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EF510-501 hokutosei.JPG
Hokutosei hauled by a JR East EF510 electric locomotive, September 2010
Service type Limited express
Status Retired
Locale Japan
First service 13 March 1988
Last service 22 August 2015
Current operator(s) JR East and JR Hokkaido
Start Ueno
End Sapporo
Service frequency Seasonal
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
On-board services
Catering facilities Dining car
Rolling stock 24 series sleeping cars
Class EF510-500
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). Since the 14 March 2015 timetable revision, the service ceased to operate on a daily basis, and became a seasonal service only.


Hokutosei train destination indicator

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 lines:

JR East[edit]

JR Hokkaido[edit]

^ train reversal point

The JR Tsugaru-Kaikyō Line consists of the Tsugaru Line, Kaikyō Line, Esashi Line, and Hakodate Main Line.

Accommodation and facilities[edit]

Sleeping accommodation[edit]

The Hokutosei consists of type "A" and type "B" accommodation. Users of the Japan Rail Pass are waived the basic track fare, however the limited express fare and accommodations fare still apply.

Type A[edit]

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.

Twin Deluxe rooms are private two-person rooms, all eight of which are located in car 8.

Type B[edit]

Corridor in one of the type B sleeper cars
A type B upper-floor solo room

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 fewer if the travelers wish to pay for the extra bed(s)).

Dining car[edit]

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".

Dinner Time[edit]

A course from the French dinner

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.

Pub Time[edit]

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.

Morning Time[edit]

During Morning Time, breakfast is served starting at 6:30 am. Both western-style and Japanese-style food is served.

Rolling stock[edit]

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,[1] 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.[2]


As of April 2015, the trains are formed as shown below.[3]

Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11  
Numbering OHaNeFu 25 ORoNe 24-500 ORoHaNe 25-500 ORoHaNe 24-500 OHaNeFu 25 OHa 25-500 SuShi 24-500 ORoNe 24-500 ORoHaNe 25-500 ORoHaNe 24-500 OHaNeFu 25 KaNi 24
Facilities B-type couchettes A-type compartments A/B-type compartments A/B-type compartments B-type couchettes Lounge car /Showers Dining car A-type compartments A/B-type compartments A/B-type compartments B-type couchettes Generator van

Cars 1 to 6 are owned by JR Hokkaido, and cars 7 to 11 (plus the generator van) are owned by JR East.[3]

Past locomotives[edit]

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.


Plans to operate a direct sleeping car service between Tokyo and Sapporo were officially announced on 24 April 1987, with the timetable for three trains daily in each direction unveiled in July 1987.[4] A public ballot was held to decide on the name for the new train service, and approximately 24,000 votes were received. The name Hokutosei was officially chosen on 6 November 1987, although it had ranked in 108th place in the public ballot with just 15 votes. The first place suggestion, Kaikyo, was later used as the name for the limited-stop "rapid" services connecting Aomori with Hakodate via the Seikan Tunnel.[4]

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.[5]

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.[2]

From the start of the revised timetable on 17 March 2012, smoking was banned in the restaurant cars of Hokutosei services.[6]

Up until March 2015, trains were typically formed as follows.[3]

Car No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11  
Numbering OHaNeFu 25 OHaNeFu 25-500 OHaNe 25-560 OHaNe 25-560 OHaNe 25-550 SuHaNe 25-500 SuShi 24-500 ORoNe 24-500 ORoHaNe 25-500 ORoHaNe 24-500 OHaNeFu 25 KaNi 24
Facilities B-type couchettes B-type couchettes B-type compartments B-type compartments B-type compartments B-type compartments / Mini lounge /Showers Dining car A-type compartments A/B-type compartments A/B-type compartments B-type couchettes Generator van

Cars 1 to 6 were owned by JR Hokkaido, and cars 7 to 11 (plus the generator van) were owned by JR East.[3]

From the 14 March 2015 timetable revision, regular Hokutosei services were discontinued, with trains subsequently running only as seasonal services during the peak holiday periods.[3]

Future plans[edit]

Services will be completely abolished from August 2015.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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. 
  2. ^ a b "JR新幹線&特急列車ファイル" (JR Shinkansen & Limited Express Train File), published 2008 by Kōtsū Shimbun
  3. ^ a b c d e 平成27年3月14日ダイヤ改正にともなうJR東日本車両の動き [Rolling stock changes connected with the 14 March 2015 timetable revision]. Japan Railfan Magazine (in Japanese) (Japan: Koyusha Co., Ltd.) 55 (649): p.75. May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "北斗星"ものがたり ["Hokutosei" Story]. Japan Railfan Magazine (in Japanese) (Japan: Koyusha Co., Ltd.) 55 (652): p.12-66. August 2015. 
  5. ^ JR East Hokutosei train information. Retrieved on 15 January 2009 (Japanese)
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 「北斗星、来年8月廃止決定 三セク経営に影響 並行在来線、旅客収入減 [Hokutosei to be abolished in August next year - third-sector railways to suffer reduced passenger revenue]. Doshin News (in Japanese). Japan: The Hokkaido Shimbun Press. 23 December 2014. Archived from the original on 23 December 2014. Retrieved 3 May 2015. 

External links[edit]