Posted by: jrhorse | April 30, 2013

Tokyo to Kyoto for only 2,300 Yen!?

For more up-to-date information, please read the September 2014 post Tokyo to Kyoto for $21… and other cheap ways to transit Japan

I’d like to take an opportunity to thank those of you who are reading my blog. I’m happy to share my thoughts about Japan travel and assist people in any way that I can!

My most popular post on this blog is how to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto for just 2,300 yen. That post was written back in 2009, so I think it’s time for me to update this information to reflect current events.

Without question, Tokyo and Kyoto are THE two destinations that should be included if you are intent on visiting Japan for the very first time. Of course, Tokyo and Kyoto are separated by some 231 miles (372 km) if you were to draw a straight line.

Between Tokyo and Kyoto, the two major methods of public transportation are the train and the highway bus. (You might also add air, if continuing to Osaka, but this article will focus on the first two methods of transit.)

So how much will you pay for a ride between Tokyo and Kyoto? This article breaks down the various bus and train options by price.

Obviously if you have a Japan Rail Pass then this question is moot; simply use your rail pass (Hikari or Kodama only) to make the journey.

But if you do not have a Japan Rail Pass, then you’ll want to examine the prices carefully to see what fits your budget. Note that the prices listed here are rounded to the nearest 100 yen, and are subject to change, including a variance of a few hundred yen either way depending on the time of the year.

18,200 yen: For this price you will get a reserved first-class seat (called the “Green Car”) in the premium Nozomi service. You may expect to be personally greeted by a Green Car attendant as you enter the train, and the attendant will check your ticket. Hot towel service is provided and you can order food and drinks on board. The seats are wide and comfortable, and the lighting is noticeably softer than in the other seating areas.

13,300 yen: For this price you will get a reserved standard-class seat in the premium Nozomi service. You sit in the standard bullet train seats, and food and drinks are sold on board. In these first two instances the travel time from Tokyo to Kyoto is 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Running about 500 or 600 yen cheaper than the above prices are the respective surcharges for travel on the Hikari and Kodama services, which are slower than the premium Nozomi because they make more stops. In the Hikari service, hot towel service is provided in the Green Car, but you are not “greeted” as you board. There is no “greeting” or hot towel service in Kodama trains, and as of 2013, there is no food or drink service on board Kodamas either. Hikari trains make the run to Kyoto in 2 hours, 45 minutes; Kodamas, which stop at EVERY station, take 3 hours, 45 minutes.

My recommendation if you’re purchasing tickets “a la carte” is to spend the extra 500-600 yen and take the Nozomi. There are more Nozomi trains than the others and it is the fastest way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto. Fall back only to the Hikari (and worst case, Kodama) if the Nozomi sells out.

9,800 yen: You can make a cheap trip aboard the bullet train at this price, but it is strange why it’s only marketed to Japanese travelers. I haven’t tried this, but I have read reports of other foreign travelers that have used this method successfully. For 9,800 yen you can purchase a “Puratto Kodama Ticket”, which is a discounted one-way ticket on the Kodama (the slowest bullet train service). You must make a reservation at least one day in advance at a JR Tours office located at a station served by the Shinkansen, i.e. Tokyo or Shinagawa in Tokyo, or at Kyoto station. The JR Tours office is operated by JR Central, and is recognizable by their orange colors. As a bonus, when you purchase this ticket you are entitled to one free drink – since food and drinks are no longer sold on board Kodama services, you pick one up at the train station before getting on. The “Puratto Kodama Ticket” is also available in the Green Car for 11,300 yen. The prices go up during times of high demand. If you get stumped, you can visit the website for the Puratto Kodama Ticket (http://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/), print the page and show it when you want to purchase your ticket.

8,000 yen: At this price you can make a journey on local JR trains from Tokyo to Kyoto, via the Tokaido Main Line.  You will be sitting in regular commuter trains and will have to change trains frequently along the way. On the other hand you’ll be passing through the rural and urban Japanese landscape, getting a better and closer look at areas that the bullet train will just whiz through. Connection times can range anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes for each train that you take. The travel time is approximately nine hours – but that doesn’t figure in the time that you might need for pit stops or a meal.

Extra Tip (Added 6/9/13): As pointed out on the Rocketnews blog, regular tickets allow you to hop on and off as many times as you like within a certain time period, as long as your ticketed journey is at least 200 kilometers. If your journey is between 200 and 400 kilometers you can complete your trip in a two-day period. You gain an extra day of travel for every additional 200 kilometers. Since the route from Tokyo to Kyoto via the Tokaido Line is 513.6 kilometers, you have up to three days to make the journey… you’ll have to stop along the way once or twice to rest (Nagoya makes a nice destination for a few nights) but if you factor only the trains this will make the travel cost 2,660 yen per day.

7,000 yen: For this price you can travel overnight between Tokyo and Kyoto by bus. There are many bus operators between Tokyo and Kyoto, and JR is one of them – bus tickets can be reserved at several channels, including green ticket windows at major JR train stations. On their “Dream” service, which is their standard overnight bus service, you are entitled to a comfortable reclining seat with head and foot rests on a double-decker bus that is configured in a 1 x 1 x 1 configuration; in other words you will have no other passengers directly next to you – you’ll either have an aisle or window. There are also blankets and slippers at your seat, and a toilet is on the first floor of the bus. The price is valid for weekday travel; add about 1,000 yen or so for weekend or holiday travel. An advance purchase of 5 days lobs 1,000 yen OFF of the price. Travel time is 7 1/2 hours from Tokyo Station; buses also run from Shinjuku Station on a different route, taking eight hours. A bus also operates from Tokyo Station restricted to female travelers.

6,000 yen: At this price you can use the same buses described above for a DAYTIME journey between Tokyo and Kyoto. The trip takes eight hours and the bus makes several stops along the way, including a few stops at service areas. There is a discount of 1,000 yen for a 5-day advance purchase. The price does not change depending on the day of the week or whether or not it’s a holiday.

5,000 yen: This is the price for a bus trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on the “Seishun Dream”, translated as “Youth Dream”. It is discounted because it offers less amenities than the regular bus service. Seats are configured 2×2, just like you’d find on a North American Greyhound bus. Seats offer recline, and there is a toilet on board. Regardless of time of day or holiday, the price is 5,000 yen with a 500 yen discount for a 5-day advance purchase. Travel times are similar to the other bus services.

2,300 yen: At last, the price tag of 2,300 yen. Is it possible to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto at such a low price?? Indeed, it IS possible, but as the old saying goes, “Certain restrictions apply.”

The rules are as follows: First, you must travel to and within Japan during one of the country’s three designated school holiday periods: March 1 – April 10, July 20 – September 10, and December 10 – January 20.

Secondly, you must travel with four other people… either four of your friends who want to go to Japan, or four Japanese friends, etc… finding the four people to go with you is your choice, and of course, your responsibility.

Finally, one person must purchase a ticket sold DURING the school holiday periods, called the “Seishun 18 Ticket”. This ticket sells for 11,500 yen and allows for unlimited travel on JR’s LOCAL TRAINS only: NO BULLET TRAINS!

The Seishun 18 Ticket essentially has five “SPACES” that can be used. Each space is good for one person on one day. So one person could use it for five separate days within the validity of the ticket. Or two people could use it together for two days, etc.

