Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka with the JR Pass

Shinkansen bullet train

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.

Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka by bullet train

Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are connected with by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, included with the Japan Rail Pass.

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.

Tokaido Shinkansen line map
Map of the Tokaido Shinkansen line

How to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto

Hikari Shinknsen Bullet train
Photo by Dough Bowman @Flickr – Hikari Shinkansen Bullet train

Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass is easy. You should take the Shinkansen Hikari 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

Osaka Dotonbori
Osaka at night –  Dotonbori area

To get from Tokyo to Osaka, you will need to take very same trains. Either the Hikari bullet train or Kodama 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

demachi-masugata-mall-kyoto
Photo by Toomore Chiang @Flickr – Demachi Masugata shopping street in Kyoto

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).

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.

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345 thoughts on “Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka with the JR Pass”

  1. Hi,
    I was hoping you could give me some advice regarding our best option for train passes. We are spending 2 weeks in Japan, most of our time being spent in and around Tokyo, with some day trips to surrounding towns and Mt Fuji. We do however hope to spend 2 nights away. Travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto, then onto Osaka, finally returning back to Tokyo. Would it be worthwhile getting a JR pass for these 2 days away and what kind?

    Thank you in advance for all of your help.

    Neil

    1. Hi Neil! To travel with your 7-day Japan Rail Pass, means to have the unique opportunity to discover the whole country at a cheaper price than a Tokyo to Kyoto return ticket, on a Shinkansen bullet train. For that reason we think it would be cost-effective using the pass when you intend to travel between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and to try toadd within this 7-day validity period as many day trips as you can. Happy travels!

  2. Good afternoon,
    We are a group of 7 friends all travelling to Japan in late October for 16 days. We will be arriving Osaka on the 20th October, then by train to Hiroshima on the 22nd, then to Okayama, then local train to Tamano (UNO) on the 24th, then to Kyoto on the 26th, then to Tokyo on the 28th for 7 nights, departing Narita on the 4th November. We are thinking the GREEN JR rail pass will be the best option?
    We would activate the pass on the 22nd (this should allow us to get all the way to Tokyo on the 7 day pass?) to take us to Hiroshima……..can we book all the seats for all trains at the Osaka rail office?
    Also would you know what the cost of the local train from Okayama to Tamano would be ?
    Is there anywhere we can view all the JR timetables?
    Kind regards,
    Declan

    1. Hi Declan!

      Yes, if you activate the Japan Rail Pass on October 22nd you will still be able to use it to travel to Tokyo on the 28th. You will also be able to book seats on all the trains once you activate or pass. To check all timetables please refer to Hyperdia, which offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance.

      The JR Uno Line, included in your Japan Rail Pass, connects Okayama and Uno Station, in Tamano.

      Happy travels!

  3. Hello,
    Reading your article above, it seems that traveling on the Shinkansen Hikari line from Tokyo to Kyoto will take 2hr 40 min but traveling from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka will take 2hr 30 min.
    This doesn’t make sense to me, have I misread or misunderstood this?
    thank you very much,
    Sarah

    1. Hi Sarah! You are right – there was a typo in the text. We have already amended it since a standard Tokyo to Kyoto trip with the JR Pass takes close to 2 hours and 40 minutes, taking the Hikari Shinkansen and this same train arrives at Shin-Osaka from Tokyo station after 2 hours and 53 minutes. Thank you very much for your contribution!

  4. Hi, we are planning to go to Japan in Nov. Our flight will land in Narita at 15.15pm, if we make use of the JR pass, how do we get to Kyoto? Can we make it in the same day? What is the time table for Hikari Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi YL!

      We recommend you to head to Tokyo in the Narita Express (included in your Japan Rail Pass) and from there go to Kyoto. N’EX trains take approximately 1 hour to get from and to Tokyo Station (first stop city center) and, as specified in this article, a standard Tokyo to Kyoto trip with the JR Pass takes close to 2 hours and 40 minutes, taking the Hikari Shinkansen.

      Should you want to get the timetables for a train please check them at Hyperdia which offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance.

      We hope you enjoy your stay!

  5. Hi, so me and a group of friends are trying to decide what is the most affordable road to take. I want to confirm a few things thats already stated in these comments just so I am extra confident.

    I saw round trip flights from Tokyo to Osaka in the low $100 range but since we will be taking trains to get around both Tokyo and Osaka.

    I am considering the JR ticket.
    With the Jr pass am i able to go from Tokyo (Shibuya area) to Osaka (Namba area)? I will be landing in Tokyo July 17th and going to Osaka the 19th-22nd .

    1. Hi Douglas!

      Sure – you can do all the itinerary.

      From Shibuya Station you can take the Yamanote line, included in your Japan Rail Pass, all straight to Tokyo Station. From there you will easily reach Shin-Osaka station as described in this article. To get to central Osaka station, change to any of the local JR Tokaido-Sanyo trains. From Osaka Station you will be able to access the Osaka Loop Line, included in your JR Pass. The Osaka Loop Line is also available one stop from JR Namba Station.

      Happy travels!

  6. Hi,
    I am planning a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto then to Osaka.
    I will arrive at Narita airport proceed to Tokyo for 7 days then follow by Kyoto 4 and Osaka 3 days.
    Go back from Osaka to Narita Airport
    May i know which package i should take? From Osaka to Narita duration and how long is the journey?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Miko!

