Kyoto is a must on any traveler’s Japan itinerary. Eventually though, you’ll probably have to leave the charming old capital and head back to Tokyo. The trip from Kyoto to Tokyo is quick and easy, as it’s one of the most popular travel routes in Japan.

It’s about 370 kilometers (225 miles) between Tokyo and Kyoto — a distance that was once traversed by foot! Nowdays, we’re lucky enough to have other options including the Shinkasen (bullet train), which can do the journey in under 2.5 hours; overnight buses and cheap flights.

Heading the other way? Check out our article for how to get from Tokyo to Kyoto.

The best ways to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto

By far the fastest and most efficient way of getting from Kyoto to Tokyo is the Shinkansen (aka bullet train). It’s a popular choice, but not always the cheapest option — unless you have a Japan Rail Pass.

Pro tip: If you’re doing any other trips within Japan, buying a Japan Rail Pass is almost definitely your best option. It pays for you to go up, down, and all over the country on the Shinkansen.

You can also make the Kyoto to Tokyo trip via bus, plane, car, or local train. Taking an overnight bus is a popular choice for the budget conscious, as it’s affordable and saves on a night’s accommodation. But you’ll be sacrificing comfort, so it’s not for the faint of heart.

Options for getting from Kyoto to Tokyo

Mode of travel Comfort Price Time Emissions Booking Links
Shinkansen/bullet train ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ From ¥13,320 2 hrs 15 mins (on the fastest service) 4.1kg CO2 Book a one-way ticket on Klook, or get a JR Pass from
Flights ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ From ¥4,000 one-way (flight only) 90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport 59.2kg CO2 Search flights
Highway buses ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ From ¥3,100 7–9 hrs 13.4kg CO2 Search Buses
Regular trains ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¥8,360 8 hrs (minimum + transfer time) 8.5kg CO2 N/A
Driving ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ¥10,000+ Around 5 hrs 30 mins (more with traffic) 16kg CO2 N/A

Taking the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo

From ¥13,320
2 hours and 15 minutes (fastest service)
Kyoto Station to Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station

Tokyo and Kyoto are directly connected by the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. There are a few different services running along this route, so the journey time varies, but allow 2.5 to 3 hours on average.

The fastest Shinkansen service is the Nozomi, which will get you from Kyoto to Tokyo in about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Next in line is the Hikari, which makes the journey in 2 hours 40 minutes. The slowest option is the Kodama, which takes about 3 hours and 50 minutes. Unless you’re buying a special discount ticket for the Kodama (see below), it’s not really worth taking. There is roughly one Shinkansen departing Kyoto Station every 6 to 10 minutes, so options are plentiful.

A one-way ticket from Kyoto to Tokyo costs about ¥13,320 to ¥14,570. The price shifts depending on a variety of factors, including which Shinkansen service you opt for, whether you are traveling in peak season, or get a reserved seat or not.

For more details, see our breakdown of how Shinkansen fares are calculated. For everything else Shinkansen, see our mega guide to riding the bullet train in Japan.

tokyo to kyoto bullet train
Bullet trains are a speedy option. | Photo by Dai

Note: If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. Recent Shinkansen luggage rules dictate that luggage with dimensions of over 160cm but under 250cm will require special reservations (included in your JR Pass, if you have one), and bags over 250cm won’t be allowed onboard the bullet train at all.

Rail passes and other discounts

The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. Note that the fastest (Nozomi) service is not covered by the rail pass, though, so you’ll want to catch a Hikari. Also keep in mind that this rail pass is only available to short term visitors to Japan, not residents.

You could also consider the Hokuriku Arch Pass. It’s a regional rail pass that takes you between Kyoto and Tokyo, along an arching route via Kanazawa and Nagano. For more details see our dedicated Hokuriku Arch Pass coverage.

