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 Kyoto and Tokyo — 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. There are also overnight buses and cheap flights.

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

The best ways to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo

Top choice: Shinkansen

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 and are making good use of it.

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Should I buy a JR Pass to get from Kyoto to Tokyo?

If Kyoto to Tokyo is your only trip, then a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) will not be worth it. You’ll want to buy a point-to-point Shinkansen ticket (available on Klook and Rakuten Travel Experiences). However, if you are planning to travel more extensively, e.g. Tokyo to Osaka, then on to Hiroshima and Fukuoka, before going back to Tokyo via Kyoto, a JR Pass can definitely save you money. Read more about the JR Pass.

Second best: Highway bus

Taking an overnight bus is a popular choice for the budget conscious, as it’s affordable and saves on a night’s accommodation. Tickets start from ¥3,100 and you can book them on Kosoku Bus, in English.

Note: You will be sacrificing comfort, so the bus is not for the nasty-when-lacking-sleep type of traveler!

Comparing Kyoto to Tokyo travel options

Mode of travelComfortPriceTimeEmissionsBooking Links
Shinkansen★ ★ ★ ★ ★From ¥13,3202 hrs 15 mins or more4.1kg CO2Book a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or get a JR Pass from Klook or JRPass.com
Flights★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆From ¥4,000 one-way (flight only)90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport in Osaka59.2kg CO2Search flights
Highway buses★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆From ¥3,1007–9 hrs13.4kg CO2Search buses
Regular trains★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆¥8,3608 hrs or more + transfer time, cheaper with the Seishun 18 Pass8.5kg CO2N/A
Driving★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆¥10,000+Around 5 hrs 30 mins (more with traffic)16kg CO2N/A

Taking the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo

From ¥13,320 one way
2 hours and 15 minutes (fastest service)
Buy a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or a JR Pass in advance

Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station are connected by the Tōkaidō Shinkansen. It’s a direct route between the two cities, so no transfer is necessary. 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, so 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 changes 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 iStock.com/Yongyuan Dai

Note: If you have a lot of luggage, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service. 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). 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. This rail pass is only available to short-term visitors to Japan, not residents.

Hokuriku Arch Pass

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 guide.

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 ¥3,100 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 iStock.com/tonystudio

While the bus is not the most comfortable or convenient option (and it’s definitely less than ideal for families), it’s an economical way of traveling between major cities in Japan. 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.

RouteAirlineOne-way FareDate
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo NaritaPeachUS$30.00 May 23, 2024Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo NaritaJetstarUS$30.00 Oct 02, 2024Booking options

Prices can get 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 iStock.com/franckreporter

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 minutes. The ride costs in the region of ¥3,630 one way in high season. However, discounted tickets can be purchased online (foreign passport holders only), for as little as ¥1,800.

Check the options for getting from Narita to Tokyo, and Haneda to Tokyo.

Local trains and the Seishun 18 Pass

Approximately ¥8,360 one way; ¥2,410 using the Seishun 18 Pass
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 5 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 four times.

Driving to Tokyo from Kyoto

From ¥15,000 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, see our guide to renting a car. And for more on driving in Japan, see our article on Japan’s network of toll highways.

Kyoto to Tokyo travel FAQs

Kyoto to Tokyo
The megacity awaits. | Photo by iStock.com/Eloi_Omella

Can you make a day trip from Kyoto to Tokyo?

You definitely can. Taking the Shinkansen is your best bet. You’ll want to leave as soon as the trains start running, though, to give yourself a full day in Tokyo. 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. Fuji 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 when traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in September 2017. Last updated in October 2023.

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