1. 4 Smart Ways to Travel on Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto

4 Smart Ways to Travel on Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto

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Yuko Kuriyama

Being a native Kyotoite is not easy; can't get anywhere without weaving through the World Heritage sites, expected to talk like a maiko, and too many old and new restaurants to choose from...and I am loving it! Happy to show you the city I live and love.

Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto 

As a lifelong resident of Kyoto, I have been witnessing the changes around city of Kyoto in many different aspects over the years. One huge difference is the surge in foreign visitors. It seems like Tokyo and Kyoto are both at the top of international traveler’s itineraries. Since Kyoto does not have an airport, Shinkansen, or a bullet train is a major choice of transportation for both international and domestic travelers. There are several different ways to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto ( they are 500 kilometers, or 310 miles apart) on Shinkansen. I am going to show you types of Shinkansen and its fare, great value Japan Rail Pass and Shinkansen+hotel packages, and how to buy shinkansen tickets at a discount ticket shop, and tips for maximizing your Shinkansen experience.


If you are planning to take Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, please read on to find out the most cost effective and convenient way for you!




■Nozomi or Hikari?

There are three train types of Shinkansen; 700, N700, and N700A and each run as either Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Since Kodama is the slowest with its fare the same as Hikari, I do not see much merit taking this one to Kyoto, so I am going to leave this train out for this particular article.


  Time Stops Fare (JPY)
Nozomi 2hr20min


     Green 18,690
Reserved 13,910

Ordinary 13,080

Hikari 2hr40-3hr Shinagawa→
Shin-Yokohama→Nagoya + more depends on the train
     Green 18,380
Reserved 13,600

Ordinary 13,080
Kodama 4hr30min Every stops til Kyoto Reserved 13,600
Ordinary 13,080


There are three seat grades: Green (first-class), Reserved, and Ordinary (non-reserved). The fastest and most frequent is Nozomi. It runs every few minutes and makes only three stops before Kyoto. Nozomi runs 285 kilometers per hour (177 mph) when at its top speed. Hikari runs every half hour with a slightly cheaper fare. Shinkansen are amazingly on time with a few exceptions such as rough weather.


                    Inside Reserved/Ordinary car

| Seating Information


– All seats are smoke-free, however there are smoking rooms available on each train.

Every Shinkansen has at least one seating space for a wheelchair. It is best to
  call/visit the station 
for details for use in advance.

– Every seat on Green cars has power outlets. For Nozomi and Hikari, power outlets
  are on every window side seat and front and end rows of each car (N700
  and N700A). 700 has few outlets, so it might be helpful to check the train type
  before deciding your ride.








■Japan Rail Pass


























                                                                                                                            As of May 2017. Prices in JPY


This pass allows unlimited travel across Japan on trains, buses and even ferries operated by JR (Japan Rail) including reserved seats on Shinkansen (excluding Nozomi). You will receive the maximum benefit of this pass if your itinerary includes more than a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on Shinkansen. This pass is such an amazing money-saver it makes domestic tourists jealous because the pass is strictly for international visitors who fulfill the eligibility requirements for use. Japan Rail Pass can be purchased and used only by a foreign tourist visiting Japan for sight seeing purpose under the entry status of “temporary visitor”( I am going to leave out the eligibility requirements for Japanese who live abroad in this article). For how to reserve a seat, please read on to Discount Ticket Shops.





■Discount Ticket Shops

If you are more like an impulsive traveler, discount ticket shops will be a good place to start.They have a wide variety of tickets of any kind really, including Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto off course.

For example, at Access Ticket in Tokyo Station, the price for a Reserved seat to Kyoto is ¥12,800 (original rate ¥13,910), and at Tokai in Kyoto, it is¥13,200. An average price of an Ordinary seat at discount ticket shops is around¥12,950, just slightly cheaper than the original rate of ¥13,080. (Prices subject to change and may vary at each shop)

The shops are found near train stations or in the city area. After purchasing a Shinkansen ticket for a reserved seat, you need to reserve a seat at either Midorino-madoguchi (ticket office), or ticket-vending machine (both are in the train stations) prior to using the ticket.

Access Ticket at Kyoto Kawaramachi

Often times there is a long line at Midorino-madoguchi because reservation process is handled by a clerk. On the other hand, reserving a seat on the vending machine seem faster and require no conversation with the clerk but it can be a little tricky because seating allocation is done automatically by the computer. You could end up sitting next to a stranger on a not crowded train. Reservation can be made between one month prior and right before your departure, however do not wait until the last minute. Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto is a very popular line, remember? Allowing ample time for reserving a seat at Midorino-madoguchi and tell the clerk your seat preference will be a safe bet.


