Japan is one of the most culturally rich and diverse countries of our century. When going through the streets, hills and castles of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, you will be taken through time, history and places of breathtaking views and mesmerizing moments.
In this article, you will find how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, Tokyo to Osaka and Kyoto to Osaka (frequent train trips among travelers) with the bullet train and using just your Japan Rail Pass.
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Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka by Shinkansen bullet train
This line is the most heavily travelled high-speed rail route in the world, with has a length of 515 km (320 miles), and offers the fastest and smoothest way for travelling between Tokyo station, and Shin-Osaka or Kyoto stations.
How to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto
Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass is easy. You should take the Shinkansen Hikari bullet train from either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo, and arrive at Kyoto Station.
Three trains run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Take note that Nozomi trains are not part of the National JR Group. Therefore, are not included in the Japan Rail Pass.
However, the alternative to the Nozomi trains are Hikari and Kodama. Both are high-speed bullet trains. However, Kodama makes trips between the smaller towns. It runs with an operating speed of 258 km/h (175 mph). Hikari trains run between the major cities of Japan with a speed of 320 km/h (199 mph), making fewer stops.
For some great suggestions and recommendations on which places to visit and what to do in Kyoto, check out our Japan in 14 days (day 4-6) blog post.
Timetables and fares
A standard Tokyo to Kyoto trip with the JR Pass takes close to 2 hours and 40 minutes, taking the Hikari Shinkansen. Unlike Hikari, all Kodama trains need close to 4 hours to reach Kyoto from Tokyo. This is so since they stop at all stations before reaching their final destination.
The standard one-way fare would be 13,080 yen for non-reserved seats and 13,500 yen for reserved on both Hikari and Kodama trains. However, Japan Rail Pass holders can reserve a seat and take any of the two trains for free.
If you are confused by the difference between the different Shinkansen lines or you wish to learn more about how to find your platform or take any train, read our how to use Japanese trains article.
How to travel from Tokyo to Osaka
To get from Tokyo to Osaka, you will need to take very same Shinkansen trains. Either the Hikari Shinkansen or Kodama Shinkansen from Tokyo or Shinagawa stations in central Tokyo. Both run on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, connecting the two cities.
Timetable and fares
The Shinkansen Hikari train leaves approximately every 30min from Tokyo and arrives at Shin-Osaka station after 2 hours and 53 minutes. To get to central Osaka station, change to any of the local JR Tokaido-Sanyo trains. As there are direct JR connections between the two stations, all Japan Rail Pass holders will be able to make those trips free of charge.
For some interesting ideas on what to do in Osaka, read our Japan in 21 days (week 2) article.
Osaka to Kyoto and back
Travelling between Kyoto and Osaka is now easier than ever. Just take the already well-known Hikari train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line. You will get between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station in less than 30 minutes, traveling at a speed of 320km/h (199 mph). Find out more detailed information in our article: Osaka to Kyoto: How to travel.
Furthermore, Japan Rail Pass holders can get to Osaka station from Kansai International Airport by taking the Haruka airport express for free. For general information, the standard price for a one-way ticket is approximately 2330 yen. It takes less than an hour to reach Osaka station from Kansai Airport.