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

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

  1. Hello,

    We are holding ordinary JR Pass.

    Can we reserve seats from Shinagawa Station to Shin-Osaka Station in Hikari train mountainside to view Mount Fuji on the way?

    If yes, is this at an extra charge and please advise how do we do it and if it can be done in advance on our arrival at Narita Airport terminal 2 on April 18 and our travel date from Tokyo to Osaka will only be on April 20?

    Thank you for the advice!

    1. Hi Anne,

      You can book when you exchange your JR pass. You can exchange it at Narita airport even if you start using JR pass on 20th. Once you get an actual pass, you can book right away.
      You can book any side of seats by JR pass without extra charge. Shinkansen seat layout is 3+2 and Seat A, B, C (isle) and D, E. Mt. Fuji side is seat D and E. So try to book this side. Fuji side is always D and E even if you go back to Tokyo from Osaka.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you so much Takeshi-san for replying!

        I do have a few more queries. Hoping that we get some more advices (being first timers to Japan)

        -When taking Narita Express from Narita Airport, does it stop at ShinOkubo station or we need to stop at Shinjuku station then change train going to ShinOkubo station?

        -in going from Tokyo to Osaka: Coming from ShinOkubo Station, I believe we need to go to Shinagawa Station to change to Hikari Shinkansen going to Shin-Osaka Station? Kindly reconfirm if this is correct and if all these routes are covered by JR Pass?

        -please advice as well what would be our route covered by JR if going back to Tokyo then Narita Station if we are coming from Shin-Osaka

        Thanks very much again for your time and helpful information!

        1. Hi Anne,

          -When taking Narita Express from Narita Airport, does it stop at ShinOkubo station or we need to stop at Shinjuku station then change train going to ShinOkubo station?

          You need to change the trains at Shinjuku because Narita Express does not stop at Shin-Okubo. All trips are covered by JR pass

          -in going from Tokyo to Osaka: Coming from ShinOkubo Station, I believe we need to go to Shinagawa Station to change to Hikari Shinkansen going to Shin-Osaka Station? Kindly reconfirm if this is correct and if all these routes are covered by JR Pass?.

          Correct.

          -please advice as well what would be our route covered by JR if going back to Tokyo then Narita Station if we are coming from Shin-Osaka

          Shin-Osaka (Shinkansen) Shinagawa (Narita Express) Narita airport

          You can change the trains at Tokyo instead of Shinagawa. But Shinagawa is smaller than Tokyo and much easier to change trains. You will take Shinkansen from Shinagawa for Shin-Osaka. You will be familiar with Shinagawa more than Tokyo.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shinagawa-station-guide-transfer-among-shinkansen-keihin-kyuko-to-haneda-narita-express.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hello Takeshi-san,

            Is there a JR route from Kyoto Station going back to Tokyo then Tokyo to Narita Station?

            Will the duration be longer to Narita Station if coming from Kyoto or Shin-Osaka?

            We’re still deciding if it’s more feasible to be coming from Kyoto or Osaka before we head back to the Narita Airport.

            Thanks for your advice on the train route!

          2. Hi Anne,

            You can take Shinaksnen from Kyoto or Shin-Osaka to Shinagawa. And then take Narita Express to Narita airport from Shinagawa.
            http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/narita-express.html

            You can change from Shinkansen to Narita Express at Tokyo but Shinagawa is easier because it’s smaller than Tokyo station.
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shinagawa-station-guide-transfer-among-shinkansen-keihin-kyuko-to-haneda-narita-express.html

            It takes at least 4 hours to get Narita from Kyoto or Shin-Osaka. You can find the timetable in the links below:
            http://english.jr-central.co.jp/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound.pdf
            http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_nex_d/index.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          3. Thank You very much, Takeshi-san!

            Alternatively, if from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto for a day trip what would be our route that’s covered by JR if going from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto Station and back?

            Can we take a 6am train from Shin Osaka to Kyoto Station and back late in the evening around 7pm?

            I also have read that going around within Kyoto by buses will not be anymore covered by JR.

          4. Thanks Takeshi-san!

            Our first sightseeing will be to Arashiyama.

            Is there also a Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Arashiyama Station by JR or we need to stop at Kyoto Station?
            Which Shinkansen will this be and how long will it take us to reach there?

          5. Hi Anne san,

            Shinkansen does not go to Arashiyama. You have to change the trains at Kyoto from Shinkansen to local train. It takes another 15 minutes to get Arashiyama from Kyoto by local train.
            http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
            http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/kyoto-station-guide-how-to-transfer-among-shinkansen-kintetsu-subway-and-jr-local-trains.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          6. Thank you for your patience in addressing my queries Takeshi san.

            As we will be coming from Osaka Station, pls advice what do you think of the below, if we decide not to take Shinkansen:

            Osaka Station – Kyoto Station by Special Rapid Service
            From Kyoto Station we’ll change local train to Arashiyama Station

            As we are holding ordinary 7 day JR pass, does it cover the above?

