Green cars of the Super Hokuto, Hayabusa and Komachi all in one day? It was an exciting day for train travel in Japan, especially for a train lover like myself (not so much for Nicole). We also booked our trips so that we were not rushed making connections so we could film the stations, something we struggle with when we have a tight itinerary.
Episode 10: https://youtu.be/uPd048pItyk
We started the day with one last hoorah at the amazing breakfast buffet of La Vista Hakodate Bay hotel. The chirashi bowl station which we raved about on camera is incredible, and we often reminisce about it, followed by an insatiable craving for raw fish. The rest of the buffet is extremely good as well, and it would definitely be a draw for us to return to this hotel.
We finished up breakfast and headed back to our room, we didn’t have long to pack in order to catch our shuttle to Hakodate Station. The shuttle service is a nice perk of this hotel, and made our morning a very leisurely one. The ride was scenic, the driver taking the road along the bay passing an old decommissioned ferry which had been turned into a museum.
At Hakodate Station we changed our train tickets as we wanted to get on the earlier train to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto station so our transfer to the Hayabusa would not be so rushed. We didn’t get a chance to take it in and film it on our way into Hokkaido a week earlier. Even taking the earlier train we had enough time to explore the shops before heading to our platform. The Hayabusa seems to be a big attraction in it’s own right, the shops packed with themed train bentos, toys, and all sort of knickknacks. I fell victim and bought some Hokkaido melon caramels in Hayabusa packing, as seen in the end card of this episode.
The trip to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto is a quick 20 minutes on the Super Hokuto train. We were both happy to have taken the earlier train, the new station is extremely nice and we enjoyed getting to explore it a little more. We rushed through it so quickly on the way up to Sapporo that I missed so many details. We actually packed away our camera as we knew there would be no time to film anything, not so this time. We got a lot of footage and I hope that gives would be travellers some sense of what to expect as they likely make a quick connection as we did the first time through. From our experience the station is extremely well thought out. The fact that in only 9 minutes we were able to get from the Shinkansen platform to the local platform with 2 large suitcases along with the throngs of other passengers is testament to that.
We made it to the Shinkansen platform in time to see the Hayabusa pull in. It’s such an amazing looking train. It’s exactly how you would imagine a bullet train with it’s long tapered nose. We also got more of the green car interior on film to share with anyone interested in seeing.
Our next stop was Morioka Station, just under 2 hours away hitting speeds of over 200km/h on this section of the track. The Hayabusa is a comfortable ride, and I enjoyed the quiet time on the train.
Morioka Station unexpectedly blew my mind. I didn’t realize the hub it seems to be for Shinkansen trains. We saw several Hayabusa trains and a new one for me, the red Komachi. This was the train we would take onwards to Kakunodate. On top of just getting to watch several of these trains come and go, we got to watch a Hayabusa train get linked up with a Komachi train. That was incredible to see, again for someone who loves the trains like I do. Once linked they sped off together heading South towards Sendai.
We had a bit of time to explore this station, on the look out for some food for the next leg which was just a 40 minute journey. We struck out as all the shops selling train bento did not accept credit card. I had a wealth of snacks in my luggage we could chose from instead, especially knowing we were not too far away from our next kaiseki meal.
We barely had time to get through our snacks before we arrived at Kakunodate and had to disembark. It definitely had the air of a smaller town as the station itself was smaller with only 3 platforms. Some of my favourite memories exploring Japan often start with getting off a train at a small train station. We didn’t hang around to take in the station at all, our shuttle to our ryokan was waiting for us.
This was one of the stops we were most excited about, not only because we would get a chance to explore some old samurai houses which Kakunodate is famous for, but also because of where we were staying. The Wabizakura is a ryokan built to maintain a traditional feel with modern comforts. It boasts a chef who was awarded two Michelin stars at his restaurant in Tokyo before making the move out to Kakunodate. It’s location in the country side promised to offer a tranquil couple of nights to recharge.
As soon as we exited the train station we were greeted by their shuttle van and a very friendly young fellow who spoke impressive English. He helped us with our luggage and welcomed us to Kakunodate with warm towels in the van. It was about a 20 minute drive out to the Wabizakura through some beautiful scenery. Once we were at the ryokan we were whisked into the reception area where we were treated to our welcome matcha and sweat while we dealt with the check-in process. The anticipation to get to our room and head straight for the onsen was unbearable. It didn’t take long for check-in and then the friendly driver showed us to our room. WOW! The room was amazing! Very spacious with two separate tatami rooms, a more western style sitting area, a small sitting area outside on a veranda and best of all a private onsen bath. We took advantage of the public onsen which could be privately booked right away. It was an outside bath overlooking the country side and was the perfect way to soak away the days trip.
After some R&R we headed down to their restaurant for our kaiseki meal, and it was then that we realized that the friendly driver was actually our attendant for our stay. He served us dinner, explaining each dish to us as he carefully presented them. Dinner was exceptional, and the level of quality and attention to detail we remember from previous ryokan stays. Every dish was thoughtfully prepared, plated and presented, and the flavours exhibited the care taken. Stuffed and satisfied beyond our expectations we headed back to our room to find our futons ready for our slumber.
This was a very memorable day and I hope you enjoy learning about it and watching it unfold with us.
There were several locations featured in this episode
- La Vista Hakodate Bay – Our home for 2 nights, and a tiny home it was. Our room was extremely small, but comfortable and clean. The breakfast was absolutely amazing!
- Hakodate Train Station – Good sized train station with shops selling a wealth of Hayabusa themed products. Also don’t miss the Hakodate Information Centre in the station for maps and information about things to do.
- Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Train Station – The new station built to support the Hokkaido bullet train. It a very well thought out station, allowing for quick connection between the Shinkansen and local trains.
- Morioka Train Station – A hub of bullet train activity we got to witness the linking of a Hayabusa and Komachi trains. A big station with a lot of food options, but come prepared with cash.
- Kakunodate Train Station – A quaint little train station built to resemble a samurai house, a famous draw of Kakunodate.
- Kakunodate Sanso Wabizakura (Ryokan) – An amazing modern ryokan which maintains a traditional feel. The food was top notch, prepared by a 2 Michelin star chef.
Thanks for watching/reading!