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

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    Would like to know the most inexpensive route to take from Fukuoka to (any) Osaka one way only as we will be exiting from Osaka going back to our country of origin.

    Your recommendation will be much appreciated. Thanks very much.

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    We are traveling to Japan in June 2016. Read all your post and still deciding which rail pass to get. Our itinerary is:

    Day 1 (wednesday): KIX – Osaka
    Day 2 (Thursday): Osaka
    Day 3 (Friday): Day trip to Hiroshima using your suggested itinerary
    Day 4 (Saturday): Day Trip to Kobe/Himeji
    Day 5 (Sunday): Day Trip to Nara/Osaka
    Day 6 (Monday): To Kyoto (and staying in Kyoto for 2 nights)
    Day 7( Tuesday) : Kyoto to Arashiyama day trip
    Day 8 (wed): To Tokyo
    Day 9 (thur): sightseeing Tokyo
    Day 10 (Friday): Day trip to Mt Fuji
    Day 11 (sat): departing Tokyo at midnight

    Would it make sense to get the Kansai-Hiroshima Pass and then one way fare Kyoto-Tokyo? The JR pass is only 7 days and not sure if that is enough for us.

    Thank you so much for your input.

    Cindy

    1. Hi Cindy,

      I recommend you to use JR pass for the last 7 days (day 5 to 11) basically. But you need to switch day 3 and day 5. You should include trip to Hiroshima in the 7 days coverage. As long as you should include trip to Hiroshima, trip to Fuji and Kyoto to Tokyo, JR pass will work.

      For KIX to Osaka, there are some deals available:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Kansai thru pass is recommended for Kobe, Himeji and Nara.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      There are some deals available in Osaka and Kyoto.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

      If you don’t take JR train to go to the airport on the last day, you can start using JR Pass on day 4. In this case, you can use JR pass to get Himeji and Kobe. You don’t need to use Kansai thru pass and single fare is okay to get Nara. There are some ways to get airport in Tokyo. And it depends on which airport you use, Narita or Haneda.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

      You may need to add subway pass or single fare even if you have JR pass. Because some areas cannot be accessed by JR train.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        Thank you for such a prompt reply.

        I can switch Hiroshima to Day 5. I check the train schedule on Hyperdia.com and with the JR Pass, I can only take the Sakura 570 departure from Hiroshima @20:48 and arriving Shin-Osaka @ 22:21pm. I cannot take the Nozomi or Mizuho. Is that correct? I can still get back to Tennoji where my hotel is if I arrive in Shin-Osaka at 22:21pm.

        Also do you have one day itinerary for Tokyo-Mt Fuji?

        Thanks so much for your help.

        Cindy

        1. Hi Cindy,

          JR pass does not cover Mizuho and Nozomi. So your choice is Sakura or Hikari.
          22:21 arrival at Shin-Osaka is completely no problem. Train runs until midnight. You can get Tennoji easily.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    I will travel to tokyo – kyoto – osaka – nara – kobe – tokyo, is it recommend to buy jr pass 7 days?
    Are the jr pass could cover to shirakawa go, nagoya and nagano as well?
    Which shinkansen i can use?
    I perhaps will consider the ordinary class.

    Thank you
    Regards,
    Miranti

    1. Hi Miranti,

      JR Pass 7 days is recommended. You can get Nagano and Nagoya by JR pass. But when you go to Shirakawago, you need to pay for the bus either from Kanazawa or Takayama. You can get Takayama and Kanazawa but bus is not covered.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-get-shirakawa-go-%E7%99%BD%E5%B7%9D%E9%83%B7.html

      You can take all Shinkansen line but Nozomi and Mizuho are not covered. Please see the line below to find more info:
      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. Thanks for your prompt respond.
        I think i will consider jr pass.
        Is there any special or limited train that jr pass covered?
        Perhaps if i go the hakone, and mount fuji.
        Thank you

  4. Hi,

    We are planning to go in Japan on April 4,2016.
    We will arrive in Osaka first and stay there for 2 days then we will travel from Osaka to Kyoto and stayed in Kyoto for 4 days then after Kyoto we will be in Tokyo for roughly 6 days.

    Do you think buying a JR pass will be worth it? Coz we’re still deciding if we go for on the green pass. Your feedback will be very much appreciated! 🙂

    Thanks in advance!

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve. When you submit your comment, the page will be reloaded and nothing happens. But your comment will be shown when I approve. Please click submit only once and wait for my approval.
  • 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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