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.


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 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], 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 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
(C) Hisagi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Types of train

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


“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.


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

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


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

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

  1. Dear Takeshi,

    I have a further enquiries on the kansai wide area 5-day pass which I’m using to okayama and himeji.

    Can i take the shinkansen from Shin-kobe to okayama and himeji with this pass?

    What type of shinkansen can this pass be used for? Nozomi, Mizuho, Hikari, kindly advise as i read in your post that JR can’t be used for Nozomi.

    Using this pass for shinkansen is on non-reserved seats, if that is the case, if the train is full, passengers will have to stand during the entire journey? Can the seats be reserved?

    Appreciate your clarification.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Julian.

      This pass covers any kind of Shinkansen trains. You can take even Nozomi and Mizuho by this pass. This is different condition from JR Pass.
      As you think, if non reserved seat is full, you have to stand up. Unfortunately you cannot use reserved seat by this pass. If you want, you have to purchase full amount of reserved seat ticket that is not recommended. If you are solo traveler, it’s not hard to find the seat. It may be hard to find the seat side by side if you travel with someone.

      In most of cases, slower train is much easier to get a seat. If you have a time, take Kodama. It’s much easier to find the seat than Nozomi, Mizuho, Hikari and Sakura.


      Takeshi /

  2. Hello. I am planning to travel from Hiroshima to Shinagawa in October by Shinkansen on a JR Rail Pass. I’ve read that I can take one of the non-Nozomi trains to Shin-Osaka, and then transfer there to go to Shinagawa. However, I’m not sure exactly which train(s) to take. Is it the Hikari? The Sakura? Both?

  3. I’m currently staying at shizuoka. I want to travel to hiroshima from shizuoka. I have an active JR pass. What would be the route to take? Thank you.

  4. I will be in Tokyo and Osaka for 10 days from 12 Aug to 22 Aug. My family of three adults will leave Tokyo on 17 Aug to Osaka and return to Tokyo on 21 Aug.

    1. What is the roundtrip fare on Hikari (Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo)?
    2. Is it more worth it to get the 7 Days JR Pass?
    3. If I buy the 7 Days Pass, which day should I activate it?
    4. I have an ICOCA card. Can this be used on Shinkansen?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      1. Appx 28000 yen for round trip. If you want to get an exact fare, please check it at hyperdia.

      2. As you see the fare, round trip fare is slightly cheaper than JR pass 7 days. But if you have some more trip, like trip to Kyoto, Nara and/or Kobe from Osaka, somewhere around Tokyo, you can get the worth of 7 days pass easily. It’s only 1000 yen difference.

      3. You can use it for the last 7 days of your trip.

      4. No, you can’t.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi,
    I am planning to go from Tokyo to Fukuyama next week, on 19/7 in the morning and want to go back on 25/7 around noon from Fukuyama to Tokyo (Narita airport).
    1) Which train is best to take? Nozomi or to buy JR Pass or something else?
    2) I am travelling with 4 kids (10-12years old), do they have any discount? And is there any discount for round trip?
    3) Do we have to make any reservations? Can we buy it online or is it ok to buy at the Tokyo Station?
    4) Can we use credit cards for buying tickets? Thanks

    1. Hi Danijela,

      1. If you want to save your cost, JR pass is better choice. It’s cheaper than single fare ticket. But if you use JR pass, you cannot take Nozomi. You have to take Hikari or Sakura. There are many Nozomi to get Fukuyama from Tokyo directly. But if you use JR pass, you have to change the train at Shin-Osaka. You can find the timetable of Shinkansen and Narita Express at the links below:

      You will take Narita Express from Narita airport to Shinagawa, not Tokyo. You can change the trains, from Narita Express to Shinkansen, at Tokyo. But Shinagawa is easier.

      2. If you purchase single fare ticket, you can get child rate for 11 years old and younger. It’s half price. Adult fare is applied to 12 year old.

      Round trip discount is 10% for just base fare portion. In my rough calculation, one way base fare is around 10000 yen after discount. And one way express surcharge is around 8500 yen. JR pass is 29100 yen to cover all. The choice is yours.

      3. There is no online available. You need to book it after you arrive in Japan anyway. Reservation is recommended.

      4. You can pay by credit card.


      Takeshi /

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  • 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.
  • Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.
  • 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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