Traveling from Osaka to Tokyo is quick and easy, as it’s one of the most popular routes in Japan. 

The two cities are separated by a distance of approximately 500 km, which can be covered by bullet train, highway bus, or low-cost carrier — it all depends on how much time and money you have. Read on for a comprehensive breakdown of all your travel options.

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

Suggested Activity
Highly Recommended Osaka Food Tour
Book this best-selling tour and see why Osaka is known as Japan's kitchen. Taste famous dishes like okonomiyaki, kushikatsu and more, with a friendly local guide.

The best ways to travel from Osaka to Tokyo

Top choice: Shinkansen

Hands down the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way of traveling between Osaka and Tokyo is the Shinkansen, which is the bullet train. However, this is also the most expensive option, unless you have a Japan Rail Pass and are putting it to good use.

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

If Osaka to Tokyo is your only trip, then a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) is not worth it. It would be cheaper to buy a point-to-point Shinkansen ticket (available on Klook and Rakuten Travel Experiences). However, if you are planning to travel around more, e.g. Osaka to Tokyo, then on to Sendai and Aomori, before going back to Osaka, a JR Pass can save you cash. Learn more about the JR Pass.

Second best: Highway bus

Overnight buses are a popular choice, as they are economical and save on a night’s accommodation. Tickets start from ¥3,100 and you can book them on Kosoku Bus, in English. The only caveat is that they aren’t very comfortable, so you might arrive bleary-eyed and grumpy!

Note: Since Osaka is just a short train ride from Kyoto, the options for getting from Kyoto to Tokyo are largely the same.

Comparing Osaka to Tokyo travel options

TransportComfortPriceTimeEmissionsBooking Links
Bullet train★ ★ ★ ★ ★From ¥13,8702 hrs 22 min (using the fastest service)4.65kg CO2Book a one-way ticket on Klook or Rakuten Travel Experiences, or get a JR Pass from Klook or JRail Pass
Flights★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆From ¥4,00090 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport66.5kg CO2Search flights
Buses★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆From ¥2,600~8 hrs15kg CO2Search buses
Local trains★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆¥2,410 (using the Seishun 18 Pass)At least 9 hrs10kg CO2
Driving★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆¥11,000+~6 hrs16kg CO2
tokyo to osaka bullet train
For the speedsters. | Photo by iStock.com/Yongyuan Dai

Taking the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo

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 Shinkansen, or bullet train, is definitely the fastest and most convenient way of getting from Osaka to Tokyo, and it’s well worth experiencing a ride on one of the world’s top railways. While the Shinkansen is not always the cheapest option, if you are looking to reach Tokyo within a couple of hours, without the hassle of transfers, this is your best choice.

Note: The bullet train departs from Shin-Osaka Station, not Osaka Station, which is a couple of stops away.

How long does the Shinkansen take?

The ride from Osaka to Tokyo typically takes 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on which Shinkansen service you choose. The fastest option is the Nozomi, which is the one that takes 2 hours and 22 minutes. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you’ll need to pay an extra ¥4,960 to ride the Nozomi. There is no extra charge to catch the Hikari, but it takes closer to 3 hours to make the journey.

The slowest service, the Kodama, will get you there in around 4 hours. Because the Kodama is rather sluggish, it’s best avoided. A Shinkansen departs Shin-Osaka Station roughly every 5–15 minutes, so you can leave whenever you’re ready.

Cost of taking the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo

Buying a regular one-way ticket from Osaka to Tokyo will cost you ¥13,870 for a non-reserved seat. For a reserved seat, the cost is ¥14,200¥15,120, depending on the service (Nozomi or Hikari/Kodama) and the season (off-peak, peak, super-peak, etc.).

For more information on seasonal price fluctuations, see our breakdown of how Shinkansen fares are calculated. But the gist of it is that traveling is more expensive during times like Golden Week and New Year.

Should you reserve a seat on the Shinkansen?

To save some money, you can risk non-reserved seating, but you might end up with nowhere to sit and have to stand all the way — which can be uncomfortable. If you are traveling with children, don’t like standing for long periods of time, or have large bags, our advice is to go for a reserved seat. You can reserve your seats in advance at a JR ticket office, at any major JR station in Japan.

Remember: New Shinkansen luggage rules mean that bags over a certain size require a special seat reservation.

Pro tip: If you have a lot of luggage, or even one huge bag, consider sending it on ahead with a luggage delivery service.

The All Japan Rail Pass and the Hokuriku Arch Pass

Taking the bullet train can be costly, but there are ways to make it more affordable. The famous Japan Rail Pass covers Shinkansen travel between Tokyo and Osaka (just not on the Nozomi service). However, prices increased in 2023 and now a 7-day pass costs ¥50,000, so you’ll need to plan your journey carefully to work out if the pass is right for you.

