If you’re traveling between Tokyo and Osaka, or Tokyo and Kyoto, then the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is easily the most convenient option. Here’s everything you need to know about Japan’s busiest bullet-train line.

Launched in 1964, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen was the world’s first high-speed rail line. Today, it is operated by JR Central and is the busiest Shinkansen route in Japan — ferrying tourists and locals alike between two of Japan’s most populated — and popular — cities. After stopping in Kyoto and Osaka, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen trains often continue along the Sanyō Shinkansen route to Kyūshū.

tokyo castles
Odawara Castle. | Photo by iStock.com/Vincent_St_Thomas

Highlights along the Tōkaidō Shinkansen route

There are some great things to see and do along the Tōkaidō Shinkansen — it is the most popular Shinkansen route, after all. Here are our top recommendations:

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Pro tip: On a clear day, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen gives you a lovely view of Mt. Fuji. Reserve E seats for the window seat and best view — this goes for travel in either direction.

Services on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen has three different types of train that run along the route. All three lines start in Tokyo and finish at Shin-Osaka Station, but they are different in terms of speed and stopping patterns.

Keep in mind that services on these trains may continue past Shin-Osaka as part of the Sanyō Shinkansen route. See below for more details.

ServiceStart stationEnd stationStopsFrequency of departures
NozomiTokyoShin-OsakaMajor stops only~4-6 per hour
HikariTokyoShin-OsakaMost stations between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, but exact stopping patterns alternate~1-2 per hour
KodamaTokyoShin-OsakaAll stations~2-3 per hour

Nozomi

The Nozomi is the fastest service on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, reaching speeds of up to 300 km per hour. It only stops at major stations between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, and makes the full journey in just 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Nozomi trains have both reserved and non-reserved seating, except during holiday periods in Japan like Golden Week and New Year, when the whole train is reserved-seating only.

There are usually three green cars — which is like business class — on Nozomi trains. Some Nozomi services continue past Shin-Osaka on the Sanyō Shinkansen route, going down to Hakata Station in Fukuoka.

Note: Although the Nozomi is the fastest way to get from Tokyo to Osaka, it is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. You will need to pay a surcharge to use it.

Hikari

Hikari trains are the next fastest trains on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen route. They can travel up to 285 km per hour, and take about 3 hours to get from Tokyo to Osaka. Hikari trains have five carriages with unreserved seating, and three green cars. Some Hikari trains also continue past Shin-Osaka Station to Hakata Station on the Sanyō Shinkansen route.

Kodama

The Kodama is the slowest service on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. It stops at every station between Osaka and Tokyo, and takes about 4 hours. Kodama trains have a mix of reserved and non-reserved seats, and three green cars.

A JR ticket office. | Photo by iStock.com/bankrx

Buying Tōkaidō Shinkansen tickets and making seat reservations

You can buy Tōkaidō Shinkansen tickets either in person or online. To buy tickets in person, you need to visit a JR train station and use the ticket machines, or visit a ticket office. If you’d rather buy a ticket online, you have a few more options, including Klook and Rakuten Travel Experiences.

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Some JR Passes cover the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, but only for the Hikari and Kodama services. If you’d like to use your JR Pass to ride the fastest Nozomi service, you’ll have to buy a special complimentary ticket. This will cost an extra ¥4,180 to ¥4,960 one way, depending on your destination.

More information on buying Shinkansen tickets and making seat reservations can be found in our Ultimate Shinkansen Guide.

Luggage restrictions on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen

If you plan to take large luggage on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, you need to be aware of the size restrictions. You need to reserve specific seats if your suitcases has total dimensions of 161 cm to 250cm. Alternatively, you can reserve space in the baggage compartment — provided your suitcase fits into 80 x 60 x 50 cm for the upper space, or 80 x 60 x 40 cm for the lower space.

Pack light or be prepared to make luggage reservations.

For more information on luggage storage on the Shinkansen, you can read our full bullet-train luggage rules guide.

Rail passes and other discounts on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen

You can save money by purchasing a rail pass, for unlimited rides, or seeking out discounts and promotions on single-use tickets.

