Tokyo to Kyoto for $21… and other cheap ways to transit Japan

Thanks to everyone for reading this hobby blog of mine for the last few years. For some reason or another, everyone keeps reading and commenting on my post about traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto for 2,300 yen (under September 2014 exchange rates, about $21)… So because so many people are interested, here is a list of some ways that you can travel around Japan on the cheap!

– Bring a few friends to Japan and travel with the Seishun 18 Ticket 

If you bring a few friends, or know a few friends willing to travel around with you, the Seishun 18 Ticket – a travel ticket offered at certain times of the year – could be your best friend. Literally translated “Youth 18” and initially targeted to those traveling on school breaks, the Seishun 18 is actually offered to everyone. The ticket has gone up in price slightly this year because of the national tax rate hike, but it’s still a value at 11,850 yen per ticket. The ticket is valid for unlimited travel on LOCAL trains all around the Japan Railways network – this means, you cannot use the bullet trains, you cannot use premium “limited express” services that run on conventional railways (with one exception), and you cannot use most overnight trains. You can also use the ticket for the JR Ferry that runs to the island of Miyajima (typically a 180 yen trip).

It’s important to note that the ticket can only be purchased and used during school holidays. There are three periods of the year when the ticket is offered:

Spring: Purchase between February 20 and March 31 for use between March 1 and April 10
Summer: Purchase between July 1 and August 31 for use between July 20 and September 10
Winter: Purchase between December 1 and December 31 for use between December 10 and January 10

There are five “spaces” that are stamped by manned station staff every time the pass is used, with one space representing one person traveling in a single day (midnight to midnight). By maximizing the spaces used, you can save a considerable amount of money. If you are a solo traveler and chose to make five long trips in five days (which don’t have to be consecutive), each trip would cost only 2,370 yen! If you have four friends and make a long trip over the course of a day – such as Tokyo to Kyoto – each person pays only 2,370 yen! There are many combinations possible as far as usage – a group of four, for example, can travel a long distance in one day on the pass for 2,960 yen.

It’s important to do some research to see if the Seishun 18 is best for you. Long-distance journeys such as Tokyo to Kyoto or Osaka will pay off, but if you’re only doing a short trip from, say, Tokyo to Yokohama, it’s not worth it.

A few other notes: You are permitted unlimited stopovers on each day, and the price of the Seishun 18 is the same for children and adults – there are no discounts for kids.

– Buy a local ticket that allows stopovers

On any day of the year, buying a long-distance local ticket can save on per-day travel costs because under Japan Railways rules, the longer you travel from point-to-point, the longer you have to make the journey.

The rules are: Within a major Japanese city or for all journeys 100km or less, you have one day to make the trip, and in many cases stopovers are not allowed. From 101 to 200km, you have two days. From 201 to 400km, you have 3 days. For each additional 200km traveled you get one additional day.

To find out the distance of your trip, look it up on timetable search engines such as Hyperdia, being sure to clear the checkmarks on everything except “local train” and “Japan Railways” otherwise you will see a few bullet trains and airplanes!

A few examples:

Tokyo to Nagoya is 366km over the Tokaido Line at a cost of 6,260 yen. You can take the trip over a course of 3 days, so if you decide to stop and spend a night at two cities along the way you will be paying about 2,086 yen per day, and if you spend one night along the way it’s 3,130 yen per day.

Tokyo to Kyoto is 513km over the Tokaido Line at a cost of 8,210 yen. You can take the trip over 4 days! So, traveling over the course of 2 days splits the cost to 4,105 yen…. 3 days is 2,736 yen…. 4 days is 2,052 yen per day!

With this plan, you can direct the money saved on travel into reasonably-priced hotel accommodations along the way – many of which will be considerably cheaper compared to staying in larger cities. This will also allow you to enjoy more of Japan, including some areas that many foreign tourists will pass over.

You are allowed unlimited stopovers along the route that you are taking – it’s important not to stray from the route that you paid and are ticketed for, otherwise there may be a difference in fare. You’ll also want to know that since these are regular fares, there are discounts for children!

Also, major cities in Japan are designated into certain “zones”, and travel in between two major cities is sometimes designated as traveling from one zone to the other. For example, a trip from Tokyo to Osaka would be defined as the Tokyo ZONE to the Osaka ZONE. Stopovers are NOT allowed in zones of your origin or destination, but are permitted anywhere in between. Kyoto is close to Osaka, but since Kyoto has it’s own ZONE you could technically stop over in Kyoto on the trip from Tokyo to Osaka without any extra charge, as long as it’s within the days permitted to travel and, as mentioned earlier, you don’t stray away from the path ticketed. Once you stop anywhere in Osaka and get out of the system, the ticket is considered USED.