Highway buses between Kyoto and Tokyo

From ¥3,100 one-way
7 hours or more

Another option for getting from Kyoto to Tokyo is to take an overnight highway bus. They typically leave Kyoto Station just before midnight and deposit you in Tokyo around 6:30 a.m. One-way tickets start at ¥2,500 and go up depending on what level of plushness you want and when you book. Check out Willer Express and Kosoku Bus to see what’s available.

Highway Bus Selection
It’s not fancy, but it’s cheap. | Photo by

While busing is not the most comfortable or convenient option (and it’s definitely less than ideal for families), it’s a reliably economical way of traveling between major cities in Japan. Women might want to note that women-only buses are available.

Flying between Kyoto and Tokyo: Low-cost airlines

From ¥4,000 one-way (flight only)
90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport
Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Narita Airport or Haneda Airport

Japan’s fleet of low-cost carriers offer discount airfares between neighboring Osaka and Tokyo. If don’t mind traveling from Kyoto to Kansai International Airport, you can fly to Tokyo for around ¥3,500¥8,000 one-way.

Route Airline One-way Fare Date
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Narita Jetstar US$32.00 Oct 02, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Narita Peach US$36.00 May 23, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Haneda Japan Airlines US$62.00 Nov 27, 2023 Booking options

Prices can go even lower during promo sales. Keep an eye on airlines like Peach and Jetstar for value deals. Flights take about 90 minutes and land at either Narita or Haneda Airport. Most LCCs use Narita Airport.

Kyoto to Tokyo flights
Fly away to Tokyo. | Photo by

Just remember to factor in the cost of airport transfers, which can add up to quite a lot. The JR Haruka Ltd. Express service connects Kyoto with Kansai Airport to Kyoto in 75-minute. The ride costs in the region of ¥3,630 one-way in high season. However, seriously discounted tickets can be purchased online (foreign passport holders only) for as little as ¥1,800.

Here are the options for getting from Narita to Tokyo, and these are your transport choices if you arrive at Haneda. For Narita, budget a minimum of 90 minutes and ¥1,000.

Local trains and the Seishun 18

Approximately ¥8,360 one-way
8 hours or more

If you’re stony broke and happen to be in Japan during Seishun 18 ticket season, you could inch your way to Kyoto on local JR trains over a couple of days (maybe just one, if you time it right). 

The Seishun 18 pass comes out three times a year (in summer, winter, and spring) and allows five consecutive or non-consecutive days of unlimited travel on local and rapid JR trains (nothing faster) for ¥12,050. You can split one ticket five ways, giving a group of five travelers one full day of travel for just ¥2,410.

Note that journeys with the Seishun 18 ticket are very long and rather complicated, so plan your route carefully before you commit! The Tōkaidō Main Line is the most direct route, following roughly the same path as the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. No single train travels the whole route, so you’d have to transfer at least 4 times.

Driving to Tokyo from Kyoto

From ¥10,000 one-way
5 hours and 30 minutes or more

When taking into account the cost of tolls and fuel along with the 5.5 to 6.5 hour travel time, driving from Kyoto to Tokyo (or vice versa) doesn’t make a lot of sense.

For a standard vehicle using ETC (the automatic toll collection system) the tolls alone from Minami Kyoto to Shinjuku in Tokyo would be ¥10,000 to ¥15,000, depending on the route. On top of the tolls, the 285 mile (460 km) journey should also empty your gas tank. Of course, if you are traveling with multiple passengers, pets, or large items of luggage, driving starts making more sense.

If you don’t have your own wheels, consult our guide to renting a car. And for more on driving in Japan, see our article on Japan’s network of toll highways.

FAQs about traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo

Kyoto to Tokyo
The megacity awaits. | Photo by

Can you make a day trip from Kyoto to Tokyo?

You definitely could. Taking the Shinkansen is your best bet. You could also bookend your day with overnight highway buses to really maximize your time, but you’ll be exhausted the next day.

Can you see Mt Fuj from the Shinkansen to Tokyo?

On a clear day, yes. For the best view of Mt Fuji, snag yourself a window seat on the left side of the train.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. This article was first published in 2017. Last updated in April 2023 by Maria Danuco.

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