It’s very easy to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. The shinkansen (bullet train) takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes and costs Y13,620. Read on for full details.
Shinkansen bullet train at Tokyo Station: Norman Pogson/Shutterstock.com
- The shinkansen (bullet train) is easily the best way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka
- It takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes and costs Y13,620 between Tokyo and Osaka (non-reserved seat).
- You don’t need to reserve seats on the shinkansen if you travel outside of peak travel hours and outside of peak travel seasons.
- Scroll down for English-language shinkansen timetables.
- In addition, there are night buses between Tokyo and Osaka if you want to save money.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train) Between Tokyo and Osaka
The best way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka is the shinkansen (bullet train). The fastest type of shinkansen, which is called the Nozomi, takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes and costs Y13,620 for a one-way trip in an unreserved seat. However, 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. The Hikari takes about 2 hours and 53 minutes between Tokyo and Osaka, so it’s almost as fast. Just be sure not take the slowest type of shinkansen (the Kodama) as it stops a lot and is much slower. If you’re paying cash, then of course you should opt for the Nozomi to save yourself 23 minutes.
In Tokyo, you can catch the shinkansen at Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station. All shinkansen stop at both stations. I like to get on at Tokyo Station because it’s the first station so I can usually get a seat. In the opposite direction, if I’m coming from Kyoto and want to switch to the Narita Express, I sometimes switch at Shinagawa, because it’s a short walk from the shinkansen platforms to the Narita Express platforms at Shinagawa and it’s LONG hike at Tokyo Station. This would also hold true in the opposite direction (ie, if you want to switch between the Narita Express and the shinkansen and go straight to Osaka, it’s easier to switch at Shinagawa).
In Osaka, the shinkansen operate from Shin-Osaka Station, which is inconveniently located a few kilometers north of the true downtown. Luckily, Shin-Osaka is on the Midosuji subway line, which stops in downtown Osaka (Umeda, Honmachi, Shinsaibashi, Namba, Tennoji etc).
Do You Need Reserved Seats on the Shinkansen?
Normally, you don’t need a reserved ticket to get a seat on the shinkansen. You can just show up, buy an unreserved ticket and board the next shinkansen going your way. However, if you are traveling at rush hour (between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 7pm) or during peak travel seasons (31 Dec-3 Jan; the first week of May and mid-August), you should consider buying reserved tickets in advance. With a Japan Rail Pass, you can make reservations at any JR ticket window, up to one month in advance of your travel. You cannot reserve from overseas. HINT: If you have unreserved tickets and you find that the unreserved cars are full on the next train heading out, just stand in line at the boarding spot for the next train so you can board it first – this will usually guarantee a seat and you probably won’t have to wait more than 15 minutes.
First and Last Shinkansen Departures
During the day, there are several shinkansen every hour between Osaka and Kyoto. You rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train. The approximate first and last departures are listed below:
- Westbound (Tokyo to Osaka): 6:00am first / 9:23pm last
- Eastbound (Osaka to Tokyo): 6:00am first / 9:23pm last
Shinkansen Schedules and Timetables
- English-language shinkansen timetables: JR Central English Site
- English-language timetable and route search: HyperDia
Willer Express Bus Between Tokyo and Osaka
You can save a lot of money by taking a Willer Express bus between Tokyo and Osaka. These buses take around 8 hours and cost about Y7,000. In Tokyo, these buses operate from the Willer bus terminal in West Shinjuku (and some other locations, see the site for details). In Osaka, these buses operate from the Willer Bus Terminal at the Umeda Sky Building in Kita. For more information and online ticket purchase in English, visit the Willer Express Bus site.
JR Night Bus Between Osaka and Kyoto
Another cheap option for traveling between Tokyo and Osaka is a JR night bus. These night buses take about 8 hours minutes and cost an average of Y9,500. In Tokyo, they leave from the JR bus terminal outside the Yaesu South Exit in front of Tokyo Station. In Osaka, they leave from the JR bus terminal at JR Osaka Station. Unfortunately, there is no English-language site for JR highway buses. So, for inquiries and ticket purchase, go to any JR ticket window or any travel agent in Japan.
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 from Klook 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 it's essential you have travel insurance for Japan - we recommend World Nomads.