Please visit Takeshi’s JP Rail page which gives a lot of great information about this.

– Use the Japan Bus Pass for cheap trips on highway buses

The Willer Express Japan Bus Pass was introduced for foreign tourists in Japan a few years ago. At a cost of 10,000 yen for 3 days of bus travel and 15,000 yen for 5 days, you can make considerable savings over regular bus costs. There are many other bus operators in Japan, including those operated by branches of Japan railways, but the Willer web site allows reservations and bookings in English. Rather than go through a lot of the details, simply read my recent post about the Japan Bus Pass.

– Fly to Japan on a Star Alliance or oneworld airline and take advantage of domestic air passes for tourists

If you travel to Japan on a certain airline, you may qualify for an air pass for tourists. The Star Alliance Japan Airpass is valid for travel on All Nippon Airways (ANA) and can be used if you travel on Star Alliance airlines (including ANA, United, Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Lufthansa). The Oneworld Yokoso Japan pass is valid for travel on Japan Airlines (JAL) and can be used if you travel on oneworld airlines (including JAL, American, British Airways, Qantas).

For each pass, you can take between one and five trips by plane, with each trip costing just 10,000 yen plus tax. It’s a great and quick way to travel around several regions of Japan. You will always find flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Osaka’s Itami Airport as they continue to compete with the bullet train – but longer distance flights can pay off if you don’t have much time to spare – Tokyo to Fukuoka or Tokyo to Sapporo are great examples. Note though, that there ARE a number of blackout dates where these passes cannot be used.

If you do not qualify for these fares, i.e. by traveling on a different airline, both ANA and JAL offer regular tourist passes – up to 5 trips at a cost of 13-14,000 yen per trip. A minimum of two trips is required.

– Fly domestically on low cost airlines

Over the last few years, the low cost airline concept has boomed in Japan. A number of carriers are springing up offering tremendous fare discounts. Some of the top airlines that you can make reservations with in English include Skymark, Peach Aviation, Jetstar and Vanilla Air.

As these are low cost carriers, services and amenities are reduced compared to carriers JAL and ANA, and the airlines sometimes serve airports that are not close to the center of the city… but the airfares are sometimes hard to beat.

A random fare search for a weekday in November yielded these one-day fares:

Skymark: Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo for 8,500 yen
Peach Aviation: Tokyo Narita to Osaka Kansai for 3,390 yen … ?!?!
Jetstar Japan: Nagoya Centrair to Sapporo for 6,590 yen
Vanilla Air: Tokyo Narita to Okinawa for 8,200 yen

– Use a Japan Rail Pass

If you’ve got a limited amount of time and intend to visit a lot of places around the country, a Japan Rail Pass is still a great way to go around. You get unlimited travel on Japan Railways, and unlimited seat reservations on nearly ALL bullet trains and limited express services for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. Prices start at 29,110 yen for seven consecutive days of travel, or about 4,160 yen per day. The 14-day pass starts at around 3,300 yen per day, and if you do the 21-day pass it’s about 2,800 yen per day. Green class (first class) passes are higher.

– Use a Japan Rail Pass and stay on the cheap

Utilizing a Japan Rail Pass when traveling between major cities, you can make an intermediate stop at a small city along the way and potentially save with hotel rates that are cheaper than in major cities. For example, if you travel from Tokyo to Osaka by bullet train, you could opt to begin your travel in the evening and stop at one of the intermediate bullet train stations such as Hamamatsu. In Hamamatsu there are hotels where you could spend as little as 4,800 single occupancy or 6,800 yen double occupancy, complete with your own bed, bathroom and shower – then just move on the following morning to Kyoto and Osaka. (The quote is from the Toyoko Inn, a national chain of business hotels)


The best way to save on your trip is with research. I’ve presented you with a few options, but these just scratch the surface. There are so many deals out there that one can take advantage of in Japan. The key is to price what you want to do (transit, food, lodging), and do price comparisons to see what is best for you.

Of course, if you ever need advice about your next trip to Japan, leave a message and I’ll be happy to reply when I can.

