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Today I’m going to talk about how to get to Noboribetsu, an area famous for its hot springs, from Sapporo. When traveling by train in Sapporo, you can almost always get off at the train station and go directly to the place, so there’s not much difference in traveling, but for Noboribetsu, you have to get off the train and take a bus, so I’ll give you a brief introduction to this part. I’ve heard of Noboribetsu before, but until I went, I thought I could just get off the train and go to Noboribetsu.

Noboribetsu Onsen

1. JR Hokkaido Rail Pass

I used the JR Hokkaido Railpass for this trip to Sapporo. Train fares in Japan are very expensive compared to Korea, so traveling with a transportation pass marketed to tourists is often a way to save money. Since I was planning to visit Hakodate, the JR Hokkaido Railpass was the most efficient option for me, as it costs about ¥18,000 for a round trip to Hakodate alone, which is about the same price as a 5-day Hokkaido Railpass. I traveled to Noboribetsu, Hakodate, Otaru, Biei, and many other places in Hokkaido, so I definitely made good use of my railpass.

However, if you’re not planning to visit Hakodate, it might be cheaper to buy a rail pass than to buy a regular ticket, so depending on your itinerary, I recommend you consider whether you want to buy the Hokkaido Pass, which is cheaper than the JR Rail Pass, or a regular ticket.

2. How to Get to Noboribetsu from Sapporo by Bus

There seem to be two main ways to get to Noboribetsu from Sapporo: by bus and by train. First, I’ll briefly introduce the bus option. The main advantage of traveling by bus is that, unlike traveling by train, you can get to the Noboribetsu Onsen area in one trip without having to make any additional stops at Noboribetsu Station.

Donan Bus to Noboribetsu

There are buses that depart from Sapporo Station and New Chitose Airport, and you can check the timetable or make a reservation at the address below. It’s cheaper than taking the JR, but it only runs once a day, so it can be difficult to time it right.

>> Donan Bus Homepage

Ryokan shuttle buses

Certain more expensive or larger ryokan may operate buses directly from downtown Sapporo. The buses operated by the ryokan can be relatively cheap or free, so I would recommend them. You can often find information about the buses on the website of the hotel you booked, but the Daiichi Takimotokan I stayed at didn’t have a separate bus service.

3. How to get to Noboribetsu from Sapporo by train

The biggest advantage of traveling by train as opposed to bus is the flexibility of time. There’s at least one train almost every hour, so you can take your time in Sapporo and catch a train whenever you want. Of course, trains can sometimes sell out during peak tourist seasons, so it’s best to book early.

However, the biggest downside to traveling by train is the price. At 4,780 yen one way for a reserved seat, it’s not cheap. However, if you’re like me, you can save money by using a rail pass.

Sapporo to Noboribetsu by train

Traveling by train from Sapporo to Noboribetsu is easy with a JR Hokkaido Railpass, as long as you have a ticket from an automated ticket machine on site.

bento boxes in japan train

One of the best things about traveling by train in Japan is the bento (boxed lunch) you can eat on the train. Inside JR stations, you’ll find a wide variety of delicious bento boxes for sale, and we recommend trying one.

Noboribetsu Staion

Traveling to the Onsen Area from Noboribetsu Station by Bus

Once you get off at Noboribetsu Station, you’ll need to take another bus to get to the onsen area where the famous hot springs are located. The bus is a ticket system where you buy a ticket when you board and pay the amount for the distance you plan to travel when you get off. To find out how much it costs, simply check the number on the ticket you pulled out when you boarded the bus with the number on the electronic board in front of the bus. The one-way fare from Noboribetsu Station to the onsen is 350 yen.

However, when you get off the bus at Noboribetsu Station, there are vending machines that sell tickets that can be used to board the bus. If you buy a round-trip ticket, it will cost 640 yen, which is a 60 yen discount. It’s not a huge amount of money, but since you’ll probably be taking the bus round-trip on JR, I recommend buying a ticket from an unmanned vending machine.

Once you get your ticket, head to the front of the train station and you’ll see the bus boarding station, where you’ll find the bus departure time. Check it carefully and board the bus.

If you purchase a ticket from a vending machine in advance, you don’t need to take a ticket, just present it when you get off.

4. Noboribetsu Onsen

Noboribetsu Onsen is located at the end of the bus, so don’t worry too much about where to get off. Once you get off the bus, most of the ryokan in Noboribetsu are lined up along the uphill alleyway, so just make sure you know where to look for them.

So that’s how to get to Noboribetsu Onsen from Sapporo Station. I stayed at Daiichi Takimotokan, which was a great place to stay for a reasonable price, a delicious buffet, and a huge onsen. If you’re traveling to Sapporo and have time, I highly recommend visiting Noboribetsu.