So you’re going…
Asahikawa is probably best known for the Asahiyama Zoo, particularly for the penguin walk in winter.
It’s possible to make it a day trip to Asahikawa from Sapporo.
Or if you’re making a loop around Hokkaido, with Asahikawa being a big city, there are a few different accommodation options too.
Or… if you just want to go from Sapporo to Asahikawa, visit the zoo for a few hours, and then move on to another city on the same day…
There are coin lockers at the Asahiyama train station that you can store your luggage at while you go off and explore the city.
There were also signs at the tourist information office located at the train station that they offer luggage storage as well.
What I did was arrive to Asahikawa in the morning, dropped off my luggage in a coin locker, and then took a bus to the Asahiyama zoo.
Then after the visit to the zoo, I returned back to the train station to get my luggage and then went to check in to my Asahiyama hostel that was about a 20 minute walk away.
The Asahiyama zoo penguin walk can be a perfect part of a 7-day Hokkaido winter itinerary with a JR pass!
All that said…
It can be pretty easy to get from Sapporo to Asahikawa by train!
How to get to Asahikawa from Sapporo?!
Once you’ve taken the train a couple of times in Hokkaido, it’ll become pretty easy.
That’s because once you’re at the Sapporo train station, you basically just follow the signs!
First you’ll follow the signs to the JR train line…
And then you’ll arrive at the ticket gate.
And then you mainly just need to know the final destination of your train.
So in the case of Asahikawa…
You’re looking for a train to Asahikawa, to Abashiri, or to Wakkanai
Depending on your timing, there will be trains with a final destination of Asahikawa, Abashiri, or Wakkanai that will all make a stop at Asahikawa.
But most frequent is a train with final destination Asahikawa.
You’ll be getting on a limited express train called one of the following:
But it’s really not that important to remember the name of the train.
Just make sure you remember the final destination of the train.
The digital boards switch between English and Japanese.
The sign will also tell you which platform the train departs from, so you’ll check to see where you need to go…
And then go there!
And then wait for the train to arrive!
Then enjoy the train ride that’s around 1.5 hours.
And then arrive at the Asahikawa Station!
How much does the limited express train to Asahikawa cost?
Google Maps and the Japan Travel Navitime app can be good for figuring out a rough estimate of how much any journey around Hokkaido may cost. (It may not be perfect, but it’s good for getting an idea.)
You can expect the Sapporo to Asahikawa limited express train to cost around 4,810 yen (US$45).
If you’re traveling with a JR pass, it’s FREE!
The JR Hokkaido line has a network of trains around Hokkaido.
While there aren’t shinkansen bullet trains around most of Hokkaido, there are limited express trains that go to the main cities.
And on these trains, if you’re traveling with a JR pass or a JR Hokkaido pass, your pass will cover you.
If you’re NOT traveling with a JR pass, you may consider looking into taking the bus to Asahikawa which will be cheaper.
There are also day trip tickets to Asahikawa that include transportation and admission to the zoo that can be purchased as a bundle to save money. You can inquire about this at the tourist information center at Sapporo Station.
Do you need to make seat reservations with the JR pass?
It’s not a requirement to make seat reservations if you’re traveling with a regular JR pass on the limited express Hokkaido trains.
But if you want to, you can do so at Sapporo Station at any time before your train leaves by going to the ticket counter office with the little green seat picture.
If you don’t reserve a seat, you’ll just need to make sure to sit in the unreserved compartment. The non-reserved seating and reserved seating are clearly marked.
What are the train timings to Asahikawa?!
JR Hokkaido train timetable
Once you get to Hokkaido, head to the JR office at a train station to grab yourself the little JR Hokkaido train timetable booklet!
I referred to this SO much when I was traveling around Hokkaido.
I did occasionally check Google Maps for suggested routes, which can help to know which train routes to look for.
But because the train timings for some areas are fewer in some parts of Hokkaido, it’s important to confirm the timings.
So the listed train timings below are from the timetable booklet for dates March 2019 onwards.
You can generally expect this to last for about a year, although someone at the JR ticket counter did tell me that it usually doesn’t change much from year to year.
So in case you’re doing research for a trip for April 2020 onwards, you can use these timings for general research purposes, and then confirm the timings when you’re in Hokkaido.
Sapporo to Asahikawa train timings
These are the listed train timings and platform for the limited express trains – always confirm once at the train station, as timings and platform can change!