Indeed, FIVE people can use the seishun 18 ticket on a single day, as long as travel is completed by 12 midnight. What a cheap way to travel! Simply purchase the ticket, and make sure everyone stays together. As you go into the system, your ticket is stamped five times. So all five of you are set for the journey.

As mentioned above, you will travel on local trains only – no bullet trains. The travel time is about 9 hours, not accounting for pit stops or meal stops. But here’s a good thing: with the Seishun 18 ticket, if you all stay together, you can exit the system at any station and return to the system on the same day – just show your stamped ticket. With this in mind, perhaps you can exit the system at a major train station – say for example, Odawara, Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi or Nagoya – and head into a restaurant within the station, or enjoy some treats within the floors of a Japanese department store.

This 2,300 yen plan also works for other long-haul trips such as Tokyo to Nagoya or Tokyo to Osaka. The ticket price of 11,500 yen, divided by five, equals 2,300 yen. Even if four or three were to take the trip, the trip breaks down to 2,875 yen or 3,830 yen per person respectively – which can very well be a TREMENDOUS savings compared to standard train prices, or even bus prices.

My motto when it comes to Japan travel: always research as much as possible about your trip. This way it will make your trip much more enjoyable when it happens – not to mention it MAY just be a little lighter on the wallet!

With that, here is an idea that someone could use to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto by local JR trains. This itinerary assumes a regular weekday in May of 2013, leaving at 6:30 in the morning – just as the morning rush begins to ramp up.

Train 1: Tokyo-Numazu
Leave Tokyo at 6:34 (Platform 8)
Leave Shinagawa at 6:43
Leave Yokohama at 7:00
Arrive Odawara at 7:57
Arrive Atami at 8:20
Arrive Numazu at 8:39

From other parts of Tokyo, you can take the JR Yamanote Line to Shinagawa and change to the above train. These Yamanote Line departures will give you about 10 minutes to transfer at Shinagawa:
Ikebukuro: 6:05
Shinjuku: 6:13
Shibuya: 6:20
Ueno: 6:12 (Keihin-Tohoku Line)

Train 2: Numazu-Shizuoka
Leave Numazu at 8:42
Arrive Fuji at 9:01
Arrive Shizuoka at 9:36

Stay in Shizuoka one hour for a bathroom and meal break.

Train 3: Shizuoka-Hamamatsu
Leave Shizuoka at 10:42
Arrive Hamamatsu at 11:51

Train 4: Hamamatsu-Toyohashi
Leave Hamamatsu at 12:02
Arrive Toyohashi at 12:36

Train 5: Toyohashi-Nagoya (Special Rapid Train)
Leave Toyohashi at 12:51
Arrive Nagoya at 13:41

Stay in Nagoya one hour for a bathroom and meal break.

Train 6: Nagoya-Ogaki (Special Rapid Train)
Leave Nagoya at 14:45
Arrive Ogaki at 15:16

Train 7: Ogaki-Maibara
Leave Ogaki at 15:37
Arrive Maibara at 16:12

Train 8: Maibara-Kyoto (Special Rapid Train)
Leave Maibara at 16:18
Arrive Kyoto at 17:12
(Train continues to Osaka at 17:43, Sannomiya/Kobe at 18:06, Himeji at 18:47)

The total travel time from Tokyo, including breaks, is approximately 10 1/2 hours. Of course, you can tailor the breaks/rests to suit your needs.

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Responses

  1. […] NOTE: This post was updated in May 2013 – see the new post here. […]

    • We are going from the shingawa station to kyoto and returning from kyoto and going to the HND airport. We want to do reserved seats on the Green Car. How do I obtain tickets, and from Kyoto on the return, how do I get to that airport?

      • Hi there! I apologize for taking so long to reply to you.
        For the green car seats the best thing for you to do is to reserve the seats when you are in Japan, by going to the ticketing windows at a Japan Railways station or by visiting a ticket vending machine, which will offer an English option and sell you tickets. (but for the automatic machines I suggest cash!)
        For the return trip from Kyoto to Haneda Airport, I suggest paying for a bullet train trip from Kyoto to Shinagawa. At Shinagawa, change to the Keikyu Line for Haneda Airport. You’ll need to exit the Japan Railways fare control and follow the signs to the Keikyu Railway. You will need to pay a fare of 400 yen to travel on the Keikyu train, which is payable by going to the Keikyu ticket vending machines at Shinagawa station.
        I hope this helps!
        Thanks for reading my blog,
        -Jose

  2. How can you buy tickets for this “Dream Service” overnight bus? I can’t find it on the JR Website…

    • Hi Amber, unfortunately you cannot buy bus tickets for the “Dream” in English. They have online booking for this bus but only in Japanese.
      Your best bet is to make your reservation when you are in Japan. You can make a reservation at any of the green reservation windows at a Japan Railway station or you can purchase it at one of the JR Bus Terminals (Tokyo Station’s Yaesu Side for example).
      Otherwise the only highway bus that can be reserved online in English is Willer Express: willerexpress.com
      Thanks for reading my blog!

  3. Hi jose, i was wondering how do we book for the moonlight nagara tickets from tokyo to kyoto?

    please provide me the link, as i couldnt find online.

    • Hi Samuel, unfortunately if there is an online booking for the Moonlight Nagara it will be in Japanese, and I’m not even sure if that exists.
      It’s best to book your trip at a JR reservation counter as soon as you enter Japan because it’s a reserved train leaving Tokyo, and it tends to fill up fast.
      Keep in mind the Nagara only runs from Tokyo to Ogaki which is past Nagoya… To continue to Kyoto you need to do so on local trains.
      Also the Nagara only runs on certain dates. For the summer they have been announced: Trains from Tokyo leave daily from July 26 to August 24 and trains from Ogaki leave daily from July 27 to August 25.
      Thanks for reading my blog!

      • Hi Jose, thanks for the information. Your blog really helps a lot.

  4. Hello, thank you for this blog. I am traveling to Japan for the first time in September and know nothing about it. My plan is to go from Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka. Now, I’ve been doing research on the JR Pass but I’m confused. Do you suggest I buy the pass? Because I would only be using the train to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, then Kyoto to Osaka. Or, would it be more economical to buy reserved tickets? I’m going to try and attempt to get the Puratto Kodoma, or the standard ticket.

    I feel Kyoto to Osaka is close so it might be cheaper as well. I hope you can help me out, or suggest what to do. I currently live in Korea and am wondering if I should purchase the pass or not. Thanks!

    • Hi Kimberly! Getting a Japan Rail Pass depends on the amount of rail travel, especially long distance travel, that you want to do.
      Will you be arriving in Tokyo and then going back to Korea from Osaka? If this is the case, then the Japan Rail Pass will not pay off and you will be better with regular tickets… the Puratto Kodama is a good choice too.
      If you plan to RETURN to Tokyo, then a Japan Rail Pass is worth considering as the cost of a Rail Pass will be slightly cheaper than a round-trip bullet train trip between Tokyo and Kyoto.

      Between Kyoto and Osaka there are several options… the fastest is the JR Shin-Kaisoku (special rapid) service but it also costs a little more. Other options include the Keihan Railway, which runs from the EAST side of Kyoto to Central Osaka, and the Hankyu Railway, which runs from CENTRAL Kyoto to the NORTH part of Osaka. Both the Hankyu and Keihan trains are cheaper than the JR. The fastest trains on the Hankyu and Keihan are the TOKKYU, or Limited Express.

