Tokyo to Osaka Using Trains, Planes & Automobiles

Osaka_Dotonbori_Ebisu_Bridge
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

As a tourist in Tokyo there is already a lot to see and do. However, to see a more traditional side of Japan with a more local flavor, many tourists travel from Kanto to Kansai and go from Tokyo to Osaka, Japan`s second largest city. If you would like to make the trip from Tokyo to Osaka, there are many transportation options available.

In this article we cover the four primary ways to make it from Tokyo to Osaka:

Tokyo to Osaka by Shinkansen

tokyo to osaka shinkansen
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The main method that both locals and tourists use to get from Tokyo to Osaka is by the Shinkansen, or bullet train. When riding the Shinkansen, going from Tokyo to Osaka feels like no time at all – just 2 hours 30 minutes, if travelling on the fastest Shinkansen, the Nozomi. The train from Tokyo to Osaka is extremely regular. In the day you can find a Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Osaka running every 20 to 30 minutes when departing from Tokyo station. Note that the Tokyo to Osaka Shinkansen actually arrives at Shin-Osaka Station. From there, local JR lines can be used to reach your hotel destination.

Shinkansen fees are typically divided into two parts: A base fee and a seat fee. The base fee of the Nozomi Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka, is 8,750 Yen. Then you must pay the seat fee. A reserved seat during the low season is an extra 5500 Yen. An unreserved seat is slightly cheaper at 4870 yen.

Even if you purchase unreserved fare, you may still be able to sit depending on the availability of empty seats in your car. However, as the Shinkansen is a very popular choice and spots fill up fast, a reserved seat is highly recommended. Finally, all types of Shinkansen have a “Green Car” option which is much like First Class on trains and planes in other countries. Offering wider seats, power sockets and 40 degree reclining seats, the green car is a tempting, but expensive option. The seat fee for a green car all the way from Tokyo to Osaka is 10,480 Yen.

Tourists with a JR Rail Pass are permitted to use the Shinkansen with no extra cost, but the Nozomi is off limits—the pass is valid with the slightly slower Hikari services, which take an extra 20 minutes. The Google Maps route finder may show you only the fastest Nozomi services, but please keep the limitations of your JR Rail Pass when you book your seat.

The Shinkansen is the fastest Osaka to Tokyo train option. Whilst it is possible to use local JR train services to travel across the country, that journey would take over ten hours! During spring, summer and winter, JR sells something called a Seishun Ju-Hachi Kippu ticket, costing 11,850 Yen. This allows the use of any local JR train for five days during a given season. Using this ticket you can get to Osaka for 2370 yen, but it will take ten hours. Despite the time involved, this ticket is a perfect money saver for travelers on a budget that also gives you the opportunity to watch Japan roll by. Slow and steady travel is a tourist experience in itself!

Tokyo to Osaka by Airplane

If you have lots of luggage and feel unable to take the train or bus from Tokyo to Osaka, then Tokyo to Osaka is also possible by air. Many flight companies and airports offer local flights between Tokyo to Osaka multiple times a day. Most flights depart from Tokyo Haneda and arrive at Osaka Itami, but some cover the main airports – Narita to Kansai Airport. Flights can cost up to and over 15,000 Yen one way, but many companies (ANA, Star Alliance, JAL and others) have discount visitor fares of about 10,000 yen. However, bear in mind that these discounts must sometimes be bought outside of Japan.

narita airport
Photo by InSapphoWeTrust on flickr

Japanican also offers packages through JAL, with both flights and hotels included. Starting from 2 day and stretching to 4, it’s possible to fly and have a hotel booked for between 21,000 yen and 31,800 at their cheapest rates. Please check out their English page.

Tokyo to Osaka by Bus

tokyo to osaka bus
Photo by MIKI Yoshihito on Flickr

Bus services from Tokyo to Osaka obviously take longer than the Shinkansen, but are much more affordable. Tickets must be booked in advance from online ticket websites, such as Kakuyasu Bus. Be aware that English language services are not often available on these pages, so please ask a Japanese friend or colleague to help you!  Prices range from 4800 yen to 6200 yen, depending on the time of year and time of day you wish to travel. Since travel time is around 9 hours depending on traffic and weather conditions, the Yakko Bus (Night Bus) would be a good option. You can catch up on your sleep starting in Tokyo and wake up in Osaka.

Tokyo to Osaka by Rental Car

Kinki_Expressway_Yao_Toll_Gate
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

If you feel comfortable with driving in Japan, then you may want to consider car rental. Whilst this is the most personal journey from Tokyo to Osaka that you are likely to have, there are some key factors to consider before making your decision. Due to the length of the journey you will be paying for gas along the way; if you don`t know Japanese, this may be a challenge due to the manned petrol stations. Highways in Japan are also notoriously expensive due to toll roads. The journey from Tokyo to Osaka takes six hours on the Tomeiand Meishin Expressway. The toll is 10,000 yen. You can budget how much it would cost using the English-language site. Finally, remember to have an international driving licence from your country before arriving in Japan to use a rental car!

Coming Back: Osaka to Tokyo

When it`s time to return, any of the above options can be used. However, depending on how you travelled from Tokyo to Osaka, certain options may be better and cheaper. If you wanted to go back to Tokyo from Osaka via the Shinkansen, then you will have to pay the full fare once again unless you have a JR Rail Pass as there is no return ticket option available with Shinkansen travel. So if embarking by train both ways, your trip will cost 28,500 yen in total. As for the bus, return tickets are available but must be booked in advance. This may be possible if your itinerary is set in stone, but may not be the best option if you prefer flexibility.

Tokyo to Osaka and back doesn`t have to feel like a long way. With regular Shinkansen trains, a bus running both a day and night, planes and even cars, Osaka is an immediately viable option whilst on holiday in Tokyo. Now if you have yet to land in Japan and will arrive at Narita Airport, check out guide on how to get to Tokyo from Narita.

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