39 thoughts on “Tokyo to Kyoto for $21… and other cheap ways to transit Japan

  1. Pingback: Tokyo to Kyoto… for 2300 yen? ($25) | Jose's Japan Tips

  2. Pingback: Tokyo to Kyoto for only 2,300 Yen!? | Jose's Japan Tips

  3. Cammy Lim

    Hi Jose,

    I’m glad I found your blog when I was searching for info for my first Japan trip in few months time. I had never been so nervous before in planning my travel but when it comes to Japan, i can feel the stress there. Too many options and for first times like me, I am sure that I’m going to face some problems.

    I’m from Malaysia, will be travelling to Tokyo ( total 4 person) for the first time on 26/3/2015, reaching Haneda Airport at 10:30pm.I have not finalized where to stay after our arrival, maybe Shinjuku/Harajuku or Shibuya? Will be leaving Tokyo on 31/3/2015 at 11:45pm.

    Actually 6 days 5 nights are just good enough to explore Tokyo right? Because the other 2 companion who travel along with me and my husband said that might want to go to Osaka (daytrip),or maybe Kyoto ( I prefer Kyoto). In my planning, I would want to visit Mt Fuji also, cause have been hearing a lot about Mt Fuji ever since I was little, it would be a regret if I do not go this time. So, I’m wondering, can I like let say depart from Tokyo to Kyoto, then in between stopover at Mt Fuji (oh ya, Hakone and Mt Fuji are the same?), then proceed to Kyoto? Or the other way around? Can we do this trip in 2 days 1 night? And, I’m quite concern about the ticket/passes to Kyoto and Mt Fuji, I’ve gone through your blog, yes there are many options, if I want to reach Kyoto early then I have to buy the expensive ticket. I really don’t know what to do……

    Or,since I’ll be in Tokyo throughout my trip, can I go to any nearer region/city?

    I really need your help as I have been planning for this trip for more than 6 months and still cannot figure out how to plan my trip.

    Thank You.

    1. Cammy! Thanks for writing and thanks for visiting my blog. From what you told me, there are a lot of options to consider! I have been to Japan three times already, and in my experience I would suggest that a visit to Kyoto should be a few days long 🙂 but, it’s easy to visit the most important sites in just one day, if you had to.

      Because of the amount of time that you have to travel around (only 6 days and 5 nights), if you wanted to visit both Kyoto AND Mount Fuji then one way to do it is on a guided tour. The 6-day tour offered by JTB can be found here, and includes tours of Tokyo, Mount Fuji, Kyoto and Nara, and hotel accommodations.

      However, one thing to keep in mind about the tour package is that you are landing late in the evening in Haneda, and your first tour begins less than 12 hours after you land.
      If on the other hand you wish to go around on your own, then I would recommend choosing either Kyoto OR Mount Fuji. In this fashion, you won’t have to worry much about traveling a lot… consider the guided tour takes you to many places in a short amount of time, so there is probably no time to rest!
      If you choose to visit Mount Fuji, you can easily travel there from Tokyo and return the same day, or you can choose to spend the night around the area if you find reasonable accommodations.
      If you choose to visit Kyoto on the other hand, you SHOULD try to spend one night in order to see more of the sights there.

      Here are my suggestions based on what you choose:
      Day 1) Land at Haneda, stay in Tokyo
      Day 2) Spend the day in Tokyo
      Day 3) Visit Mount Fuji. Optionally spend the night.
      Day 4) If you come back from Mount Fuji on Day 3, I recommend spending Day 4 in Kamakura, and Enoshima if you have the time. Otherwise, return from Mount Fuji to Tokyo.
      Day 5) Spend the day in Tokyo
      Day 6) Return home

      Day 1) Land at Haneda, stay in Tokyo
      Day 2) Spend the day in Tokyo
      Day 3) Travel to Kyoto in the morning, and spend the day and night in Kyoto
      Day 4) Spend the morning and early afternoon in Kyoto. Travel to Tokyo late afternoon/early evening and spend the night in Tokyo
      Day 5) Spend the day in Tokyo
      Day 6) Return home.

      Now for how to get around:
      Day 1) Remember that since you are landing at Haneda in the evening, it will be close to when the public transportation shuts down for the night. You will have to budget some money to take a taxi to a hotel in Tokyo. There is information about flat-fare taxis from Haneda here, but note you’ll have to pay the premium charge for late night/early morning travel and you may have to pay additional surcharges.
      On the other hand, it may be more convenient to spend your first night at the hotel that just opened *inside* the Haneda International Terminal, called Royal Park The Haneda, then go in to Tokyo the next morning.