      Let me know if you are going one way (arriving Tokyo, leaving Japan from Osaka) or if you are going round-trip (arriving and leaving Japan from Tokyo). If you don’t want to write your answer here, you can e-mail me at jrsideproject@aol.com

      Thanks for reading my blog!
      ~Jose

  5. Thanks for the great info. I am hoping you can help me out. We land in Narita in May 4th @ 7:15PM. We want to visit Kyoto and Tokyo, and we have to be back in Yokohama to catch a cruise on May 10th (leaving from Yokohama). We would prefer IF POSSIBLE to continue our journey to Kyoto if possible. (That rules out the 9800 yen option) because according to your blog, we have to make a reservation a day in advance. The 8000 yen option sounds a little long. The 7000 yen Dream option sounds perfect, but do you know the schedule of the bus leaving? Do you think we’ll have enough time to do this? You mentioned that there are buses from Tokyo Station that is reserved for females only, but are there any buses there for men?
    Are any of you other options below 7000 yen possible for my situation (i.e. land at 7:15PM and want to go to Kyoto immediately without spending overnight in Tokyo.
    Also, aside from Tokyo and Kyoto, we would also like to see Mt. Fuji area.
    Can you think of other options you can recommend for my situation? Or do you think the best way is really the JR pass? *which I’m trying to avoid if possible”
    I look forward to your response, thanks a million in advance.

    • Hello Terry, thanks for reading my blog.

      You said in your message that your trip is in May.. do you mean another month?

      Let me know your correct dates, this way I can tell you what inexpensive tickets would work best (I assume low cost is important to you)

      One way or the other though, if you land at Narita at 7:15 PM at night, you will NOT make it to Kyoto that same evening. My recommendation is to spend your first night in Tokyo. After a few days you may be able to visit Kyoto, and then you could be in Yokohama in time for your cruise.

      But first, please reconfirm your travel dates so that I can give you some better answers.

      Thanks!

      • Thanks for the response. its May 2014. Yes, low price is important, but not to a point where we need to transfer too many trains to get to our destination. Thanks again.

      • Ok Terry! Well it is a long time away but I will point out:
        – As I mentioned already if you arrive at Narita at 7:15 PM you will not be able to go to Kyoto right away. You will want to spend a few days in Tokyo first.
        – I recommend spending a few days in Tokyo first before moving on to Kyoto, as you will be arriving in Japan right at the end of the big Golden Week holiday when train reservations are hard to make.
        As far as travel between Tokyo and Kyoto cheaply: Have you looked at Willer Express bus? They offer cheap bus travel and a wide variety of options based on the seating that you want to use. Their website is http://willerexpress.com … of course they won’t have information about buses in May 2014 but you can do a sample search to see what sort of fares they offer. When it gets closer to the trip then you can book the buses online… Willer Express is I think the only website that allows you to book Japanese highway bus travel in English.
        I did a sample search for a weekday in September, they have buses from Tokyo to Kyoto starting at around 5,400-6,000 yen per person.
        Willer Express also offers buses from Kyoto that stop in Kawasaki city, which is a city between Tokyo and Yokohama. You could then go from Kawasaki to Yokohama by train (the bus stop is next to the JR railway and you can go from there to Yokohama station for 210 yen (it’s a 10 minute trip on the Tokaido Line).
        So one way to do the trip is to spend a few days in Tokyo, then travel overnight from Tokyo to Kyoto to spend a few nights there.
        The day before the cruise you could go from Kyoto to Kawasaki by overnight bus, then on the day of the cruise you arrive in Kawasaki and go from there to Yokohama by train.
        As far as Mount Fuji, a few trip options are available. One option that gets you in the vicinity of Mount Fuji is to visit the hot springs region called Hakone… The Odakyu Hakone Free Pass makes this an easy day trip from Tokyo. For more information go to http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/ or search my blog as I have probably written about it somewhere.
        Another option to get closer to Mount Fuji is to visit Lake Kawaguchi to the north of the mountain.
        Hope this helps! Thanks again.

      • I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your time and knowledge in helping me out. Technically we have about 6.5 full days of signtseeing (and transportation). I’ll have to read up on Kyoto and Tokyo and see how we divide our time. Is there anything nearby or in between that’s worth stopping (or spend an extra night). I’m not sure if this is the right forum to ask you that, but if not, just point me to the right place to address this question. I remember in the past, as I was just browsing the sites, there was an old town/village in between Tokyo and Kyoto, though, I don’t remember the exact names. We enjoy both city as well as old village charm, and general sight-seeing. Thank you so much again.

      • With only a week to go everywhere I would probably confine your trip to around Kyoto and Tokyo, although for a side trip I would suggest NARA, which is south of Kyoto. NARA became the capital of Japan in the 700’s (before the capital moved around, eventually to Kyoto and then Tokyo) … it features Todaiji temple. This temple has the world’s largest wooden building housing one of the world’s largest bronze buddha statues. It is an easy one hour or so train ride south of Kyoto (Although faster trains cost just a little bit more)

        For more about Japan, two of my many resources include:
        http://www.wikivoyage.org
        and
        http://www.japan-guide.com

    • Hi,
      After doing a bit of research, we have decided upon the following:
      May 4th Sunday – Land in the evening – Hotel in Tokyo
      May 5th Monday – Play in Tokyo (day/night) – Hotel in Tokyo
      May 6th Tuesday – Play in Tokyo (day/night) – Hotel in Tokyo
      HAKONE
      May 8th Thursday – Play in Kyoto (day/night) Hotel in Kyoto
      May 9th Friday – Play in Kyoto (day/night) Hotel in Kyoto
      May 10th – Travel to Yokohama to catch the cruise.

      At this point, we have decided we’re just going to take the fastest transportation, which I’m guessing the Japan Rail.

      But I’m really lost as far as Hakone. Is it worthwhile to spend the night in Hakone in your opinion?
      If we don’t spend the night, (and decide to spend the night in Kyoto instead), is there a place to store our luggages?
      If we spend the night in Hakone, that means a good morning will be traveling to Kyoto the following morning which cuts into our sightseeing time in Kyoto.
      Do we really need 2 full days in Tokyo plus a better half of the day on the 10th before the ship sails at 5PM?
      Is there any other places to see/visit mt. fuji to make it easier?
      Please advise

      Terry.

      • Also, if we so stay in Hakone, it gotta be a ryokan,.. is there any not so expensive ones and decent ones that you know if?

      • Hello Terry, thanks for writing to my blog!

        You’d just be making it out of Tokyo after the Golden Week rush, which is a good thing 🙂

        If you really want to visit Hakone, it is easily doable as a day trip, and since you do not have much time in Japan then that is what I would recommend.

        You can do a self-guided tour of the Hakone region during the day… or you could do the JTB guided one-day tour that visits the foot of Mount Fuji and then continues to Hakone. Regardless, at the end of the day you can go to Odawara (the bullet train station nearest Hakone) and proceed to Kyoto from there. That would work much better I think 🙂

        If you decide to do a self-guided tour, I recommend one of the free passes offered by the Odakyu Railway. (http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/)

        At Hakone-Yumoto station there is a location where luggage can be stored for the day… small luggage 350 yen each, large luggage 500 yen each.

