Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Public transportation train travel tips with Japan rail pass. Backpacking Japan.

 

As the former capital of Japan, Kyoto can be a good place to spend a few nights if you want to experience a lot of historical culture.

There are tons of UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto to visit.

 

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

Near Kyoto is another former capital city of Japan with lots of history. You can make a one day trip to Nara where you can find more world heritage sites in Nara…. and you can also find lots of deer.

 

 

How much does a JR pass cost?!

See the current price from an official JR pass vendor for a 7-day, 14-day, and 21-day pass. (partner website)

 

Use this Kyoto tourist map to plan out a perfect 5 days in Kyoto!

Or make it a perfect 2 days in Kyoto.

 

 

So now…

Is it easy to get from Tokyo to Kyoto by train?

Yes, it can be!

You just need to get yourself to one of 2 train stations in Tokyo:

  • Tokyo station
  • Shinagawa station

Then, get on the next shinkansen to Kyoto!

With the JR pass, there is a specific train that you’ll have to wait for, but there are still frequent enough timings of trains running between Tokyo and Kyoto that it’s pretty convenient.

 

If you’re looking to get to Kyoto using your JR pass, you basically have one option that you’ll want to take.

If you don’t have a JR pass, you have a few options to get from Tokyo to Kyoto by train:

  • Tokyo to Kyoto station by one of these shinkansen bullet trains
    • Nozomi
    • Hikari (JR pass option)
  • Take the slowest shinkansen train (Kodama) if you can get a discount ticket
  • Take local trains from Tokyo to Kyoto

 

How to get from Tokyo to Kyoto with a Japan rail pass

Cost with JR pass: FREE!

 

  • HIKARI SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN: To Kyoto station
    • Time from Tokyo station: 2 hours 40 minutes
    • Time from Shinagawa station: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • KODAMA SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN: To Kyoto station
    • Time from Tokyo station: 3 hours 40 minutes
    • Time from Shinagawa station: 3 hours 30 minutes

 

From Tokyo to Kyoto you only need to take one train, and the Hikari and Kodama are both covered under the JR pass.

There’s really no difference between these 2 trains besides how long it takes, which makes the Hikari your best option.

The one small downside of traveling with a JR pass is that it won’t give you access to the fastest trains, which in the case of travel to Kyoto means that you can’t take the Nozomi.

But that’s okay.

For your trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, the Nozomi train would only get you to Kyoto 20 minutes faster than the Hikari.

 

How much does it cost to get to Kyoto from Tokyo WITHOUT a Japan rail pass?

Now, let’s say you’re trying to figure out if you should have your JR pass activated when you go to Kyoto, or you won’t be traveling around Japan at all with a JR pass.

Listed prices are approximate just so you can start to get at least a little bit of an idea.

 

Tokyo to Kyoto train with JR pass. Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama. Shinkansen bullet train. How much does it cost? How much time? Local trains. How much does it cost? Train travel with Japan rail pass. Backpacking Japan.

 

Option 1: Faster shinkansen bullet train – Nozomi or Hikari

Cost: 13,710 yen (US$120)

 

  • NOZOMI SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN: To Kyoto station
    • Time from Tokyo station: 2 hours 20 minutes
    • Time from Shinagawa station: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • HIKARI SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN: To Kyoto station
    • Time from Tokyo station: 2 hours 40 minutes
    • Time from Shinagawa station: 2 hours 30 minutes

 

Since you are traveling without a JR pass, you can choose to take any of the shinkansen trains, and your best option would be the Nozomi since it’s the fastest.

Apart from the time it takes, there is really no difference between the Nozomi and Hikari.

On top of that, the train timings for the Nozomi are generally more frequent, so it will likely be the most convenient too.

No matter which shinkansen train you take, the price of the train ticket will be the same.

When you buy your ticket, you don’t need to specify which train you want to take, unless you are buying a reserved seat.

For unreserved seats, you can simply go to the shinkansen ticket office and say you’d like a ticket for Tokyo to Kyoto. If you’re buying a ticket that’s not for the same day, be sure to specify the date though.

 

Option 2: Slower shinkansen bullet train – Kodama

Cost: 13,710 yen (US$120)

Or maybe even 10,300 yen (US$90)

 

  • KODAMA SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN: To Kyoto station
    • Time from Tokyo station: 3 hours 40 minutes
    • Time from Shinagawa station: 3 hours 30 minutes

 

So as you may notice, the Kodama is nearly 1.5 hours slower than the Nozomi that you have the option of taking for the same price.

WHY would you want to take the slowest shinkansen train when you don’t even have a JR pass?!

It MIGHT be a way to get you to Kyoto for cheaper!

 

So what is this ticket discount price that can save you $30 to get from Tokyo to Kyoto?!

You can check here to see if the Platt Kodama discount is currently available and for additional details.

You’ll buy this train ticket once you’re in Tokyo at the JR Tokai tour ticket offices.

There are limited discount tickets, so it’s best to buy the ticket as early as possible.

There are offices located near the Tokyo station, Shinagawa station, and Shinjuku station. There is also an office near the Shin-Yokohama station if you’ll be staying a little south of Tokyo.