            Will our route back to Osaka Station from Kyoto Station be the same via Special Rapid Service?

          7. Hello Takeshi san

            Let me know if correct and if all are accessible by our JR Pass:

            If we decide to take Shinkansen to Kyoto from Osaka, from Osaka we go first to Shin-Osaka Station then take Shinkansen Hikari to Kyoto Station.

            From Kyoto Station we then change to local JR train to Arashiyama Station.

            Going back, if we’ll be coming from Kyoto station, we take again the Hikari Shinkansen going to Shin-Osaka station. At Shin-Osaka we change train and head to Osaka station.

          8. Hi Anne,

            You’re right. You can choose whichever you like, Shinkansen or Special rapid.
            Shinkansen is faster than special rapid. But you will need to change trains at Shin-Osaka and spend 10 minutes to transfer. So Special rapid goes to Kyoto directly from Osaka and it may be faster.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          9. Thanks Takeshi san!

            Also one more thing, we’re coming from Osaka on Saturday and have a departure Int’l flight the next day, Sunday at 12noon.

            What is the earliest JR train in the morning to depart from:
            Osaka – Shin Osaka, then Shin-Osaka to Shinagawa by Hikari Shinkansen then Shinagawa – Narita Airport Terminal 2 by Narita Express for us to catch our Int’l flight. We need to be at the airport at least 2hrs, I think? Around 10am.

            Do you think we have enough time or better to go to Narita on Saturday afternoon to spend the night before our departure the next day?

            Thanks for the advice.

          10. Hi Anne san,

            It will be very very tough to get Narita. I usually go to the airport 3 hours before departure time. You can do it 2 hours before.
            The earliest schedule is like this:

            Osaka to Shin-Osaka by local train
            It runs every 5-10 minutes. And you should have 10 minutes to transfer at Shin-Osaka.

            Shin-Osaka 6:00 (Nozomi 200) 8:16 Shinagawa 8:49 (Narita Express) 09:55 Narita airprot T2

            This is only available schedule. If you miss one train, you cannot reach Narita 2 hours before. I think it’s too risky. And also if you intend to use JR Pass, you cannot take Nozomi and you cannot get Narita by 2 hours before.

            I recommend you to stay in Tokyo on Saturday.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          11. Hello Takeshi san,

            We have decided to stay overnight in Narita before our flight the next day.

            I was checking the Narita Express Route from Shinagawa and it only seems to stop at Narita Airport Terminals. Does it go next to Narita Station as we need to stay in a nearby hotel for the night.

            Thanks!

          12. Thanks Takeshi san!

            Is there a particular number of the Rapid Narita we will take from Shinagawa to Narita?

            Also, will it be a different Narita Express that we’ll be taking coming from Narita Terminal 2 going to Shinjuku during arrival?

          13. Hi Anne san,

            You can take any rapid trains which goes to Narita airport.

            Narita Express to Shinjuku is same. In most of Narita Express, two train sets are coupled between Narita airport and Tokyo. At Tokyo station, two trains sets are uncoupled and one goes to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and other one goes to Yokohama, Ofuna. Before you take Narita Express, you need to book a seat. Your seat will be assigned in the train which goes to Shinjuku. So don’t worry to take wrong one.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

          14. Thank you Takeshi san!

            How soon and where do we book a seat to take Narita Express from Airport Terminal 2 going to Shinjuku on arrival and Shinagawa going to Narita Station on departure?

            Do we also need to book in advance our seats in Shinkansen Hikari from Shinagawa to Osaka and back?

  2. Hello Takeshi san,

    Firstly, we are looking at one way shinkansen travel from Shin-Osaka to Shinagawa and I noticed on Hyperdia.com the prices, Hikari is 14140 YEN and Nozomi is 14450 YEN – only 310 YEN the difference, correct? So that doesn’t seem to much extra for 30 minutes or so faster in trip.

    My second trip will be one way later on from Odawara to Kyoto. On this trip there is only Hikari, without having to change train, correct? I found the price of 12080 YEN.

    My question is, I am looking at around 26530 YEN in costs for shinkansen travel, which seems quite reasonable for my budget and I would prefer the shinkansen for faster travel, but is there any type of ticket, pass or offer for shinkansen travel we could take advantage? A 7-day JR rail pass is of no use, as the time between these two trips is 9 days: we do Shin-Osaka to Shinagawa on 6th June and then Odawara to Kyoto on 14th June.

    Thanking you for your advice.

    1. Hi Michael san,

      Single ticket is the best choice. There is no other deals for your trip. As you think, 7 days is too short and 14 days is too expensive. But JR pass is more expensive than single ticket. So use single ticket and it’s the best choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi
    We plan to travel from Takamatsu to Kochi and return. What is the best train we can take and the last train back to Takamatsu with JR railway pass.

    Thanks
    Lee

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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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