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

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

  1. I will be in Osaka later this year and want to go to a jazz club in Yokohama to see a performer there. What time does the last train depart from Yokohama to Osaka to enable me to return and not have to book a hotel?
    Regards,

    Shane

    1. Hi Shane,

      Please find the timetable in the links below:
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

      Shin-Yokohama is the nearest station to Yokohama. Local trains run between Yokohama and Shin-Yokohama very frequently. You don’t need to worry about local train to get Shin-Yokohama. Just check the schedule of Shinkansen from Shin-Yokohama.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. I am planning to arrive in Narita in the morning of January 08 and travel to Himeji. Will travel back to Shinagawa on January 11.
    What is the best train connections for me?

    1. Hi Sarath,

      You can take Narita Express from Narita to Shinagawa, and then take Shinkansen to get Himeji.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/narita-express.html

      You can change the trains at Tokyo instead of Shinagawa. But Shinagawa is easier than Tokyo. You can find the train timetable in the links below:
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/index.html
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf

      JR pass 7 days is recommended deal for your trip. JR Pass is cheaper than regular fare.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi!
        I am to depart through Narita and my colleague has to go through Haneda. Will you recommend Shinagawa Prince Hotel for the last night of our stay?

        Sarath

          1. Thank you Takeshi
            Now the final question. Can we book seats from Shinagawa to Himeji and return tickets from Himeji to Shinagawa before arriving in Japan?

            Sarath.

  3. I am planning to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo Shibuya on 9 Jan 2017. Pls advise which bullet train to take as we have luggage.
    Do I have to book online in advance as 9 Jan is public holiday but I realise bullet train has high frequency. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Basically you cannot book it online. Unfortunately only Japanese site is available to book Shinkansen ticket. But it’s not hard to book. Shinkansen trains run very frequently. You can book it even if you do it after you arrive in Japan.

      Please see the link below to find the info about luggage.
      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

      1. Thanks for prompt response. Which stations do the bullet train stop at in Tokyo? I’m trying g to find the easiest way to transfer to Shibuya.

  4. Hi Takeshi

    I am going to buy KANSAI HIROSHIMA PASS and I’m planing to ride Nozomi from Kyoto to Hiroshima.

    The pass covers only Nozomi (Sanyo) from Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima, so I am imagining that if I pay the Shinkansen fare (~1400¥) for the Nozomi from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, I can travel without transfering train?

    The confusing thing is, Nozomi from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka is from Tokaido, not from Sanyo. But the train is the same, right? Is it like, when I get on the Nozomi from Kyoto it is still “Tokaido Nozomi” and I have to pay 1400¥ because it is not Sanyo, then when I reach Shin-Osaka, ONLY ITS NAME changes to “Sanyo Nozomi” and my KANSAI HIROSHIMA pass covers it. Is it right?

    Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Truc,

      Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen lines are operated as one Shinkansen line. Tokaido Shinkansen belongs to JR Central and Sanyo Shinkansen belongs to JR West. But in train operation, it’s same. You don’t need to care about this. But this is reason why Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass does not cover Shinkansen line between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.

      If you pay 1400 yen (base fare + non reserved seat fee), you can use same train from Kyoto to Hiroshima.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi,
    I will travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in 1st of Jan 2017 and wanna take Nozomi Shinkansen. I have been searchig if there is any way to make online reservation because I am quite worried if trains will be fully booked since its high season.
    Do you know any website for online reservation (English or Japanese)? It will be very helpful.

    Thank you in advance.

  6. Hi, we are tourist currently staying in nippori, Ueno. We want to go to Osaka via bullet train. We are using suico pass. Is there a need for early ticket reservation for the bullet train? Or we can buy upon arrival to the terminal? Thank you!

    1. Hi Veronica,

      You don’t need to but it’s recommended. You can book at Ueno or Nippori station. There is a reservation window that is called “Midori no Madoguchi”. You can book and purchase a ticket there.
      You cannot use Suica to be board on bullet train. You need to purchase both base fare ticket and seat fee ticket. It costs around 15000 yen.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi,

    i will be in Japan for 8 days. i will arrive in Narita Airport then proceed to Osaka then Kyoto then back to Tokyo. Can i use my JRPass going to Osaka/Kyoto? i’ve read that i can use my jrpass in narita express going to Shinagawa Station. from there what’s next? jrpass is not valid for Nozomi right?

    thanks

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