time to get back to the station and check out the neighbourhood. Of course, that's a total fib... the goal was to get back into the station in time to see the next freight service come through. Prior to it arriving, there were enough other trains to keep me entertained.

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And then... like clockwork...



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The freight continued around the viaduct up to the freight yard. I wanted to catch the return service, so I made my on foot to follow it.


Getting here is easy enough, follow the viaduct around the bend and take as-many-photographs-as-possible to distract one'self over the length of the bloody walk! Yes, it was quite the adventure... but there's always a silver lining.

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I had time before the freighter... so... the silver lining...


And then a quick run to Shin-Asahikawa Station. Quite a beautiful area at sunset!


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DMUs everywhere... the wires must'nt last much further past the station.

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And then... right on time!


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I caught the train back to the center of town this time.

Asahikawa Station At Night

From here it was back to Asahikawa Station for some nighttime photography.


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The evening southbound freighter was right on time, and it was too dark to try a photo with motion, so I opted to try and hold my camera steady instead.

While waiting for trains, you get a great view of the signals on the northern side. If they're all red then chances are good that something is coming.


But that was a wrap... I needed to be up really early the next day for the journey north to Wakkanai.

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  1. I really enjoyed your photo blog of the trip, lovely scenery and everywhere is very clean.
    Thank you.

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