Kyoto is such a popular destination from Tokyo, and there are many ways to make the trip. The bullet train (aka the Shinkansen) — our favorite way to travel — can get you there in under 2.5 hours; other budget options include cheap flights and highway buses.

How to get from Tokyo to Kyoto

Kyoto is about 370 kilometers (225 miles) west of Tokyo. It’s part of the Kansai region, and thus actually much closer to Osaka: the two cities are about 30 minutes apart on the train. Coming from Tokyo, you’ll reach Kyoto before Osaka.

Top choice: Shinkansen

The fastest, easiest, and most convenient option is the Shinkansen, especially if you have a Japan Rail Pass. The cheapest option is usually a highway bus, followed by flights — but these are both a bit time-consuming.

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tokyo to kyoto bullet train
On clear days, Mt. Fuji is visible from the bullet train between Tokyo and Kyoto. | Photo by iStock.com/vichie81

Comparing Tokyo to Kyoto travel options

Here’s a quick overview of all the different types of transport.

Mode of travelComfortPriceTimeEmissionsBooking links
Bullet train★ ★ ★ ★ ★From ¥13,3202 hrs 15 mins (on the fastest service)4.1kg CO2Book a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or get a JR Pass from Headout
Flights★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆From ¥4,00090 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport59.2kg CO2Search flights
Highway buses★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆From ¥3,1007–9 hrs13.4kg CO2Book tickets on Headout or Kosoku Bus
Regular trains★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆¥8,3608 hrs (minimum + transfer time)8.5kg CO2N/A
Driving★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆¥15,000 +Around 5 hrs 30 mins (more with traffic)16kg CO2N/A

Taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto

From ¥13,320
2 hours and 15 minutes (fastest service)
Buy a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or a JR Pass in advance

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen connnects Tokyo and Kyoto (and terminates one stop further, at Shin-Osaka Station). It’s a direct route, so you won’t usually need to transfer. There are three services on this line: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama; the travel time and cost varies by service.

Tōkaidō Shinkansen services to Kyoto

Nozomi is the fastest service on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, and for this reason it costs a little bit extra. Note that the JR Pass covers travel on all services, including Nozomi.

ServiceNon-reserved seat ticket priceReserved seat ticket priceTravel time
Nozomi¥13,320Buy now¥14,170Buy now2 hrs 15 mins
Hikari¥13,320Buy now¥13,850Buy now2 hrs 40 mins
Kodama¥13,320¥13,8503 hrs 40 mins

Note: If you’re traveling during off-peak season, you can knock ¥200 off the reserved seat price. During peak season it’s an extra ¥200 (and an extra ¥400 during super-peak season). For more information on seasonal price fluctuations, see our breakdown of how Shinkansen fares are calculated.

Hikari and Kodama services are priced the same, even though Kodama services take signficantly longer — taking between 3.5 hours and 4 hours to make the trip between Tokyo and Kyoto!

Kodama services also stop at more stations, like Odawara, which is convenient if you want to work in a visit to Hakone on the way from Tokyo to Kyoto.

tokyo shinkansen to kyoto
Not only is the Shinkansen the most convenient way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, it also has a cute platypus nose. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Departing Tokyo for Kyoto

You can board any Tōkaidō Shinkansen service for Kyoto Station at Tokyo Station, Shinagawa Station, or Shin-Yokohama Station. Ticket prices are the same whether you depart from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station. From Shin-Yokohama, the fare is cheaper by ¥670.

After Shin-Yokohama, Nozomi services make one additional stop at Nagoya before Kyoto; meanwhile, Hikari and Kodama services make more stops along the way.

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Arriving at Kyoto Station

Unlike some destinations, where the Shinkansen station is outside the city center, Kyoto Station is right in central Kyoto. You can transfer easily to local trains and buses, the city subway, or catch a taxi.

The modern interior of Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station is super contemporary, which is maybe not what you’d expect for a city famous for its historic attractions. | Photo by iStock.com/coward_lion

How often does the Shinkansen run from Tokyo to Kyoto?

