Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (Bullet Train), Most popular train to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata from Tokyo.

Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. It is known as Bullet Train too.
Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. It is known as Bullet Train too.

Tokaido Shinkansen is the oldest and busiest Shinkasen line and it is operated between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. Sanyo Shinkansen is operated between Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka). Both lines are connected each other. Many trains, “Nozomi” that is the fastest train on Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen, run from Tokyo to Hiroshima and some of those run to even Hakata.

Most of Hikari run between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, But some of those run to Okayama and Hiroshima.

Sanyo Shinkansen connected to Kyushu Shinkansen at Hakata. Many trains, Mizuho and Sakura are operated between Shin-Osaka and KUmamoto or Kagoshima-Chuo directly. Please see the post, Kyushu Shinkansen to get details.

Many of you will use this train system between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo. In this post, I would like to share the information of this train system with you.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Route

Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen run from Tokyo to Hakata via Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, Atami, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Okayama and Hiroshima. Please see several route maps below:


View Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (Bullet Train) in a larger map

Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo – Shin-Osaka) route map

(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

In the map above, there is a dotted line. JR Central is planning to build one more Shinkansen lines. But it may take a long time to complete.

Sanyo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka – Hakata) route map

(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Types of train

There are three types of trains on Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen.

Nozomi

“Nozomi” is the fastest train. It takes 2 hours 21 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto, 2 hours 36 minutes from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, and about 2 hours 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. (Shin-Osaka is one local station away from Osaka. Shinkansen does not have a station in downtown Osaka.) Nozomi is operated every 10 minutes during daytime between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and operated every 20 to 30 minutes between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. All Nozomi are operated by the newest fleet N700 series. This train stops at Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Kokura. Some of this stops Shin-Kobe, Himeji, Fukuyama, Tokuyama and Shin-Yamaguchi.
*Be careful! The station name that has “Shin” is mostly NOT located in the city center. It is usually a few local stations away from city center.

Japan Rail Pass is NOT valid for Nozomi. Japan Rail Pass do not cover anything. If you want to take this, you have to pay full fare.

Hikari

You cannot take Nozomi by Japan Rail Pass. Your choice is the second fastest train, it is called “Hikari”. It takes about 2 hours 45 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto, about 3 hours from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, and about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Shin-Osaka to Hakata. Hikari is operated every 30 minutes during daytime between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and operated every 20 to 30 minutes between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Most of Hikari are operated by 300 series. But 300 series will be discontinued to use on March, 2012. Newer 700 series will be replaced and some of Hikari will be operated by N700 series. Every Hikari stop Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura. Some of Hikari stop Odawara, Atami, Mishima, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi, Gifuhajima, Maibara, Nishiakashi, Himeji, Aioi, Shin-Kurashiki, Fukuyama, Shin-Onomichi, Mihara, Tokuyama and Shin-Yamaguchi.

So the differences between Nozomi and Hikari are following:

  • Frequency (Tokyo to Shin-Osaka) — Every 10 minutes Nozomi / Every 30 minutes Hikari
  • Time required (Tokyo to Shin-Osaka) — 2 hrs 36 mins Nozomi / 3 hrs Hikari
  • Accommodation — Nozomi by the best and newest fleet / Hikari by a bit older fleet

What do you think? Of course Nozomi is better and faster. But Hikari is good and fast enough to travel to Osaka or Kyoto from Tokyo. It is acceptable in my opinion. If you cannot accept it, you need to give up to use Japan Rail Pass anyway.

If you want to check the difference of interior of those trains, like 300, 700 and N700 series, please see the following posts:
Tokaido Shinkansen image gallery
Sanyo Shinkansen image gallery

Hikari train formation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
NR NR NR NR NR R R G G G R R R R R R

R:Ordinary class reserved seat NR:Ordinary class non-reserved seat G:Reserved Green class (First class seat)

Kodama

Kodama is the slowest train and stops at all stations on Shinkasen line. So you don’t need to take this except going to the station where Nozomi and Hikari do not stop.

I show the images of accommodations of Shinkanse trains at the following links:
Tokaido Shinkansen image gallery
Sanyo Shinkansen image gallery
Kyushu Shinkansen Mizuho and Sakura

295 thoughts on “Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen (Bullet Train), Most popular train to Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and Hakata from Tokyo.”

  1. Hello there, Takeshi! How are you?

    My family and I are planning to go back to Japan this year, and our trip would cover a very brief stay in Tokyo then head to Osaka and spread a week visiting nearby areas namely Kyoto, Nara, Kobe and perhaps Nagano. I understand we can take the shinkansen from Tokyo going to Shin-Osaka. You think it will be worth it to purchase JR pass for this type of itinerary? I’ve read that the JR pass can’t be used for Nozomi which runs faster than Hikari, but we aren’t much in a hurry going to Osaka. However, Nozomi has trains that arrive every 10 minutes as compared to the 30 minute waiting time for Hikari.

    Another thing, as we reach Osaka, our second base, we’ll be going around the city and other spots in Kyoto, Nara and Kobe a lot. I am not sure if getting single use tickets would come cheaper. Please help as I need to plot our tour in the coming days. I am now familiar with the Tokyo train route but I am again clueless with how to go about visiting different places taking into account the best train ticket deals to get.