        You can also consider using baggage delivery service from Tokyo to Kyoto for a nominal cost if you want to stay in Hakone for the day.

        Hope this helps!

        Jose

  6. Hello Jose, thank you so much for these incredibly helpful informations..i would only like to ask you one detail..concerning the trip by bus between Kyoto to Tokyo using JR: you said “The price (7000yen) is valid for weekday travel; add about 1,000 yen or so for weekend or holiday travel. An advance purchase of 5 days lobs 1,000 yen OFF of the price.”
    How do i ask for this discount?simply at the green ticket window before i buy my ticket?
    Thank you so much..hope i can help you too if you need any information about Greece..
    Dimitra

    • Hello Dimitra, thanks for reading my blog and I am sorry that I took so long to reply.

      The bus discount is not “requested”, you have to purchase the ticket at least 5 days in advance in order to receive the lower price.

      I should update the bus post soon, however. It now appears that the JR buses between Tokyo and the Kansai area (including Kyoto) now employ a rather complicated pricing structure, with ELEVEN different fares. They are color-coded on a calendar and the fare for the trip now varies every day.

      Thanks again! If I have any questions about Greece I will let you know 🙂

      Jose

  7. Hi Jose,
    Thanks for posting these useful information! I have quite a few questions. I will arrive in Narita 8:30pm on October 12 and was planning on taking the last Narita express (depart 9:45ish) which arrive Tokyo station around 10:40pm (no checked baggage). Take either the Youth Dream 337bus at 11:20 or Dream 343 at 11:50 to Kyoto. My original question is that will either bus take a carry on suitcase? From the picture, I do not see much space to store my luggage. What time should we show up at the bus stop? Would I be able to purchase the ticket at the JR window at the airport for the bus ride couple hours later? I could probably buy in advance with the Japanese site, but not sure if i’ll get out in time. In Terry’s message, you mentioned that 7:15 arrival is too late to get to Kyoto, is it beuause the time is peak travel season or the custom would take too long? Your opinion is much appreciated!
    Ann

    • Hi Ann,
      Yes I believe an 8:30 pm arrival in Narita would be risky if you wanted to go directly to Kyoto. If you can clear customs in time to make the last Narita Express train of the day then you should be able to secure Narita Express tickets and your bus ticket to Kyoto at the JR ticket reservation counter in Narita Airport. At that point you could purchase whatever is available as far as bus seats go… But since the hour is late and the possibility of being held in Customs, you might want to have an alternate plan. If you arrive on a weekend, or during a peak holiday season, chances are low that you will be able to secure seating on the bus. The good news is that JR seems to run plenty of the cheaper buses these days… FYI The “Youth Buses” on JR are now known as “Youth Eco-Dream”.
      Honestly I would spend the first evening around Narita City believe it or not and then proceed to Kyoto the following day… Your idea sounds good if you are able to clear customs in time and there’s a seat available on a bus to Kyoto.
      *IF* you can make it out in less than an hour, there is an overnight bus that operates from Narita Airport directly to Kyoto. Leaving T2 at 9:35 PM and T1 at 9:40 PM. Arrival time in Kyoto is 6:19 AM the next day.
      Overall I’d suggest trying to have a few alternate plans in place if you want to attempt to make the straight shot to Kyoto in the evening.
      Let me know if you have any questions 🙂
      Thanks!
      Jose

  8. Great to know that I could buy the bus ticket at the Narita airport, then I don’t need to gamble as much on clearing custom ^o^. Do you know if I could buy the Narita to Kyoto at the Airport and where to buy? When is the latest time for me to board the bus? Is there any luggage limitation on Nankai bus And JR Dream/Youth Eco Dream buses? Thanks much for your advice, really appreciate it!
    Ann

    • I am not sure where the Kyoto-bound tickets could be bought at the airport but I guess the first place to ask would be the bus counter when you come out of customs. The latest times that you can board are the departure times indicated in my earlier response.

      I should also let you know that there are a few other trains that you could take into Tokyo should you miss the final Narita Express train.
      The last JR “Rapid” service leaves Narita Airport T1 10:16 but doesn’t get to Tokyo station until 11:40 (cost 1,280 yen)
      After that the Keisei Line will bring you into Nippori and Ueno stations, a few stations north of Tokyo on the JR Yamanote Line.
      There are two all-reserved “Skyliner” services that cost 2,400 yen but are the fastest trains into the Tokyo area:
      Skyliner 54 departing T1 9:39, arriving Nippori 10:18 and Ueno 10:23
      Skyliner 56 departing T1 10:18, arriving Nippori 10:57 and Ueno 11:02
      Then the final train services to Ueno are commuter services:
      One leaving T1 at 10:29, arriving Nippori 11:29 and Ueno 11:33 (1,200 yen)
      and
      The last leaving T1 at 10:39, arriving Nippori at 11:54 and Ueno at 11:58 (1,000 yen)
      If you can’t get to the direct Kyoto bus from the airport, and you miss the Narita Express to Tokyo then you can look into one of the above options. If using one of these methods, you will want to change at Nippori and take the Yamanote Line south a few stops to Tokyo station where you can then pick up the buses on the Yaesu side of the train station. The trick is then, of course, to see if there are any buses available for you to use.

      Luggage: Most regular overnight buses should be able to accept your luggage, but some buses may not be able to… it depends on whatever bus is being used for the journey. From the charts I have been able to look up, it appears a small number of the Eco-Dream services may NOT be able to accept trunk luggage.

      What does the rest of your itinerary look like? I am guessing you do not want to go for the more expensive bullet train.

      Jose

  9. I guess I’ll have to check when the time is closer and see how many flights land around 8-9pm. If not too many, I will try to run for the Nankai bus or Narita express+JR night bus. If no bus available or if I miss the Narita express, then I’ll just check in to one of the airport hotel (seems to me that the Narita hotels are cheaper than the Tokyo ones) and take the earliest bullet train next morning as last resort. My only worry is that weekend is sport’s day weekend so not sure if that will cause any problem =\
    Ann

    • Have you looked at Willer Express buses? They offer advanced booking of buses in English on their web site http://willerexpress.com/en/

      There might be better options available there and you have a good chance to secure a bus ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto, the only thing is that you just have to make it to where the bus is leaving from on time.

      • Thanks for the suggestion. I looked into Willer Express early May and there were a couple buses that could work for me. However, they changed the schedule since early July and with this current schedule, it is hard for me to make to the bus stop on time because most of the bus depart from Shinjuku and according to their site, we have to be there 30 minutes prior to departure. The bus terminal is near by the train station, but I am not sure what is the chance of me getting lost =\. JR bus on the other hand is right next to the train exit. I’ll keep an eye on Willer Express and see if there is any promising bus in October ^^

    • I checked Willer Express and for now they accept bookings on buses until September 30. So in a few days (when August comes around) you might be able to check the October departures for those buses.

  10. Hi, would like to share finding about Willer Bus which I managed to secure overnight return trip for under 6000yen (Tyoko-Kyoto-Tyoko). It can be done if you are able to book abt 3 months in advance for RELAX type (w/o toilet which appears to be only offered on the Tyoko-Osaka bus in any case). I booked the last week of Aug for last week of Nov.

    The prices are based on First Comer rates about 2160/2660 at that point in time. However, it’s gone quite fast so do book it the moment you see it! Pays to do some homework on the site beforehand so that you can swop on it fast. If you go for the bus with toilet, the difference is another 300yen or so (at that point in time). Subsequently, the prices will just keep raising (after tracking for 2 weeks).