What rail passes are good for the Tōkaidō Shinkansen?

While we love our regional rail passes, none of them cover the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. The All Japan Rail Pass is the only rail pass that covers it. And even then, it only covers the Hikari and Kodama services — if you want to ride the Nozomi, you’ll need to splash out extra for complimentary tickets.

Another downside to the fact that the All Japan Rail Pass is the only pass valid for the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, is that it’s not available to foreign residents of Japan.

Discounts and promotions

Here are a few other ways to get discounts on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen:

  • Eki-net: If you register for the Japanese version of JR’s online ticket service, called “Eki-net”, you may be able to snag tokudane tickets. These tickets have discounts ranging from 5% to 50% off, but dates and numbers are limited. Even if you can’t get tokudane tickets, booking an e-ticket or a round trip will get you a small discount. The only thing with Eki-net is that it can be tricky to use, even for Japanese speakers!
  • Student discounts: Students (from junior high school to university level) can get 20% off Shinkansen tickets for journeys over 101 km. You need to get a student passenger fare discount certificate (学生・生徒旅客運賃割引証 or gakusei seito ryokaku unchin waribikishō) from your school and take it to a JR ticket office to buy your tickets.

For more ideas, check out our guide on how to ride the Shinkansen for less.

Shinkansen and hotel packages

A few different websites offer discount packages that include Shinkansen tickets and accommodation. However, the value of the packages varies a lot, and often the websites are only available in Japanese.

Here are a few to check out:

Where does the Tōkaidō Shinkansen go?

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen runs between Tokyo Station in eastern Japan and Shin-Osaka Station (Osaka City) in western Japan. Some Tōkaidō Shinkansen trains continue past Osaka to Hakata Station (Fukuoka City) and become part of the Sanyō Shinkansen.

route map of the Tokaido Shinkansen
Photo by Tokyo Cheapo

Major stations at a glance

StationServiceTravel time from TokyoUnreserved seat fareReserved seat fare
OdawaraKodama, some Hikari30 min¥3,280¥3,810
AtamiKodama, some Hikari45 min¥3,740¥4,270
NagoyaAll services1 hr 35 min¥10,560¥11,300
KyotoAll services2 hr 10 min¥13,320¥14,170
Shin-OsakaAll services2 hr 30 min¥13,870¥14,720

Prices were correct as of January, 2024, and are based on regular season travel. Children aged 6 to 11 ride for half price.

Stations of interest on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen

Odawara Station

Odawara Station is in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The city is known as the gateway to Hakone, as well as Odawara Castle. It’s also a great place to get some fresh seafood and enjoy the ocean views.

From Odawara Station, you can catch a number of different local train lines, including the JR Tōkaidō Main Line and Shōnan-Shinjuku Line. You can also transfer to the Odakyu Line or Hakone Tozan Line.

Where can I go near Odawara Station?

From Odawara Station, it’s just a five-minute walk to Odawara Castle. You could also visit the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History, which has an impressive collection of fossils and insects, or Children’s Forest Wanpaku Land with its gardens and play areas, both of which are just 15 minutes away by bus.

Atami Station

Atami Station is in Atami City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Atami is a popular summer getaway from Tokyo, at least partially thanks to its beaches and onsen (hot springs), and also its convenient Shinkansen connection to Tokyo.

Beaches await in Atami. | Photo by Chris Kirkland

Besides the Shinkansen, Atami Station also services local JR lines — the Tōkaidō Main Line and the Itō Line.

Where can I go near Atami Station?

From Atami Station, it’s a 10-minute bus ride or 15-minute walk to Atami Sun Beach. You can also visit the MOA Museum of Art; it’s a bit further away — 35 minutes by bus — but its impressive collection and stunning sea views are well worth it.

Nagoya Station

Don’t miss Ghibli Park in Nagoya. | Photo by Maria Danuco

Nagoya Station is the main train station in Nagoya City, the capital city of Aichi Prefecture. Nagoya is mostly known for being an economic center with a strong manufacturing industry, but it’s slowly becoming more popular with tourists thanks to Ghibli Park, which opened in 2022.

