Heading west? The best way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka


Osaka, the second largest city of Japan. Its unique culture so different from Tokyo always attracts many tourists from all over the world. Also, Osaka is the one of the oldest merchant cities which still occupies very important position in the modern economy of Japan, then many people visit this city for business purpose. Accordingly, there are lots of ways to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. But of course you want to choose the most reasonable and fastest way of all. This columns will introduce transportation between Tokyo and Osaka in terms of fares and travel durations.

※All the prices mentioned in this column is as at December 2017.


Highway Bus

Tokyo – Osaka
Single fare: 2,900yen – about 14,000yen
Travel time: approx. 8hrs 30min

If your concern focuses on fares most, highway bus is the best transport for you. Fares of highway buses vary season to season. Except for holiday seasons that fares normally hike, they offer single fare for Tokyo – Osaka for around 3,000yen. Highway buses run daytime and overnight. Overnight buses are normally cheaper than daytime ones. To make your travel comfortable, check bus facilities such as toilet, grade and size of seats before booking. Normally, fares are proportional to grade of facility. Importantly, Highway buses are not very cheap during the busiest time and trains can be cheaper and faster option sometimes. Bookings can be made on each bus company7s website as well as portal websites.

Takuten Travel (Japanese)


By air

Haneda – Itami (approx. 70min): One way 10,890yen~
Haneda – Kansai (approx. 85min):One way 11,090yen~
Travel time (from Haneda airport to Osaka city center): Approx. 3hrs

There are two ways to fly between Tokyo and Osaka. Haneda – Itami or Haneda – Kansai airport. While Itami airport is closer to the center of Osaka city, Kansai airport is better to access to south area of Osaka city. JAL and ANA fly between Haneda and Osaka, and STARFLYER flies between Haneda and Kansai airport as well as JAL and ANA. Standard fare is quite expensive as 28,000yen, but they each airline normally offers good discount for early bookings. For Example, the fare is discounted to 11,000yen if you book more than 75days earlier. Flight duration is about an hour, but total travel time is about 3 hours including waiting time and transit to the center of Osaka city.



JR Local train

Actually, you can travel between Tokyo and Osaka by JR local trains within the same day. But you have to change trains at least 6 times. If you catch 5:46am train from Tokyo to Numazu, total travel time will be 9 hours. However, you have to change trains within a few minutes at every station just like a suspense in railway. By the way, if you miss this 5:46 train from Tokyo station, train connection turns inefficient and travel duration takes more than 12 hours. Therefore it is quite hard way for first timers in Japan because it requires a lot of expertise on railways in Japan. But if you are an optimistic traveler who can enjoy even a little happening, local trains can be the best transport for you.

Great discount: Seishun 18 ticket

Seishun 18 ticket is very useful discounted ticket available from each JR companies which costs 11,850yen for 5 tickets. If you are traveling in a group of 5 people, fare is 2,370yen per head from Tokyo to Osaka. One thing to note about Seishun 18 ticket is that this ticket is for local trains only. It cannot be used as basic train ticket for ant express trains.

In 2017, Seishun 18 is sold:
Spring: 20 February – 31 March 2017
Summer: 1 July 2017 – 31 August 2017
Winter: 1 December 2017 – 31 December 2017

In 2017, Seishun 18 will be valid for:
Spring:1 March 2017 – 10 April 2017
Summer: 20 July 2017 – 10 September 2017
Winter: 10 December 2017 – 10 January 2018

※Schedule for 2018 is not announced yet, but expected to be similar to 2017 schedule.


Shinkansen (Bullet train)

Tokyo station – Shin-Osaka station
Single basic fare: 8,750yen
Single express fare for Nozomi: 5,700yen for reserved/4,870yen for non-reserved
Single express fare for Hikari: 5,390yen for reserved/4,870yen for non-reserved
Travel time: 2hrs 30min ~3hrs

In addition to the shortest travel time, Shinkansen is also cost-effective offering flat rate of 14,000yen fare throughout a year. There is no need to change a train from Tokyo to Osaka. In fact, it is the most commonly used method of transportation between these two cities. Unlike highway buses or airlines, fares are all fixed no matter of seasons. All the latest Shinkansen carriages are equipped with a lot more comfortable seats with plenty of room in front compared to buses and airplanes. Foreign tourists can also purchase Japan Rail Pass which is valid for not just trains but also local JR buses to offer great discount for those who visit Japan.

JR Central
JR West (Japanese)


Rental car

Tokyo station – Shin-Osaka station (Total distance 502.4km)
Rental car for one day (drop off at different location): 27,000yen ~(includes drop off fee 22,680yen)
Toll: 12,200yen (11,500yen if use ETC)
Petrol for one way: Around 5,000yen (regular 36L)
Travel time: 6hours or more

Total expense to travel from Tokyo to Osaka by rental car is roughly 45,000yen by dropping off the car at different location. It is too expensive when you are traveling by yourself, but if you are in a group of 4 people, it is a little over 11,000yen per head. The majority of the rental car price above is a special charge to drop the car off at different location. If you return the car to the same shop you hired it, the cost can be lower than that even considering tolls and petrol fees of return trip.



Good voyage!

There are lots of methods to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. If you are budget traveler, save money and spend more time by highway bus or JR local trains. If you want to save time, Shinkansen is the best option most of the time, or air way can be cheaper than Shinkansen sometimes. Fares vary depending on a season or timing of booking except for trains, and look overvalued considering total travel time. Make sure to research all methods of transportation to decide the best one for you. Also, rental car can be very economical way to travel if you are traveling in a group.


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あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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