Listed as: Sapporo station departure time – Asahikawa station arrival time (Sapporo station platform number) Final destination if NOT Asahikawa
- 6:35am – 8:00am (8)
- 6:56am – 8:32am (8) Abashiri
- 7:30am – 8:58am (8) Wakkanai
- 7:49am – 9:14am (7)
- 8:30am – 9:55am (10)
- 9:00am – 10:25am (8)
- 9:30am – 10:55am (9)
- 10:00am – 11:25am (8)
- 11:00am – 12:25pm (7)
- 12:00pm – 1:25pm (7)
- 1:00pm – 2:25pm (7)
- 2:00pm – 3:25pm (7)
- 2:30pm – 3:55pm (7)
- 3:00pm – 4:25pm (8)
- 3:30pm – 4:55pm (8)
- 4:00pm – 5:25pm (5)
- 4:30pm – 5:55pm (9)
- 5:00pm – 6:25pm (8)
- 5:30pm – 7:05pm (7) Abashiri
- 6:00pm – 7:25pm (7)
- 6:30pm – 7:55pm (8)
- 7:00pm – 8:25pm (8)
- 7:30pm – 8:55pm (8)
- 8:00pm – 9:25pm (8)
- 9:00pm – 10:25pm (8)
- 10:00pm – 11:25pm (8)
- 11:05pm – 12:30am (8)
Page 12 of the 2019 JR Hokkaido train timetable
Page 13 of the 2019 JR Hokkaido train timetable
Page 14 of the 2019 JR Hokkaido train timetable
The limited express train from Sapporo to Asahikawa takes around 1.5 hours.
In the morning and late evening, there are generally trains leaving once an hour
In the afternoon and early evening, generally twice an hour.
And looking at the timetable, you can see which trains are final destination Asahikawa, Abashiri, or Wakkanai. So in case you forget, just refer to your timetable booklet!
Asahikawa Station to Asahiyama Zoo
So getting to Asahikawa Station won’t get you within walking distance of Asahiyama Zoo. (It would take you 2.5 hours to walk.)
So from the train station, there’s a bus that you can take to get to the zoo.
There’s a bus stand right in front of the train station.
The bus timings generally match the train schedule of arrival timings from Sapporo.
This also means that you don’t have too much time to loiter around at the train station.
You don’t have to be in a mad rush to get to the bus stand, but you do want to get there relatively soon after you arrive at the train station.
Also you may want to check the opening hours of the zoo.
When I went in the winter, the zoo opened at 10:30am.
I ended up getting to the zoo a little bit early, but I knew this meant I’d be waiting for a little bit.
There are cafes around the zoo entrance if you want to wait with a cup of tea or something.
HAPPY SAPPORO TO ASAHIKAWA TRAIN RIDE!
How to spend winter in Japan
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Among the top 3 things people get specific for a trip to Japan
- JR pass for quick and easy long distance train travel (see price here and see here how to calculate train routes to figure out it's worth it for you)
- Pocket wifi to make travel in Japan easier (see price here)
- Travel insurance for natural disasters just in case especially for travel disruptions (see price here and see here for past natural disaster that affected foreigners)
Food in JapanIf you are in Japan for FOOD, then be sure to see where to try different types of Japanese food! (Sometimes for cheaper!)
And also have a look at some of these cooking classes in Japan too.
If you're looking for a route for winter in Japan, here are some ideas!
- 10 day Japan winter itinerary
- Tokyo to Nagano bus
- 2 days in Nagano with snow monkey pass // Stay at this Nagano hostel (private rooms available)
- A few days in popular ski resort area Hakuba (go here for at least a day even if you don't ski for the winter landscape in the mountains!) // Stay at this Hakuba hostel (private rooms available)
- Hakuba to Takayama (Hakuba to Matsumoto train / a few hours in Matsumoto / Matsumoto to Takayama bus)
- A few days in Takayama with day trips: Shirakawago / Shinhotaka ropeway on a sunny day // Stay at this Takayama hostel (private rooms available) and eat regional Takayama ramen
- Takayama back to Tokyo OR Takayama to Nagoya airport to fly to Hokkaido for more winter landscapes!
Hokkaido winter itinerary (train to get around - there are JR Hokkaido passes available, and you can use a regular JR pass too)
- Sapporo to Asahikawa (Asahikawa for penguin walk at zoo)
- Asahikawa to Abashiri (Abashiri for drift ice cruise)
- Abashiri to Obihiro (night in Obihiro and go to Lake Shikaribetsu ice village the next day)
- Obihiro to Sapporo
- Sapporo to Noboribetsu onsen hot spring town (day trip)
- Sapporo to Hakodate // Stay in this Hakodate hostel
- Hakodate to Tokyo on shinkansen bullet train through the underwater tunnel! (Regular JR pass will be worth it if you take this train ride along with one more long distance train ride within 7 days)
When the JR pass is worth itIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure. See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon. There have been a few typhoons that have hit Japan in the past couple of years and they can cause real travel disruptions!
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
More for your Japan itinerary
- 5 days in Kyoto
- Cost of climbing Mt Fuji from Tokyo
- Where to go for famous Mt Fuji views as seen in pictures
- Know before you go to Hiroshima
- One day in Miyajima with famous floating torii views
- 3 days in Okinawa, Japan's tropical islands
- Cherry blossom photo walk
- When is the JR pass worth it for train travel?
- Tokyo to Kyoto train
- Hostels in Japan