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How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: The Fastest and Cheapest Ways

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There are five travel options to reach Kyoto from Tokyo! Read on for a comprehensive guide on costs and travel time as we compare the pros and cons of each transportation method.

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Traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: The Fastest and Cheapest Ways

Photo by Pixta
Many people traveling to Japan are probably interested in visiting Kyoto.

Kyoto prospered as the capital of Japan from 794 to 1869. It is currently one of the world’s leading travel destinations where you can experience the traditional beauty of Japan. Thanks to being close by, you can also have fun traveling from the old capital to Osaka, Japan’s second-largest city.

Kyoto is slightly closer to Tokyo than Osaka, with the direct distance between the two cities around 372 kilometers. There are several transportation methods that only a popular travel destination would have.

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Table of Contents:

Travel Time and Price Comparison
1. Shinkansen (Bullet Train): Convenient and Comfortable
2. Highway Bus: For Affordable Travel
3. Airplane: Take into Account Airport Travel Times for Flights
4. Regular Trains: Get On and Off the Train as You Please
5. Rental Car: For Driving Enthusiasts
Frequently Asked Questions

Travel Time and Price Comparison

This is a comprehensive guide on travel time and price among transportation methods from Tokyo to Kyoto. Learn the pros and cons of each method and find the one that best suits your itinerary!

Transportation Method Time Cost (One-Way)
Bullet train 2 hours and 10 minutes (*for Nozomi, the fastest bullet train service) 14,170 yen (Reserved seat)
Plane 1 hour and 30 minutes (Transfer between airports only) 5,000-20,000 yen
Highway Bus 6-8 hours 2,000-10,000 yen
Local Train 8 hours 8,360 yen
Car 5 hours 10,070 yen (Highway toll fares)

We recommend the Shinkansen (bullet train) if you value speed and comfort. If you prefer saving money, then we recommend taking the highway bus. You can experience a completely different atmosphere in Kyoto than in Tokyo, so please try venturing out of the modern-day capital.

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Book a hotel room in Kyoto on agoda!

The Convenient and Comfortable Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: What’s the Best Method?

The most convenient way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto is via the Shinkansen (bullet train). Take the Nozomi train from JR Tokyo Station to JR Kyoto Station, and the travel time will be about two hours and 10 minutes. It costs 14,170 yen one-way (price of reserved seats as of April 2023).

The Shinkansen is relatively quiet, with little to no shaking. Therefore, you can relax on a comfortable ride in clean seats. We recommend this method for those interested in traveling between the cities in a short amount of time and hoping to preserve their strength for later. There are also English announcements in the passenger cars.

Shinkansen Types and Prices

There are three types of trains—the Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama—on the Tokaido Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Kyoto. The respective trains have different station stops and travel times.

The Nozomi is the fastest train line, arriving at Kyoto Station in two hours and 10 minutes. Kyoto Station is the fourth stop from Tokyo Station.

The Hikari takes two hours and 50 minutes, while the Kodama requires three hours and 40 minutes. Prices, however, will be slightly lower at 13,850 yen if you take either the Hikari or Kodama.

How to Save Money Riding the Shinkansen

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: What’s the Best Method?

Picture from: Japan Rail Pass Guide - How and Where to Buy, Merits, and Tips

Tickets can be purchased at a lower price through Platt Kodama (Japanese), provided by JR Tokai Tours, for 10,700 yen (prices increase during peak seasons). This cost reflects a reserved seat on an ordinary car on a Kodama train.

However, there are limitations. The registration deadline is 22:00 the day before your desired departure date. Please remember that no changes can be made to the date of use, train, route, or reserved seats.

On the other hand, we recommend using the Japan Rail Pass, an unlimited ride pass, for interantional visitors planning to travel to other cities outside of Tokyo and Kyoto. This pass grants you unlimited rides on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and JR train lines across Japan for an amazing deal.

Please take a look at Klook and related articles below for details on the Japan Rail Pass’ coverage range and prices. Make sure to keep in mind that you can only take Hikari and Kodama trains on the Shinkansen with the Japan Rail Pass.