      To just get around Tokyo you can use a stored fare card, one per person. It is called Suica or PASMO depending on the train company. They usually sell cards in increments of 1,000 yen. All cards include a 500 yen deposit; if you return your card by the end of the trip you can get the deposit back. Otherwise you can still use regular tickets by looking up at the wall above the ticket machines and determining the fare of where you want to go.

      An easier way is to simply purchase the cheapest ticket from the vending machine, then when you get off at your destination you can go to the “fare adjustment” machine and it will tell you how much extra has to be paid.

      If you are going to Mount Fuji, there are many buses that operate from Shinjuku Station to Lake Kawaguchi, near Mount Fuji (2 hours, 1750 yen each way). If you wanted to do a guided tour, there’s a cheap one for 6,900 yen that visits all of the locations around Mount Fuji here.
      A 2-day round-trip tour from Tokyo that visits Mount Fuji and Kyoto can be found here.
      Other guided tours focusing on Mount Fuji can be found here.

      If you are going to Kyoto, with the amount of time on your trip I would recommend using the Shinkansen, or bullet train. There are a few tickets to choose from:
      – You can choose the seven-day Japan Rail Pass which covers unlimited transportation on Japan Railway lines in Japan for 29,110 yen. This is almost the cost of a round-trip bullet train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto. The advantage to having this is that you can use the Japan Rail Pass for all JR travel anywhere, including the JR trains operated in Tokyo such as the Yamanote Line. In this way you do not have to worry about getting tickets for the JR. You simply show the pass to the manned station attendant at each ticket gate to get through. The pass is NOT valid for subways.
      To make a reservation for the bullet train you will have to go to a JR seat reservation counter – with the pass, reservations can me made for no charge on nearly all journeys. Fortunately, JR East has a reservation center for foreigners at Tokyo Station – more details here.
      You will have to purchase an exchange voucher for the Japan Rail Pass in advance, then exchange for the pass while in Japan. Note that when you land at Haneda, the JR Offices will be closed for the day, so the exchange will have to be done the day after you land. For a list of exchange offices in Malaysia please go here.

      There is another option to consider if you just want to look at bullet train tickets:
      – JTB sells a discounted round-trip ticket on the bullet train for 21,600 yen per person. More details here. You’ll have to exchange for the tickets at a JR Tokai Tours office in Tokyo.

      I hope this helps you out! If you have any other questions please ask.

      Have a good week!

      1. Cammy Lim

        Hi Jose,

        Thank you for your reply and your valuable opinion.

        There is night bus from Haneda Airport right? I think we should be able to catch the bus to Tokyo as I find the hotel inside Haneda Airport is kinda pricey.

        SUICA? I thought I saw you wrote is has already retired? So, for my 6 days 5 nights trip, you suggest me to get SUICA or PASMO?

        By looking at your suggestion, I think I will only go Mt Fuji instead of Kyoto, because it’s very time consuming and it will burn a big hole in my pocket.

        Jose, do you know any good ryokan in Tokyo? And, I would like to try onsen too, can you recommend me some good place for onsen?

        Thank You


      2. Hi Cammy!

        >> There is night bus from Haneda Airport right?
        There is a night bus, but my suggestion is to plan in case you are unable to make the bus, for example if there is a delay with your flight or if there is a delay through Japanese immigration. There are a few buses after midnight that go to Shinjuku Station, and to the Tokyo City Air Terminal… you can see the entire list by searching here. The good news is, if you can get the bus into one of these places, you can then pick up a taxi to your hotel and it won’t cost as much as taking a taxi from the airport. If you get in early enough then you can also take the train into Tokyo.

        >> SUICA? I thought I saw you wrote is has already retired?
        You are referring to something else – another ticket from Narita Airport that included SUICA. SUICA is still available on its own, from any train station, and both SUICA and PASMO work the same way.

        >> By looking at your suggestion, I think I will only go Mt Fuji instead of Kyoto, because it’s very time consuming and it will burn a big hole in my pocket. Jose, do you know any good ryokan in Tokyo? And, I would like to try onsen too, can you recommend me some good place for onsen?
        There are a few accommodations in Tokyo that have some onsen – especially around the old district around Arakawa or Sumida wards – but if you would like to try Ryokan and Onsen in the same trip, then out by Mount Fuji or nearby Hakone may be a better option because there are more places available out there that have these amenities.
        If I might ask, what is your budget for accommodations per night? 10,000 yen (US$100 / MYR 300), or more or less? If you prefer to tell me privately you can e-mail me at …. I am not a travel agent but hopefully I can point you in the right direction.


