Hokutosei hauled by a JR East EF510 electric locomotive, September 2010
|Service type||Limited express|
|First service||13 March 1988|
|Current operator(s)||JR East and JR Hokkaido|
|Service frequency||Once daily|
|Line used||Tōhoku Main Line, Iwate Ginga Railway Line, Aoimori Railway, Tsugaru-Kaikyō Line, Hakodate Main Line, Muroran Main Line, Chitose Line, Hakodate Main Line|
|Catering facilities||Dining car|
|Rolling stock||24 series sleeping cars
ED79 AC locomotive
DD51 diesel locomotives
|Track gauge||1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)|
|Electrification||1,500 V DC / 20 kV AC (50Hz)|
|Operating speed||110 km/h (70 mph)|
The Hokutosei (北斗星?) is a limited express sleeping car train service in Japan which connects Ueno Station in Tokyo and Sapporo Station in the northern island of Hokkaido, taking approximately 16½ hours. It is operated jointly by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Hokkaido Railway Company (JR Hokkaido).
Going from Ueno to Sapporo, trains call at Ōmiya, Utsunomiya Station, Kōriyama, Fukushima, and Sendai. One train makes additional stops at Ichinoseki and Morioka. The first stop on Hokkaidō is at Hakodate, with arrival in Sapporo around five hours later.
The Hokutosei runs on the following rail lines:
- JR Tōhoku Main Line, Ueno - Morioka
- Iwate Ginga Railway Line, Morioka - Metoki
- Aoimori Railway, Metoki - Aomori^
- JR Tsugaru-Kaikyō Line, Aomori - Hakodate^
- JR Hakodate Main Line, Hakodate - Oshamambe
- JR Muroran Main Line, Oshamambe - Numanohata
- JR Chitose Line, Numanohata - Shiroishi
- JR Hakodate Main Line, Shiroishi - Sapporo
^ train reversal point
Accommodation and facilities
The Hokutosei consists of type "A" and type "B" accommodation. Prices shown here are current as of summer 2011.
Users of the Japan Rail Pass are waived the basic track fare, however the limited express fare (¥2,940 if riding the full route) and accommodations fare still apply.
Type A compartments are larger and have more amenities than their type B counterparts. There are two types of type A compartments: "Royal" and "Twin Deluxe".
Royal rooms are single-person private compartments, although they can be used with two people with the use of a supplementary bed. There are two Royal rooms in each of cars 9 and 10, and they carry an accommodation fare of ¥17,180.
Twin Deluxe rooms are private two-person rooms, all eight of which are located in car 8. They have an accommodation fare of ¥13,350 per person.
Type B compartments are smaller and less expensive than type A compartments. There are three types of type B compartments: "Duet", "Solo", and "Two-level Type B". All type B compartments carry an accommodation fare of ¥6,300 per person.
Duet compartments are private two-person compartments. There are both upper-level and lower-level types.
Solo compartments are private single-person compartments. As with Duet compartments, there are both upper-level and lower-level types.
Two-level Type B couchettes have four beds which can be individually enclosed with a curtain. While normally used for individual travelers, there are also "B Compartments", which have a door that may be closed and used as a private room for a group of four people (or less if the travelers wish to pay for the extra bed(s)).
The Hokutosei's dining car, titled the "Grand Chariot", serves various foods and beverages. The availability of foods in the Grand Chariot depends on whether it is the predesignated "Dinner Time", "Pub Time", or "Morning Time".
French or Japanese cuisine is served during Dinner Time. Passengers who wish to have either course must make a dinner reservation at a green ticket window up to three days prior to departure.
An announcement sounds at the conclusion of Dinner Time, after which Pub Time begins. During Pub Time the dining car opens to all passengers and various à la carte meals, snacks, and beverages are available for purchase. Prior reservations are not needed.
Last order is at 10:30 pm, and the car closes at 11:00 pm.
During Morning Time, breakfast is served starting at 6:30 am. Both western-style and Japanese-style food is served.
The train is formed of 24 series sleeping cars based at JR East's Oku Depot in Tokyo and JR Hokkaido's Sapporo Depot, typically consisting of 12 cars including a KaNi24 generator car. From Ueno to Aomori the train is hauled by a Class EF510-500 dual-voltage electric locomotive, by a JR Hokkaido ED79 AC locomotive between Aomori and Hakodate, and by a pair of JR Hokkaido DD51 diesel locomotives between Hakodate and Sapporo.
The Ueno to Aomori section used to be led by a JR East Tabata-based EF81 dual-voltage electric locomotive, however from July 2010 this work was taken over by the Class EF510-500.
Until its removal from service in 2001, ED76-551 hauled the Hokutosei from Aomori to Hakodate. It was replaced by the ED79.
The Hokutosei, named after the Big Dipper constellation, was introduced on 13 March 1988 to coincide with the opening of the Seikan Tunnel, an undersea tunnel which connects the island of Hokkaido to Honshu.
Until 1990 the service ran with two trains daily in each direction, and an additional third round-trip route being run irregularly. In 1990 all trains began to run regularly, however, with the introduction of the Cassiopeia in 1999, services were cut back to two daily round-trip services. From 15 March 2008, the service was cut back from two trains daily in each direction to one train in each direction.
From the start of the revised timetable on 17 March 2012, smoking was banned in the restaurant cars of Hokutosei services.
- 寝台特急カシオペア＞北斗星＞運行日・時刻表・料金表 (in Japanese). JR East. Retrieved 12 July 2011.
- "寝台特急"北斗星"をEF510-501がけん引" ["Hokutosei" night train hauled by EF510-501]. Japan Railfan Magazine online (in Japanese). Koyusha Co., Ltd. 15 July 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
- "ＪＲ新幹線＆特急列車ファイル" (JR Shinkansen & Limited Express Train File), published 2008 by Kōtsū Shimbun
- JR East Hokutosei train information. Retrieved on 15 January 2009 (Japanese)
- ２０１２年３月ダイヤ改正について [March 2012 Timetable Revision] (pdf) (in Japanese). Japan: East Japan Railway Company. 16 December 2011. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Saito, Masatoshi (7 November 2013). ブルートレイン:廃止へ…ＪＲ３社、北海道新幹線開業で [Blue Trains to be scrapped by 3 JR companies - with opening of Hokkaido Shinkansen]. Mainichi.jp (in Japanese). Japan: The Mainichi Newspapers. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hokutosei.|
- JR East Hokutosei train information (Japanese)