      As specified in this article, the Shinkansen Hikari train leaves approximately every 30min from Tokyo and arrives at Shin-Osaka station after 2:30min. Should you need to travel between the three cities we recommend you to get a Japan Rail Pass since it is the only pass that covers nation-wide transportation.

      Happy travels!

  7. Hi –

    We will be traveling to Japan this coming Aug 2 – 11. We would like to go to the following cities. It will be more like a day trip, so we will go back to Tokyo in the afternoon and will not spend the night in each city. Will the JR pass cover unlimited round trip on the bullet train as well?

    1. Kyoto
    2. Nara
    3. Osaka
    4. Mt Fuji (how will we get here with JR pass?)

    Thank you,
    Diwa

    1. Hi Diwa!

      Yes, the Japan Rail Pass will allow you to make unlimited (round) trips in the included transportation within its validity period. If you are looking forward to reach all those destinations as a day trip from Tokyo, the Japan Rail Pass will be very cost effective.

      To get all the details on the Mount Fuji and its area we recommend you to read our dedicated article Mount Fuji from Tokyo: Day trip itinerary.

      Happy travels!

  8. My itinerary listed below and please advise if buying a 7-day JR Rail Pass economical or buy as I travel:

    10/7/18 Arrival Kansai and to Kyoto – how much ticket for return and single
    11/7 (i) Ryoanji Temple (ii) Kinkaku-ji (Golden Temple); (iii) Kyoto Imperial Palace; (iv) Nijo Castle; (v)
    12/7 (Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine; (ii) Sanjusangendo Hall; (iii) Kyoto National Museum (Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan; (iv) Kiyomizu-dera Temple
    13/7 (i) Arashiyama Bamboo Grove; (ii) Tenryuji Temple; (iii) Okochisanso Garden; (iv) Otagi NeThenbutsuji Temple
    14/7 (i) Ginkaku-ji; (ii) Philosopher’s Walk; (iii) Nanzen-ji Temple; (iv) Chion-in; (v) Maruyama Park; (vi)Yasaka Shrine (vii) Pontocho Alley
    15/7 Departure from Kyoto to Kansai Airport
    These are the locations I plan to see in different parts of Kyoto

    1. Hi Susan! For detailed costs and travel times please check Hyperdia, the number 1 Japanese online transportation planning tool. Hyperdia offers detailed timetables, platform information, trip duration and exact distance, which will help you greatly in deciding which type of pass is more cost effective for your trip.

  9. Hi – we are going to Japan August – arriving in Tokyo on Aug 7th and leaving Tokyo on August 16th. We plan on staying in Tokyo until August 9th at which time we’ll go to Osaka and stay there until it’s time to go back to Narita airport on the 16th.

    I have some questions:
    From Tokyo:
    1) Can we get to Disney Sea on JR Line?
    2) To Mt Fuji?
    3) How do we get to Osaka?
    4) How do we get back from Osaka to Narita?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Irene!

      DisneySea is a twenty-minute walk from Maihama Station which can be reached with your Japan Rail Pass: travel from Tokyo Station to Maihama Station, on the JR Keiyo line. Alternatively you can take the Disney Resort Monorail from Maihama to Tokyo Disney Sea Station. To get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji you can just follow the Gotemba trail, one of the most popular routes among visitors.

      To get to Osaka please review this article you are commenting, it includes the route in detail 😉 and to get from Osaka to Narita we recommend you to go back to Tokyo Station and to take the Narita Express there.

      Happy travels!

  10. This December 2018, our whole family will go to Japan for 9days.
    We plan to visit the following: Osaka , Kyoto, Tokyo and Hiroshima + Miyajima.

    Can you help us plan a route? Our arrival and departure date are as follows below:
    Day 1 – arrival in Kansai airport 8:00pm
    Day 9 – depart Japan thru Kansai airport at 8:45pm

  11. Hi,
    We are looking to travel to Kyoto by Shinkansen Hikari after arriving on an international flight at 5am at Haneda Airport in mid December. We expect to be ready to depart the airport at around 6am as we need to check ski luggage into storage at the airport.
    Could you please advise the best approach to utilise a Japan Rail pass for the Kyoto trip as I understand the Haneda Airport JR office does not open until 7:45am. Also, it would be good to know which train and station is best to get to the Shinkasen Hikari from Haneda.

    Thanks
    Dom

    1. Hi Dom! Although the Tokyo Monorail is a private railway, it has been integrated for use of the Japan Rail Pass. You can take this train to reach central Tokyo, from where you’ll be able to reach the Hikari Shinkansen. Please note you won’t be able to use the Japan Rail Pass until you have effectively exchanged it. Enjoy your stay!

  12. Hi,

    We will be travelling to Japan this coming December.

    Our itinerary is mainly Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and we were advised that it will be convenient to get Hokuriku Arch Pass.

    Can you explain the details of this pass? What are the inclusions and can it be used for the Narita Express?

  13. Hello,
    I would like to check with you for your recommendation which type of Train Tickets to buy.
    We will arrive at Kansai airport then travel to Kyoto for 2 days. Kyoto to Kobe for 3 days. Kobe to Osaka 3 days
    Then back from Osaka, Kansai airport.

    Thank you

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