Vegetarian's Japan Guide

The Best Seats on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hokkaidō

One of the most common bullet train-related questions we saw on Japan travel forums is: which side of the train offers the best view? While you can’t see the majestic Mt. Fuji when you travel north from Tokyo, the scenery along the train line does not disappoint! In fact, we decided to summarize the scenery you can see on the Tōhoku and Hokkaidō Shinkansen so that you can reserve your seats on the bullet train accordingly.

Table of Contents

A Summary: Which Side of the Train Is Better?

The below provides a brief summary as to which side of the bullet train is better when traveling from Tokyo to Hokkaidō.

  • From Tokyo (東京) to Hachinohe (八戸): The left side
    • The Tōhoku Shinkansen passes on the right side of the Ou Mountains (奥羽山脈). Thus, the seats on the left are perfect for seeing nature covered by snow in winter, vivid autumn leaves, and fresh green colors in spring.
  • From Hachinohe (八戸) to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (新函館北斗): The right side
    • The rail track is close to the shore between Hachinohe and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto. Thus, the seats on the right are the premium spots to adore the ocean view.

The Scenery from Your Shinkansen Window from Tokyo (東京) to Sendai (仙台)

  • The mountain view of your train trip starts from around Utsunomiya Station (宇都宮駅).
    • The mountain close to the station is Mt. Nantai (男体山) in the Nikkō National Park in Tochigi Prefecture.
  • The mountains close to Nasushiobara Station (那須塩原駅) are Mt. Nasu (那須岳) and Mt. Sanbonyaridake (三本槍岳). Because the area is mountainous, the train will go through several tunnels.
    • This section of the train ride is where you can see snowy mountains up close in the winter.
    • Mt. Nasu is a group of volcanoes located in the northeast part of Nikkō National Park.
    • Mt. Sanbonyaridake is located at the northern end of the Nasu Volcano Group on the border of Fukushima and Tochigi Prefecture.
  • Passing the Kōriyama Station (郡山駅), you will see Mt. Adatara (安達太良山).
    • You can see the mountain’s foothills clearly from the train.
    • Mt. Adatara is a stratovolcano in Fukushima Prefecture.
  • The scenery of Mt. Azuma (吾妻山) close to Fukushima Station (福島駅) is the best between Tokyo and Sendai. Fukushima City is surrounded by mountains, so you can see the snow-capped mountains in winter from the bullet train rather clearly!

Tip: When the snow starts to melt in spring, the remaining snow often makes the top of Mt. Azuma look like a rabbit. The locals thus named the view “Snow Rabbit (雪うさぎ)”. So don’t focus on your phone when the train is in the long tunnel. The Snow Rabbit appears as soon as the train comes out of the long tunnel!

  • Mt. Zao (蔵王山脈) is close to Shiroishizao Station (白石蔵王駅). You can also see the magnificent mountains clearly from the window. The train will go through several tunnels in this area.

The Scenery from Your Shinkansen Window from Sendai (仙台) to Morioka (盛岡)

  • If the weather is good, you can see the mountains around Naruko Onsen (鳴子温泉) when the train is around Furukawa Station (古川駅).
  • Shortly after passing Ichinoseki Station (一ノ関駅), paddy fields spread along the train tracks.
    • The scenery is especially beautiful during the rice planting season in spring, as well as the rice harvesting season in autumn.
    • You can see the paddy fields no matter which side of the train you sit on.
  • You can see the mountains around Geto Kogen (夏油高原) when the train is close to Kitakami Station (北上駅).
    • The area has one of the heaviest snowfall areas in the Tōhoku region.

The Scenery from Your Shinkansen Window from Morioka (盛岡) to Shin-Aomori (新青森)

Deciding which part of the train to sit on can be hard if you are traveling from Morioka to Aomori. If you want to see Mt. Iwate, then you will need to reserve seats on the train’s left. But from Iwatenumakunai Station, the view is better on the train’s right.

  • Shortly after passing Morioka Station (盛岡駅), Mt. Iwate (岩手山) will appear on the train’s left.
    • But the scenery will be blocked by tunnels for quite a while after Mt. Iwate disappears from sight.
  • The scenery becomes better on the train’s right from Iwatenumakunai Station (いわて沼宮内駅).
  • Before the train arrives at Shin-Aomori Station (新青森駅), you can see Aomori‘s rural landscape and Mt. Hakkoda (八甲田山) on the train’s right.