  4. tassos

    hi jose ,
    congratulations for your blog
    i m about to visit with my gf japan for 1st time in july 20 (haneda airport)for about a week i d like to visit tokyo and kyoto as well .
    i need to inform me about the trains and if its worth to book some kind of package (train and hotel) from tokyo to kyoto , that comes cheaper than buy separately.
    what do you suggest ?

    1. Hello, thanks for visiting my blog!
      I’m happy to hear that you want to visit Japan. Your options really depend on your budget. You could do an all-inclusive tour such as through JTB at if you wanted to pay for everything at once, though it tends to be a little bit pricey. Then again there are some good hotel options in Kyoto and even in Tokyo that are great budget options. If you did the latter then you could buy a Japan Rail Pass or even a discounted JTB voucher for the bullet trains.
      Let me know what your budget is and perhaps I can give you some more clues.
      If you want you can email me.
      I am away for a few days but would be happy to reply when I return!

      1. tassos

        my budget is not much cause i plan to visit dubai afterwards , but i think from what i see that the best choice is jrp .
        what is the discounted jtb voucher ?

      2. The discounted JTB voucher offers a 20% discount off the cost of a regular shinkansen round trip between tokyo and Kyoto in non reserved seats. It is sold on japanican.
        The benefit is that this will be cheaper than a Japan rail pass but the drawback is that you will have to visit a JR TOURS office prior to your departure to fill out an exchange form… Those offices have very limited English speaking staff.
        With the JRP on the other hand you can get RESERVED seats and you can book them in person as soon as you get your pass. The JRP exchange agents at Narita will speak English and would be happy to book the trains that you would like.

      3. tassos

        hi again thanx for the usefull info, i booked a 7 day jr pass already ,can i use it from the airport to the city and back ?
        also can i use it in the city to visit some other areas of tokyo?
        and what about the timetable what time is the last train i can take ?

      4. As long as the pass is valid within the 7 day period you can use the Japan Rail Pass for the Narita Express to/from the airport and for JR commuter trains within the city.
        Generally, trains in Japan stop running between 12 midnight and 5 AM. There are some variances… In major stations you will see a timetable of trains, either near the turnstiles or on the platforms.
        Otherwise you can do a timetable search on hyperdia ( between two stations. By going to the results and clicking on “interval timetable” you will get all of the train times between two stations for any given date.

      5. Are you arriving during the day or late at night? If you are arriving during the day you can get your Japan Rail Pass at the exchange desk and take the Tokyo Monorail, which will be covered.
        If you land at night, however, the exchange desk will be closed.

      6. tassos

        i m landing 22:45 at haneda , i suppose i cant do anything and look other options of transportation though i already have a 7 day jr pass?? is there any other way to activate my ticket before i get there ??

      7. Unfortunately you won’t be able to activate it until the day after you land, as by the time you land the rail pass exchange offices in Tokyo will all be closed.

    1. If you can leave customs before midnight you could travel in by train towards Tokyo, but at midnight the final train leaves. After that there are a limited number of buses into Tokyo or you can take a taxi.
      You may also want to look in to Royal Park Hotel The Haneda, which is a hotel at Haneda Airport, connected to the International Terminal. It’s possible to stay there the first night of your stay – they do offer advance purchase discounts. The next day you can go to the JR Rail Pass exchange desk, pick up your pass, and begin traveling.
      These are a few ideas 🙂

  5. tassos

    as i already booked hotels i ll not staying at haneda ,
    now where is preffered to exchange euros to yen, best price etc?

    1. I recommend withdrawing yen from a bank ATM upon your arrival in Japan. You can bring a little yen with you when you travel if you want, for emergencies. But the ATMs in Japan will usually give the best exchange rate.
      According to the Haneda web site there is a 24 hour Seven Bank (7-11) ATM in the arrival lobby that accepts foreign ATM cards. It’s open 24 hours. Japan Post ATM machines also take foreign cards.