    Did spy a Tyoko-Osaka bus (relax with restroom, one-way) for 3750yen at mid-Sep for last week of Nov, though.

    • Thanks for sharing! Yes, it seems that Willer Express does have some good discounts depending on when you want to travel, and what time you look.
      Jose

  11. Hey, this is a very helpful post and thank you for that. My question is that I’m travelling to Japan solo for the first time(female) and want to make the most of my time. I’ll arrive at Narita and plan to go to Tokyo where I’m staying for some purpose after which follows a 2-day kyoto trip.
    I was thinking I could take a one way shinkasen for the experience and return via an overnight bus. Does that sound like a wise thing to do? If anything else, what would you advise? I have a week until departure and havne’t booked a JR pass. Kindly reply asap! 🙂

    • Hello and thanks for reading my blog! I am sorry that I have not updated my blog in so long….
      To answer your question, it sounds like a great idea to travel one way by shinkansen and the other way by overnight bus.
      You will want to use a site like hyperdia.com to look up the timetables for the day you want to leave from Tokyo, and I would suggest willerexpress.com to look up buses for the return trip.
      You can book in advance for the bus on the internet before you leave, but you CANNOT purchase a shinkansen seat in advance until you land in Japan. Because of the season I would suggest purchasing your one-way bullet train ticket at the Narita Airport JR East Ticket Counter if you can. You can also purchase the 1,500 yen Narita Express ticket for foreign tourists here.
      I would not recommend purchasing a JR Pass for your itinerary, as the one-way ticket on the bullet train and the return trip by bus will most likely be cheaper.
      Also if you are interested, there are probably some overnight buses for women only that you could choose from.
      I hope this helps you! Good luck and enjoy,
      ~Jose

  12. hi
    I’m glad that i have stumbled into your blog. We plan to visit Japan next year April 4-9. We’d like to go to Osaka then go to Tokyo. As i read, we can avail of the 2300Y for as long as we will travel of the said period and for as long as we are about 4. We are a party of 4 and I’m excited to visit Tokyo the cheapest way possible

    Thanks so much!

    • Hello, and thank you for reading my blog!
      Unfortunately I have bad news… if you are only in Japan from April 4-9 then you CANNOT use the Seishun 18 Ticket as you wanted. For the spring season it is VALID from March 1 to April 10, but it is SOLD only from February 20 to March 31. So if you arrive in Japan on April 4 then it cannot be purchased.
      -Jose

  13. *on the said period

    • Oh that is sad but anyway thank you so much for your reply!

  14. Hi Jose,

    Thank you for taking the time to make this blog and answering people’s question. I have a question. I am travelling to Tokyo –> Kyoto –> Osaka, each place I will stay 2 days.

    If I buy a regular ticket from Tokyo –> Osaka, base on your blog, It is about 500km and have 3 days to make this trip I could basically stop by Kyoto for free ? Am I correct?

    I appreciate your help in advance,
    Thanks,
    Carl

    • Hello Carl, thanks for reading my blog!
      The rules for regular train tickets are:
      Distance between two stations 100 km or less: one day to travel
      Distance 101-200 km: 2 days
      For each additional 200 km, 1 additional day

      The distance from Tokyo to Osaka is 556 km if you use the Tokaido Line which offers the most frequent train service among local lines. So, buying a local ticket from Tokyo to Osaka will give you 4 days to travel. Note that for going from Tokyo to Osaka, the ticket will not allow you to stop over in Tokyo or in Osaka. You can stop over anywhere else along the line, including Kyoto! BUT, once you continue to Osaka and exit anywhere in Osaka City (Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Tennoji, Universal City, etc) then the terms of your ticket will be fulfilled and it will be taken away.

      Please read Takeshi’s blog about single tickets for more details: http://bit.ly/1wYg7Qx

      Thanks,
      Jose

  15. Hi Jose, Our family (all adults) will be in Tokyo from December 26 – January 3, 2015. We already have a confirmed 8 days hotel accommodation at Park hotel tokyo, shiodome media tower. We are looking for nice places (tourist spot) to visit outside tokyo (a day trip) city between December 27-29. We have already taken the Hakone & Mt. Fuji tours the last time we were there. We are planning to visit again Disneyland and Disney sea by December 30 and will allot January 1 and 2 for shopping. Hope you can give us a sound advise to help maximize our family vacation. Or Maybe you have a btter idea on how we can plan our vacation better. Thank you so much in advance.

    • Hello Lea! Thank you for visiting my blog. You are certainly visiting Japan at an exciting time, as it is the new year!
      However, note that this period of time is when a lot of Japanese people are off and/or traveling. So, it’s important to make your plans and secure bookings or tickets for what you want to do as soon as possible. For example if you wanted to make any reservations for long-distance trains you’d want to do that as soon as you land. In your case, you will want to purchase tickets for Disneyland/Disney Sea in advance of your arrival, which you can do online… I did the same thing when I went last year and it was quite easy to do 🙂
      As far as a family outing, there are many places you can visit, but I can make a few suggestions:
      Nikko Edomura is a theme park about 2-3 hours north of Tokyo, where the village is set in old Japan. Actors recreate townsfolk, warriors and ninjas! You can purchase a Tobu railway pass that includes admission to Nikko Edomura, and you can probably make this trip in the course of a day.
      http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/pass/theme_pass.html
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3879.html
      Another place I can suggest that is close to Tokyo is Yokohama. The harbor city has its own unique character and it is very easily accessible by several local trains from Tokyo. It is also home to a very large Chinatown, in case you need a different cuisine while in Japan! In a part of Yokohama is a ramen museum where you can taste ramen from several different cities in Japan… but I am not sure if it might be crowded with visitors when you go. More information is here:
      http://www.raumen.co.jp/english/
      And of course, if you have the money and the time, you could always make a day trip out to another city for sightseeing. This would require leaving early in the morning and arriving back in Tokyo late in the evening. It’s cheaper to make your own reservations but JTB also offers fully-guided tours with guided tours in English and a few other languages. Here’s an example
      http://www.japanican.com/en/tour/detail/QT1A/?typecd=TOU&destcd=M19&sbit=9

      I hope these ideas help. Good luck with your planning!
      Jose

  16. Hi Jose

    Your suggestions are among the best I have come across on the web. Thanks 🙂

    Just wondering if you can provide a breakdown on the stops and timing if we are travelling JR from Kyoto to Tokyo for Dec 2014. Where is a good stopping point for a night’s stay?

    Thanks loads!
    May

    • Hi May! Do you mean local trains to use on a regular ticket or Seishun 18, or do you mean the bullet train?
      Timings of local trains depend on the day. If you could be more specific that would be a big help!
      If you’d rather write privately I’m at jrsideproject@aol.com
      Thanks for visiting!
      Jose

      • Hi Jose

        Wow! Such fast response :). Really appreciate it :).

        We’ll, the 5 of us would each have a luggage to take care of, so the Seishun 18, as attractive as it is, we probably will have to give it a miss this time 😦

        We will likely be travelling Kyoto – Tokyo on 17 or 18 Dec 2014 using the local train, if we have 3 days to make the journey, what would the train schedule be like? Where would you recommend us to make a stop or 2? Perhaps Nagoya, or Hakone? Do you think it’s feasible? If not making any stops, probably cheaper to use the Seishun 18 or take a bus ride?

