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, however. Coming from Tokyo by bullet train, you’ll stop at Kyoto Station before arriving at Shin-Osaka.

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Best choice: Shinkansen

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 bullet train
The Shinkansen is the easiest way of getting from Tokyo to Osaka. | Photo by iStock.com/vichie81

Comparing Tokyo to Osaka travel options

Here’s a quick comparison of the different types of transport.

TransportComfortPriceTimeEmissionsBooking links
Bullet train★ ★ ★ ★ ★From ¥13,8702 hrs 22 min or more4.65kg CO2Book a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or get a JR Pass from Headout
Flights★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆From ¥5,00090 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport66.5kg CO2Search flights
Buses★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆From ¥2,600~8 hrs15kg CO2Book on Headout or Kosoku Bus
Regular trains★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆¥8,910 (or ¥2,410 with the Seishun 18 Pass)At least 9 hrs10kg CO2
Driving★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆¥15,000+About 5 hrs 30 min (more with traffic)16kg CO2

Carbon emissions

A great thing about the Shinkansen is that it has the lowest emissions per passenger, out of all of the modes 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, highway buses are also among the more energy-efficient options for traveling long distances in Japan. We estimate the Tokyo to Osaka journey by coach will create CO2 emissions of around 15kg per passenger.

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

*Includes shortest embarkation/disembarkation and travel time to/from airport.

Taking the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Osaka

From ¥13,870
2 hours and 22 minutes (fastest service)
Buy a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or a JR Pass in advance

The journey from Tokyo to Osaka on the bullet train takes 2.5 to 3 hours. The route, which is part of the Tōkaidō Shinkansen line, is popular, served by multiple Shinkansen every hour.

Important: The Shinkansen arrives at Shin-Osaka Station, which is not the same as Osaka Station. The JR Tōkaidō Main Line connects the two stations in 4 minutes; the 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.

shin-osaka station
The Shinkansen platform at Shin-Osaka Station (which is not Osaka Station). | Photo by iStock.com/Sanga Park

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.

ServiceNon-reserved seat ticket priceReserved seat ticket priceTravel time
Nozomi¥13,870¥14,7202 hrs 22 mins
Hikari¥13,870¥14,4003 hrs
Kodama¥13,870¥14,4003 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.

Departing Tokyo for Osaka

Shinkansen services for Osaka depart from Tokyo Station, Shinagawa Station, and Shin-Yokohama Station. Osaka’s Shinkansen station is called Shin-Osaka Station, so that’s where you’ll want to get off.

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Shinkansen tickets from Tokyo or Shinagawa Station to Shin-Osaka Station cost the same, but tickets from Shin-Yokohama Station are a little cheaper. Besides these stations, the Tōkaidō Shinkansen also stops at Nagoya Station and Kyoto Station, before arriving at Shin-Osaka Station. Hikari and Kodama Shinkansen services stop at more stations.

Arriving at Shin-Osaka Station

When you arrive at Shin-Osaka Station, it’s important to know that it’s not the main train station in Osaka City. Shin-Osaka Station was built a little out of the city center, specifically to service Shinkansen. From here, you can easily get a range of limited express trains, local trains, and subway lines to other destinations including central Osaka, Kansai International Airport, Kyoto, and Nara.

How often does the Shinkansen run to Osaka from Tokyo?

There is a Nozomi Shinkansen heading from Tokyo to Osaka every 10 minutes or so between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Add in Hikari and Kodama services, and you’re spoilt for choice.

Seat reservations on the Shinkansen to Osaka

Despite the frequency of the Shinkansen services, we like to err on the side of caution and recommend forking out a few hundred yen extra to get a reserved seat. This goes double if you’re traveling during holidays or peak periods, with kids, lots of luggage, or in a group. If you opt for a non-reserved seat, just know that you could end up standing the whole way to Osaka.

See our full guide to riding the Shinkansen for more information on how to reserve seats.

Buying Tokyo to Osaka Shinkansen tickets

You can buy Shinkansen tickets in person at a ticket vending machine or ticket office at most major JR stations. It’s also possible to buy them online via Klook, just note that there’s an extra fulfilment fee.

For more information, see our article on how to buy 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. 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.

What rail passes cover the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka?

If you’re visiting Japan and this is not going to be your only domestic trip, an All Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) may work out to be an economical option. However, with prices starting at ¥50,000 for a 7-day pass, we recommend planning your trip carefully to make sure you make the most of it. Also, keep in mind that the All Japan Rail Pass doesn’t cover travel on Nozomi trains — there is an extra fee of ¥4,960.

Alternatively, you may want to consider the Hokuriku Arch Pass. It can also get you from Tokyo to Osaka, just along a more scenic route. At the time of publication, the price was ¥24,500, though this will go up to ¥30,000 from March 16, 2024.

tokyo to osaka dotombori
Osaka’s famous Dōtonbori area. | Photo by iStock.com/javarman3

Flights from Tokyo to Osaka

From ¥5,000 (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 ¥5,000 or up to ¥12,000 on a low-cost carrier like Peach or Jetstar.

But you’ll need to factor in other expenses, like getting to/from the airports. This could easily add ¥1,000 or more one-way to your trip. And, don’t forget the time required to travel between the city centers and the airports.

Sample flight costs from Tokyo to Osaka

RouteAirlineOne-way FareDate
Tokyo Narita => Osaka Kansai InternationalPeachUS$30.00 May 14, 2024Booking options
Peach Airlines A320
Cheap direct flights between Tokyo and Osaka can be had, but the costs of airport transfers add up. | Photo by Gregory Lane

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, 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 also 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 pricy 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.

For JAL the Japan Explorer Pass is available for foreign visitors to Japan to book. ANA on the other hand has special Experience Japan Fares for domestic flights purchased outside of Japan.

Highway buses from Tokyo to Osaka

From ¥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.

There are various bus companies, but look on Headout, as well as Willer Express and Kosoku Bus, for reasonably priced bus tickets. It’s pretty standard to find a night bus for ¥3,500¥5,000 or less one way.

highway bus japan
Even cheap coaches are generally pretty nice in Japan | Photo by iStock.com/Tony Studio

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.

Regular trains

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!

People riding a local train in Japan
Spending a day chilling on local trains is one way to do the Tokyo–Osaka trip | Photo by iStock.com/jamesteohart

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 every other option more economical.

Driving from Tokyo to Osaka

Around ¥11,000 in tolls alone
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) alone. You’ll also be burning through a tank of fuel. 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.

Tokyo to Osaka travel FAQs

We answer some of the most common questions.

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). You’ll want to book your tickets at least a month in advance.

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 blackout 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 January, 2016. Last updated on March 4, 2024, by Carey Finn.

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