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How to Get from Tokyo to Hakone, Kyoto or Osaka

Japan is a must-see country due to its uniqueness, history, entertainment and culinary choice. If you are in Japan or planning to visit Japan, particularly Hakone, Kyoto or Osaka, this is the right article to read

You can discover these cities by boarding the Tokaido shinkansen (bullet trains, linking Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka), the oldest and most popular in the country. Obtain your JR Pass and you will be well set. The JR Pass is the most cost-effective way to travel in Japan. Read more below.

Quick facts

  • Buy your JR Pass before leaving your home country.
  • All shinkansen have three cars of unreserved seating either at the front or back of the train. These will be marked as such in both English and Japanese.
  • The city of Osaka is served by over seven different railway and subway companies.
  • In Japan, there is no reduced rate except for children aged between 0 and 12 years. If a child is under the age of 6, you do not need to purchase a ticket if the child sits on your lap.

Get around Japan by Shinkansen bullet train

With a 20,000-km network of lines, and high performance, punctual trains, Japan is a train-lover's paradise. If you want to maximize your time in Japan and travel quickly between Japanese cities, opt for the high-speed shinkansen 'bullet trains'.

These trains are a big hit with tourists. They are easy to access, with good signposting at the stations. Inside the carriages there is a digital information system in both Japanese and English, which shows upcoming stops as well as estimated arrival times.

In order to board the shinkansen, you will need a ticket called a JR Pass. You have easy access to the shinkansen trains with just a quick check of the pass at the ticket gate. You can board as many trains as you like, so you can go anywhere easily in Japan with this type of transport. This is the best way to travel around Japan.

From Tokyo to Hakone

With a Japanese Rail Pass, the best way to reach Hakone is to take the JR shinkansen from Tokyo station or Shinagawa station on the Tokaido line to Odawara. When taking the train, check the stops as few 'Hikari' shinkansen stop in Odawara. Tokaido shinkansen bullet trains leaving from Tokyo station travel to Odawara in 35 minutes.

To make sure you reach your destination you are recommended to take a 'Kodama' shinkansen. Note that only Hikari and Kodama shinkansen services stop at Odawara. In Odawara you need to transfer to the private Odakyu Railway (Hakone Tozan Line) for the rest of the journey to Hakone. You can buy a Hakone Free Pass from Odawara.

The shinkansen trains run frequently (every 30 min), particularly on the Tokaido line, between Tokyo and Kyoto, so you don’t have to worry about booking. However, if you want to book a seat you can do it without additional charge before you catch your train, by going into a booking office at the train station (midori no madoguchi) and showing your Japanese Rail Pass.

Hakone, southwest of Tokyo, is a mountainous area dominated by Japan’s tallest peak, Mt. Fuji. Aside from the eye-popping views of that iconic volcano and Lake Ashi, Hakone is famous for its hot springs (onsen) as well as traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) where taking a bath in hot spring water is the best way to relax.

A collection of museums and volcanic sulfurous hot springs such as Owakudani completes the attractions. With quick and convenient rail and bus connections, Hakone can easily be visited on a day trip from Tokyo; or a 2-day trip, if you want to experience the ryokan.

From Tokyo to Kyoto

Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto with the Japanese Rail Pass is easy. You should take the shinkansen Hikari train from either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station in central Tokyo, and arrive at Kyoto Station.

Three trains run on the Tokaido shinkansen line: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Take note that Nozomi trains are not part of the National JR Group. Therefore, they are not included on the Japanese Rail Pass.

The alternatives to Nozomi trains are Hikari and Kodama. Both are high-speed bullet trains. Kodama makes trips between smaller towns, however. It runs at an operating speed of 258 km/h (175 mph). Hikari trains run between the major cities of Japan at speeds of around 320 km/h (199 mph), making fewer stops.

A standard Tokyo to Kyoto trip with the JR Pass takes close to 2 hours and 40 minutes, taking the Hikari shinkansen. All Kodama trains need close to 4 hours for the same trip.

Seat reservation is recommended for longer trips. To reserve, you can go to a booth at the station and show your JR Pass, before boarding.

Kyoto is world famous for its wonderful temples and shrines. But that’s only the beginning of the story. There’s also incredible shopping, cycling, hiking, museums, galleries and green spaces. There are over 1,000 temples and over 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto.

Kyoto is filled with green space – in addition to parks, you’ll find greenery and open space in most temples and shrines. And don’t miss the Kyoto Gyoen – Kyoto’s Central Park.

From Tokyo to Osaka

The fastest and most efficient way to travel between Tokyo and Osaka is by taking the bullet train on the Tokaido shinkansen line.

During the day, there are several shinkansen every hour between Osaka and Kyoto. You rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train. There are 3 types of train on this line. If you’re using a Japanese Rail Pass, you’ll be limited to the Hikari and Kodama bullet trains, but this won’t make much difference.

From Tokyo to Osaka or vice versa, it takes about 3 hours for Hikari trains, and 4 hours for Kodama trains, since they stop at all stations. You are recommended to reserve your seats in advance, at least the day before, to guarantee seating for the entire journey.

Just go to any JR Ticket Office to reserve. This is recommended, especially if you’re traveling with your family or with a group.

Osaka is the third largest city in Japan, with a population in its greater metropolitan area of over 2.5 million people. It is the central metropolis of the Kansai region and the largest of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio.

There are many possible activities in this city, such as visiting museums, learning about history, going to Osaka castle, shopping, or enjoying the amusement park.

From Osaka to Kyoto

Kyoto is one of Japan’s best-preserved cities, with thousands of celebrated shrines, temples, palaces and gardens. Fortunately it is also easily accessible from Osaka, if you have one of the JR Passes.

The JR Tokaido shinkansen service will get you from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto Station in 15 minutes. This is the fastest and most comfortable route from Osaka to Kyoto, and might be best if you have a Japanese Rail Pass.

Note that the shinkansen trains stop not at Osaka Station, but at Shin-Osaka Station, one station north of Osaka Station by JR train. Once you arrive at Shin-Osaka station you can transfer to the city-trains or subways.

Seat reservation is recommended in order to make sure you get a seat during your trip. Making a reservation is easy; you just go to the train station office before the train departs.

Useful tips for traveling in Japan

Here are some useful tips for you to remember when visiting Japan:

1. Japanese Rail Pass holders can use all shinkansen trains except the Nozomi and the Mizuho.

2. The Japanese Rail Pass entitles free reservation on all trains that are covered.

3. All JR stations display station names on their platforms in both Japanese and English.

4. In major cities, it's best not to travel during the morning and evening rush hours (7:30 to 9:30 and 17:00 to 20:00) to avoid the crowds.

5. There is free WiFi service in each station.

6. Travel with Asia Highlights and eliminate the hassle during your trip in Japan.

How to get on and off the Shinkansen

Here is some useful information on how to board and alight from the shinkansen:

Boarding the shinkansen:

1. Pass through the ticket gate: If you are a JR Pass holder you will have to go through the manual ticket gate because you need to show your ticket to the staff.

2. Make your way to the shinkansen platform.

3. Pass the shinkansen ticket gates: A second set of gates divides shinkansen platforms from the regular train platforms, although at some stations there are also direct gates to the shinkansen platforms that allow passengers to skip the regular gates.

4. Go to your platform

5. Find your car

6. Find your seat (if you made a reservation beforehand)

Alighting from the shinkansen:

1.When you reach your destination, make sure to take all of your belongings with you.

2.Prepare to alight from the car.

3.Alight from the car and make your way out.

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