Overnight transfer between Tokyo and Kyoto/Osaka

Sunrise Seto / Sunrise IzumoHighway Buses
Sunrise Izumo and Sunrise Seto are only scheduled overnight trains in Japan.

If you want to save the time and save your money to stay hotel, overnight transfer is considerable. Many travelers move among Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. We have a few ways to take overnight transfer among these cities by Japan Rail Pass too. I would like to tell about it in this post.

Overnight trains

Overnight train is actually not very common in these days. Many overnight trains were discontinued. Only Sunrise Izumo and Sunrise Seto are the scheduled trains.

Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo

These trains connect Tokyo, Takamatsu and Izumoshi. You may take this train from Osaka to Tokyo.

These trains stop at Osaka at 00:34 and arrive at Tokyo at 07:08. Especially “Nobi Nobi seat” on these trains is fully covered by JR Pass. Please find more information about these trains in the post below:

These trains do not stop at Kyoto. You have to go back to Osaka. It is 30 minutes away from Kyoto by Special Rapid Service train.

If you take Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo from Tokyo, the train does not stop at Osaka and Kyoto because it it too early. The first station is Himeji at 05:24. You can take Special Rapid or the Sanyo Shinkansen to go back to Osaka or Kyoto.

However you have to take a risk if you use this train in your trip plan. Because you cannot reserve a seat or berth online. You have to book a seat after the arrival. All spaces may be booked out at the time of booking. It is hard to say about the availability. You must prepare back up plan for the case of booked out if you take this option.

Many hotels allow you to cancel before a few days without any cancellation fees. You may book a hotel in either Osaka or Tokyo. If you cannot make it, you can stay in the hotel and use the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo. If you can make it, you can cancel your hotel and take Sunrise Izumo or Seto. This is the best preparation if you take this option.

Rapid Moonlight Nagara

If you travel in the peak period, you may be able to take overnight rapid train, Moonlight Nagara:

This train is operated between Tokyo and Ogaki. Ogaki is located between Naogya and Kyoto. You have to transfer to other trains at Ogaki or Nagoya to get Kyoto or Osaka. Moonlight Nagara is a sort of the local train. But all seats are reserved seat. You cannot take this train without reservation. And it is very hard to book because of popularity. If you use JR Pass, you can get on this train with no extra charge. However it is very challenging to book a seat on this train after you arrive in Japan.

This train is operated in peak season only. You can find the operation dates in Category of Seasonal trains schedule.

Overnight bus

There are many overnight bus services running between Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto. JR pass used to cover some overnight bus but it does not cover any overnight bus at all now. If you take this option, JR Pass might not fit your travel because you may not be able to get the worth of it.

Willer Travel operates lots of overnight bus. Please see the link below to find more information:

Willer Travel official site

Actually I am not a big fan of bus. I have never taken Willer Bus before. I cannot answer any inquiries about this bus service.

 

Granvia Hotel Osaka Located just in Osaka station
Karasuma Hotel Kyoto Traditional tatami room

Comments

  1. Hello,
    I will be arriving in Narita on 10th june 2012, at 8:30 pm. My plan is to goto kyoto (5 days including day trips to nara and osaka) then return to tokyo (4 days including day trips to nikko and overnight stay at hakone). Leaving narita on 20th morning 10 am.
    How can I best use the 7 day JR pass?
    Should I stay overnight near narita or tokyo JR stations, OR should I take an overnight train (nobi nobi seat) to kyoto so that I save a nights hotel?
    Also, on the way back, should I do Hakone on the way to tokyo or goto tokyo first then Hakone after that?
    Please let me know if all my mentioned places are covered by the JR since I am on a budget trip.
    Thanks a lot for your help.
    Ani

  2. Okky Chandra
    OkkyChan says:

    hi JP Rail,

    i plan to visit Japan on June 15. my flight will be arriving at Kansai Airport on 21.30PM. i will use JR Pass Rail. from Kansai Airport, there would be train to Osaka Station, and i prefer to take overnight train to Shinjuku.

    just ask, from osaka station, can i take a LTD EXP Surise Seto/Izumo with that JR Pass Rail?

    thank for your kindness reply

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi OkkyChan,
      Yes, you can. Please see the details at the following post:
      https://jprail.com/trains/sunrise-seto.html
      However, you must expect in case of sold out. If you cannot take it, you need to stay in Osaka.
      Nobi Nobi seat of Sunrise Sero/Izumo are very popular. It is no surprise if it is sold out.
      Cheers,
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Roberto says:

    Hello,
    i’ll arrive on 2nd may (to narita) and i’ll leave the 18th may (from haneda).
    i would buy a JR pass for 14 days and my itinerary includes tokyo, nikko, takayama, kyoto, osaka, nara, himeji, miyajima, and hiroshimka (wow!).
    i have to questions about my trip:
    is the 14 days jr pass a good deal?
    i would save some money traveling by night. i read (above) that is possible to get a bus from tokyo to kyoto but i don’t know if is possible to reserve a seat without the jr pass.
    thank you in advance for your reply

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Roberto,
      Of course, 14 days pass is way cheaper than regular fare.
      I don’t know how many days you will stay in Tokyo. I think you may be able to go some more places in 14 days. You can go even Kyushu or Hokkaido if you want. Please see my sample itineraries to get some ideas.
      https://jprail.com/category/sample-itineraries
      If you want to reserve your seat on overnight bus, you need to show your pass at the time of booking. Otherwise you have to pay regular fare.
      Cheers,
      Takeshi / JP Rail

    • Jonathan Ayre
      JAyre says:

      Hi Roberto,

      I agree with Takeshi, you could might have time to do more with fourteen days. Also, my main reason for writing is, in the case of Himeji, if you don’t know, Himeji Castle is undergoing massive renovations until 2015. There is a large tent over the entire castle, and parts of it are closed at different times during the renovation. It may not be as spectacular as you are hoping. Thats not to say you won’t enjoy it though, but there are other original castles, such as Matsumoto (near Nagoya or Tokyo), Matsue (north of Hiroshima/Okayama) and Matsuyama (on Shikoku) that might serve as supplementary in case you want to see more because of the renovations. Best of luck with your trip!

      Best regards,

      – Jonathan Ayre –

  4. Lucy says:

    Hello,

    I am coming to Japan on 12th April and after arriving at Tokyo Narita I want to go straight to Shinjuku to get the overnight bus on JR pass overnight to Osaka. I have been advised that I am not able to book the bus reservation until I have exchanged my pass for a ticket on arrival in Japan. I am really worried that the bus will be fully booked. Is there any advice??

    Thanks

    Lucy and Steve

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Lucy,
      The bus is sold out very often. So I don’t recommend you to do this plan. It is very hard to make an adjustment on the spot. And also one of my reader tried to get on the bus by Japan Rail Pass. He could make it. But most of JR staffs are not familiar with booking the bus by Japan Rail Pass. He said it took very long time to get a ticket.
      Moreover, I don’t know what time you will arrive at Narita. But you need to expect the flight delay. It would be very stressful to make an adjustment your schedule on arrival day.
      Regards,
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. ken says:

    Hello Takeshi san

    The only time I went to Japan -on March 2011- (the second time coming Feb 2012 yeaaahh).
    I asked on the reservation office (at Hakata Station), about the overnight highway buses between Osaka and Tokyo that one can take with the JRPass, but he didn’t know very well about it, had to look about it, make some questions to the others colleagues, etc. and after a while he writed to me which ones I could take and the ones I could not. I just wanted to know which alternatives I had so I didin’t reserved anyone.
    Another day I tried to do the same but this time at Osaka Station, this time the same happened he had to search in another book (it didn’t appears in their screens either) and he writed to me the ones I could take and the ones I could not, the thing is they were exactly the opposite to Hakata Station.
    But this time I made the reservation; when I made my choice I had to go to the JRBus office at the same station (really messy because of the works), and then I could make the bus reservation with my 3 weeks JR Pass.
    The thing is: they really didn’t know very well about it because the Buses are a totally different brand (even with the same owners) so that’s why they didn’t have the timetables on their system, and didn’t know for sure the ones you can use with the JRPass.

    The Bus travel was very pleasant by the way, (the Sunrise Exp. -nobi nobi- was full that night).

    All the best for you on this 2012 (a year full of train travels).

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Ken san,
      Thank you for telling us your experience. This information is very helpful for the first time visitor.
      When I wrote this post, I sent an email to JR Kanto bus company. Even they did not give me the “Exact” answer. We had several emails, and then I found which bus service was available for JR Pass.
      I’m going to Japan in March. I will try to take either Sunrise or overnight bus to Tokyo. I’ll try to make it in Osaka.
      Enjoy your trip in February!
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Heather says:

    Hello,
    I have a couple of questions. Can you use the JR Seishun18 pass for the Sunrise Izumo / Sunrise Seto trains? If not, what is best to get from Tokyo to Osaka on this pass. Also is it possible to take a Seishun18 friendly- route to Hiroshima, and what trains would I use for this? T I am an alien resident so I can’t use JR Rail Pass.
    Thank you!

