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 500km, which can be covered by bullet train, highway bus, and a few other ways — it all depends on how much time and money you have.

If you’re doing additional domestic travel, buying a Japan Rail Pass is your best option, as it gives you virtually unlimited, nationwide access to the Shinkansen. However, if you’re just making a one-way trip from Osaka to Tokyo, a regular bullet train ticket is better value.  Read on for a comprehensive breakdown of all your travel options.

How to get from Osaka to Tokyo

Hands down the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way of traveling between Osaka and Tokyo is the Shinkansen, particularly if you have a Japan Rail Pass. The most budget option is usually the Seishun 18 pass (if you time it right and are traveling with a partner or friends) — but it’s also the most time-consuming and least comfortable. Highway buses and cheap flights are your best bet.

Since Osaka is just a short train ride from Kyoto, the options for getting from Kyoto to Tokyo are largely the same. And if you’re doing the reverse route, our Tokyo to Osaka transport guide has you covered.

Osaka to Tokyo: Transport options

Transport Comfort Price Time Emissions Booking Links
Bullet train ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ From ¥13,870 2 hrs 22 min (using the fastest service) 4.65kg CO2 Book a one-way ticket on Klook, or get a JR Pass from Japan Experience or JRail Pass
Flights ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ From ¥4,000 90 minutes (flight time) + travel time to/from the airport 66.5kg CO2 Search flights
Buses ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ From ¥2,600 ~8 hrs 15kg CO2 Search Buses
Local trains ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¥2,410 (using the Seishun 18 Pass) At least 9 hrs 10kg CO2
Driving ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ¥11,000+ ~6 hrs 16kg CO2
tokyo to osaka bullet train
For the speedsters. | Photo by Dai

Shinkansen (bullet train) from Osaka to Tokyo

From ¥13,870
2 hours and 22 minutes (fastest service)
Shin-Osaka Station to Shinagawa Station or Tokyo Station

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 catch the Hikari, which 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, unless you’re buying a special discount ticket (details below), 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 (jiyūseki), 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 (shiteiseki). 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 for bags over a certain size you need 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.

Discounted Shinkansen travel between Osaka and Tokyo

Taking the bullet train can be costly, but there are ways to make it a bit more affordable. For a start, if you’re planning on doing more than just a one-way trip from Osaka to Tokyo, we recommend buying a Japan Rail Pass. It allows unlimited travel on Japan Rail (JR) trains for a week and can be a huge money-saver. There are longer options available, too.

Hokuriku Arch Pass

If slow travel is your vibe, you might want to look at the Hokuriku Arch Pass. It’s a regional rail pass that takes you between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo, along an arching route that includes Kanazawa and Nagano. It’s valid for 7 days and you can purchase it here for a discounted price of ¥24,500.

Using low-cost airlines to fly from Osaka to Tokyo

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 offer discount airfares between Kansai International Airport and Tokyo.

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. Most LCCs land at Narita, while legacy carriers like JAL and ANA fly to 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

Flights from Kansai Airport to Tokyo

Route Airline One-way Fare Date
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Narita Jetstar US$31.00 Oct 01, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Haneda Japan Airlines US$61.00 Nov 19, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Narita Peach US$81.00 Jun 19, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Kansai International => Tokyo Haneda ANA US$242.00 Nov 11, 2023 Booking options

Flights from Itami Airport to Tokyo

Route Airline One-way Fare Date
Osaka Itami => Tokyo Haneda Japan Airlines US$60.00 Nov 19, 2023 Booking options
Osaka Itami => Tokyo Narita ANA US$133.00 Jul 29, 2023 Booking options

Before booking anything, though, bear in mind 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.

Taking the bus from Osaka to Tokyo

From ¥2,600
8 hours or more

If you’re okay on long-ish bus trips, taking an overnight highway bus from Osaka to Tokyo is a good budget 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. You can scoop 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. 

Highway Bus Shinjuku Station
Busin’ it to Tokyo. | Photo by

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 (using the Seishun 18 Pass)
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 2), 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

Driving between Osaka and Tokyo

Around ¥11,000 in tolls
6 hours or so

When taking into account the cost of tolls and fuel along with the 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 500km (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.

Osaka to Tokyo travel FAQs

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).

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 very well 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. 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 2017. Last updated in April 2023 by Maria Danuco.

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