Tokyo and Osaka are Japan’s two biggest cities and are both fascinating places to visit. Tokyo is Japan’s capital and most popular tourist destination and Osaka has its own unique charm. It is renowned for its modern architecture, incredible restaurants, lively nightlife, and its 16th-century castle.
Traveling from Tokyo to Osaka is simple. The two cities are very well-connected and there is a range of options when deciding how to make the journey. The fastest way is the Shinkansen bullet trains which are covered by the JR Pass.
You can also go from Osaka to Tokyo by car or bus (though the journey time is longer) or by air (which is more expensive and less convenient than a Shinkansen train). The distance from Tokyo to Osaka is 247 miles (397 kilometers).
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Tokyo to Osaka by Train
Tokyo and Osaka are connected by the Tokaido Shinkansen line. There are three different types of trains which operate on this line from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station: the Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. They differ in terms of how many stops they make and, as a result, how long the journey is.
The Nozomi is the fastest train as it completes the journey in just 2 hours and 30 minutes. However, they are not covered by the JR Pass. The quickest option using your pass is the Hikari trains which just over three hours. The Kodama trains stop at every station and take over four hours.
The most economical way of using the Shinkansen bullet trains is with a JR Pass as the individual tickets are relatively expensive. From Tokyo to Osaka, a one-way ticket costs around 14,500 yen on a Nozomi train or 13,500 yen on a Hikari train. It is possible to get a discount ticket on a Kodama train if you book at least one day in advance.
In comparison, a 7-day JR Pass costs around 28,500 yen, the same price as two one-way tickets from Tokyo to Osaka. The JR Pass gives you unlimited travel and covers buses, ferries, and airport transfers as well as bullet trains. As long as you make a few journeys during your trip, you will make big savings with the pass.
Tokyo to Osaka by Bus
There are various companies offering bus services between Osaka and Tokyo. It is one of the cheapest options (the cost varies between 4,000 and 8,000 yen) but the journey takes between 7 and 9 hours. Bus timetables can be found on the websites of individual operators.
One option, which allows you to do a day trip to Osaka from Tokyo, is to catch a night bus. Each evening, buses leave Osaka in the evening and reach Tokyo at 6 or 7 in the morning. If you’re a light sleeper this is not the best idea as some people find the seats uncomfortable.
Two reliable operators are JR Bus and Willer Express. JR Bus services run from the JR Express Bus Terminal at Osaka Station to various stops in Tokyo (Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo Station, and Yokohama). Willer Express run night bus services and offer comfier seats for more expensive prices. Their buses depart from their office at the Umeda Sky Building and make various stops.
Tokyo to Osaka by Plane
Osaka has two airports (Kansai International Airport and Osaka Itami Airport) which both offer frequent flights to and from Tokyo. The flight takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes and can cost anything between 12,000 and 30,000 yen.
Though the flight times are short you also have to factor in getting to the airport and getting through security. In most cases, it is both easier, cheaper, and quicker to get a Shinkansen bullet train.
To get the best flight prices you should book your flights two months in advance. In addition, the more flexible you are over the travel dates, the cheaper the flights you can find.
Tokyo to Osaka by Car
Driving from Tokyo to Osaka takes around 5 or 6 hours depending on the traffic. You can either take the Chuo Expressway or the Tomei Expressway.
However, the toll fees are high (around 10,000 yens) which means it is not the cheapest way of getting to Osaka from Tokyo. You also have to factor in the cost of car rental and fuel.