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the most popular bullet train route in the country, with trains departing from Tokyo for Kyoto approximately every 10 minutes. There are PDF timetables here, or you can use navigation apps to plan your journey.

Seat reservations on the Shinkansen to Kyoto

The frequency of trains doesn’t mean you should board without a seat reservation. Opting for a non-reserved seat (jiyūseki) will save you a few hundred yen (see pricing above) — but could see you standing awkwardly the whole way to Kyoto.

Our advice (especially if traveling during rush hour and peak periods) is, if possible, to use those extra coins to get a reserved seat (shiteiseki). You can arrange this easily at JR ticket offices or at specially marked ticket machines.

You can even make seat reservations when activating your JR Pass, if you have one (reservations are free with the pass).

If you’re committed to non-reserved seats, just get to the station well before your planned departure time — so you can line up in the designated places on the platform to snag a seat. It’s also better to board the train at Tokyo Station, where the route begins, rather than get on one stop later at Shinagawa Station.

Kyoto neighborhood with a cherry tree in full bloom
Kyoto is an extremely popular destination during cherry blossom season. | Photo by iStock.com/Sean Pavone

Buying Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen tickets

If you can’t get a JR Pass, or you’re only interested in traveling one way by Shinkansen to Kyoto, Klook offers a Shinkansen ticket service that can deliver your ticket to your accommodation. Prices are as charged by JR, but Klook adds a ¥1,200 fulfillment fee on top.

Another option is the discounted Shinkansen and Kyoto 1-day pass combo ticket, available on JTB. You’ll get a few hundred yen off the regular price.

You can also buy Shinkansen tickets at the station. Read our complete guide to buying Shinkansen tickets.

Luggage rules on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen

If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. Shinkansen luggage rules dictate that luggage with combined dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (included in your JR Pass). Bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all!

What rail passes cover the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto?

The only rail pass that covers travel on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the country-wide Japan Rail Pass. But from October 2023, using an All Japan Rail Pass for this journey only makes sense if you are visiting more places around the country as well.

There is, however, one regional rail pass that you can use to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto: the Hokuriku Arch Pass. The catch? You can’t use the Tōkaidō Shinkansen; instead, you use a combination of other Shinkansen lines and JR Limited Express lines to travel along an arching route from Tokyo to Kyoto via Nagano and Kanazawa.

Note: The JR Pass and the Hokuriku Arch Pass are only available to short-term visitors to Japan.

Low-cost flights from Tokyo to Kyoto

From ¥4,000 (one-way) + travel cost to/from the airport
90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport
Narita Airport or Haneda Airport to Kansai International Airport (KIX)

The nearest, most convenient airport to Kyoto is Kansai International Airport, which is not really that close to Kyoto. While the flight time is minimal — quicker than the Shinkansen — it’s the time spent getting to and from the airports that adds up.

You’ll need more than an hour on each end, just for travel to and from the city center. Or a minimum 30 minutes on the Tokyo side if you use Haneda Airport instead of Narita. That extra travel costs extra money, too.

Prices for flights start around ¥4,000 to ¥6,000 one way, but can go for twice as much. There are promo fares and sales every so often, so be on the lookout.

RouteAirlineOne-way FareDate
Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai InternationalJetstarUS$28.00 Jun 26, 2024Booking options
Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai InternationalPeachUS$33.00 Aug 27, 2024Booking options
Peach Airlines
Low-cost carriers like Peach travel between major Japanese cities. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Departing Tokyo

Currently, StarFlyer is the only one of Japan’s budget airlines flying the Haneda–KIX route. All other LCCs depart from Narita Airport, which means you need to factor in the time and cost of traveling between Tokyo and Narita Airport. You need to budget around 90 minutes for this journey, and a minimum of ¥1,000.

It’s generally quicker and cheaper to travel between central Tokyo and Haneda. You can do it by public transport from most center city districts in about 30 minutes. However, flights from Haneda are often more expensive.

Arriving at Kansai International Airport

Once you land at Kansai Airport, you’ll have to board a train or bus to Kyoto.

