Whether you’re heading from Tokyo to Osaka with plans to chow down, check out Universal Studios Japan, or any of the other super fun things you can do in Osaka, we’ve compiled the fastest and cheapest ways to get there.
How to get from Tokyo to Osaka
Osaka: cheaper, dirtier, and a whole lot friendlier than Tokyo. A vibey city of 2.5 million, it’s bigger than neighboring Kyoto and also more down to earth. It’s also famous for its local food culture. But most importantly, how are you getting there?
Osaka is about 400 km west of Tokyo as the crow flies. By rail or road, the journey is more like 515 km.
The fastest, easiest, and most convenient option is the Shinkansen, especially if you have a Japan Rail Pass or are looking to arrive quick-fast. The cheapest option is usually a highway bus, followed by flights — but these are both a bit time-consuming.
Tokyo to Osaka travel options
|Bullet train||★ ★ ★ ★ ★||From ¥13,870||2 hrs 22 min or more||4.65kg CO2||Book a one-way ticket on Klook, or get a JR Pass from Japan Experience or JRail Pass|
|Flights||★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆||From ¥4,000||90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport||66.5kg CO2||Search flights|
|Buses||★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆||From ¥2,600||~8 hrs||15kg CO2||Search Buses|
|Regular trains||★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆||¥8,910 (or ¥2,410 with the Seishun 18 Pass)||At least 9 hrs||10kg CO2||–|
|Driving||★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆||Around ¥11,000 in tolls||About 5 hrs 30 min||16kg CO2||–|
One other great fact about the Shinkansen is that it is the lowest emissions per passenger mode of transport (apart from walking or cycling). According to JR and our own calculations, taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka — about 4.65KG CO2 per passenger — is about 1/12 of the carbon emissions of flying.
Being a form of mass transit, traveling by coach is one of the more energy efficient options for traveling longer distances in Japan. We estimate the Tokyo to Osaka journey by coach will create CO2 emissions of around 15kg per passenger.
Pro tip: If you’re visiting Japan and this is not going to be your only domestic trip, a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) will almost certainly work out to be the most economical option. This discount rail ticket allows virtually unlimited travel on Shinkansen trains for 7, 14, or 21 days. If you’re making a quick trip from Tokyo to Osaka, then popping down to Hiroshima, for example, the pass will more than pay for itself.
How long does it take to get from Tokyo to Osaka?
The journey from Tokyo to Osaka on the bullet train take a reasonable 2.5 to 3 hours. The route, on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line, is popular, served by multiple Shinkansen every hour.
Important! The Shinkansen arrives at Shin-Osaka Station, which is not Osaka Station proper. The JR Tōkaidō Main Line connects the two stations in 4 minutes; JR Kyoto, JR Kōbe, and JR Takarazuka line trains all run on this route. The ¥170 fare is covered by the bullet train ticket. Unlike Osaka Station, Shin-Osaka Station is relatively easy to navigate and the transfer is a only a short walk.
Tōkaidō Shinkansen services to Shin-Osaka
The fastest service, Nozomi, will get you from Tokyo Station to Shin-Osaka Station in just 2 hours and 22 minutes. Taking the Hikari will add an extra 40 minutes or so to your travel time. The sluggish Kodama, the oldest in the fleet, takes closer to 4 hours, and is generally avoided except by last-minute riders and super discount-seekers. If you’re using a Japan Rail Pass, you’ll be limited to the Hikari and Kodama services.
|Service||Non-reserved seat ticket price||Reserved seat ticket price||Travel time|
|Nozomi||¥13,870||¥14,720||2 hrs 22 mins|
|Kodama||¥13,870||¥14,400||3 hrs 50 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.
Seat reservations on the bullet train to Osaka
If you are traveling with kids, have big bags, or aren’t comfortable being on your feet for hours, it’s best to book a reserved seat (shiteiseki). You can do this in advance (and seat reservations are free for JR Pass holders).
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. New Shinkansen luggage rules dictate that luggage with dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations.
This is not at any extra cost; however, space for luggage is limited. And if you are reserving a spot for your luggage you also have to reserve a seat for yourself (meaning you can’t go for the cheaper unreserved seats). Bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all.
How to save money with discount tickets and packages
There are a few cheaper ways to take the bullet train. If you’re coming from outside Japan, it’s recommended that you take advantage of a Japan Rail Pass.
NOTE: From October 1, the JR Pass will go up in price and might not be worth it for your particular journey anymore.
If you live here, or your schedule is flexible and you’re cool with 4 hours on an older model of bullet train, you could use the Puratto (Platt) Kodama Economy Plan and ride down to Osaka on the Kodama. This gets you a one-way ticket for between ¥10,900 and ¥12,500, depending on the time of year. You have to buy a Puratto ticket at least one day in advance, online from the JR Tokai website (Japanese version only).
The Hokuriku Arch Pass
If slow travel is your jam, you might want to check out the Hokuriku Arch Pass, too. It’s a nifty regional rail pass that takes you between Tokyo and Osaka, meandering along an arching route that includes Nagano, Toyama, and Kanazawa.