        I’ve not travelled on JR trains before, it would really help if you can be as specific as possible, on the train schedule as well as on the various connection points of the trains, if I’m understanding correctly, this local train is not one continuous ride, right?

        On a side note, all the connecting stations would be the same for someone during the Seishun 18? Except it’s got yo be completed in one day if shared by 5, right?

        Another question, is there a bus ticket that allow us to travel from Kyoto to Kanazawa then to Tokyo over 2-3 days?

        Looking forward to your suggestions 🙂 Thanks in advance, May

      • Hello May 🙂 Let me try to answer and comment in the order of your response.

        Luggage – If you can afford it, Japan has very convenient Luggage Delivery Service that will forward your luggage to a destination of your choice for a charge. I have used it to transport my heavy luggage and the service is wonderful! The service usually costs 1,000-2,000 yen per piece depending on the size and weight, and in many instances the luggage is delivered the very next day. Please read this for sample information and prices from one such Japanese provider.

        Kyoto to Tokyo by Local Trains – The Tokaido Line, which runs along the southern coast of Japan, is the most convenient way to travel by local train between Kyoto and Tokyo. If you use the Seishun 18 Ticket with 4 other travelers (which is valid for the time you wish to go), you will have to travel in the course of ONE day on a single ticket. If you wanted to make an overnight stop along the way, two Seishun 18 tickets would be required.

        One Seishun 18 Ticket costs 11,850 yen. For 5 people in the course of one day, this is 2,370 yen per person. Two tickets to travel over two days would cost 4,740 yen per person.

        By comparison, regular local tickets from Kyoto to Tokyo by the Tokaido Line cost 8,210 yen per person, and these local tickets are valid for FOUR days. So, a two-day trip would break down to 4,105 yen per day; three days 2,736 yen per day; four days 2,052 yen per day. So if you decide to take two days to travel to Tokyo, the local tickets are more cost-effective.

        This is not one continuous ride – multiple connections will have to be made at cities along the way. If you had a Seishun 18, it does not matter which station you get of at along the way. For local tickets it’s the same idea, the only thing is that with local tickets you cannot leave the route that is on your ticket.

        As far as places to see along the Tokaido Line ride:

        Nagoya has a rebuilt castle in town, and next to the train station there is a building called Midland Square with an open-air observation deck and restaurants at the top. If you wish to visit Nagoya castle you would have to buy separate subway tickets from Nagoya station.

        Actually, if you are interested in castles, one castle that is original – not rebuilt – is Hikone Castle (not to be confused with Hakone). I visited Hikone Castle last year and was impressed – I highly recommend it! It’s located 15-20 minutes by walking from Hikone station. Hikone is between Kyoto and Nagoya- it is about 55 minutes by local train from Kyoto to Hikone, and another 70 minutes or so to go between Hikone and Nagoya.

        Hakone is also a great place to visit. For Hakone my suggestion is to exit the JR line at Odawara station and pay for the Hakone Tozan railway to travel up to Hakone Yumoto.

        If you are looking for cheap places to stay along the way, then Toyohashi, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, and Maibara are places to consider. These are intermediate cities along the way to Tokyo, but since they are not very large cities there is a better chance that you will find accommodations that are reasonably priced. You may also be able to find a few cheap accommodations around Hakone as well if you look carefully.

        Visiting Kanazawa by bus: If instead you wish to travel by bus via Kanazawa, then you’ll want to look at the Willer Express Japan Bus Pass. I *think* Willer Express runs buses from Kyoto-Kanazawa and from Kanazawa-Tokyo. Their bus pass costs 10,000 yen for 3 days of travel within a 2 month period. Their web site is here, but as of this writing the website appeared to be down for maintenance.

        Hope this information is helpful!

        Jose

      • Thanks Jose for your responses, you are really knowledgeable on Japan travel. It is always reassuring to get confirmation on information I gathered from internet sources 🙂 and your suggestions are always spot on 🙂 thinking from a traveller’s point of view.

        I checked out the Willer bus site, I think they do not travel Kyoto – Kanazawa
        though they do Kanazawa – Tokyo.

        I am contemplating on whether to attempt the 5-Day 10500JPY Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass seen on http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_takayama_hokuriku.html.

        From my understanding (correct me if I am wrong), I can go from Osaka – Kyoto (2day) – Kanazawa (1day) – Shirakawago, which is a place we are interested to visit. Not sure if we can then make a stay in Takayama (1day) before proceeding to Nagoya (1day).

        As for Hikone castle, I am not sure how we can go as I do not see it on this Tourist pass, any tips on this?

        From Nagoya – Tokyo, we will use probably use regular JR ticket. Or is it cheaper to use Seishun 18?

        Also, if we use regular JR ticket (Nagoya – Tokyo), is the distance long enough to break the trip into 2 days? If so, we would likely stop at Hakone for one night before moving on to Tokyo. Do you know of a good place that we can stay in?

        Do you have any recommendations for Tokyo over a 3 day visit? Which area in Tokyo should be stay in for most convenient travelling?

        Awaiting your views on this, thanks a mill 🙂

        May

      • Hello May!

        If you want to try the course in the Takayama-Hokuriku Pass, it will be a good deal, I think. Note that the pass restricts you to a certain path, as you can see on this page for the tourist pass. You can use reserved seats up to four times on trains, but only two will suffice: When you go from Kyoto to Kanazawa you will want to make a reservation on the “Thunderbird” service to Kanazawa. Then, from Takayama to Nagoya you have to use the “Hida” service. Taking these two trains, the journey will be quick and the pass price will be justified. From Kanazawa to Takayama you will want to make a reservation on a bus, which has to be done in Kanazawa at the bus terminal.

        If you then wanted to continue from Nagoya to Tokyo by regular trains, you can do so. It will cost 6,260 yen, and you have up to 3 days to make the journey. Nagoya to Tokyo can be used by a Seishun 18 ticket, but it only will be cost effective if you make the trip in just one day. If you plan to stop along the way, then the local tickets will be a better deal. You should consider how much time you will need in Nagoya to purchase your local tickets once you are on the way from Kanazawa/Takayama.

        Unfortunately I can’t recommend much as far as hotels in Hakone…. I’ve heard some good reviews about the Fuji Hakone Guest House from foreigners. They are a ‘minshuku’, another type of accommodation, with an onsen but no dinner service.

        Where should you stay in Tokyo… this really depends on what is convenient to what you would like to see. Obviously, staying within walking distance to a train station or subway station is a tremendous benefit.

        As far as travel around Tokyo, I always recommend my one-day itinerary around the city which starts in Tokyo and ends in Shinjuku, which you can read here. Then, again, it largely depends on your interests. Do you want fashion in Shibuya and Harajuku? Electronics and Anime in Akihabara? High-end shopping in Ginza? in the course of a few days the possibilities are endless!

        One thought though. Shinjuku is a major hub station for trains from Odawara and the Hakone area. From Shinjuku there are buses to Haneda and Narita, as well as the Narita Express train to Narita Airport which costs a bit of yen but is extremely convenient and comfortable. So that’s one possible reason you could stay around Shinjuku.