The JR Haruka Ltd. Express service connects Kansai Airport to Kyoto in 75 minutes. The ride costs about ¥3,630 one-way in high season. However, discounted tickets can be purchased online (foreign passport holders only) for as little as ¥1,800.

ICOCA & Haruka package deal

For short-term visitors, we recommend getting an ICOCA & Haruka package at the airport station ticket office. This is a good deal at ¥3,800 one-way (and ¥5,600 for a round trip).

In addition to transport from the airport, you get an IC travel card called ICOCA that comes with an initial balance of ¥1,500. You can use this card to pay for rail and bus travel in Kyoto and around Japan.

Note 1: Residents of Japan cannot buy this package.
Note 2: The route from Kansai Airport to Kyoto is also covered by the JR Pass and most JR West regional rail passes.

What about Osaka’s Itami Airport?

Low-cost carriers generally don’t fly into Osaka Itami Airport. You can book flights from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport to Osaka Itami Airport on legacy carriers like JAL and ANA. However, you are still looking at a 1-hour bus ride into Kyoto (or multiple train transfers).

Highway buses to Kyoto from Tokyo

From ¥3,100 one-way
7 hours or more

Several different companies operate highway buses along the route between Tokyo and Kyoto (and nearby Osaka). A ride starts from as little as ¥3,100 and can go up to around ¥12,000, depending on comfort and season.

The journey takes about 7 to 9 hours. Buses that depart from Tokyo during the day usually take longer due to traffic. Late-night buses, which are the preferred option, depart Tokyo between 9 p.m. and midnight, and can get you to Kyoto Station as early as 5:15 a.m., giving you a full day to explore.

highway bus japan
Overnight buses are a great option for budget travelers. | Photo by iStock.com/Tony Studio

Play around on Headout, as well as bus companies like Willer Express and Kosoku Bus to see what your cheapest options are.

Note: Many buses from Tokyo end their journey in Osaka, which is not far from Kyoto. The two cities are just a 30-minute train ride apart. So, if you find a good price on a bus ticket that goes to Osaka but not Kyoto, it’s still a viable option. Read up on other ways to get from Tokyo to Osaka.

Regular trains: The slow travel option

Approximately ¥8,360 one-way
8 hours or more + transfer time
Tokyo, Shimbashi, Shinagawa, Kawasaki or Yokohama Station to Kyoto Station

JR Tokyo train ticket
Not quite this cheap. | Photo by Greg Lane

The approximate cost of a one-way trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on regular, rather than bullet, trains, is ¥8,360. Those are not huge savings over the Shinkansen, considering the journey would take all day!

The Tōkaidō Main Line follows roughly the same path as the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, but makes over 100 stops. No single train travels the whole route, so you’d have to transfer at least four times.

The Seishun 18 Pass

There is, however, a hack that allows significant savings, which makes this journey more attractive. The Seishun 18 Pass is a seasonal rail package consisting of five tickets (for 5 consecutive or non-consecutive days of travel) for ¥12,050. Anytime during the validity period, solo travelers can use up all 5 days, or group travelers can split them among themselves. In effect, 1 day of travel costs just ¥2,410 per person.

The catch? The pass can only be used on local and rapid JR trains, which makes for long journeys. Plus, it’s only valid for a few weeks, three times a year. Read more about the Seishun 18 Pass and how you can take advantage of it.

Driving from Tokyo to Kyoto

From ¥15,000 one way
5 hours and 30 minutes or more

Japan has a well developed, but expensive highway network. On top of fuel (likely ¥8,000 to ¥12,000 depending on vehicle size), rental car charges, and sky-high parking prices on arrival, the highway toll charges alone from Tokyo (Shinjuku) to Kyoto (Sanjo) will set you back between ¥10,000 and ¥15,000. That works out to a lot more than any of the other options here.

With rest stops, the journey can easily take 6 and a half to 7 hours. If you feel like you need to drive, we recommend renting after you arrive at your destination, rather than wasting time and money going back and forth from Tokyo to Kyoto by car.