  6. Andy

    Dear Jose, I’m glad read your blog.
    I’ve planing going to Japan next year for 9day. I’m going to Japan with my sister. My destination is Tokyo – Osaka – kyoto.
    I research & compare that using local low cost flight is cheaper than use shinkanse. But there’s no route Tokyo to kyoto. So my planning is Tokyo-Osaka by flight, Osaka to kyoto going back Osaka by shinkanse or local train. How about that? Is it OK & save my money?
    Also I wanna ask about train ticket. Which one is cheapest using seishun 18 & Japan rail pass? Why?? (I’m traveling for 9/10days & 2 person)
    And is it true that 1 ticket seishun18 can be use more than 1person?
    Thanks for your attention

    1. Hi Andy and thanks for visiting my blog!
      Recently there has been an increase in LCC’s (low cost carrier airlines) in Japan, and they are really offering quick and affordable ways to travel within the country.
      You are correct that the nearest airport to Kyoto is in Osaka. Osaka is right next to Kyoto – so, there are several inexpensive means of traveling between the two cities by train.
      My guess is that you are looking at a flight that arrives into KANSAI AIRPORT. So you will then have to travel from Kansai Airport to Kyoto by bus, train or van. I will give you the most common options, then you can compare the prices and see what is best for you.

      First of all: If you are flying to the airport on PEACH AIR, you will arrive in Terminal 2. If you are flying on another low cost airline, they currently arrive in Terminal 1. There is a free shuttle bus that connects Terminal 2 to the AEROPLAZA, which is next to the main transit concourse for Terminal 1.

      LIMOUSINE BUS: These are direct buses that run from Kansai Airport to Kyoto and cost 2,550 yen per person in each direction (5,100 yen for two). The travel time takes 90-120 minutes depending on traffic. There is one or two buses per hour from Terminal 2 and Terminal 1 that goes to Kyoto station and also to major transit interchanges within Kyoto… These may be convenient depending on where you are staying in Kyoto. Another bus supplements these runs but ONLY runs between Terminal 1 and Kyoto Station. Bus tickets can be purchased at the airport terminal. More details here:

      TRAIN: A few trains operate from the Transit Concourse near Terminal 1. The most direct of these is the HARUKA, which is run by Japan Railways. It leaves twice per hour and reaches Kyoto in 70 minutes with no train change necessary. Normal ticket prices range from 2,850 yen per person for an open (unreserved) seat to 3,300 yen for a reserved seat, and even higher for a first class seat. There are two discount offers for foreign tourists: You could purchase a JR Kansai Area Pass for 2,300 yen (or 2,200 yen if purchased in advance) – while this pass is intended for travelers going around Kansai for one day on JR, travel in non-reserved seating on the Haruka is INCLUDED, so buying this ticket is actually cheaper. More information here:
      The other discount option is called the ICOCA and HARUKA which you can read about here:

      There are also regular commuter trains which are cheaper.
      JR: Take the Kansai Airport Rapid to Osaka and change to the JR Kyoto Line Special Rapid (Shin-Kaisoku) to Kyoto Station. This costs 1,880 yen per person and takes around 1 hour 45 minutes.

      Nankai: The Nankai Railway operates a competing service from Kansai Airport into Osaka. By changing to the subway and then the Hankyu Railway, you can access central Kyoto. Nankai sells the Kyoto Access Ticket at Kansai Airport at a discount of 1,230 yen per person. More information here: (though this page is poorly translated)

      Inexpensive travel options between Kyoto and Osaka include:
      JR: 560 yen for Special Rapid (Shin-Kaisoku) services, running from Kyoto Station
      Hankyu Railway: 400 yen for Limited Express services running from Central Kyoto
      Keihan Railway: 410 yen for Limited Express services running from Eastern Kyoto

      The Seishun 18 Ticket is only sold during certain days of the year. They are valid for regular JR commuter services, but if used correctly, can yield some nice savings on train travel. It is only valid for travel March 1-April 10, July 20-September 10 and December 10-January 10. Ticket sales start and end 10 days prior to these dates. Yes, the seishun 18 can be used by up to 5 people. In your case, two people could use it for any two days within one of the above date ranges.

