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.

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

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

      1. Takeshi – Thank you. Still trying to decide on a destination. We will most likely only make 1 round trip out of Yokohama. Only in Japan for 2 days. Is that worth a JR Pass?
        If not, would we just wait until the day we want to travel and buy tickets with seat reservations?

  1. Hi Takeshi,
    I,m planning to go Hakata from Tokyo on 21 August with Hikari with JR pass. Does same Hikari train go to Hakata or do I need to change train, if so where do I change train, Shin Osaka or Shin Kobe?
    Many Thanks
    Ray

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for your reply. In fact, I’m travelling to Kurume. In this case, can I book reserved seat from Shin-Osaka to Kurume with Sakura? If I have 7 min change over in Shin-Osaka, is it enough time change different platform/train?

        Many Thanks
        Ray

        1. Hi Ray,

          You can take Sakura from Shin-Osaka to Kurume. 7 minutes is okay to transfer there. But if you can get Hikari to Shin-Kobe, you can take Hikari to Shin-Kobe and catch Sakura there. Shin-Kobe is much smaller. There is only one platform for westbound at Shin-Kobe. Sakura will be coming same platform after Hikari leaving. If you change it at Shin-Osaka, you need to move the platform. 7 minutes is okay but you need to move and it might make you feel nervous. Please see the link below to find the info about Shin-Osaka station.
          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

          1. Hi Takeshi,

            I didn’t know, I can get this way. It’s much easier for me. Thank you very much for your answers and I much appreciate it.

            Regards
            Ray

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,

    We will be staying near the ikebukuro station. How would I get to the ikebukuro train station from Kyoto?

    Thank you
    Sandy

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    Can I purchase Nozomi Shinkansen Tokyo-Kyoto tickets online now for my trip in July?

    Thanks,
    Leslie

  4. My elderly parents need to travel from Kobe to Tokyo on Thursday 11th May. I think they should go to Shin-Kobe . Do they need to change trains to get to Tokyo.?
    Also please , what station does the train finish at in Tokyo?

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    I am planning to travel to Hiroshima on a Saturday 13th May from Hakone. I understand there is only one train from Odawara to Hiroshima (6am?).
    Is it easier for me to go to Osaka from Odawara (many trains?) and then Osaka to Hiroshima? I have JR Pass.
    What is the quickest and best way to Hiroshima (arriving around 4pm) from Odawara. I also have green pass so do I have to book ticket?

    Many thanks
    Tej

    1. Hi Tej,

      Please see the link below. It shows Shinkansen timetable.
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

      JR pass covers Hikari (shown by “H”) and Sakura (shown by “S”). Kodama (K) is also covered but it’s slow and no need to take this.

      As you looked the timetable, there are many connections in Shin-Osaka. You don’t need to take direct trains. You can just change trains at Shin-Osaka.

      You have to book a seat before taking train. All green seats are reserved seats. Even if you have Green pass, you must reserve your seat before on board. If you don’t want to book in advance, you can take non reserved ordinary seat. But it’s a big loss. You should book it.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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