Limited Express Okhotsk 3 from Sapporo to Asahikawa (KiHa 183 series • キハ183系)
Limited Express Okhotsk is a twice-daily pair of trains between Sapporo and Abashiri, with the highlight being it operated by the KiHa 183 series DMU. When I visited Sapporo, I thought that catching the KiHa 183 was a must for me before it retires, and also to get a preview of the KiHa 183 train service in Thailand. At least I can say that I have taken the KiHa 183 in Japan first. With my JR Hokkaido Sapporo-Furano Area Pass, I took a short KiHa 183 joyride on Limited Express Okhotsk 3 from Sapporo to Asahikawa.
I had just arrived at Sapporo Station from the Limited Express Kamui 30 from Asahikawa, and it’s time to go back in again to go to Asahikawa again.
Joining the evening peak hour crowd heading in to Sapporo Station.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 would be departing from Platform 9.
To complete my Okhotsk experience, I decided to buy an Ekiben from Sapporo Station to bring on board the train for a light pre-dinner.
Lots of Sapporo and Hokkaido specialties on the menu.
I decided to get the Yamabe Sake Sushi (やまべ鮭ずし) since it had a star on it, and it won’t be as filling as the other full ekibens.
Heading up the escalator to Platform 9.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 had not arrived at Sapporo yet. Looks like it’ll be a just-in-time arrival to pick passengers up and go.
KiHa 183 series DMU
The KiHa 183 series DMU for Limited Express Okhotsk 3 arrived at Sapporo Station at 5.19pm from Naebo Depot.
The branding of HET 183 (Hokkaido Express Train) still remains.
The headboard of Okhotsk.
The destination sign of the Okhotsk 3 to Abashiri.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 has a Green Car with premium seats. Despite the older train age, it’s arguably better than other Green Cars provided by JR Hokkaido with big plush seats on an elevated deck with big windows.
The Green Car on Okhotsk is laid out in a 2+1 formation.
Ordinary Reserved Seat (U Seat)
Ordinary Reserved Seats are available in Car 1 and half of Car 3.
The Okhotsk offers a better seat in Reserved Seat cars with headrests. If you board early with a non-reserved seat, half of Car 3 offers the same type of seat but without seat reservations.
Ordinary Non-Reserved Seat
As for me, to the Non-Reserved Seat cars I go with my Sapporo-Furano Area Pass. Car 3 was already full, so I headed over to Car 4 to hunt for an available seat.
I was excited to see the last pair of seats being vacant, but quickly saw that it is listed as a reserved seat. Oh well.
Seats 17A and 17B at the end of the train offers a cab view out the front or rear of the train, and JR Hokkaido charges a reserved seat fee for it.
The Non-Reserved Seat sign in the train car also points out that 17A and 17B are reserved seats.
As all pairs of seats were taken up already, I found one of the last empty aisle seats available. Joining the peak hour crowd going home but on my Okhotsk joyride.
A tray table is provided at the seat back.
The frame for listing seat reservations still remain behind the tray table.
The view of the almost fully-seated Non-Reserved Seat car from my aisle seat. There are only 1.5 cars of Non-Reserved Seats available on board the Okhotsk.
The view out of the rear of the KiHa 183 series DMU.
The rear cab of the KiHa 183 series DMU based on the direction towards Abashiri.
With my aisle seat in the dark, I didn’t take any pictures of the journey out of the window since it was pretty much impossible.
Instead, I started to dig in to my Yamabe Sake Sushi (やまべ鮭ずし) Ekiben.
Unwrapping the Yamabe Sake Sushi (やまべ鮭ずし) Ekiben, it revealed a wooden-design paper cover to the box, along with a pair of chopsticks and a piece of wet tissue. That’s right, the chopsticks and wet tissue are already pre-packed within the Ekiben.
My Yamabe Sake Sushi (やまべ鮭ずし) Ekiben looked exactly like the plastic display at the ekiben store.
There was surprisingly a lot of rice provided in the nigiri sushi. 4 pieces of yamabe sushi and 3 pieces of salmon sushi are provided in the ekiben. A side plate with ginger, pickles, and soya sauce are provided.
After departure from Sapporo Station, the conductor made his rounds to check for tickets, bowing to everyone along the way.
Making a brief stop at Iwamizawa Station. Some passengers alighted here so I moved myself to a now-empty pair of seats.
Making a brief stop at Bibai Station.
A western-style sitting toilet is available on board with baby changing facilities.
An area with a wash basin is also available outside the toilet.
An empty counter is located at the Green Car, most likely for previous catering services which are no longer available.
Perhaps this frame was for displaying the menu.
Making a brief stop at Sunagawa Station.
Making a brief stop at Takikawa Station.
Making a brief stop at Fukagawa Station.
About half of Car 4 was emptied out by now.
Arriving at Asahikawa Station with most passengers ready to get off. The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 arrived at Asahikawa Station on time at 7.05pm.
Almost the entire train alighted at Asahikawa, leaving behind an almost-empty Non-Reserved Seat car onwards to Abashiri.
The exterior of the train car is not in good shape.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 stops at Asahikawa Station for 3 minutes for a crew change and to cater to the many alighting passengers.
The layout of the train cars and corresponding waiting door numbers are indicated on the information screen at the platform.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 continued on to Kamikawa, Shirataki, Maruseppu, Engaru, Ikutahara, Rubeshibe, Kitami, Bihoro, Memanbetsu, and Abashiri where it terminates.
The empty Asahikawa Station platforms with only trainspotters and staff left.
Heading down the escalator from the platform.
Heading out of Asahikawa Station through the west gates.
The façade of Asahikawa Station at night.
The Limited Express Okhotsk 3 was a crowded ride out of Sapporo with a perfect peak-hour departure time of 5.30pm. The capacity of the KiHa 183 DMU was also very low with only 1.5 cars of reserved seats and 1.5 cars of non-reserved seats, along with 1 Green Car, which is a lot lower than the Limited Express Kamui and Limited Express Lilac. And yet, because of the departure time, passengers will choose the Limited Express Okhotsk 3 to travel to Takikawa and Asahikawa due to the good departure time even while standing, rather than wait another 30 minutes for the next Limited Express Kamui.
Perhaps the timetable of the Limited Express Okhotsk 3 needs to be changed to accommodate the peak-hour crowd leaving Sapporo heading back home, perhaps shortening it to a Limited Express Taisetsu service, with a 789-series EMU operating a Kamui or Lilac service replacing the 5.30pm departure instead.
The ride on the KiHa 183 DMU was pleasant as a railway fan, but probably not to a peak-hour commuter who knows nothing about special trains, especially when trying to get home after a long day at work.
This peak-hour crowd situation will get worse from 18 March 2023 after the KiHa 183 DMUs are retired, with KiHa 283 series DMUs operating on the Okhotsk and Taisetsu with no Green Car, reducing seats to 2 reserved seat cars and 1 non-reserved seat car on the shortened 3-car train.
Goodbye and thank you, Limited Express Okhotsk KiHa 183 DMU. I’ll see your older sisters soon in Thailand.