The Scenery from Your Shinkansen Window from Shin-Aomori (新青森駅) to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto (新函館北斗)

  • Aomori Bay (青森湾) will be on the train’s right after the train departs from Shin-Aomori Station (新青森駅).
    • Get your camera ready because a couple of minutes after the train drives towards Hokkaidō from Shin-Aomori Station, the scenery is a mixture of paddy and fruit fields at the front, the ocean in the middle, and the mountains on the other side of Mutsu Bay (陸奥湾).
      • Aomori Bay is a part of Mutsu Bay.
  • Then, the train will go through several tunnels before going into the Seikan Tunnel (青函トンネル), which links Aomori with Hokkaidō.
  • As the train approaches Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station (新函館北斗駅), the ocean, Hakodate’s cityscape and Mt. Hakodate (函館山) can be seen when the train passes the northwest of Hakodate Bay (函館湾).
    • The view can only be seen briefly, so get your camera ready when the train is close to Hakodate Bay!

Seats for the Disabled and the Multipurpose Room

If you are a wheelchair user, reserve the specially designed seats. Look for the Wheelchair Icon on the carriage map HERE and reserve a wheelchair-friendly seat.

If you plan to travel with an infant and will need to breastfeed or change diapers on the train, it is best to reserve your seat in the carriage where the Multipurpose Room is located. You can use the room by asking the staff onboard.

The carriage with a Multipurpose Room is marked by the icon “多” on the Carriage Map.

Seats With a Charging Socket/Outlet

The bullet trains manufactured before 2015 don’t have charging sockets for all seats. If this feature is important to you, reserve a window seat or the seats on the front row.

Seats With the Largest Seat Table

The seat tables for the front seats are the biggest. If the size of the table matters to you, reserve those seats.

That being said, there should be sufficient space if you want to place your laptop on any bullet train’s seat table.

Seats With No One Behind You

This is an obvious one. If you sit in the last row, there will be no one behind you.

These seats are perfect for those who want to leave their luggages directly behind the seats and/or don’t want to disturb anyone else when using the seat’s reclining feature.

Seats Close to the Luggage Space

Most carriages of the Tōhoku and Hokkaidō Shinkansen have a luggage space. When reserving your seat on the internet, you will notice that a few first-row seats (e.g. 1D and 1E or 1C and 1D, depending on the train type) are missing from the seat map. This is because the space has been turned into a luggage space.

We recommend that you book the seats around the space if you want to sit close to the luggage space.

You can refer to JR East’s Japanese Website to see the seat map. Click the green “座席表を見る+” button to open the seat map.

The Best Time to Take the Tōhoku Shinkansen

  • The scenery looks the best between 1 pm and 3 pm.
  • If you want a window seat and also want to avoid sun exposure, sit on the:
    • left-hand side if you are traveling in the morning from Tokyo to Hokkaidō
    • right-hand side if you are traveling in the afternoon from Tokyo to Hokkaidō
    • right-hand side if you are traveling in the morning from Hokkaidō to Tokyo
    • left-hand side if you are traveling in the afternoon from Hokkaidō to Tokyo

Different Types of Tōhoku Shinkansen

Like the Tokaido Shinkansen that runs between Tokyo and Osaka, different types of bullet trains that run in the Tōhoku region have different numbers of stops.

Hayabusa (はやぶさ) has the least number of stops, and thus is the most expensive.

If you don’t have a JR Pass and want to save money, taking Yamabiko (やまびこ) is better, although it will take longer to reach your destination.

Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It?

Once you have a rough idea of which prefectures and cities you want to visit during your next Japan trip, it is time to figure out if you need a JR Pass as not all itinerary requires one.

Our Guide to Do I Need a JR Pass & Is the JR Pass Worth It article has everything you need to know about the nationwide and regional JR Passes. It also covers other factors that can help you decide if a JR Pass is worth your upcoming trip or not!

Click the photo for everything you need to know about the JR Pass!

How to Buy a Bullet Train Ticket and Ride the Shinkansen

Shinkansen-and-Mt.-Fuji
Click the photo for more information about how to buy a bullet train ticket and take a Shinkansen!

Now that you know which seat is the best on the bullet trains travelling between Tokyo and Hokkaidō, it is time to reserve your ticket!

Refer to our article on How to Buy a Bullet Train Ticket and Ride the Shinkansen for everything you need to know about the train ticket and how to take a bullet train in Japan!

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