Kyoto — Japan’s cultural capital — is likely near the top of your Japan itinerary. And since most travellers enter the country via Tokyo, you’ll need to work out the cheapest, easiest and/or fastest way to get there. Here’s everything you need to know about the trains, planes, and buses that connect Japan’s two most famous cities.
tl;dr: The Shinkansen (aka bullet train) is the fastest and most convenient option. Your best bet is to get the amazing-value Japan Rail Pass . The regular 7-day pass is about the same cost as a round-trip on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Kyoto, so if you make just one additional excursion, the pass will save you money.
Quick comparison of Tokyo to Kyoto travel options
|Mode of travel||Comfort||Price||Time||Emissions||Booking Links|
|Bullet train||★ ★ ★ ★ ★||¥ 10,600 – ¥ 14,370 , possibly cheaper with deals||2 hrs 11 min to 3 hrs 39 min||4.1kg CO 2||Book a one-way ticket on Klook , or get a JR Pass from JRPass.com|
|Flights||★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆||from ¥ 4,000 + plus transfers||4–5 hrs (incl. transfers)||59.2kg CO 2||Search flights|
|Buses||★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆||¥ 3,500 – ¥ 9,300||6–9 hrs||13.4kg CO 2||Search Buses|
|Regular trains||★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆||¥ 8,360||9 hrs (possibly much longer)||8.5kg CO 2||N/A|
Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto
2 hrs 11 min to 3 hrs 39 min
Cost: ¥ 10,600 – ¥ 14,370
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen connnects Tokyo and Kyoto (and terminates one stop further, at Shin-Osaka Station). There are three categories of service on this line and the travel time and cost varies by service.
Time and cost
Nozomi is the fastest service on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, reaching Kyoto in about 2 hours and 15 minutes and costing ¥ 14,170 for a reserved seat or ¥ 13,320 for a non-reserved seat . The next fastest service, Hikari, takes a little longer at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and costs ¥ 13,850 for a reserved seat and ¥ 13,320 for a non-reserved seat . The slowest Kodama service is almost 90 minutes slower than Nozomi, and costs the same as the Hikari service (unless you get the Puratto Economy Plan — see below).
If traveling during an off-peak period, you can knock ¥ 200 off the reserved seat price. If traveling during a peak period, add ¥ 200 .
Peak and off-peak dates may vary slightly from year to year, but they are generally as follows:
21 March to 5 April (
break); 28 April to 6 May (
); 21 July to 31 August (summer break); 25 December to 10 January (
New Year period
Off peak: 16 January to last day of February; All of June; All of September; 1 November to 20 December.
Departure and arrival stations
You can board the Shinkansen to Kyoto at Tokyo Station , Shinagawa Station, or Shin-Yokohama Station. Ticket prices are the same whether you depart from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station. From Shin-Yokohama the fare is cheaper by ¥ 670 .
All services stop at each of the three stations above. Nozomi services make one additional stop in Nagoya before Kyoto; while Hikari and Kodama services make more stops along the way.
Unlike some destinations, where the Shinkansen station is outside the city center, Kyoto Station is right in central Kyoto. You can transfer here to local trains and buses and the subway, or catch a taxi.
Timetables and seat reservations
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the most popular bullet train route in the country, with trains departing from Tokyo for Kyoto approximately every 10 minutes. There are PDF timetables here or you can use tools like Google Maps or Hyperdia to plan your journey.
The frequency of trains doesn’t mean you should board without a seat reservation. Opting for the non-reserved ( jiyūseki ) will save you a few hundred yen (see pricing above), but could see you standing awkwardly the whole way to Kyoto. Our advice (especially if traveling during rush hour and peak periods) is, if possible, to use those extra coins to get a reserved seat ( shiteiseki ) — which you can arrange easily at JR ticket offices or at specially marked ticket machines. You can do that at the same time as activating your JR Pass, if you have one (reservations are free with the pass).
If you’re committed to non-reserved seats, just get to the station well before your planned departure time so you can line up in the designated places on the platform to snag a seat. It’s also better to board the train at Tokyo Station where the route begins rather than get on one stop later at Shinagawa Station.
If you can’t get a JR Pass , or you’re only interesting in traveling one-way by Shinkansen to Kyoto, Klook offers a Shinkansen ticket service that can deliver your ticket to your accommodation. Prices are as charged by JR, but Klook adds a ¥ 1,200 “fulfillment fee” on top.