        In fact, you could go one way from Nagoya to Odawara by local trains in 5 hours (not accounting for stops), use the Seishun 18 ticket for that journey since it will be cheaper, stay around Hakone, then the next day return to Odawara and take the Odakyu Railway to Shinjuku which is cheaper than the JR at 880 yen per person for local trains or a total of 1,770 yen if you use the faster “Romance Car” trains.

        Hope these thoughts help!

        Jose

  17. Thanks Jose, will definitely make good use of your suggestions. And I have looked at your 1 Day Tokyo Tour – it’s so well packed and enriching, will surely try to do that itinerary 🙂

    What is the “Romance car” train from Odawara and how do you take this? Any booking required?

    May

    • Hi May,
      The Romance Car has all-reserved seating, so you have to make a seat reservation before using it, and you will be assigned a car and seat number.
      Here is more information about the Romance Car.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/romancecar/
      The Odakyu website actually lists some good information about travel in the area that it serves. Another good thing is that you can make a reservation for a Romancecar train in advance, in English. The ride on the train is very comfortable and they also do on-board food and beverage sales. If you can pay the additional to use it, it could be a great way to finish off your long trip to Tokyo 🙂
      Jose

  18. Hi Jose,

    In a few weeks time I will go to Japan for 8 days. I was planning to visit Tokyo (3 days)- Kyoto (3 days including 1 day trip to Osaka) and back to Tokyo again. I will be staying for only 8 days. Would you recommend the JR pass for this trip?

    • Hi Lieu!
      If you are planning to travel round-trip between Tokyo and Kyoto then I recommend the 7 day Japan Rail Pass. You can use it to travel on local JR trains around Tokyo, and also use it on the local JR trains from Kyoto to Osaka and back.
      Thanks for visiting my blog!
      Jose

      • Hi Jose,

        Thank you for the fast response! Another question: we will arrive on a wednesday morning at 9:30 at Narita Airport. We would like to go to Kyoto immediately. Where can we find the time tables for the Hikari train? Can we book the tickets in advance? Thank you.

      • Hello!
        I suggest using a timetable site like Hyperdia to find out timetables for the train from Narita Airport to Kyoto.
        http://www.hyperdia.com
        To search, be sure to uncheck “by airplane” and “by nozomi” so you can see the connections valid by the rail pass.
        I suggest seeing if you can change to the bullet train at Shinagawa station instead of Tokyo station. Shinagawa offers a more convenient transfer to the bullet train; Tokyo station on the other hand requires you to ascend about five levels worth of escalators. You can try the website and enter Shinagawa as a VIA point to see if it will give you Narita Airport – Shinagawa by Narita Express, then Shinagawa – Kyoto by Hikari train.

        The Hikari cannot be reserved in advance. I suggest you make the reservation at Narita Airport when you make the voucher exchange for the pass.

        Jose

  19. Hi Jose,

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips!

    We need your advice on the best way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto.

    Here is our itinerary:

    Nov.25 Arrive Narita Airport 10am
    -Not sure if we should get N’EX TOKYO Direct Ticket (One-way)?

    Nov.25 – Dec.01 (around tokyo, puroland, shin-yokohama ramen museum, ghibli museum, lake kawaguchiko to see mt. fuji)
    -Should we get the new Tokyo Subway Combo 3-Day Ticket? Can we get it twice?
    -What about from Shinjuku to Lake Kawaguchiko, should we get the Mount Fuji Round Trip Ticket? We will just be doing a day-trip and returning back to Shinjuku.

    Dec.02 Leave Tokyo for Kyoto
    -We want to experience the Shinkansen (most affordable way but not take up too much time). Which line should we take?

    Dec.02-03 Kyoto

    Dec.03- Kyoto to Osaka
    -Which local train is the best to take?

    Dec.03-06 Downtown Osaka, Universal Studios, etc.

    Dec.06 Fly out from Kansai Int’l Airport 8pm

    *Are we correct in not getting a 7-day JR Pass since we will only use the shinkansen once?

    **What other extra day trips do you recommend from Tokyo or should we leave it for another trip to Japan?

    ***Do you recommend getting a day trip to Nara from Osaka?

    We hope you can give us some advise. It’s our first time to visit Japan.

    Thank you!!!

    • Hi Tanya! Thank you for reading my blog! I will do my best to offer some advice to you.

      You will want to find the best transportation option to whatever hotel you are staying at… having said that, right now the N’EX Tokyo Direct Ticket is an excellent transportation option at only 1,500 yen. As you may have read already it covers a one-way trip from the airport into Tokyo on the Narita Express and then local JR commuter train service to any station defined in the special Tokyo fare zone.

      I am not aware of any three day combo tickets… the only combo tickets I am aware of are for a single day. But, from my perspective I have had no need for any sort of day pass around Tokyo. I would just suggest buying local tickets, or even better, using an IC card such as a Suica or PASMO card. You can purchase one at any train station for a certain amount, and the fares are deducted every time the card is used. When the balance is low just top it off again at the train station. You can also use a Suica or PASMO for vending machine and convenience store purchases.

      The Mount Fuji Round Trip Ticket will still be available when you arrive, but you will need to purchase it by November 29 and use it by November 30. You can purchase the ticket at most major JR stations, but also at Narita Airport. Since the Mount Fuji ticket includes some reserved seat travel for free on JR trains, you will want to secure these seat reservations in advance.

      In Tokyo I would also suggest a day trip to Hakone, which is a famous hot springs region… but you are already planning to go to Mount Fuji. So I would instead suggest Kamakura and Enoshima. These areas south of Tokyo are filled with history, and Enoshima has an observation tower with a beautiful view of the bay and the Pacific Ocean.

      The most direct way from Tokyo to Kyoto by Shinkansen is to use a reserved seat on the fastest service called NOZOMI, which costs 13,910 yen and takes about 140 minutes. Since you are not traveling on a rail pass, you can easily purchase tickets for this journey from a vending machine at a major station using cash.

      While Osaka has a good number of places to visit, Kyoto is much more cultural. If this is your first trip to Japan I would recommend spending some more time in Kyoto. You can easily make a day trip to Nara from either Kyoto or Osaka.

      There are several train lines that offer many options between Kyoto and Osaka. There is the JR line, which is the fastest and most expensive, and then there are also the Hankyu, Keihan and Kintetsu lines which are cheaper. Each of these lines operate to / from certain areas of Kyoto and Osaka.

      If you do enough travel between the two cities, then you should consider the Kansai Thru Pass: http://www.surutto.com/tickets/kansai_thru_english.html
      The pass includes unlimited travel in the Kansai region for 2 or 3 consecutive days on subways and private train lines – NOT the JR.

      I have found the Kintetsu to be a stress-free way to go between Kyoto and Osaka… It is especially beneficial during rush hours when train travel can be slightly difficult if you were on a regular train. It does take an hour and you do have to change trains at Yamato-Saidaiji station (near Nara) but you can travel in a reserved seat in comfort. You pay a supplement for the seats (900 yen) which can easily be acquired at a train station from a vending machine. Of course if you want to save on money, it’s not a necessity. I just found this convenient 🙂

      At Kyoto, Kintetsu has its own platforms next to the JR at Kyoto Station. In Osaka, Kintetsu is towards the southern part of the main city in Namba.

      Kintetsu also has limited express services to Nara as well, from both Osaka and Kyoto. Kintetsu is the best line to use to visit Nara since it is closer to the sites than the JR.

