Japan is one of the most culturally rich and diverse countries on Earth. When exploring through the streets, hills, and castles of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, you will be taken through time, history and places of breathtaking views and mesmerizing moments.
In this article, you will find how to make the following journeys around Japan — some of the most popular train trips among travelers:
- Tokyo to Kyoto
- Tokyo to Osaka
- Kyoto to Osaka
You can travel between these 3 incredible cities with the bullet train and using just your Japan Rail Pass.
Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka by Shinkansen bullet train
This line is one of the most heavily travelled high-speed rail route in the world. It spans 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 currently included in the Japan Rail Pass. However, this will change (if you pay a supplement) from October 2023.
The alternative to the Nozomi trains are Hikari and Kodama. Both are high-speed bullet trains.
Hikari trains run between the major cities of Japan with a speed of 285 km/h (177 mph), making fewer stops.
Kodama also runs with an operating speed of 285 km/h but makes stops at the smaller towns.
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 around 3 hours and 40 minutes to reach Kyoto from Tokyo. This is because 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 13,600 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 30 minutes from Tokyo and arrives at Shin-Osaka station after 2 hours and 53 minutes on average. The Kodama takes closer to 4 hours.
To get to central Osaka station, change to any of the local JR Tokaido-Sanyo trains.
Normal tickets from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka cost 13,620 yen for a non-reserved seat or 14,140 for a reserved seat.
All JR Pass holders will be able to make those trips free of charge.
Osaka to Kyoto and back
Traveling between Kyoto and Osaka is now easier than ever. Just take the 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 285 km/h (177 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.