Taking a leisurely train ride to enjoy the sight of the Hokkaido countryside through the window is good, isn't it? Here are 5 local train lines in Hokkaido that have lovely scenery.
This train line runs from Tomakomai, an area famous for Sakhalin surf clams, to Cape Erimo, the southernmost tip of the Hidaka Mountains. It's a 146.5km line that rides along the coastline just ahead of where the rough Pacific Ocean crashes into shore to Samani Station, the terminus.
The distinguishing characteristic of this line is definitely the location. If you ride from Tomakomai, on the right you'll have the vast Pacific Ocean and depending on where you are, on your left side you'll see farms housing thoroughbred horses. Hidaka kombu, one of the most prized types of kombu seaweed used in making broth, is this area's specialty and you can see the sight of them drying in the sun along the coastline from summer to autumn.
You'll want to get intoxicated with Hokkaido's scenery as you experience Mother Nature showing off her wild side.
(As of April 12th, 2016, the train isn't running on the section between Mukawa Station and Samani Station, but there are bus shuttles in place.)
1. JR Hokkaido Hidaka Main Line
The Souya Main Line connects Japan's northernmost station, Wakkanai Station, to Hokkaido's second biggest city Asahikawa Station, for a total length of 259.4km.
After departing Asahikawa the rural landscape gradually unfolds in front of the train windows, and the train runs past rolls of hay and dairy farms as it heads north. There are a number of farms reclaiming the huge Sarubetsu plain, and they're the stars of the view.
Since it runs through Hokkaido's coldest, harshest area, in the winter the snowplow train pushes the snow off the rails as it runs. The sight of the strong train is irresistible even if you're not a trainspotter.
Since it isn't a line with high volume most of the stations are unmanned, and there are many secluded stations without any stores or homes around, so this is a train line for people who are experienced travelers.
2. JR Hokkaido Souya Main Line
Senmo Main Line runs from Higashi-Kushiro Station, the entrance to Kushiro Shitsugen National Park, Japan's largest park, to Abashiri Station on the Sea of Okhotsk coast for a total length of 166.2km. (*All trains heading towards Kushiro connect with the Nemuro Main Line, so the Senmo Main Line starts from Kushiro Station. Please double-check before riding.)
After the train leaves Higashi-Kushiro Station, it enters the untouched Kushiro Shitsugen National Park and cuts through the marshlands surrounding it. The scenery is filled with the marshlands, the meandering Kushiro River, and afar you can see the peaks of Oakan and Meakan for a completely satisfying view.
Another one of the major charms of this train line is the many animals that live in the marshlands that you might see. From spring to autumn, the Kushiro Shitsugen Norokko special train leisurely runs between Kushiro Station and Touro Station for those who want to really enjoy the vast nature.
When you get out of the Kushiro marshlands, the farms and greenery continue until you reach Shiretokoshari Station, the entrance to the World Heritage Site the Shiretoko Peninsula. Finally you arrive at Abashiri Station, from which you can see the Sea of Okhotsk on your right, famous for its ice floes.
This is a train line where you can enjoy a dynamic view of nature that can only be found in this part of the country.
3. JR Hokkaido Senmo Main Line
The Nemuro Main Line runs 443.8km between Takikawa Station in central Hokkaido to Nemuro Station in eastern Hokkaido. Among them, the section from Kushiro Station to Nemuro Station has been given the nickname of the Hanasaki Line.
The train leaves Kushiro Station heading towards Japan's easternmost town, Nemuro. You can see hill country, marshland, and the coastline from the window, so you'll never tire of the view.
Among them, the section between Akkeshi Station and Itoizawa Station has an amazing scenery since it runs on the very edge of the Akkeshi Lake's shore. From there, it enters the untouched Bekanbeushi marshlands. It passes through Ochiishi Station, which is usually very foggy in the mornings, past Hanasaki Station which is famous for Hanasaki crab, before finally reaching Nemuro Station.
If you're heading from Nemuro to Kushiro, it's said the view from the right side of the train that looks out over the ocean is great, so please make a note of that!
4. JR Hokkaido Hanasaki Line (along the Nemuro Main Line)
This is Hokkaido's best sightseeing line and it runs from Asahikawa Station to Furano Station. It has a relatively high number of trains for a Hokkaido local line and you can easily explore the areas around the stations so this is a great line for a first-timer.
During the trip you can enjoy the sight of the Tokachi mountain range, the beautiful town of Biei, and Furano's hill country. It's especially beautiful in July when the lavender flowers bloom and release a lovely fragrance. If you can, that is definitely the time to visit.
Also, from June to September, the sightseeing trolley Biei - Furano Torokko Train runs on the line. Only during this period you can get off at Lavender Field Station, so it might be good to enjoy the Furano's fields then.
5. JR Hokkaido Furano Line
For people who want to leisurely enjoy Hokkaido or just like trains, why not try a local train trip rather than traveling by airplane or bullet rain?
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.