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 1 hour 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 2:30min. 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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271 thoughts on “Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka with the JR Pass”

  1. i”m planning a day trip from tokyo to Mt Fuji, I found a detailed article on how to get to Mt Fuji, it says to board Limited Express Azusa on the JR Chuo line, headed to Otsuki ,is this part of JR pass.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Yes, the Azusa trains on the JR Chuo line belong to the JR Group so you can ride them for free with your Japan Rail Pass. You can check our Mount Fuji article for more information.

      Cheers,

  2. Hi,

    To go to Kyoto from Tokyo, is it more convenient to board the Shinkansen Hikari from Shinagawa Station than Tokyo Station?

    Tokyo Station seems to be quite big, would Sinagawa Station be easier to navigate?

    Thanks

    Minh

  3. Hi,

    1) can you provide a suggested itinerary to get from Sendagaya or Yoyogi Station in Tokyo to Kyoto Station (Kyoto)? We’re 8 people planning to buy JR pass to go from Tokyo to Kyoto using the Shinkansen on April 4 to arrive early in the PM.

    2) Similarly can you provide a suggested itinerary to get from Kyoto Station (Kyoto) to Narita Airport on April 8 so that we could get to the airport at around 2PM?. We will be flying out from NRT at 4PM. Again for a party of 8 people.

    Thanks

    Minh

    1. Hi Minh!

      Yoyogi is part of the JR Yamanote line, included in the Japan Rail Pass. This line will take you straight to Tokyo Station, where you will be able to travel all straight to Kyoto as described in this article you are commenting.

      To get from Kyoto Station to Narita Airport you can travel all straight to Tokyo as described in this article to Tokyo Station. Once there you will be able to take the Narita Express, included in the Japan Rail Pass, that will take you to Narita Airport.

      Enjoy your trip!

  4. Hi,
    Could you please guide us how can we reach Osaka the same day if we land in Tokyo on 23rd February, 2018 at 1730 hrs. We have purchased a JR pass and would like to reach Osaka at the earliest.

    1. Hi Malay!

      Depending on the airport you land you will have to take different transportation to reach central Tokyo: if you land at Haneda airport you will have to travel on the Tokyo Monorail, and if you land at Narita, the Narita Express. Both are included in the Japan Rail Pass.

      As specified in this article, the Hikari train that will take you from Tokyo to Kyoto can be taken either at Tokyo Station or at Shinagawa Station. The Narita Express stops at both of them, and the Tokyo Monorail only at Tokyo Station.

      We hope you have an amazing time at Japan!

  5. Hi,
    My partner and i are travelling to Japan in April for 13 days. I was just wondering how does the JR Pass work? If i buy the 14 day ticket does that mean that i can swipe my JR Pass for any JR Trips and its included in the price? or do i have to top it up once i use a specific amount of money?
    Thanks,
    Daniel

    1. Hi Daniel!

      The Japan Rail Pass is a multi-use all-you-can-ride discounted rail ticket. It gives you unlimited access to all Japan Rail National trains, as well as JR bus services, ferry services, and airport transfers during the selected validity time frame (either 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days). You don’t have any limit besides the selected time frame and the included transportation.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  6. Good day!

    We are a family of 4 adult who will travel to Japan for the first time for 9 days. We will arrive Chubu Airport (Nagoya) from Manila at 8:30pm and will leave same airport at 9:00pm.

    I need your expert advise on the following:
    1. Do we need to stay overnight in Nagoya upon arrival or go straight to either Kyoto or Osaka?
    2. Our planned itinerary are:
    Day 1 – accomodation in Osaka, day trip Kyoto-Nara (Todaiji Temple, Nara Park, Fushimi Inari Shrine)
    Day 2 – Osaka (Universal Studios-Wizarding World of Harry Potter)
    Day 3 – Osaka Castle, Dohtonburi, Himeji Castle
    Day 4 – travel to Tokyo ( Shibuya, Akihabara)
    Day 5 – Tokyo Disneyland
    Day 6 – Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace)
    Day 7 – Back to Nagoya
    Day 8 – Depart Chubu Airport
    I understand that getting the 7 day JR Pass will definitely save us more on transportation cost. Can you guide us on what train line and where exactly to exit given those places that we want to see.

    Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi WengDC!