Luggage rules on the bullet train
If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. Shinkansen luggage rules dictate that luggage with combined dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (included in your JR Pass). Bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all.
How to save money on bullet train tickets
The Shinkansen is definitely the smoothest and easiest way of traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto , and there are a few ways to make it a little bit more affordable.
Japan Rail Pass
If you have a Japan Rail Pass , which allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail (JR) trains for a week ( longer options are also available), the Hikari and Kodama (but not Nozomi) services are 100% covered by the pass.
Note: The JR Pass is only available to short-term visitors to Japan.
The Puratto Kodama Economy Plan allows travel on the slow Kodama service from Tokyo to Kyoto for ¥ 10,600 – ¥ 12,000 one way, depending on the season. You have to buy Puratto tickets at least 1 day in advance, and numbers are limited. Purchase them from JR Tokai Tours or from any JTB Travel counter in Tokyo.
The Hokuriku Arch Pass
If slow travel is your jam, you might want to check out the Hokuriku Arch Pass too. It’s a nice little regional rail pass that takes you between Tokyo and Kyoto, along an arching route that includes Nagano and Kanazawa .
Flights from Tokyo to Kyoto: Low-cost airlines
About 4.5 hours (including airport transfers)
Pricing: Approximately ¥ 6,700 (one-way, including airport fees and transfer costs)
Kyoto may not have an airport, but nearby Osaka has Kansai International Airport as the gateway to the region. Fly from Narita or Haneda Airport with a budget airline like Peach or Jetstar, and you’ll be in Osaka in just 90 minutes. Prices start around ¥ 4,000 – ¥ 6,000 one-way, but can go for twice as much. There are tourist and other promo fares every so often, so be on the lookout.
|Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai International||Jetstar||US$ 32.00||Apr 10, 2023||See booking options|
|Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai International||Peach||US$ 35.00||Sep 05, 2023||See booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => Osaka Kansai International||Japan Airlines||US$ 62.00||Jan 27, 2024||See booking options|
|Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai International||Korean Air||US$ 389.00||Feb 14, 2024||See booking options|
Although fares for flights between Tokyo and Osaka may be cheap, you’ll still have to consider the cost of getting to Narita Airport — the cheapest way is about ¥ 1,000 (one-way) for a bus that departs from Tokyo Station — or the cost of getting to Haneda Airport . You’ll also need to consider that, once you land at Kansai Airport, you’ll have to board a train or bus to Kyoto .
The JR Haruka Limited Express, which connects Kansai Airport to Kyoto, is a 75-minute ride that costs in the region of ¥ 3,630 one-way in high season. However, seriously discounted tickets can be purchased online (foreign passport holders only) for as little as ¥ 1,800 .
For short-term visitors, we also recommend getting a ICOCA & Haruka package at the station ticket office. This is a good deal at ¥ 3,800 one-way (and ¥ 5,600 for a round-trip): in addition to transport from the airport, you get an IC travel card called ICOCA that comes with an initial balance of ¥ 1,500 . You can then use this card for convenient rail travel in Kyoto and around Japan.
Residents of Japan cannot buy this package.
Note 2: The route from Kansai Airport to Kyoto is also covered by the JR Pass.
What about Osaka’s Itami Airport?
Low-cost carriers generally don’t fly into Osaka Itami Airport. You can book flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Osaka Itami Airport on legacy carriers like JAL and ANA, which do offer discounted fares to foreign tourists. However, you are still looking at a 1-hour bus ride into Kyoto (or multiple train transfers).
From Tokyo to Kyoto by bus
Pricing: From ¥ 3,500 one-way (low season)
There are numerous companies plying the highway bus route from Tokyo to Kyoto (and nearby Osaka). A ride starts from as little as ¥ 3,500 and can go up to around ¥ 9,300 , depending on comfort and season. The journey takes about 6 to 9 hours. Buses that depart from Tokyo during the day usually take longer due to traffic. Late-night buses, which are the preferred option, depart Tokyo between 9pm and midnight and can get you to Kyoto Station as early as 5:15am, giving you a full day to explore.
Note: Many buses from Tokyo end their journey in Osaka, which is not far from Kyoto. The two cities are just a 30-minute train ride apart. So, if you find a good price on a bus ticket that goes to Osaka but not Kyoto, it’s still a viable option. Read up on other ways to get from Tokyo to Osaka.
