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Travel between Kyoto and Tokyo using the Shinkansen (bullet train) or the night bus. In this article, we compare these two options and their costs, and look at airplane routes, too, so you can choose the one that is best for you to enjoy a trip to the ancient capital.
Photo by Pixta
Kyoto prospered as the capital city of Japan for over a millennium: from 794 to 1869. This ancient capital remains home to rows upon rows of the shrines and temples that represent Japan.
Kyoto is 372 kilometers, or 231 miles, from Tokyo, and can be reached via Shinkansen (bullet train), local trains, or highway buses. There are plenty of ways to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto: in particular, travelers who want a comfortable and speedy trip should take the Shinkansen. Those who are trying to save money should use the night bus. Taking an airplane is also possible.
The most convenient way to get from Tokyo to Kyoto is the Shinkansen bullet train. Via the Nozomi train, the trip from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 2 hours and 20 minutes and costs 14,170 yen (as of July 2020).
Shinkansen trains are quiet and shake very little, so you can sit peacefully and relax during your journey. People who want to limit their travel time and people who want to relax should take the Shinkansen. JR Kyoto Station is four stops away from JR Tokyo. There are English announcements made over the intercom at the stop, so you don’t have to worry about missing your stop.
For those leaving from Tokyo, another suggested option is booking a roundtrip Shinkansen ticket with Veltra. The ticket includes a discounted price on a roundtrip between Tokyo and Kyoto, useable within a 7-day period. It also comes with your choice of activity ticket for Kyoto––select from kimono rental, chopstick-making workshops, and other fun traditional experiences.
If you are traveling to other cities besides Kyoto, you should pick up a Japan Rail Pass. This ticket allows you to ride as much as you like on JR-operated trains and city buses all over the country, so it’s a great bargain and lets you travel comfortably depending on your travel schedule. Read the linked articles below for more details about how to buy Shinkansen tickets and a Japan Rail Pass.
For people who prioritize cheap fares over comfort, or people who would prefer to sleep during the journey, we recommend traveling by night bus. It takes seven to nine hours from Tokyo to Kyoto by bus. The bus fare will vary with different companies, and a seat can range from 1,700 yen to more than 10,000 yen, but you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of 6,000 to 9,000 yen, which is more affordable than the Shinkansen.
Also, because most of these buses leave Tokyo between 22:00 and midnight, and arrive in Kyoto the following morning between 6:00 and 8:00, you don’t have to pay from that night’s lodging. The travel time is long, but many buses are equipped with toilets, electrical outlets, Wi-Fi, reclining seats and blankets to help make the ride more comfortable. If you want to know what services are available onboard, double-check the bus company website beforehand.
Most night buses board at the bus terminal outside JR Tokyo Station’s Yaesu exit or at Busta Shinjuku, located outside JR Shinjuku Station’s south exit. Both places are easy to access, so settle here, stretch your legs, and get ready to head to Kyoto.
Kyoto does not have an airport, so those wanting to fly will have to go to an airport in a neighboring area. Landing at Kansai International Airport or Itami Airport in Osaka, or Kobe Airport in Kobe is recommended. From these airports, it will take around one hour to one and a half hours to get to Kyoto Station via train or bus.
The most recommended route for getting to Kyoto via airplane is to go from Haneda to Itami. JAL offers a one-hour flight for about 17,000 to 20,000 yen round-trip. Itami Airport is relatively close to the city center, and takes a little less than an hour to get to Kyoto Station from Itami via shuttle bus. It takes a little more time using Kansai International Airport to get to Kyoto.
There are many ways to get from Tokyo to Kyoto. We recommend travelers focused on comfort and speed to take the Shinkansen, while travelers who care about cost and efficiency should take the night bus. Choose your preferred travel method according to your schedule and budget, and have a great stay in Japan.
All pictures from PIXTA