It’s very easy to travel between Kyoto and Osaka. The shinkansen is fastest (14 minutes, Y1420). There’s also the private Keihan Line (51 minutes, Y410) and Hankyu Line (44 minutes, Y400).
Shinkansen high-speed bullet train: Wuttisit Somtui/Shutterstock.com
- The shinkansen (bullet train) is the fastest way to travel between Kyoto and Osaka (14 minutes, Y1420). It runs between Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station (from there, you can take the Midosuji subway line to downtown Osaka). This is great for Japan Rail Pass holders (just note that you can’t ride the Nozomi trains with this, but you can ride the Hikari, which is just as fast for this leg).
- If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, the best way between Kyoto and Osaka is one of the private rail lines: the Hankyu Line or the Keihan Line, both of which run from downtown Kyoto to downtown Osaka.
- Or, if you’re near Kyoto Station and don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take the regular JR Tokaido Line, which runs from Kyoto Station to JR Osaka Station (29 minutes, Y560). Just be sure to take a shinkaisoku (express) as the locals are very slow.
- The Hankyu Line is convenient for people traveling from central/downtown Kyoto. There are stations at Shijo-Kawaramachi and Shijo-Karasuma. From Kawaramachi in Kyoto to Umeda in downtown Osaka, it takes 44 minutes by limited express (tokkyu) and costs Y400.
- The Keihan Line is convenient for people traveling from the east side of Kyoto. There are stations along the Kamo-gawa River at Demachiyanagi, Sanjo, Shijo, Gojo and Shichijo. From Sanjo in Kyoto to Yodoyabashi in downtown Osaka, it takes 51 minutes by limited express (tokkyu) and costs Y410.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Between Kyoto and Osaka
The fastest way to travel between Osaka and Kyoto is the shinkansen (bullet train). This costs Y1420 and takes 14 minutes. In Osaka, the shinkansen operate from Shin-Osaka Station. In Kyoto, they operate from Kyoto Station. This is a great option for Japan Rail Pass holders. Note, however, that you cannot ride the Nozomi shinkansen with a Japan Rail Pass, but you can ride the next fastest type of shinkansen, which is called the Hikari. Between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, the Hikari and Nozomi are equally fast, so this doesn’t matter at all – but just make sure you board a Hikari so the conductor doesn’t hassle you.
Note that Shin-Osaka is in the north of Osaka, which is a little inconvenient. Luckily, Shin-Osaka is on the Midosuji subway line, which stops in downtown Osaka (Umeda, Honmachi, Shinsaibashi, Namba, Tennoji etc).
You don’t need reservations to ride the shinkansen between Osaka and Kyoto. In fact, reservations are inconvenient since they tie you to a particular train. It’s much better to just show up and jump on the next Hikari or Kodama shinkansen going your way. Even if all the unreserved seats are full, you can stand at the end of the carriage for the short ride between Osaka and Kyoto.
Shinkansen Schedules and Timetables
- English-language shinkansen timetables: JR Central English Site
- English-language timetable and route search: HyperDia
Hankyu Line Between Kyoto and Osaka
If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, or if you’re in downtown Kyoto and want to get right into downtown Osaka without going via Kyoto Station and Shin-Osaka Station, the private Hankyu Line is probably your best option, especially if you’re near Shijo-Kawaramachi or Shijo-Karasuma (both in downtown Kyoto). From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto to Umeda in downtown Osaka, it takes 44 minutes by limited express (tokkyu) and costs Y400. Be sure to take a limited express as all the other trains are very slow. Also, the limited expresses have comfortable seats, while the slower trains only have limited bench seats. In Osaka, the Hankyu Line operates from Umeda, which is directly next to JR Osaka Station in the Kita District of Osaka. Here’s a tip: If you want to be assured of a seat from Kyoto, get on at Kawaramachi.
Keihan Line Between Kyoto and Osaka
Another good option if you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass is the private Keihan Line. This is great if you’re on the east side of Kyoto. Like the Hankyu Line, this line goes straight into downtown Osaka (Yodoyabashi Station in the Kita District of Osaka) so that you don’t have to bother with transiting Shin-Osaka Station. The fastest trains on the Keihan Line are the limited expresses (tokkyu) which take 51 minutes and cost Y410 from Keihan Sanjo Station in Kyoto to Yodoyabashi Station in Osaka. Don’t take any of the slower trains, as they’re much slower. Like the Hankyu Line, the limited expresses have much more comfortable seats than the slower local trains. In Kyoto, the Keihan Line stops at Demachiyanagi, Sanjo, Gion-Shijo and Shichijo. Here’s a tip: If you want to be assured of a seat from Kyoto, get on at Demachiyanagi.
JR Tokkaido Line Between Kyoto and Osaka
One final option for traveling between Kyoto and Osaka is the JR Tokkaido Line. This operates between Kyoto Station and JR Osaka Station in the Kita District of Osaka. You can ride this train with a Japan Rail Pass or just pay in cash. This is a good option if you find yourself in southern Kyoto (ie, near Kyoto Station) and want to go right into the heart of Osaka without transiting Shin-Osaka Station. The fastest trains on the JR Tokkaido Line are called shinkaisoku, which is written as “express” in English. These take 29 minutes between Kyoto and Osaka and cost Y560. This is our least favorite way to get to Osaka, because the trains are usually packed with commuters, but if you’re traveling offpeak, you might get lucky and snag a seat.
Where Are These Places Located?See these places on the Inside Osaka Google map:
- Open the Osaka map
- You will see the list of places on the left hand side. (Click the 3-line icon in the top left corner if not). Scroll down or use the map search (the magnifying glass icon) to find the place you want.
- Click the name of the place in the list. Its location pin will be highlighted on the map.
- Map pins are color coded - BLUE: Hotels / Ryokan / Guesthouses | VIOLET: Ryokan | PINK: Places to Eat | GREEN: Shops | YELLOW: Things to See and Do
- If you're using the map on your phone, open the map and then search for the name of the place. The map will then zoom in on its location.
Osaka Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Osaka guide
- Check Osaka accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Osaka
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Osaka's Kansai International Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- View my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare flight prices and timings to find the best Japan flight deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with the Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- Get a prepaid Icoca card to make travelling around Osaka easy – here's how
- Find out why travel insurance for Japan is essential – World Nomads is well-regarded