           Midorino-madoguchi ticket office





■Shinkansen+Hotel Package

If you are planning a short trip from Tokyo to Kyoto on Shinkansen, this package is definitely worth checking out! “Tokai Tours” offers amazing deals on various types of Shinkansen plus hotel packages. The package includes a round trip between Tokyo and Kyoto and an accommodation up to three nights. Some packages cost as much as just a round trip of Shinkansen fare! Booking is quite easy; go to Tokai Tours website and select each Shinkansen and a hotel from a list of alternatives, then pay with your credit card online and that’s it! Just show up at one of the Tokai Tours branches at the train station you designated upon reservation and collect Shinkansen tickets on the day of your departure( this can be done in advance) and go onboard! At the hotel, just tell your name at the front desk to check in.




■What About Flying to Kyoto?

There is no airport in Kyoto; this pretty much explains why it is not such a great idea to fly to Kyoto from Tokyo. When you think about transfer time and cost from the city area of Tokyo to Narita airport and then from Kix/Osaka airport to Kyoto (approx. 60-75 min.), taking an airplane may not be an attractive option. It is a time consuming and not a cost effective way to travel to Kyoto.






 Tips for an Enjoyable Shinkansen Ride 

Once onboard, you will probably notice how clean the entire car is, and how quiet and smooth Shinkansen runs. It is comfortable and easy to fall asleep, but I would like to suggest something to maximize your Shinkansen experience:


|Ekiben Bento Box

How about a delicious lunch (or dinner, or maybe for a snack?) while on a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto? Ekiben is the bento lunch boxes sold at the train stations and on the trains.

 Ekiben-ya Matsuri


Shinkansen and Ekiben go hand in hand in Japanese culture. Buying an Ekiben before getting on the Shinkansen is something to look forward doing for many Japanese (I know I do). Ekiben can be purchased from on-board food and beverage cart service, however, there will be much fewer selections as Ekiben shops in the station offers. So, set aside some time to pick one up at the station! At Ekiben-Ya Matsuri in JR Tokyo station, there are as many as 200 types of Ekiben from across Japan for you to choose from. It will be interesting to see and taste regional uniqueness. Definitely recommend trying one!



Shinkansen E7 bento ¥1,300

50 items of variety lunch bento ¥1,350


|Check the Speed

Download a speedometer app in advance and see how fast you are going! It will be interesting and (could be) even educational.


|View Mount Fuji

If it is a sunny day, Mt. Fuji can be viewed on your right closest at approximately 45 minutes after departure from Tokyo.



Shinkansen is fast, dependable, clean, and safe transportation Japan has to offer, and speaking of safety, here is an excerpt from Japan Rail Central website:


No accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries to passengers onboard since operations commenced in 1964.

– Personnel are highly-skilled in safety awareness through comprehensive training

– Train control system with sophisticated technology;continuous safety-related investment (including 
  countermeasures for derailment and deviation for further anti-earthquake measures) in addition to 
  reinforcement of infrastructures.


Just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Hope you love the experience!








JR Tokai Timetable for July 2017 – Sep 2017:


Japan Rail Pass: http://railway.jr-central.co.jp/jikoku/_pdf/shinkansen_west_bound170701.pdf

Tokai Tours Shinkansen Tour-Direct:  http://st-direct.jp/en/?scid=top0011&sc=1

Ekiben-Ya Matsuri: http://www.nre.co.jp.e.yj.hp.transer.com/ekiben/tabid/229/brnid/66/Default.aspx






生活の知恵お役立ち情報.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/08/09, from http://phoenixyz.com/

Kanpai!.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/08/09, from http://www.kanpai-japan.com/travel-guide/japan-rail-pass

えぬななひゃくえーの鉄道ブログ.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/08/10,from http://blog.livedoor.jp/n700a_nozomi/archives/1026559077.html

モノログ.(n.d.)Retrieved2017/08/18, from http://monoloog.net/?p=5267

新宿まとめサイト.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/08/09, from http://i3ch.com

株式会社日本レストランエンタプライズ.(n.d.). Retrieved 2017/08/09, from http://www.nre.co.jp/ekiben/tabid/229/brnid/66/Default.aspx

東洋経済オンライン.(n.d.).Retrieved 2017/08/15, from http://toyokeizai.net/articles/-/167833


Make an online reservation to have a precious time with Geisha!

Author Profile

Yuko Kuriyama
Yuko Kuriyama
Being a native Kyotoite is not easy; can't get anywhere without weaving through the World Heritage sites, expected to talk like a maiko, and too many old and new restaurants to choose from...and I am loving it! Happy to show you the city I live and love.