      I hope this information helps!
      Thanks again

      1. andy

        Dear jose.. thanks a lot for your answer. I arive tokyo (narita) in the morning at august next year. So whice one could save my money if i traveling 2person for 8days, buy seishun18 or japan rail pass?
        can i buy seishun18 at narita airport? That seishun18 / japan rail pass can be use all accros japan (incl. osaka & kyoto), so if i use it, i not neccesery buy JR kansai area pass again. Is it correct?
        Sorry if i ask too much
        Thanks again 🙂

      2. Yes, you can purchase a Seishun 18 ticket at Narita airport, but I think it would only make sense to purchase a Seishun 18 if you are going to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka by rail, and not by plane. The Seishun 18 ticket only covers local and rapid commuter trains throughout Japan on JR trains only. It will cover the same area as the Kansai pass but it will NOT cover the Haruka train to/from Kansai Airport.
        The same thing goes for the Japan Rail Pass. You should only buy it if you do not plan to fly from Tokyo to Osaka by plane.

        The seven-day Japan Rail Pass costs 29,110 yen per person and includes unlimited travel on almost all JR services… on the bullet train you can use the Hikari to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto.

        The Seishun 18 ticket costs 11,850 yen. If you plan to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto/Osaka and then return to Tokyo, this is a very economical way to go around by local trains… but bear in mind you will probably spend most of the entire day traveling in between the two cities.
        A local ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto costs 8,210 yen. If you are going to use the Seishun 18 in one direction, this would use up two spaces on the Seishun 18 and would break the cost down to 5,925 yen per person. If you use it to also return to Tokyo, the cost breakdown would be 2,962 yen per person, per trip. You should only use the Seishun 18 for these long distance journeys. But the drawback is that you will spend a lot of time traveling instead of sightseeing.

      3. andy

        Oww.. ok..ok.. now i understand. Aftar i research info about japan rail pass. Maybe i should take japan rail pass. Before that i think japan rail pass not incl shinkanse tokyo to kyoto but after your explanation that incl shinkanse i change my plan.
        Tokyo – kyoto – osaka by shinkanse.
        So i not use plane, just japan rail pass.
        Thanks a lot jose for the information.

      4. You’re welcome… Keep in mind that the rail pass will not cover the fastest bullet train service called the NOZOMI but it will cover the HIKARI. There are JR service centers for foreigners in Tokyo and Shinjuku stations, as well as Narita, that you can utilize where representatives speaking English and a few other languages can help you with your reservations.

  7. Jose,
    Really appreciated your post, but was devastated when I realized the 5-day ticket did not last through September. We are a group of 5 students arriving in Tokyo on the 17th and flying out of Osaka on the 26th, visiting Kyoto there in-between. What are your suggestions on traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Monday (21st) or Tuesday (22nd)?

    1. Hi David, thanks for reading my blog!
      As the Seishun 18 ticket will not apply for your trip, your options include bullet train, regular train and bus.
      I must warn you however that the days you are considering travel from Tokyo to Kyoto are considered “peak” since there is a national holiday on the 21st and another on the 23rd. Any travel options you decide on should be booked as soon as you are able to do so.
      * Bullet trains cost 13,910 yen per person and make the run from Tokyo to Kyoto in only 2 hours and 18 minutes.
      * The “Puratto Kodama Ticket” costs 10,100 yen per person for travel on the slowest bullet train, the “Kodama”. Journeys take 3 3/4 hours but you get a free beverage voucher – which is even good for a small can of beer. You will need to bring food and drinks on board yourself since there are no food/drink sales on the train. More information:
      * Local trains cost 8,210 yen per person and an entire journey can take around 9-10 hours, not including bathroom and meal breaks. Because of the distance rule attached to the ticket, you can take as much as four days to make the trip – as long as you stay on the route ticketed and do not backtrack. So, for example, you could stop over at an intermediate city along the way, stay at a cheap hotel/hostel, and resume your journey to Kyoto the next day. Or, you could just make the journey over the course of one day.
      * Direct buses take 7-9 hours depending on the number of stops, the route of travel, and traffic conditions. A few quick rest stops are made along the way. You can take daytime buses (cheaper) or overnight buses (more expensive but you do not have to worry about a hotel). Willer Express is a popular bus provider and they are among the very few in Japan that offer online bookings in English. For your travel dates, Willer offers daytime buses for 7,200 yen per person and overnight buses costing 6,600-11,000 yen per person depending on amenities. These prices are a little higher than normal because of the holiday.
      * Other buses are available, but require booking after you have arrived in Japan.

