Hokkaido Winter Rail Travel: Okhotsk-No-Kaze and Ryuhyo Norokko Trains

There are several seasonal trains that run at different parts of Hokkaido at different times of the year.  When I was there in Winter, there were 3 popular sightseeing trains: Okhotsk-No-Kaze, Ryuhyo-Norokko and SL Fuyu-No-Shitsugen Trains.


We spent one day travelling from Sapporo to Shiretoko using the Okhotsk-No-Kaze and Ryuhyuo-Norokko trains.  The entire trip was covered by our Hokkaido Rail Pass.


We started early in the morning, catching the Okhotsk-No-Kaze from Sapporo station to Abashiri.


We took the 7.55am train from Sapporo to Abashiri


Okhotsk-No-Kaze train


Comfy seats in the train


The Okhotsk-No-Kaze train had a lounge in the middle, where you could get your souvenir chop and send a postcard from inside the train!


Lounge inside the train


You can collect souvenir chops and send postcards from the train.


There was a pamphlet that had spaces for you to chop the souvenir chops of the 3 seasonal trains.


Pamphlet for collecting souvenir chops.

train 1

My pamphlet with souvenir chops from Okhotsk-No-Kaze and Ryuhyo Norokko


There was also a Okhotsk-No-Kaze postcard which you can help yourself too, it’s free!

train 2

We arrived at Abashiri station and walked around a bit while waiting for the Ryuhyo Norokko train.



We did not forget to get our souvenir stamp from Abashiri station.


The Norokko train arrived and the two seasonal trains were parked next to each other!



We hurried down to take some photos with the Norokko train before boarding.


The interior of the train was pretty old-school, with wooden benches, some of which facing the windows.


There were furnaces and grills for passengers to grill food, so we bought a dried squid and to grill!


As the train travelled along the Okhotsk sea, we saw drift ice!


When the train reached Kitahama, everyone hopped off the train.  The train stopped there for a quite a while, and there was a viewing platform from which we could view the Okhotsk sea and the surrounding mountains.


We hopped back on the train towards our final destination: Shiretoko-shari


We walked briefly around the station before catching the train back to Sapporo.



And there is our return train: A ONE-CARRIAGE train!



And we ended the day with the long, quiet train ride back to Sapporo, once again passing by the Okhotsk sea covered with beautiful drift ice.


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  • Orion says:

    Hi, i am planning for a trip to Hokkaido during end Dec – early Jan around 9 days. 3 days will be for skiing. I intend to tour the eastern hokkaido and you have mentioned
    1) Tomamu
    2) Obihiro (Tokachigawa Onsen)
    3) Kushiro
    4) Lake Akan
    5) Abashiri
    6) Sounkyo
    7) Asahikawa

    Just wondering if we want to see scenary and avoid big tour group, can i know what will be your recommended itinerary? Also will it be accessible by car only or train as well. Thanks!!!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      For the scenic area around Eastern Hokkaido, it is best to rent a car.

      For 9 days with 3 days in a ski resort, you can do something like this:

      Day 1: CTS – Tomamu
      Day 2: Tomamu
      Day 3: Tomamu
      Day 4: Tomamu – Obihiro (rent car) – Tokachigawa Onsen
      Day 5: Tokachigawa Onsen – Tsurui (for cranes) – Lake Akan
      Day 6: Lake Akan – Akan National Park – Abashiri
      Day 7: Abashiri – Sounkyo
      Day 8: Sounkyo – Asahikawa
      Day 9: Asahikawa – CTS

      For your dates, I would expect it to be quite crowded unfortunately because end of the year is peak travel season. If you want to avoid the crowd, you can try the less touristy onsen towns like Kawayu and Shikaribetsu. So you replace the night Lake Akan with Kawayu onsen (which is nearby) instead, and replace Asahikawa with Shikaribetsu.

  • Christine Loh says:

    Hi We are travelling to Eastern Hokkaido and planning to take the Norokko train. Where do you get the tickets? Can they be reserved online?

    Thank You

  • James says:

    Put of impulse, i am planning to go to Hokkaido with my 6 year daughter from 7 to 11 Dec (Essentially we only have 4 full days).
    We will be taking the red eye flight on the 6th and landing in New Chitose on 7th morning.
    I was wondering if you had any recommendations for 4 days (no skiing).
    My initial ideas:
    First Day – Walking within Sapporo itself
    Second Day – Asahiyama Zoo
    Third Day – Is it worth taking the Hokkaido Winter Rail Travel?
    Last Day – Otaru


    • bumblebeemum says:

      The Hokkaido winter rails will not be operating yet in December. I suggest for such a short trip, just hang around Sapporo. You can visit Shiroi Koibito Park and take the Mount Moiwa Ropeway. Or visit the Historical Village of Hokkaido.

      Alternatively you can consider spending one night at Hotel Mahoroba at Noboribetsu. My boys LOVE the onsen there which has a slide and there is an arcade within the hotel which they enjoyed. It would be a fun experience to stay in an onsen ryokan in winter. My boys think it’s funny running out in the cold stark naked and quickly going into the hot onsen to warm themselves up. But oh wait.. Is it just you and your daughter? It could be a bit problematic then coz male and female onsens are separate.