 

Option 3: Local trains from Tokyo to Kyoto

Cost: 8,000 – 9,000 yen (US$85)

Or maybe even less than $30

 

As you can imagine, taking the local train from Tokyo to Kyoto will be a LOT slower compared to taking the bullet train. Remember that the bullet train takes 2.5 hours to get to Kyoto.

But if you’re not short on time and you’re trying to save a little bit of extra money, this is an option you can consider.

 

Tokyo to Kyoto by local train:

  • 5 different trains, so 4 transfers
    • Train #1: 1 hour 45 minutes (Tokyo to Atami)
    • Train #2: 2 hours 10 minutes (Atami to Kakegawa)
    • Train #3: 1 hour (Kakegawa to Toyohashi)
    • Train #4: 2 hours 10 minutes (Toyohashi to Maibara)
    • Train #5: 1 hour (Maibara to Kyoto)
  • Total time from start to finish including transfer time: Around 9 hours

 

This is NOT the only way to get to Kyoto by local trains from Tokyo.

There are alternate routes too, but this is just to give you an idea of what it may take to go for the cheaper train option. You would be looking at 4-6 train transfers if you go for this cheaper way.

 

Now, what is this $30 ticket price for Tokyo to Kyoto?!

You thought saving $30 on your ticket was nice… well what about if the ticket itself is only $30?! That sounds a LOT better than $120!

Well, this is for people traveling in a group, or you might even consider it if there are 2 of you.

It’s said to only be for a limited time, but there is a “seishun 18” day pass.

You can use this for unlimited train rides on JR trains that are local trains and rapid trains. You can’t use it on shinkansen trains, and you can’t use it on JR trains that require a seat reservation.

The other “catch” is that you need to buy a pack of 5 train tickets. It’s actually sold as a ticket package of “5 days worth of travel.” So you can think of this as 5 separate day passes.

The seishun 18 pass costs 11,850 yen (US$105).

Even if you don’t use of all 5 of the train tickets, it can work out to be cheaper to buy the pack if you’re traveling in a group.

  • For a family of 5, this works out to around $21 each
  • For a family of 4, this works out to around $25 each with 1 extra unused ticket
  • If you’re a group of 3, this works out to around $35 each, with 2 unused tickets
  • For 2 people, it would be around $50 each, with 3 unused tickets

You can check here to see if the seishun 18 pass is currently available and for additional details. You’ll buy this pass once you’re in Japan at JR ticket offices.

 

Public transportation apps to download before your trip to Japan:

  • Google Maps
  • Navitime for Japan Travel

Have these apps on your phone and you’ll become a pro in no time at navigating public transportation in Japan!

Top tips for using Navitime to get from Tokyo to Kyoto
  • To search shinkansen timings for a JR pass, see the option “tourist pass”
  • To search local trains only, unclick the following under search options: shinkansen, added-fare trains, city bus

 

Things not to miss in Kyoto

Okay, so now that you have a better idea of how to get to Kyoto, next up!

Here are some of the top places to visit in Kyoto

 

1. Kinkakuji Temple

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Golden temple pavilion, kinkakuji. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

2. Fushimi inari taisha

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Fushimi inari taisha. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

3. Monkey Park

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Arashiyama monkey park. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

4. Daimonji-yama hike

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Daimonji yama hike near Ginkakuji and Philsopher's path. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

5. Hozugawa River

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Arashiyama Sagano train on Hozukyo River. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

6. Nijo Castle

Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen bullet train with JR pass. Best things to do in Kyoto: Nijo Castle. Backpacking Japan with train travel tips.

 

HAPPY TOKYO TO KYOTO PLANNING!

 

Use this Kyoto tourist map to plan out a perfect 5 days in Kyoto!

Or make it a perfect 2 days in Kyoto.

 

How much does it cost to go from Osaka to Hiroshima?

How much does it cost to climb Mt Fuji?

 



More quick tips for planning your trip to Japan

There are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.

The super fast train in Japan
In general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure.

See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.

NEW way of buying individual shinkansen train tickets online!
I will start by saying I have NOT bought train tickets online this way (yet!) to verify this! (But it's on my list for my next trip to Japan!)

There's an online train ticket booking method that's popular for other parts of Asia, and they are just now branching out to Japan.

You can now buy train tickets online here for popular shinkansen train routes. (And some bus routes too.)

I've used this booking site for taking the train from Thailand to Malaysia, and it worked out well, so I would expect it to work out well in Japan too!

The thing is, though, that you need to pick up the physical train tickets in person.

So it won't be enough to just buy the tickets online. I had to do this in Bangkok for my train ticket - and it was easy! So again, I would think it'd be easy for Japan train tickets too.

Search for popular routes in Japan here. For example, Tokyo to Kyoto.

If you end up buying train tickets online this way, I would love to hear how it goes! Whether that's good, or if it came with some challenges!

Natural disasters in Japan
Unfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.

My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.

See how much insurance costs for your trip.

Best travel guides for Japan
If you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.

For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.

See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.

Create your Japan itinerary


That's it for now!