      You will be entitled to use the Japan Rail Pass for your planned itinerary in the following lines:

      – While in Osaka, you will have unlimited access to the Osaka Loop Line.
      – As you have already read in this article you are commenting, travelling between Osaka, Tokyo and Kyoto is very easy. To get to Nara you eill just need to take the Miyakoji Rapid Train, on the JR Nara line, to JR Nara Station.
      – To get to Universal Studios Japan, from Osaka Station take the Osaka loop line to Universal City Station.
      – To get to Tokyo Disneyland use your JR Pass to travel from Tokyo Station to Maihama Station, on the JR Keiyo line.
      – When traveling from Tokyo to Nagoya, the quickest option is to use the JR Tokaido Shinkansen, accessible using your JR Pass. Taking the Hikari train, you will reach Nagoya in less than two hours.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  7. Good day!

    Your website is really a great help for us who wants to travel and see the beauty and charm of Japan. We are a family of 4 adult who will stay in Japan for 9 days. Our point of entry and exit is Chubu Airport (Nagoya). Arrival at Chubu Airport from Manila at 8:30pm and Departs Chubu Airport to Manila at 9:00pm. I understand that we really need to buy the 7 day JR railpass to save cost of transportation. But i need your advise on how we can maximize our time and cost of transportation on our stay in Japan.

    Can i have your guidance/advise on the following:

    1. We will arrive Chubu airport (Nagoya) at 8:30pm. Our itinerary includes Osaka-Kyoto-Tokyo-Nagoya.
    Do we need to stay overnight upon our arrival or directly travel to Osaka on that night? Then proceed Osaka stay 3 days ( Osaka Castle, Dohtonburi Area, Himeji Castle, & Universal Studios) day trip to Kyoto & Nara (Todaiji Temple/Nara Park, Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine) back to Osaka. Osaka to Tokyo stay 3 days (Meiji Jingu Shrine, Sensoji Temple, Shinjuku Gyoen Natl Garden, Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Disneyland) then back to Nagoya 2 days. Is this itinerary possible?

    2. Can you please guide us on what train line to take and where to exit on each line.

    Thank you in advance.

  8. Hi I’m going for a 16 days trip to Japan . Will be landing at Sapporo. Thinking of going
    Sapporo-> Hakodate-> Tokyo->Kyoto-> Osaka. As my returning flight is at Osaka. So do you think is more worth to get 14 day JR pass or 7 day ? Can JR pass be used within the respective area ?

    1. Hi Kimberly!

      To assess if the 7-day Japan Rail Pass is the most cost effective ticket or if the 14-day will also help you save money for your trip, we recommend you to check at Hyperdia which would be the cost of the individual ticket. When you have this detail you will be able to compare this price to the nation-wide pass price.

      However please keep in mind the Japan Rail Pass affords access to many other transportation (besides what you already read in this article) you could take at no additional cost:

      – Transfer from main airports to city centers (for example, the Haruka Express that will take you from Osaka to Kansai Airport).
      – Transportation within Tokyo, included lines are the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – Transportation within Osaka in the Osaka Loop Line.
      – Connection between Sapporo and Japan’s main cities.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  9. Hi!

    Just wondering should I be heading to osaka > kyoto > tokyo for 11 days, will it be more advisable and cost-efficient to purchase the 7 or 14 day rail pass as it is kinda stuck in the middle.

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Ong!

      To assess if the 7-day Japan Rail Pass is the most cost effective ticket or if the 14-day will also help you save money for your trip, we recommend you to check at Hyperdia which would be the cost of the individual ticket. When you have this detail you will be able to compare this price to the nation-wide pass price.

      However please keep in mind the Japan Rail Pass affords access to many other transportation (besides what you already read in this article) you could take at no additional cost:
      – Transfer from main airports to city centers (Narita Express and Tokyo Monorail to central Tokyo and Haruka Express to Kyoto and Osaka).
      – Transportation within Tokyo, included lines are the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – Transportation within Osaka in the Osaka Loop Line.
      – Connection to many other areas that can be reached as a day trip from Tokyo, from Kyoto and from Osaka.

      We hope you enjoy your trip!

  10. Hi, I am going to Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo, which JR pass should I purchase?
    And also Kansai Airport how travel to Osaka? JR pass got include Kansai Airport to Osaka? Thanks

    1. Hi bingbing!

      Yes, the Haruka Express is included in the Japan Rail Pass and fully covers the trip from Kansai Airport to Osaka. Besides this, as you have already read in this article you comment the Japan Rail Pass makes it very easy to travel between Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

      The pass will be useful for your trip not only for these itineraries but also on the following transportation:
      – The JR Pass affords access to five different Tokyo railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – The Osaka Loop Line, which “loops,” or circles, through downtown Osaka, is also fully included.