About 9 hours (in theory)
Pricing: approximately ¥ 8,360 one-way
The approximate cost of a one-way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on regular, rather than bullet, trains, is approximately ¥ 8,360 — not a huge savings from the cheapest Shinkansen ticket.
The Seishun 18 Pass
There is, however, a hack that allows significant savings. The Seishun 18 pass is a seasonal rail package consisting of 5 tickets (for 5 consecutive or non-consecutive days of travel) for ¥ 12,050 . Anytime during the validity period, solo travelers can use up all 5 days, or group travelers can split them among themselves. In effect, 1 day of travel costs just ¥ 2,410 per person.
The catch? The pass can only be used on local and rapid JR trains, which makes for long journeys. Plus, it’s only valid for a few weeks, 3 times a year.
Read more about the Seishun 18 pass and how you can take advantage of it.
Rental car from Tokyo to Kyoto
Japan has a well developed, but expensive highway network. On top of fuel (likely ¥ 8,000 to ¥ 12,000 depending on vehicle size), rental car charges, and sky-high parking prices on arrival, the highway toll charges from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to Kyoto (Sanjo) will be between ¥ 10,550 and ¥ 13,060 . With rest stops, the journey can easily take 6 and a half to 7 hours. If you feel like you need to drive, we recommend renting after you arrive at your destination rather than wasting tine and money going back and forth from Tokyo to Kyoto by car.
For more on traveling by car, see our guide to renting a car in Japan .
The verdict on travel from Tokyo to Kyoto
There’s no dispute that the Shinkansen is the fastest and smoothest way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto , and if you’re going to get thethen it’s a real no-brainer.
Video guide to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto
The reverse route: Traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo
If you are looking for the best ways to get from Kyoto to Tokyo, rather than the other way round, your transport options are almost exactly the same — with a few different special offers for tourists. We have a dedicated guide to the reverse route — read it here .
Tokyo to Kyoto travel FAQs
Can I do a day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto?
Is a day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto possible? While we recommend spending a few days in Kyoto, the simple answer is yes: as long as you plan things very carefully, a day trip will give you enough time to get a good taste of Kyoto. A guided tour, like this one , can help you fit in a lot of the best places without having to worry about logistics.
The Shinkansen is the best option for a day trip, as it starts running around 6 a.m. and the last train departs Kyoto for Tokyo at around 9:30 p.m. So you can get a full day of sightseeing in if you’re prepared to be up with the larks and go to bed late. You can also get a full day in Kyoto by using a night bus there and a night bus back, but this can be tiring.
How far is it from Tokyo to Kyoto?
Kyoto is about 360km (225 miles) west of Tokyo as the crow flies. By rail or road, the journey is more like 460km (285 miles).
How do you get from Tokyo to Kyoto?
The fastest and easiest way is taking the bullet train (Shinkansen). Alternative ways of getting between the two cities include highway buses and airplanes.
How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Kyoto?
It depends whether you take the bullet train, bus or plane (or local trains). If you choose to travel by plane, you are looking at about 90 minutes in the air, and a couple of hours of transfer time either side (you need to get to Narita or Haneda Airport in Tokyo and then from Kansai International Airport in Osaka to Kyoto).
How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Kyoto by bullet train/Shinkansen?
The fastest bullet train service, the Nozomi, will get you there in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The second-fastest option, the Hikari, takes about 20 minutes longer. And the slowest option, the Kodama, takes about 3 hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto.
How much is the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto?
Without discounts, a one-way ticket with reserved seating costs about ¥ 14,170 on the Nozomi Shinkansen. If you choose non-reserved seating, the ticket is closer to ¥ 13,320 . The Hikari is a few hundred yen cheaper for reserved tickets at ¥ 13,850 . And the slowpoke Kodama is ¥ 10,600 in the off season, with the Puratto Economy Plan.
When is the best time to book travel between Tokyo and Kyoto?
The usual peak travel season cautions apply. Travel in Japan is always more hectic, crowded, and expensive during peak periods, which include: year-end/New Year’s, cherry blossom season (late March to early April), Golden Week, and summer break (late July through August). This is especially true in Kyoto, which is a very, very popular domestic destination.
Shinkansen tickets fluctuate only slightly — a couple of hundred yen — but flights and buses, with dynamic pricing, can cost as much as twice the price of an off-peak ticket.
While we do our best to ensure it is correct, pricing and other information is subject to change. This post, which was originally written by Tiffany , is updated regularly. Last updated in February 2023 by Greg Lane.