  8. Samuel Cool

    I would like to spend 16 days in Japan and do not mind spending more time on the train than sightseeing for one single day. That day is the day I will be traveling from Tokyo to Osaka. Although there are lots of options to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, as I am on a budget, I think the Seishun 18 Ticket is my best option. Here is the problem I am not very familiar with Japan’s train system. Is the Seishun Ticket a straight forward thing? Am I right that I have to make some train transfers? Is it difficult transfers? Do I have to walk to another location to transfer? If yes, how far is it? Can you please elaborate? Can you please help me enumerate the train line and location and the departure and arrival time? I hope this won’t be too difficult for you. Where can I see this information? Hopefully, I do not messed up and miss my accommodation in Osaka. Can you please lead me to the right direction, Jose?. I am very worried.

  9. Pingback: Travel around Japan for $20 per day with the Seishun 18 Ticket | Jose's Japan Tips

  10. Willie Chien

    Hi Jose,

    Really enjoy reading your blogs. As I am expected to land on Haneda airport late noon, I am thinking of taking a direct, overnight train to Kyoto for a few days stay there ( including Osaka) before going back to Tokyo. I am ‘lost’ when it comes to the bus operators at the airport. Can you recommend a bus operator? Can I purchase the ticket on the spot?

    1. Hi Willie, and thanks for visiting my blog!
      If you are landing in Haneda during the afternoon and want to take a direct train towards Kyoto, your best bet is to take the bullet train… The closest bullet train station is Shinagawa, but there are no buses from Haneda to Shinagawa because it is easily served by the Keikyu Railway (410 yen, 15-20 minute travel time, departing every 10 minutes). Once you are in Shinagawa station, then you purchase your bullet train ticket to go to Kyoto.
      There are also direct buses to Tokyo Station but they are very infrequent – around one per hour.
      If you decide to purchase a Japan Rail Pass, there is an exchange counter at Haneda Airport.
      Hope this information helps!
      If you just want bus operator information, here is a good resource:

  11. Hi Jose, My Name is Taka, from southeast asia. I will have my first japan trip with 2 of my friends, we are female travellers. We want to going around Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. I accidentally bought flight ticket to and from Osaka, instead of buying flight ticket back to my home country from tokyo.
    We are a budget travellers since we are students. Can you suggest the japan travel itinerary with the cheapest possible transportation mode? we will go to japan next year at February 24th to March 1st 2017, it’s sad that we can not take the seishun 18 train ticket, but at the last day before we have flight back to our country from kansai airport, i’m planning to buy flight ticket from tokyo to osaka for saving time. Your suggestion will be beneficial to us, We will waiting. Thank You So Much Jose.

    1. Hi Taka! Thanks for your patience. I am sorry for the delayed reply. I am slow to reply to messages during the summer months.
      You are only going to be in Japan for six days, am I correct? It will be a challenge to travel around Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo, but it is possible. I would suggest using one evening to travel overnight from Kyoto to Tokyo by bus. This is the cheapest way to go between the two cities and you will also save on accommodations.

      February 24: Land in Kansai Airport, spend the day and night in Kyoto.
      February 25: Spend the day in Kyoto. In the evening, travel by overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo.
      February 26: Arrive in Tokyo, and spend two nights in Tokyo.
      February 27: Tokyo
      February 28: Spend the day in Tokyo. Fly from Tokyo to Osaka.
      March 1: Fly back home from Kansai Airport.

      Since it is your first night in Japan I would try to spend more time in Kyoto compared to Osaka.

      As far as bus transportation, you can look at an online purchase of tickets on Willer Express (… bus tickets start at around 4,000-6,000 yen per person. Bus tickets usually start sales a month or two in advance of departure.

      You’ll be traveling a lot, so here are a few alternatives:
      – To save time you will need to take the bullet train. The bullet train between Kyoto and Tokyo costs 13,910 yen per person but reduces the travel time to 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Slightly cheaper fares are available through travel agencies like JTB. You could also look at JR Tokai Tours ( which sells Puratto Kodama tickets for 10,000 yen each way. With these tickets you use the slow Kodama trains which take around 4 hours, and you get a voucher for a free drink that you can purchase at the station before boarding. You will have to buy the ticket one day in advance and you will have to bring your own food and drinks on board.
      – If going to Tokyo ends up being too much you can spend more of your time around Kyoto and Osaka instead. In this case you can also spend some time in Nara, and spend a few hours at nearby Himeji castle which has just been renovated.

      I hope I have given you a few suggestions. Please let me know if you have any more questions and I’ll do my best to answer them as soon as possible!

      – Jose

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