From Nagoya Station, you can catch a variety of local JR and private train lines. These include the Tōkaidō Main Line, the Chūō Main Line, and the Kansai Main Line, as well as the Aonami Line, which can all take you to other nearby cities. Plus, there’s also the Higashiyama Line and Sakura-dōri Line subway lines. Finally, while technically their own stations, Meitetsu Nagoya Station and Kintetsu Nagoya Station are joined to Nagoya Station, and you can easily transfer between them.

Where can I go near Nagoya Station?

The area around Nagoya Station is mostly business orientated, but you can take a 10-minute walk to Noritake Garden. Otherwise, you can catch local sightseeing buses — called the Me-guru Bus — to various attractions around the city, including Nagoya Castle and Ōsu Shopping District.

And while not necessarily nearby, most tourists will pass through Nagoya Station on the way to Ghibli Park. To get to Ghibli Park from Nagoya Station, you can take either a train for about one hour, or a direct bus service for 40 minutes (but departures for this are infrequent). You could even take a taxi, but that also takes about an hour and is much more expensive!

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station is the main train station in Kyoto — Japan’s ancient capital and a very popular tourist destination. It’s full of temples, shrines, and traditional charm — and tourists, obviously.

kyoto weekend
Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous attractions. | Photo by Lily Crossley-Baxter

Kyoto Station has connections to lots of local train lines and bus routes. There are a few different JR West and Kintetsu Railway lines that will get you to less-crowded places like Lake Biwa and Nara, while the Karasuma Line subway travels north-south through Kyoto City.

Pro tip: Check out our full guides on getting around Kyoto and Kyoto discount travel passes to make your trip as smooth as possible.

Where can I go near Kyoto Station?

Kyoto Tower is within walking distance of Kyoto Station’s north exit. Otherwise, Kyoto’s attractions are quite spread out, so if you’d like to see some of the city’s famous temples or shrines you’ll need to hop on a train or bus. For example, Kiyomizudera Temple and Kinkaku-ji Temple are both about 30 minutes from the station, but require a few transfers.

Shin-Osaka Station

Shin-Osaka Station is the Shinkansen station in Osaka City — the third biggest city in Japan, especially well-known for its food.

The most important thing to know about Shin-Osaka Station is that it’s not the main train station in Osaka. That’s Osaka Station, which is about five minutes away by train. However, Shin-Osaka Station still has good connections. For example, you can take the Haruka Limited Express from here to Kyoto, or in the other direction to Kansai International Airport. There’s also the Thunderbird Limited Express, which can get you to Fukui and Kanazawa, as well as numerous other Limited Express and local train lines.

Where can I go near Shin-Osaka Station?

Dotonbori, Osaka
Osaka’s Dōtonbori district at night. | Photo by iStock.com/Nikada

To be perfectly honest, there isn’t much near Shin-Osaka Station. It’s mainly a transit point to Osaka or other cities. If you head into Osaka itself, it only takes five minutes to get to Osaka Station — from there, it’s quick and easy to get to popular attractions like Osaka Castle and the Dōtonbori entertainment district.

Tōkaidō Shinkansen FAQs

Can you use the JR Pass on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen?

The only JR Pass that you can use on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the All Japan Rail Pass. Just keep in mind that the All Japan Rail Pass doesn’t cover travel on Nozomi service trains, you’ll need to buy a separate, supplementary ticket for that.

What trains run on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen?

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen uses both N700A series 16-carriage trains, and N700S series 16-carriage trains.

Is there a cart service on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen?

Cart services on this Shinkansen route ended in 2023. This was because of both staff shortages and declining sales. We are still sad about it, because Shinkansen coffee is the kind of bad-good coffee that adds meaning to life.

How fast does the Tōkaidō Shinkansen travel?

The fastest train on this route is the Nozomi service, which reaches speeds of up to 300 km per hour.

When did the Tōkaidō Shinkansen start running?

It was launched in 1964.

Are any extensions planned?

No, there are no extensions planned.

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While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

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