      Happy travels!

  11. Hello
    I’m planning to visit Tokyo on April, 17,2018 22.00 time arrival flight then I have to travel to Kyoto in the early morning for 2 days to attend Asian urological conference in Kyoto and then return back to Tokyo for one day than to return back to my country on April,21,2018. does 7 days JR pass is a perfect for my trip?

    Thanks,
    Hesham, Saudi Arabia

    1. Hi Hesham!

      The Japan Rail Pass will cover all of your planned trips:

      – Once you land in the airport, transfers to main cities are included in the pass (Narita Express from Narita Airport to central Tokyo, Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to central Tokyo, Haruka Express from Kansai Airport to Osaka and Kyoto).
      – While in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different local railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines.
      – As you have already learned from this article you are commenting, transportation between Tokyo and Kyoto is fully included.

      We hope you have an amazing trip!

  12. want a round trip from Kyoto to Osaka on 3/21.Have between 3 and 5 pm to do it, Is that possible? What Price if so? how far is Kyoto Station from the Cruise Ship Port?
    Thank You

  13. Hi
    I’m planning to arrive in Kansai in March.
    I’ll be staying in Osaka for 3 days with a day trip then Kyoto for 3 days and then staying in Tokyo for 7 days. We will then head back home from Tokyo.
    Do you recommend getting the JR pass or buy tickets individually?

    Thanks
    Jenny

    1. Hi Jenny!

      To assess if the Japan Rail Pass is the most cost effective ticket for your trip, we recommend you to check at Hyperdia which would be the cost of the individual ticket. When you have this detail you will be able to compare this price to the nation-wide pass price.

      However please note that generally when you make long-distance trips such as Kyoto -> Tokyo it tends to pay off. Transportation in Japan is not cheap.

      Have an amazing trip!

  14. Hi,
    How do you advise to move from :
    1. Haneda Airport to Gracery Hotel Shinjuku.
    2. Shinjuku to Mount Fuji and back.
    3. One way trip to Hilton Tokyo Bay from Gracery Hotel Shinjuku
    4. One way trip to Osaka from Hilton Tokyo Bay.

    Hope JR Pass covers all this. Pls advise names of trains. Tx.

    Rgds / Ali

    1. Hi Ali!

      For the routes starting/ending at specific hotels please make sure to contact them directly. Below we provide the itinerary as from one city to another:

      – From Haneda Airport you can get to central Tokyo in the Tokyo Monorail, fully included in your pass.
      – To get to Mount Fuji from Tokyo take JR Tokaido line for Kozu from Tokyo Station. Once at Kozu (Kanagawa), take the JR Gotemba Line for Numazu and get off at Gotemba Station. Once at Gotemba station, take a bus to Subashiri 5th station, the gateway to climbing Mount Fuji. This last bus will be the only part of the itinerary not covered by your Japan Rail Pass.
      – Last but not least, from this article you have already learned how to travel between Tokyo and Osaka with your pass.

      We hope you have a great trip!

    1. Hi Ramona!

      The Japan Rail Pass would be a great fit for your trip.

      – It would allow you to travel from Haneda Airport to central Tokyo in the Tokyo Monorail. The Tokyo Monorail does not directly serve Tokyo Station, but it can be reached by taking either the Yamanote or Keihin-Tohoku lines from Tokyo Station to Hamamatsucho Station. Both are included in the pass.
      – When in Tokyo, the JR Pass affords access to five different local railway lines: the Yamanote Line, the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Rapid Chuo Line, the local Chuo-Sobu line and other metropolitan lines that circulate on the outskirts of the city such as the JR Keiyo, Musashi, Nambu and Yokohama lines. The Yamanote line will take you straight to Shibuya, Akihabara and Tokyo Station, among other stations.
      – Travelling between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka is extremely easy with the Japan Rail Pass travelling in Shinkansen as you have already learned in this article you are commenting.
      – While in Osaka, you will be entitled to make full use of the Osaka Loop Line at no additional cost.
      – To get to Universal Studios Japan from Osaka Station, just take the Osaka loop line to Universal City Station. The park is a five-minute walk from the station.
      – You will be able to reach Kansai Airport from either Tokyo or Kyoto in the Haruka Express.

      We hope you have an amazing trip!

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