  • diana says:

    Noticed that you travelled from sapporo to abashiri and back in 1 day. isnt it very tiring?

    Quick question : is it possible to bring the big luggages from Sapporo to Abashiri if we are staying over. Just wondering if there is space on the train for 2 big luggages.

    I would be going by rail from sapporo to abashiri to asahikwa and back to sapporo. Is there any places in between accessible by train where i can see the winter animals like seals, cranes, fox? thanks!

    • bumblebeemum says:

      We were just there to see the drift ice, so it was okay. Many travellers go to Abashiri as a day-trip in winter for the ice-breaker cruise, it is not uncommon. It saves the trouble of moving hotel and taking train with luggage – which is more tiring imo.

      So for e.g. what you can do is to base yourself in Sapporo and do one day-trip to Asahikawa for the zoo and another day-trip to Abashiri to take the ice-breaker cruise.

      If you are talking about wild animals, it is all a matter of chance. Like when you take the ice-breaker cruise, if you’re lucky you would spot wild animals on the ice.

      But if you want a definite chance of seeing cranes, you need to go to the feeding areas at Tsurui (near Kushiro). This is a bit too far to be done as a day trip from Sapporo though. You will need to go to Kushiro and rent a car from there to drive to Tsurui.

      Let’s say you want to go to both Abashiri for ice-breaker cruise and Tsurui for cranes, what I suggest if for you to travel in a loop:
      Sapporo – Asahikawa – Abashiri – Lake Akan – Kushiro – Sapporo

      However this means you will need to keep changing hotels along the way. Usually for this, I would drive.

  • Julie says:

    Hi Bumblebeemum,

    I will be heading to Hokkaido this coming end Jan-early Feb. (Family of 5pax)

    Our itinerary will be:

    Sapporo > Hakodate (4 nights) > Lake Toya/ Noboribetsu (2 nights) > Asahikawa / Biei (2 nights) > Abashiri (2 nights) > Sapporo (4 nights)

    Is it feasible? For Abashiri, we wanted to sit the ice breaker ship, if there’s no drift wood, is there any other attractions over there?
    And also is there any other attractions/places along this route?

    please advise, thank you very much! 🙂

    • Julie says:

      sorry I meant *drift ice instead.

    • bumblebeemum says:

      Are you driving or using the train? If driving, there are some pretty long drives (Sapporo – Hakodate, Noboribetsu – Asahikawa, Abashiri – Sapporo) that I would try to break up.

      In Abashiri, there are attractions like the Abashiri prison museum and the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum. I have never visited the prison museum before coz it wasn’t something that interested me, but it’s supposed to be the main attraction of Abashiri (other than ice-breaker cruise).

      I visited the Okhotsk Ryu-hyo Museum, for the cheap thrill of seeing drift ice in the museum since we couldn’t see it in the sea.. haha. It was alright. Not super interesting, but we had nothing better to do without the ice-breaker cruise.

      But if you have 2 nights at Abashiri and you’re so unlucky (like me) to not encounter drift ice, my suggestion is for you to drive to Akan National Park instead. It is possible to visit Lake Akan / Lake Mashu / Lake Kussharo as a day trip from Abashiri. Though you may not have enough time to drive all the way till Tsurui where the cranes are.

      • Julie says:

        Thank you for the info BBM! 🙂

        There’s some changes to our itinerary:

        Sapporo > Muroran (1 night) > Lake Toya (1 nights) > Hakodate (4 nights) > Sapporo (3 nights) > Asahikawa (4 nights) > Sapporo (2 nights to see the winter festival).

        We will be driving throughout our trip (cept for stays in Sapporo).
        Was worried that there’s no drift ice thus we decided to not stay over in Abashiri. Do you think HEP is needed for Sapporo to Asahikawa? We will be getting HEP for the first 6 nights of our trip.

        Is it recommended to visit Biei / Furano during winter? Was thinking of heading to these 2 places when we’re staying at Asahikawa.

        As it’s our first time driving during winter, we were wondering whether if snow chains are necessary? We have booked through Tabirai website from Nippon rent-a-car company, and have requested for 4WD vehicle. Do you know how come it is cheaper to rent on Tabirai website instead of directly from the company (Nippon)?

        Enjoyed reading your blog as it is so detailed, great help for our plans. Thank you once again. 🙂

        • bumblebeemum says:

          For a car rental of 5 calendar days, the HEP would probably cost about the same as paying the Sapporo – Asahikawa return toll fees in cash. I guess you can get it for convenience.

          I found it very difficult to drive in Biei / Furano in winter. If there is no drift ice, I guess you can visit Biei if you have nothing else to do, though I usually won’t encourage it because of my personal bad experience driving in Biei during a snow storm. But I can understand that with 4 days in Asahikawa, if there’s no drift ice in Abashiri, it can get a tad boring. I would probably try to venture out to Biei rather than to be stuck in Asahikawa. I won’t go as far as Furano though, the drive all the way there for a day trip in winter seems a bit long and risky.

          It is generally cheaper to rent through booking websites rather than direct from car companies. It’s the same reason why booking hotels on Agoda / Booking.com etc is sometimes cheaper than booking direct from hotels. The car companies give platforms like Tabirai special rates in exchange for these platforms helping to drive them sales.

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