      I hope this gives you some ideas! If you’d like more help, please reply back. If you would like to contact me directly with more of your trip ideas, please e-mail me at jrsideproject@aol.com …. to summarize, it looks like you will NOT need a Japan Rail Pass as you would use Narita Express, the Mount Fuji ticket and a one way ticket on the shinkansen. You then just have to decide how to go to Kansai Airport for the trip home.

      Thanks and good luck!

  20. omg joe, thank you so much for your tips! it’s my last day at work before the big trip. will have to check out your tips later when i get home from work. again, thank you so much!!! 😀

  21. Not sure if anyone pointed this out yet but I am pretty sure a few years ago I took a “yakou basu” from Tokyo to Kyoto and back for only like 4,000 yen. It wasn’t the most comfortable means of traveling but it sure was cheap ;D I bought the tickets online. Great if you are either very cheap or broke.

    • Agreed! In fact since there is fierce competition in between Kansai and Tokyo, many overnight buses are cheap these days 🙂 Thanks!

  22. Greetings from Malaysia!!

    Hi Jose,
    1st of all congratulation! you really have a wonderful site on Travel to Japan. I am very interested to try your suggestion/ tips to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto that jump from one train to another train. Sound adventure journey to me!!
    I really need your help to find the estimation cost for the whole journey:

    Tokyo station – Numazu Station – Shizuoka Station – Hamamatsu Station – Toyohashi Station – Nagoya Station – Ogaki Station – Maibara Station – Kyoto Station – and ended at Osaka Station.

    How much does it cost from start to end? Please advice.

    I really hope it’s cheaper than to take the bullet train fare.

    I really appreciate if you could reply to my e-mail too.

    Thank you so much. Your reply is highly appreciated.

    Best Regards,
    U.R
    31st March 2015, 12:02 pm Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

    • Hi Ummu! Sorry it took so long to reply, and thanks for reading my blog.

      The cost of a basic ticket from Tokyo to Osaka is 8,750 yen. At a distance of 556 km, you can stop along the way at any time within a four-day period. So, you have up to four days to get to Osaka. Or, if you leave early you can make the journey in an entire day, but I would suggest some breaks along the way for lunch, drinks, snacks, etc.

      The 8,750 yen fare is cheaper than the bullet train. If there are two or more people in your party AND you travel during certain times of the year, you could use a Seishun 18 ticket. There is more information about the Seishun 18 ticket here on the JR East site, and I have some details on my blog including this post.

      If you have any more questions, please let me know. Thanks!
      Jose

      • Hi Jose! A million thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, I will travel alone otherwise I could use a Seishun 18 ticket as you suggested. By the way, thanks once again.

        Regards
        U.R

  23. […] Tokyo to Kyoto by bus cost between 6,000-7,000 JPY (USD $50-58) depending on whether it is daytime or overnight bus. This article provides information on how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto at different costs. […]

  24. Thank you for this very helpful post. I just saved 6000 yen on a Tokyo-Kyoto Golden Week trip by using JR Bus, which is much needed because I’m hugely over budget living in Tokyo. Now, I just have to figure out if it’s possible to save another 6000 yen coming back… maybe making Golden Week plans the week before wasn’t such a good idea 🙂

  25. Hello, Jose! Greetings from Malaysia.

    First and foremost, I would like to thank you a million thanks to the above useful tips. Somehow, I have a difficulty in deciding of which mode of transportation is the best to be used? I need an economical transportation for 4 persons, from Tokyo to Kyoto, but also get the chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery in between the journey. Also, I would love to hear your suggestions of what are the best places to visit in kyoto?

    your suggestion is highly appreciated. Thank You.

    Best Regards,
    Anis, MY

    • Hello Anis! I’m sorry it took so long to write back to you.
      If you’re looking for a more leisurely pace with you and your companions, then perhaps traveling by local train would be best. With basic fare tickets you can take a few days to reach Kyoto, stopping over at a few cities along the way. You could also possibly do the same by taking a few different daytime highway buses. Whatever you choose, they would more than likely have to be booked when you arrive in the country.
      If you have a specific itinerary that you’d like to share with me, you can e-mail me at jrsideproject@aol.com and I’ll do my best to help you find the best options.
      Thanks for visiting my blog!
      Jose

  26. Hi jose,

    Would like to ask your recommendations on the below itinerary:

    Day 1: Arrival at osaka airport at 9am. Travel straight to kyoto.

    Day 2: Kyoto.

    Day 3: Leave kyoto in the afternoon/ evening to kanazawa (stay 1night).

    Day 4: travel from kanazawa to shirakawago and not sure to go takayama or toyama (stay 1 night)

    Day 5: takayama or toyama (stay another 1 night or not stay but to travel to tokyo in the evening).

    Day 6 – Day 8 : Tokyo

    Day 9: deciding btw Hakone or laka kawaguchi for Mt Fuji view and travel back to osaka (1night in osaka)

    Day 10 – Day 12 : Osaka, flight at 11am from osaka airport

    Would you recommend passes needed for this trip? I’m thinking of Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass then for the first 5days but not sure what pass to use later.

    Or should i buy JR 7days pass from day 3 upon leaving kyoto?

    I have hard time deciding between (1) takayama or toyama and (2)hakone or lake kawaguchi. I am also not sure if i should shorten 1 day of tokyo and leave that day for osaka.

    Thanks.

    Regards,
    Shirley

    • Hi Shirley! Sorry for the delay. I just saw your message. I will reply to this later today! Thanks for your patience.
      -Jose

    • Hi Shirley!
      Your itinerary looks good I think 🙂
      Based on what you would like to do, it sounds like a 7-day Japan Rail Pass (from Day 3 to Day 9) is a good idea.

      I have never been to Takayama or Toyama. It seems that Takayama has some more interesting locations to visit… I do know that a few minutes away from Takayama train station there is an area with centuries-old preserved storefronts and homes. On the other hand, it will take longer from Takayama to reach Tokyo, as opposed to either Kanazawa or Toyama which now have bullet trains to Tokyo. Perhaps a 2-night stay in Kanazawa with a day trip to Shirakawa? Or perhaps spend a night IN Shirakawa? (Some of the houses there operate as lodgings)
      Remember that buses to/from Shirakawa are a separate fare.

      I would like to visit Lake Kawaguchi one day. I have been to Hakone a few times for day trips and can certainly vouch for its majesty. With your rail pass you will be able to take a bullet train from Tokyo to Odawara, then purchase a Hakone Free Pass to take you around the area. When you return to Odawara you can simply continue on the bullet train westward to Osaka.

      But all said, I think your best option is a 7 Day Japan Rail Pass (Day 3 to Day 9). You’ll also want to look into ticket options to/from Kansai Airport… You can consider the ICOCA & HARUKA ticket from JR, which comes with an unreserved ticket for the Haruka limited express train and a 1,500 yen prepaid IC card that can be charged and used for travel around Kansai.
      Here’s the website: http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/
      The cost would be 3,600 yen for a one-way ICOCA & HARUKA ticket to Kyoto. You can then purchase a return trip from Osaka to Kansai Airport on the day of departure by showing your ICOCA card and paying 1,100 yen, as shown in this example: http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/purchasing/

      I hope this helps! Please let me know what you think. Sorry again for the delay!

      Thanks for visiting my blog.
      – Jose


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