    Thank you so much! Any feedback will be very helpful

    Regards,
    Elena

    1. Hi Elena,

      If you go back to Tokyo after staying in Osaka, JR pass will work. Otherwise JR pass is not you choice. The following link may help you to build your plan.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-tokyo-kyoto-and-osaka-in-7-days.html

      Kansai thru pass is the best deal for day trips to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe from Osaka.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi san,

    I will be flying in to Osaka Kansai Airport on 4 March stay overnight and my itinerary goes:
    5March : Osaka to Kyoto
    8March : Kyoto to Tokyo
    10March : Tokyo to Kawaguchiko
    11March : Kawaguchiko / Narita

    or
    8March : Kyoto to Lahawguchiko
    10March : Kawaguchiko to Tokyo
    11March : Tokyo to Narita.

    Please advice best option and route. Should I buy the 7 Days JR Pass?

    1. Hi Monica,

      JR pass does not work. You may find the sample itinerary from Osaka to Tokyo at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-osaka-kyoto-and-tokyo-in-7-days.html

      You may add trip to Fuji by express bus in this sample itinerary. Access info to Fuji can be found at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/fuji-hakone-access-guide-by-train-and-bus-from-both-tokyo-and-osaka-kyoto-nagoya.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi san,
    I am travelling for 14 days with my partner and 2 year old child in Feb/March.
    We are spending 3 days in Tokyo, then taking the train to Kyoto for six days, then back to Tokyo.
    I’m thinking we will just buy tickets on the Hikari service rather than taking up a 7 day pass. Would this be more economical?
    Best regards,
    Shaun

    1. Hi Shaun san,

      If you stay just in city of Kyoto and do not intend to make a trip outside Kyoto, single ticket is cheaper. But if you visit other city, like Nara, Osaka or Kyoto, JR Pass will be almost same value as total fares. And also JR pass is easier and more flexible. If you want, you can make day trips to Hiroshima or Kanazawa from Kyoto by JR Pass.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-osaka-or-kyoto.html

      It depends on your plan when you are in Kyoto.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi san! I’m having second thoughts about getting a JR Pass for me and my group. We are going to Sapporo on Feb. 8th. Then fly to Osaka on the 9th, then go by train to Tokyo on the 12th of Feb. While we can take the Hikari train to Tokyo and the Narita Express on the way to the airport on Feb 14th, it appears that we are better off with just purchasing individual tickets for each destination. Do you think I’m correct or is still worth getting a JR Pass?
    Thank you very much Takeshi san!

  5. Hi,

    I will be in Japan this early March and planning to travel all the way to Kagoshima once arrive at Haneda Airport and head back to Tokyo with a couple of stop in between during our 7 days trip. I’ll be having my JR pass and i realize only Nozumi have direct train to Kagoshima. Do i need to switch train or platform using Hikari or Sakura?

    1. Hi Syafiq,

      Actually even Nozomi does not go to Kagoshima directly from Tokyo. The best way is taking Hikari from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and change to Sakura there.
      You can find the timetable at the link below:
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf

      You also can find the info of Shin-Osaka station at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shin-osaka-station-guide-how-to-change-shinkansen-haruka-thunderbird-and-local-train-access-to-osaka-umeda-and-namba.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi san,

    We’re travelling in February and we need to take Hikari from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. I’m a bit confused as to what kind of Green Cars there are in these trains. I gather some Green Cars have very nice seats and services and some do not. Still, would you say Green Car is better option when you have luggage and a tall man who needs legspace?

    1. Hi Riitta san,

      Of course if you have extra budget, Green car is much better.
      But even ordinary seat has enough leg space. My height is 184cm, 6’1″. But I have no problem with ordinary seat.
      Please find some comparison at the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/worthwhile-buying-green-pass.html

      Baggage is always issue anyway.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/travel-tips/baggage/managing-luggage-how-to-carry-your-baggage-on-board-and-how-to-store-your-baggage-at-the-station.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi,
    I will be flying in to Hakata on 28th May with my wife, its our second trip to Japan. Previously we only did a single Nozomi trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and then regular train to Osaka so we did not need the JR pass now our trip is bit more intense We will be in for 14 days and we plan to travel from Hakata to Nagasaki and back. Then Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama and Tokyo. All of this to be done by train with maybe some small side trips. If I am not wrong would you recommend getting the JR Pass? How does it work with assigned sits, do we need to buy them additionally or we can hop on any train with the pass?

    Thank you for your support.
    Filip

    1. Hi Filip,

      14 days pass may be more expensive than even single fare. It depends on the plan of the trips other than your primary plan, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Osaka, Kobe, Yokohama and Tokyo.

      At this point, I recommend you to use 3 days northern Kyushu Rail Pass and JR pass 7 days.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/kyushu-rail-pass-the-best-deal-for-rail-trip-in-kyushu-for-oversea-visitors.html

      I think you will stay in Hakata at the beginning and Tokyo at the end of trip. You need small rail pass, like subway pass in these days. So you can use Kyushu rail pass for trip to Nagasaki. And then you can start using JR pass 7 days when you leave Hakata. I think you can get Tokyo in 7 days. Of course this combination is cheaper than 14 days JR pass.

      But if you have many plans to make trips outside Tokyo after arrival Tokyo, 14 days pass may be better.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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