If you don’t mind taking the scenic route, we recommend getting a Hokuriku Arch Pass instead. It’s a regional rail pass that takes you between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo, along an arching route that includes Kanazawa and Nagano. At the time of publication, the price was ¥24,500, though this will go up to ¥30,000 from March 16, 2024.

Flying from Osaka to Tokyo: Low-cost airlines

From ¥4,000 (one way) + travel cost to/from the airport
90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport
Itami or KIX to Narita or Haneda

Various low-cost carriers (LCCs) offer discount airfares between Kansai International Airport and Tokyo. It’s also possible to fly from Itami Airport, though these flights are typically more expensive.

Prices usually range between ¥4,000 and ¥8,000 one way. During sales, tickets can be even cheaper. The flight from Osaka to Tokyo takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Note that most LCCs land at Narita, while legacy carriers like JAL and ANA fly to the more convenient Haneda. 

In the lead-up to your trip, it’s a good idea to check the websites of budget airlines like Jetstar and Peach directly for promos.

flight osaka to tokyo
Fancy flying? | Photo by iStock.com/joel-t

Flights from Kansai Airport to Tokyo

RouteAirlineOne-way FareDate
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo NaritaJetstarUS$28.00 Jun 19, 2024Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo NaritaPeachUS$33.00 Aug 26, 2024Booking options

Flights from Itami Airport to Tokyo

RouteAirlineOne-way FareDate
Osaka Itami => Tokyo HanedaJapan AirlinesUS$63.00 Sep 08, 2024Booking options

Before booking anything, remember that you’ll have to cough up for airport transfers on both ends — which can sometimes negate the savings you think you’re getting. Read about the options for getting from Narita to Tokyo and Haneda to Tokyo, so you know how much to budget.

Highway buses between Osaka and Tokyo

From ¥2,600
8 hours or more

If you’re okay with long bus trips, taking an overnight highway bus from Osaka to Tokyo is a good-value option. Buses typically depart from Umeda, Namba, or Shin-Osaka Station between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., and arrive in Tokyo around 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. the next morning.

Highway Bus Shinjuku Station
Busin’ it to Tokyo. | Photo by iStock.com/tokiomarinelife

You can buy a one-way ticket for as little as ¥2,600, with prices going up depending on the level of comfort you’re after and the dates you’re booking. Check Willer Express and Kosoku Bus to see what’s available. Note that female-only buses are sometimes available, which is handy for solo female travelers in Japan.

Local trains and Seishun 18: A dirt-cheap alternative

¥2,410 one way using the Seishun 18 Pass, approximately ¥8,500 without it
9 hours or more

If you find yourself traveling during Seishun 18 ticket season, you could take a very slow ride from Osaka to Tokyo using nothing but local and rapid JR trains. This may take a full day (or even two), but if you’re a hardcore cheapo, it’s a viable alternative.

The Seishun 18 Pass is sold 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.

The cool thing is that you can split one ticket five ways. For example, a group of five travelers can have one full day of travel for ¥2,410 each. Since trips using the Seishun 18 tend to be rather complex, it’s a good idea to plan your route on sites like Jorudan before jumping on the train.

local train japan
If you really want an adventure. | Photo by iStock.com/RichLegg

Driving between Osaka and Tokyo

Around ¥11,000 in tolls alone
6 hours or more

When taking into account the cost of tolls and fuel along with the minimum 6- to 7-hour travel time, driving doesn’t make a lot of sense. For a standard vehicle using ETC (the automatic toll collection system), the tolls alone from central Osaka to Shinjuku in Tokyo would be ¥13,140.

Unlike some other express routes, there are no weekend discounts. On top of the tolls, the 500 km (310 mile) journey should also empty your gas tank. Of course, if you are traveling with multiple passengers, pets, or large items of luggage, driving makes a lot more sense.

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

Osaka to Tokyo travel FAQs

We answer some of the most common questions about this route.

When is the best time to book travel between Osaka and Tokyo?

Tokyo is a major destination in Japan, and 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, and summer break (late July through August). You’ll want to book your transport at least a month in advance during those periods.

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 black-out dates on the discount fares for international tourists offered by JAL and ANA, though flights may 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 Tokyo from Osaka?

Yes, it is. The Shinkansen starts running around 6 a.m. and the last return train from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka is around 9 p.m, getting you back just before pumpkin hour. A night bus gives you slightly more time, departing around 11 p.m. This gives you a whole day in Tokyo; however, given how big Tokyo is, one day isn’t nearly enough to see the whole city.

Kyoto is much more doable as a day trip from Osaka, as it’s 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 October 2017. Last updated on March 1, 2024, by Carey Finn.

Get the best Japan Cheapo hacks direct to your inbox