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Winter sightseeing trains: SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train & Ryuhyo Monogatari Train

Winter sightseeing trains: SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train & Ryuhyo Monogatari Train

Fuyu-no-Shitsugen (left) and Ryuhyo Monogatari (right). (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Although Hokkaido’s winter is very cold, the region has a lot of beautiful sceneries that can be seen only in this season. There are many attractive places with plenty of snow and ice during winter in Eastern Hokkaido. We recommend two winter sightseeing trains: the SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train that runs through the white wetlands, and the Ryuhyo Monogatari Train that runs along the Sea of Okhotsk (オホーツク海 Ohōtsuku-kai) filled with drift ice. Let’s go on a trip to experience the beauty of nature!

 

SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train (SL冬の湿原号)

The SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train in Kushiro's wilderness. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

The SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train runs through the white Kushiro Wetlands. It has a retro atmosphere: the interior walls are varnished, and the seats are made from wood. While on board the train, you can enjoy different views such as the vast Kushiro Wetlands (釧路湿原 Kushiro-Shitsugen) and the slow-flowing Kushiro River (釧路川 Kushiro-gawa). If you’re lucky, you can see red-crowned cranes (丹頂 tanchō), Ezo deer (エゾシカ Ezo-shika), and foxes right from the train window.

 

Fuyu-no-Shitsugen's varnished interiors and wooden seats. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

View from inside the train. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Travel tips

  1. The SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train is by reserved seating only. A reserved seat ticket is required to take this train, so please get one beforehand.
  2. Buy dried squid at the sales counter on the train and grill it on a stove. It is a fun activity that you can’t experience on any other train.
  3. It is easier to spot animals in the snow during winter than in any other season. Look carefully while you enjoy the surrounding view.

Train route from Kushiro Station and Shibecha Station on the Senmō Main Line (釧網本線 Senmō-honsen). (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

The train departs from Kushiro Station and ends at Shibecha Station (above). (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Passengers can buy dried squids at the sale counter, and grill them while on the train. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Operating section: Kushiro Station–Shibecha Station
Operating dates: Late January–early March every year
Train formation: 5 cars, all reserved seating
Details: jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/tour-train/tour-train01.html

 

SL Fuyu-no-Shitsugen Train. (Video credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Recommended station: Kayanuma Station (茅沼駅)

In the past, the station staff used to feed the red-crowned cranes, and the station became well-known to be visited by these precious birds. Even today, the red-crowned cranes come to the station to look for food. If you are lucky, you can see the red-crowned cranes from the station or the train window.

 

Red-crowned cranes seen from inside the train at Kayanuma Station. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Ryuhyo Monogatari Train (流氷物語号)

The Ryuhyo Monogatari Train, operating only during winter. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

The Ryuhyo Monogatari Train is a sightseeing train that runs along the Sea of Okhotsk only during winter. You can enjoy magnificent landscapes like the Sea of Okhotsk that is filled with drift ice, and the white Shiretoko Mountain Range (知床岳 Shiretoko-dake). There are local volunteer guides on board at selected times, and you can purchase commemorative goods and get tourist information about the area from them.

 

Train interiors, with cushioned seats and insulation from the cold outside. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Viewing the Sea of Okhotsk from inside the train. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Travel tips

  1. The Ryuhyo Monogatari Train is a non-reserved seating train. You can take this train with just a basic fare ticket.
  2. If you are taking the Ryuhyo Monogatari Train no. 1 or no. 3 departing from Abashiri Station (網走駅 Abashiri-eki), you will see the Sea of Okhotsk on the left side of the train. If you are taking no. 2 or no. 4 departing from Shiretoko-Shari (知床斜里駅 Shiretoko-Shari-eki), you will see it on the right.
  3. Get off at Kitahama Station (北浜駅 Kitahama-eki) and go up to the observation deck to see the full view of the Sea of Okhotsk. But be warned: it’s going to be very cold.

The coastal train route along the Sea of Okhotsk, passing through Abashiri along the way. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Cold temperatures in areas between Abashiri and Shiretoko-Shari during winter. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Operating section: Abashiri Station–Shiretoko-Shari Station
Operating dates: Early February–early March every year
Train formation: 2 cars, all non-reserved seating (※type of train cars to be changed from next year onwards)
Details: jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/travel/tour-train/tour-train02.html

 

Ryuhyo Monogatari Train. (Video credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Recommended station: Kitahama Station (北浜駅)

Kitahama Station is the station closest to the Sea of Okhotsk. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

At Kitahama Station, you can see drift ice right before your eyes. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

This station is famous for being the closest station to the Sea of Okhotsk and the drift ice. In mid-winter, you can see a field of ice floes drifting all the way from the distant Amur River, and magnificent views of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Shiretoko Mountain Range. The Ryuhyo Monogatari Train no. 1 and no. 3 will make a brief stop here for about 10 minutes.

 

The rustic entrance to Kitahama Station. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Notes of well wishes from past visitors at Kitahama Station. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

Details on Hokkaido Rail Pass

Hokkaido Rail Pass. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

If you are visiting Eastern Hokkaido by train, the Hokkaido Rail Pass is highly recommended. With the pass, you can have unlimited rides on any JR train in Hokkaido (except Hokkaido Shinkansen) within the validity period. For example, the one-way ticket from Sapporo to Kushiro is ¥9,990 per adult, and from Sapporo to Abashiri, it will be ¥10,540 per adult for a one-way ticket (with seat reservation on the limited express train). With the Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can travel on these routes and many more as much as you like, and make seat reservations for free.

 

There are four types of Hokkaido Rail Passes, and pass holders can reserve seats for free. (Image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company)

 

There are four types of rail passes—3-day, 5-day, 7-day, and Flexi-4 day—and the prices range from ¥17,400 to ¥25,710. Seat reservations are free for Hokkaido Rail Pass holders, so it’s worth buying one. For more details on the Hokkaido Rail Pass, you can have a look at the link here. If you would like to know the train schedules and ticket prices for other routes, you can look up the timetable and ticket prices here.

 

Header image credit: Hokkaido Railway Company

 

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