For more on traveling by car, see our guide to renting a car in Japan.

Video guide to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto

The reverse route: Traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo

If you are looking for the best ways to get from Kyoto to Tokyo, rather than the other way round, your transport options are almost exactly the same — with a few different special offers for tourists. We have a dedicated guide to the reverse route — read it here.

Tokyo to Kyoto travel FAQs

Traditional rock garden at a temple in Kyoto
Spend less time worrying about travel and more time wondering what this rock garden is supposed to mean. | Photo by iStock.com/Yue_

Can I do a day trip from Tokyo to Kyoto?

While we recommend spending a few days in Kyoto, the simple answer is yes. As long as you plan things very carefully, you can manage a lot in a day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo.

A guided tour of Kyoto can help you fit in a lot of the best places without having to worry about logistics.

The Shinkansen is the best option for a day trip, as it starts running around 6 a.m. and the last train departs Kyoto for Tokyo at around 9:30 p.m. So you can get a full day of sightseeing, in if you’re prepared to be up with the larks and go to bed late. You can also get a full day in Kyoto by using a night bus there and a night bus back, but this can be tiring.

How far is it from Tokyo to Kyoto?

Kyoto is about 370km (225 miles) west of Tokyo as the crow flies. By rail or road, the journey is more like 460km (285 miles).

How do you get from Tokyo to Kyoto?

The fastest and easiest way is taking the bullet train (Shinkansen). Alternative ways of getting between the two cities include highway buses and airplanes, including low-cost flights.

How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Kyoto?

It depends whether you take the bullet train, bus, or plane (or local trains). If you choose to travel by plane, you are looking at about 90 minutes in the air, and a couple of hours of transfer time either side (you need to get to Narita or Haneda Airport in Tokyo and then from Kansai International Airport in Osaka to Kyoto). This makes the Shinkansen, at 2 hrs 15 min to 3 hrs 40 min, the fastest option for getting from central Tokyo to central Kyoto.

How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Kyoto by Shinkansen?

The fastest bullet train service, the Nozomi, will get you there in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The second-fastest option, the Hikari, takes about 20 minutes longer. And the slowest option, the Kodama, takes about 3 hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Unlike some Shinkansen stations, which are located in satellite hubs (and often have “Shin” or “New” amended to their names), both Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station are centrally located.

How much is the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto?

Without discounts, a one-way ticket with non-reserved seating costs ¥13,320. For a reserved seat, which we recommend, the price is a little more: ¥13,650¥14,570, depending on the service and season. The faster Nozomi service is more expensive than Hikari and Kodama services (but only if you’re reserving a seat).

Should I buy a JR Pass to get from Tokyo to Kyoto?

If Tokyo to Kyoto is your only trip, then a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) will not be worth it. You’ll want to buy a point-to-point Shinkansen ticket. However, if you are planning to travel extensively, e.g. Tokyo to Kyoto, and then on to Hiroshima and Fukuoka, a JR Pass can save you money. Read more about the JR Pass.

Can you see Mt. Fuj from the Shinkansen to Kyoto?

On a clear day, yes. For the best view of Mt. Fuji, snag yourself a window seat on the right side of the train.

When is the best time to book travel between Tokyo and Kyoto?

The usual peak travel season cautions apply. Travel in Japan is always more hectic, crowded, and expensive during peak periods, which include: year-end/New Year’s, cherry blossom season (late March to early April), Golden Week, and summer break (late July through August). This is especially true in Kyoto, which is a very, very popular domestic tourist destination.

Shinkansen tickets fluctuate only slightly — a couple of hundred yen — but flights and buses, with dynamic pricing, can cost as much as twice the price of an off-peak ticket.

Coming from overseas? Kyoto’s nearest major airport is Kansai International Airport (KIX). From there, you can pick-up transport from the airport to Kyoto.

While we do our best to ensure it is correct, pricing and other information is subject to change. This post was originally written by Tiffany. First published in February 2015. Last updated in October 2023.

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