Book the JR Pass for Whole Japan (7, 14, or 21 Days)

Take the Highway Bus for Affordable Travel

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: What’s the Best Method?

Do you value affordable prices? Then we recommend the highway bus.

There are various options available. It takes anywhere between six to eight hours to get from Tokyo to Kyoto, with costs ranging from 2,000 to over 10,000 yen. For example, a search conducted in April 2023 shows that a bus from WILLER TRAVEL is 3,900 yen on weekdays.

Travelers have the option of booking a day or night bus. The night bus often departs from Tokyo between 23:00-24:00 and arrives in Kyoto between 6:00-7:00 the next morning. The fact that you won’t need to spend money on accommodation the night you travel is great.

A highway bus won’t be as comfortable as the Shinkansen. However, there has been an increase in comfortable buses in recent years that provide bathrooms, reclining seats, electrical outlets, and free Wi-Fi.

There are various platforms for buses bound for Kyoto, including JR Tokyo Station Yaesu Exit or the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal at JR Shinjuku Station South Exit. On the other hand, the arrival destination in Kyoto is mainly the Kyoto Station Hachijo Exit.

Highway Bus Reservations: WILLER TRAVEL

Take into Account Airport Travel Times for Flights

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: What’s the Best Method?

Kyoto does not have an airport. If you wish to travel by plane, you will need to fly to either Kansai International Airport (KIA) or Itami Airport (Osaka International Airport, ITM) in Osaka and transfer by train or bus from the airport.

Main Routes and Prices

The table below shows the results from a search on Skyticket in mid-April 2023 on airline companies and ticket prices.

By traveling on an LCC, or low-cost carrier (i.e., Peach or Jetstar), departing from Narita Airport to Kansai International Airport as indicated below, it sometimes is more affordable than a Shinkansen to Kansai International Airport.

Departure & Arrival Airport Airlines Cost (One-Way)
Narita Airport → Kansai International Airport Peach Starts from 5,440 yen
Jetstar Starts from 6,060 yen
Haneda Airport → Kansai International Airport StarFlyer Starts from 11,110 yen
ANA Starts from 17,310 yen
Haneda Airport → Itami Airport ANA Starts from 17,710 yen

Travel Time and Price Comparisons from the Airport to Kyoto

It’s also important to consider the time and money spent going to and from the airport if you travel by plane.

It takes an hour and 20 minutes from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station by the limited express Haruka, costing 3,110 yen. It takes 50 minutes by bus from Itami Airport to Kyoto Station and costs 1,340 yen. However, it takes an hour and costs around 1,000 yen if you take the monorail or train.

It costs 1,300 yen by bus from Tokyo Station to Narita Airport. Once all these costs are included, flying via an LCC to Kansai International Airport could be slightly more affordable than the Shinkansen.

However, flying by plane is time-consuming once you add the time it takes to travel to the airport, check in for your flight, check any luggage, then claim your luggage after landing. A plane may be faster than the Shinkansen if you’re only looking at the time on board. But the time it takes as a whole is not shorter than the Shinkansen. Outside of circumstances like visiting places near Itami Airport or Kansai International Airport, there may not be any benefits to flying from Tokyo to Kyoto.

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Get On and Off the Train as You Please

Train (AC)

There is the option of taking a local train if you don't mind a londer travel time. Taking a local train costs 8,360 yen from Tokyo to Kyoto and takes around eight hours.

Discount Seishun 18 Kippu Tickets

Instead of traveling directly to Kyoto, are you interested in stopping by various local cities while hopping on and off the train? Then purchasing the Seishun 18 Kippu is a great option. The price for a ticket is 12,050 yen (as of March 2023, adults and children are the same price).

The ticket permits passengers to hop on and off the train as they please with non-reserved seats in ordinary cars on any local or rapid JR train in Japan. A separate charge will apply to take a limited express train, which is not included in the ticket’s coverage.