Flights from Tokyo to OsakaFrom ¥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)
Taking to the sky is also an option, but it’s not always the most convenient way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. A one-way ticket can go for as low as ¥4,000 or up to ¥12,000 on a low-cost carrier like Peach or Jetstar, but you’ll need to factor in other expenses.
Sample flight costs from Tokyo to Osaka
|Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai International||Peach||US$31.00||Nov 07, 2023||Booking options|
|Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai International||Jetstar||US$32.00||Oct 31, 2023||Booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => Osaka Kansai International||Japan Airlines||US$57.00||Apr 17, 2024||Booking options|
|Tokyo Haneda => Osaka Kansai International||ANA||US$229.00||Apr 01, 2024||Booking options|
Getting from KIX to Osaka
Once you land at Kansai Airport, you’ll have to board a train or bus to Osaka.
The JR Haruka Ltd. Express service connects Kansai Airport and JR Osaka Station in just under an hour. The ride costs in the region of ¥2,740 one-way. However, seriously discounted tickets can be purchased online (foreign passport holders only) for as little as ¥1,600.
What about Haneda Airport? And Osaka Itami Airport?
There are direct flights between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and Osaka Itami Airport. Both of these airports are closer to their respective city centers than Narita and KIX.
However, low cost carriers like Peach and Jetstar do not fly this route. The only airlines that do are the pricier legacy carriers, Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA). Both offer discounted plane tickets to foreign travelers — currently as low as ¥7,700 one-way on the Haneda to Itami route — but this is still usually more than LCC fares.
Highway buses from Tokyo to OsakaFrom ¥2,600
8 hours or more
Hopping on a highway bus will get you from Tokyo to Osaka in around 8 hours and set you back between ¥2,600–¥10,200 one-way, depending on what level of comfort you’re after. There are night buses and day buses, with the former departing around midnight and rolling into Osaka at the crack of dawn.
The buses leave from major stations in Tokyo. Most buses have toilets; some don’t, but they all stop regularly for loo and smoke breaks.
9 hours or more
Travelers who are happy going nowhere slowly might want to consider the ultra-cheap Seishun 18 Pass. For ¥12,050, you’ll get 5 (non-consecutive is fine) days of travel on any and all local JR trains, as well as rapid JR trains that don’t require seat reservations. That’s ¥2,410 per day of travel.
This means you can, technically anyway, get to Osaka and back for ¥4,820 (with 3 days of travel left on your ticket). It’s not the most efficient way of doing things but certainly an adventure!
You can also share the tickets with friends — for example, one set of the five tickets could get five of you down to Osaka (that would use them all up). The snag? You’re looking at at least 9 hours of total travel time, with at least seven transfers. You can use the rail route planning site Jorudan (Japanese and English) to plot your trip.
Another catch is that the Seishun 18 Pass is available only three times a year (coinciding with university holidays). If you were keen on using regular trains to get from Tokyo to Osaka without the Seishun 18 Pass, think twice: the cost of the trip is around ¥9,000 one way, making pretty much everything other option more economical.
Driving from Tokyo to OsakaAround ¥11,000 in tolls
5 hours and 30 minutes or more
You can also rent a car and drive from Tokyo to Osaka, but the highway tolls and speed limits make this a less-than-fun journey. The drive takes about 5 or 6 hours and costs about ¥11,000 in tolls (ETC fare). And then you’ve got a car in Osaka, where driving and parking are a pain.
If you’ve got weeks at your disposal and a good pair of walking shoes, you could hoof it hobo style (although to be honest, we wouldn’t). You could also put pedal to the metal and roll that mamachari across the country. Or you could travel with a sense of class and ride that discount unicorn you found at Donki…
Video guide to travel between Tokyo and Osaka
Going the other way: Traveling from Osaka to Tokyo
If you’re heading east to the capital of Japan, your transport options are pretty much identical, with the exception of some of the discount deals. We have a dedicated guide to the Osaka to Tokyo route — give it a quick read.
Tokyo to Osaka travel FAQs
When is the best time to book travel between Tokyo and Osaka?
Osaka is an evergreen destination, though 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, summer break (late July through August).
Shinkansen tickets fluctuate only slightly — a few hundred yen — but flights and buses, with dynamic pricing, can cost as much as twice the price of an off-peak ticket. There are no black out dates on the discount fares for international tourists offered by JAL and ANA, though flights may very well sell out during busy periods.
Generally speaking, weekdays are better than weekends (though beware of getting on city trains during rush hour with luggage).
Is it possible to do a day trip to Osaka from Tokyo?
Yes, it is. The Shinkansen starts running around 6 a.m. and the last return train from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo is around 9 p.m. This gives you a whole day in Osaka — but does mean missing out on Osaka’s famous nightlife.
A night bus gives you slightly more time, but even an 11 p.m. return bus still requires a relative early night (by Osaka standards!).
Osaka is much more doable as a day trip from Kyoto, which is only a 30-minute train ride away.
While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This post was first published in 2016 and is updated regularly. Last updated April 2023 by Maria Danuco.