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

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

  1. Hi Takeshi-san,

    We are heading to Japan early July. We will be arriving in Haneda airport and then we have to catch the bullet train to Kyoto. Can you please give me a run down on what to do?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sandy san,

      If you want to use single fare ticket, you can purchase and book Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket at Haneda airport ticket counter.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/haneda/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html
      http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/customer_support/service_center_haneda.html?src=gnavi

      And then take Keihin Kyuko railway to get Shinagawa. You can catch Shinkansen to Kyoto at Shinagawa.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shinagawa-station-guide-transfer-among-shinkansen-keihin-kyuko-to-haneda-narita-express.html

      Keihin Kyuko railway is different train company from Shinkansen. You need to buy ticket at the vending machine for Haneda airport to Shinagawa.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

    2. Takeshi-san,

      When purchasing a ticket for the Shinkansen at Haneda Airport, do we have to pick a specific time to catch the Shinkansen because I’m not sure how long it’ll take us to get Shinagawa.

      Thanks!

      1. Hi Sandy san,

        If you want to reserve your seat, you have to pick the specific train. You can buy non reserved seat ticket. You can take any trains on same day. But you have to find unoccupied seat in non reserved car. In worst case, you will be standing passenger.

        It takes 20 minutes to get Shinagawa from Haneda by Keihin Kyuko. All info are shown in the link about Haneda airport which I gave you in previous reply. Please read it once more to make sure.

        Cheers,

        Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    My name is Ms Miki, I would like to seek your advise on the following itinerary I had set up, had some difficulties understanding the train in Japan, hope you can give me a helping hand.

    Question 1 :-
    Tokyo to Osaka (Bullet Train)
    Osaka to Kyoto (Bullet Train – Return tickets)
    Osaka to Hakone ( Travel by what is the best ? )
    Hakone to Tokyo (Travel by what is the best ? )

    Question 2 :-
    In within Tokyo / Osaka / Kyoto / Hakone – can i get the intercity bus/subway/train tickets at the place itself and please advise what’s the name of each tickets too?

    Of all the above route – Do i have to purchase the tickets ahead of time (via online) or at the station itself ?

    Thanks Takeshi!

    1. Hi Miki,

      You can use JR pass 7 days. You can use JR Pass in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo to take a local train. But some places cannot be accessed by JR Pass. And you can get Odawara on the way to Hakone. But Hakone itself is not covered. You may find the detailed info in the link below:
      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. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you so much for the information, much appreciated. I will give it a read. The JR pass is a good choice for the places am going. And below are few more questions that i need clarifications

        JR Pass –
        1) Is it multiple usage ?
        2) I can chose to drop off at any station along the line?
        3) From Tokyo to Shin Osaka/Kyoto – I can only take the Hikari , the 2nd fastest train after Nozomi ? Understand Nozomi is not covered in JR pass

        Other Subway/Trains without JR Pass –
        I can get the tickets at the train station to move around ?

        To get into Hakone, is to drop off at Odawara and follow your website advise on the path to get into Hakone? May I know from Shin Osaka to Odawara takes how long, and Odawara to Tokyo?

        Thanks for the advise again!

        1. Hi Miki,

          1. It gives you unlimited travel.
          2. You can hop in and off at any JR stations.
          3. exactly.

          You can purchase a ticket at the vending machine at the station for taking subway. Or you can use other deal.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html
          http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

          You can find the timetable at the hyperdia:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

          You also can find Shinkansen timetable in the link below:
          http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf
          http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf

          But I recommend you to learn how to use Hyperdia. You can check any train schedule there.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hello Takeshi san,

    Can you please advise, what kind of transfer time/walking time should we allow if arriving in Shin Osaka on Midosuji subway line, in order to catch the Nozomi Shinkansen departing at 1.50pm for Shinagawa, including time to buy/book the Shinkansen ticket.

    Or can we buy/book the Shinkansen ticket an earlier day or elsewhere while in Osaka?

    Cheers.

    1. Hi Michale san,

      You can purchase Nozomi ticket in advance at most of JR stations. In downtown Osaka, most of JR stations have Midori no Madoguchi (reservation window). You can purchase it in advance. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/how-to-reserve-seat.html

      You can find info about transfer at Shin-Osaka in 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

      1. Hello Takeshi san,

        Thank you again for the info, much appreciated.

        I have read the guide and good info to know. I saw that it mentions on sometimes weekdays would be maybe better not to take reserved seat, we were planning on Tuesday 6th June to take this journey from Shin-Osaka.

        I realise it is still two months away, and anything can be unpredictable, but being a Tuesday and it is not any kind of peak period on 6th June, correct? Are we taking big chance to be waiting for the train 30 minutes early with no reserved seat? Plus we will be boarding the train at Shin-Osaka, which is the originating station of the 1.50pm Nozomi, correct?

        How many carriages is the Nozomi usually, and out of these, how many are for non-reserved only?

        Cheers.

        1. Hi Michael san,

          Please see the link below to find the timetable. You can find where Nozomi which you intend to take depart from.
          http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf

          June 6 is not peak season and if you wait 30 minutes prior to departure time, you will be okay. I think 20 minutes is enough.

          By the way, Shinkansen train is busy in both weekday and weekend. Lots of business travelers use this train too.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hello,

    I will be travelling to Osaka in a weeks time and will be heading to Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. Which pass would be more advantageous to buy especially when we would want to experience the Shinkansen at least once.

    Cheers

    1. Hi Hui,

      If you visit Kyoto, Kobe and Nara, there is no deals to cover Shinkansen. You can use one of the deals in the link below, but you have to add single fare to take Shinkansen.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

      Base fare + Shinkansen seat fee (non reserved) is around 1500 yen for either Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe or Shin-Osaka to Kyoto.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hello Takeshita-san, I looked at the timetable for Hikari. I assume all times given are departure time from each station. How many minutes does the train stay at each stop?
    Thank you. I’m looking forward to my trip in May.

    1. Hi Kay,

      It depends on train. In most of cases, train stops for 1-2 minutes. But somteimes trains stop at the station for 5 minutes when train is passed by other faster train.

      If you really want this information, you can find it at Hyperdia.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      You can find “train timetable” in the result below train number. Just click it to open the train timetable.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I will be in Japan for a week in May, and stay in Shinjuku for 4 days before heading to Osaka. In osaka, I will make a day trip to Kyoto by train. I intend to take the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tyoko station to shin-osaka. Is it more economical for me to buy the JR Pass to use for all these travelling?

    Thank you for your kind help and advice in advance.

    Best regards,
    Kelly from Singapore

    1. Hi Kelly san,

      If you go back to Tokyo after staying Kyoto and Osaka, JR pass is your choice. Because 7 days pass is almost equal to round trip fare by Shinkansen. But if you have one way trip, single fare is cheaper. You may think about using Platt Kodama.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hello ~

    We are flying to Narita next week, during our stay (we will be staying in Minato-ku) we would like to go to Toyohashi City for one day, as well as Kyoto a different day. Can you please tell me the best way to get there. Do I need to purchase tickets prior to leaving the US? I keep reading about exchanging, I’m confused what I need to do – can you please help. Thank you so much! Jennifer

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Both places can be accessed by Shinkansen in the post above. You can get the timetable of Shinkanse in the links below:
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound.pdf
      http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf

      You should use JR pass 7 days. It’s way cheaper than single fares.
      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

      You also can take Narita Express by JR pass.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/narita-express.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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