However, you need to pay attention when using this ticket because ticket sales and validity periods are limited to three times a year during spring, summer, and winter. For example, the sales and validity periods for 2023 are indicated below:

Sales and Validity Period
Sales Period: February 20 - March 31, 2023
Validity Period: March 1 - April 10, 2023

Sales Period: July 1 - August 31, 2023
Validity Period: July 20 - September 10, 2023

Sales Period: December 1 - December 31, 2023
Validity Period: December 10, 2023 - January 10, 2024

Destinations like Hakone and Nagoya are located along the route between Tokyo and Kyoto. Wouldn't it be fun to venture off into one of these popular travel destinations?

Enjoy Driving? Then We Recommend a Car

Getting to Kyoto from Tokyo

Photo by Pixta

When taking the expressway from Tokyo to Kyoto, the travel time is around five hours without any rest stops. The highway toll fees cost 10,070 yen once the ETC card discount is applied. Additionally, please calculate and account for gasoline over a 500-kilometer distance.

This method isn’t more affordable than other travel methods when considering the total cost and travel time. On the other hand, we recommend a car if you have a lot of luggage or traveling with children, friends, or a large group!

Do you want to travel to Kyoto with some leeway or make pit stops with friends in a camping-car? Then why not consider this option?

Rental Car Reservations: Tabirai Car Rental allows you to compare major car rental companies across Japan in one search.

MATCHA offers a 10% discount coupon for overseas visitors when renting a car from Nippon Rent-A-Car, one of Japan’s leading car rental companies.

There are numerous Nippon Rent-A-Car offices in Itami Airport, Kansai International Airport, and Kyoto. Are you planning to rent a car after arriving in Kyoto by plane or Shinkansen? Then be sure to check out this deal!


Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Are there periods when tickets for the Shinkansen (bullet train), plane, or highway bus are cheaper or more expensive?

A: LCCs (low-cost carriers) like Jetstar (Japanese) and Peach will occasionally have sales. Please check the respective LCC website for details.

Moreover, prices for the Shinkansen, airlines, and highway buses will increase during periods when Japanese people tend to travel, including Golden Week (typically around April 27-May 6), Obon (around August 10-19), and the New Year’s holiday (around December 28-January 6). For example, Shinkansen prices usually increase by 400 yen for reserved seats on the Super Express during Golden Week.

A source of stress during this period is being unable to get any tickets because everything is sold out. Even driving might end up with you sitting in congested traffic on the expressway during this time. Be sure to make your reservations early and check traffic information beforehand when traveling during peak seasons.

Q2: What’s the best option when traveling to Kyoto by Shinkansen from Tokyo? Boarding the train from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station?

A: The train will arrive at Kyoto Station five minutes earlier from Shinagawa, but there isn’t any price change.

However, Shinagawa Station is only 15 minutes by train from Haneda Airport. It would be better to use Shinagawa Station if you’re traveling from Haneda Airport.

Q3: What highlights does Kyoto Station have?

A: Kyoto Station itself is a popular sightseeing spot.

The architecture is gorgeous and designed to be conscious of the city’s grid system, a classic feature of Heiankyo (Japan’s capital between 794-1869. Present-day Kyoto). From the Skyway walkway above the station, you can look out over the streets of Kyoto.

There are various shopping facilities inside the station building and many gourmet food spots like Kyoto Ramen Koji.

Q4: Are there any discount ride passes when traveling around Kyoto?

A: You can use the Subway & Bus One-Day Pass in Kyoto for unlimited rides on municipal subways and buses.

Another discount ride pass that overseas visitors can use is the JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass for unlimited rides on any JR line in the Kansai region, which includes Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and other areas.

Please read the MATCHA article below for more on ride passes exclusive to overseas travelers!

Enjoy Your Trip to Kyoto!

How to Travel to Kyoto From Tokyo: What’s the Best Method?

There are multiple ways to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo. We recommend the Shinkansen for speed and comfort, while the highway bus is ideal for inexpensive prices. Please select the method that best fits your schedule and budget for a fulfilling stay in Japan.

This MATCHA article introduces wonderful accommodations in Kyoto recommended for families with children or couples. These places are also where you can experience Japanese culture. Additionally, check out and agoda when searching for the best deals on accommodations in Kyoto.

*This article is an updated 2023 version of an article published on August 15, 2016.
All pictures from PIXTA

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