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Heather,
      Sorry. The comment has not been shown until I approve. Because I receive 300+ spam comments per day.
      First of all, you cannot take any express trains by Seishun 18 kippu (=ticket). So you cannot take Sunrise Seto/Izumo. Of course Shinkansen is not covered either.
      Most of Seishun 18 kippu passenger try to take Moonlight Nagara. Please see the link below get more info about this train.
      https://jprail.com/trains/rapid-train-moonlight-nagara.html
      And see the link below getting a timetable of this train in this winter season:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/schedule-of-2011-12-winter-seasonal-trains.html
      This train is VERY BUSY in Seishun 18 kippu season because this is the fastest way to get Osaka. You should reserve your seat of this train A.S.A.P.
      But this train goes to Ogaki. After you arrive at Ogaki, you need to change a local train to Maibara. And then take another local train at Maibara. But this train is Special Rapid Service train among Maibara-Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe-Himeji. This is more comfortable than other local trains. But this is a sort of commute train. It is very busy among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe area. Please see the link below to get more info about Special Rapid Service:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/special-rapid-service.html
      After that, you need to take a local train to Okayama, and then another train to Hiroshima.
      So this will be very very long trip by commute train. You may take more than 5 different trains from Ogaki to Hiroshima. It may take more than 8 hours. Unless you are familiar with JR trains, I don’t recommend you to do this trip. This Seishun 18 kippu is very popular for the rail buff in Japan. But this is not for everybody.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Chris says:

    sorry to bother you , please can you tell me how to get from KIx to tokyo by overnght bus on the 2nd Dec , I will be arriving at approx 6pm At Kansai Airport , thank you for your asssitance in this matter

  8. petunia says:

    thank you so much Takeshi, i wish i could kiss you in gratitude!!

    for the “midori no madoguchi” Ladies Dream seat reservation, how do I ask for a seat on the east side going from Tokyo to Kyoto as I want to be woken up by the rising sun.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hello Petunia,
      The bus goes to west from east. So both side have sun light, but left side may have more. And also there is drapes in the coach. So you don’t really need to worry about that.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. petunia says:

    thank you so much for your kind assistance!

    I now have a bit of a problem. I bought a 7days JR Pass

    I planned to take the Ladies Dream on 7May 2011 22:30 from Tokyo to Kyoto
    Last trip for JRPass is 14May 2011 sunrise seto (nobi nobi seat) from osaka @ 00.34 to tokyo arr 7.08

    Would this exceed the 7 days JR Pass validity already?

    If yes, should i give up the Ladies Dream coach or Sunrise Seto trip?

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hello Petunia,
      If you take Sunrise at Osaka station, you cannot. But you don’t need to give up. You can take both Dream and Sunrise. See chapter #6 on the following link:
      http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en008.html
      If you take Sunrise before 00:00, technically you can take this train to Tokyo. The last stop of Sunrise before 00:00 is Himeji. So if you can spend the time to go to Himeji, you can take Sunrise.
      Last Kodama on Sanyo Shinkansen depart from Shin-Osaka at 22:58 and arrive at Himeji at 23:20. Sunrise depart from Himeji at 23:55. This is only choice that you can take both for 7 days.
      How about that?
      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. petunia says:

    I will arriving at JR Shinagawa station on 6 May 2011 to exchange for my JR Pass and if possible to make seat reservations for the shinkansen trips etc, especially the Nobi-nobi seat on the Sunrise Seto from Osaka to Tokyo.

    I understand that i can make seat reservations at the window where i do the exchange.

    However, how and where do i reserve a Ladies Premium seat Tokyo – Kyoto ? Can you also please give some directions to the bus departure point?

    From the timetable i see “Tokyo Station Yaesu South Exit” @ 22.30 and “Shinjuku Station New South Exit” @ 23.10. Which exit will be easier to find – this is my first trip to Japan.

    Thanks.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hello Petunia,
      You can make a reservation at same place as train reservation window. It’s called “Midori no Madoguchi”.
      Yaesu south is easier for you. Because both Shinjuku and Tokyo are huge station, but Shinjuku is the busiest station in Japan.
      At Tokyo Station, west side is called “Matunouchi”. East side of Tokyo station is called “Yaesu” So Yaesu south is south exit of Yaesu side. There is a lot of sign. You cannot miss it.
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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