The Sanyō Shinkansen is the second oldest Shinkansen line in Japan. It’s operated by JR West and runs between Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka and Hakata Station in Fukuoka.

Along the way, the Sanyō Shinkansen passes through the Kansai, Chūgoku, and Kyūshū regions. It’s actually one of the best ways to get from Osaka to Fukuoka. Although you might not recognise these places right away, some of them are home to incredibly popular attractions.

Highlights along the Sanyō Shinkansen line

Sanyō shinkansen map.
  • Admire one of the most famous attractions in Japan — Himeji Castle.
  • Visit Hiroshima, one of the cities devastated by an atomic bomb in World War 2.
  • Test your bravery in Shimonoseki and try some deadly puffer fish.
  • Pray for luck in tests and exams at Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.
  • Embrace the neon lights of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city.

Services on the Sanyō Shinkansen

ServiceStart stationEnd stationStopsFrequency of departures
NozomiShin-Osaka*HakataMajor stops only~3 per hour
HikariShin-OsakaOkayamaAll stations between Shin-Osaka and Okayama1 per hour
MizuhoShin-OsakaHakataSelect stations only1 per hour
SakuraShin-OsakaHakataSelect stations only1 per hour
KodamaShin-Osaka*HakataAll stations2 per hour

*While the Nozomi service departs from Shin-Osaka Station as part of the Sanyō Shinkansen, it also runs between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka as part of the Tokaidō Shinkansen. This is also true of the Kodama service.

Nozomi

The Nozomi service only stops at major stations, and completes the journey between Shin-Osaka and Hakata Station in about 2.5 hours. It is not covered by the countrywide JR Pass, but you can purchase an add-on to access it. The Nozomi is covered by some regional passes though (more on those below). There are three Green Cars — the bullet-train equivalent of Business Class — on the Nozomi service.

Suggested Activity
Send Your Luggage Ahead (Osaka/Kyoto)
You can have your bags sent to the airport or your accommodation for easier, hands-free travel. A global baggage porting service will handle everything for you, leaving you to enjoy your time in Japan. ...

Hikari

The Hikari service runs between Shin-Osaka and Okayama Station, stopping at all stations along the way. It also runs between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka as part of the Tokaidō Shinkansen. There are three Green Cars on the Hikari Service.

Mizuho

The Mizuho is the fastest service on the Sanyō Shinkansen. Because of this, it usually only stops at Shin-Kobe, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kokura and Hakata Stations. However, it continues on to Kagoshima-Chūō Station, as the Kyūshū Shinkansen. Like the Nozomi, it is not covered by the countrywide JR Pass unless you buy an additional ticket, but it is covered by some regional passes. There is only one Green Car on the Mizuho service.

Sakura

Like the Mizuho, the Sakura service runs between Shin-Osaka and Hakata Stations. Then it continues through to Kagoshima-Chūō Station, as the Kyūshū Shinkansen. However, it stops at a few more stations than the Mizuho, and is covered by the countrywide JR Pass. Only half of one car is a Green Car.

Kodama

The Kodama is the slowest service on the Sanyō Shinkansen. It stops at all stations between Shin-Osaka and Hakata Stations, taking about 5 hours. Some Kodama services have half of one car as a Green Car, but others don’t have a Green Car at all. Kodama services also run between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka Stations as part of the Tokaidō Shinkansen.

Buying tickets and making reservations

On the Shinkansen, your ticket and seat reservation are two different things. While everyone needs a ticket to travel, the seat reservation is almost always optional, with a couple of carriages designated as “unreserved”. Risking unreserved seats can save you cash, but we strongly recommend reserved seats — especially during weekends and holiday periods.

One of the easiest options is to book Shinkansen tickets on Klook, though you’ll pay about ¥1,800 extra as a handling fee. You can also buy Shinkansen tickets and make seat reservations at JR East Ticket Offices (called Midori no Madoguchi in Japanese) at major stations and travel centers. Japan Rail Pass holders can also make seat reservations at these offices.

You can also buy your tickets from a ticket machine at any station on the Shinkansen line — they are easy enough to use, and credit cards are accepted.

More information on buying Shinkansen tickets and making seat reservations can be found in our ultimate Shinkansen guide.

Luggage restrictions

Japan Rail implemented new luggage rules in 2020 and alas, these rules do apply to the Sanyō Shinkansen. According to these new rules, you must reserve a special seat for luggage with overall dimensions from 161 to 250 cm. For more information, check out our full guide to the new Shinkansen luggage rules.

Rail passes and other discounts for the Sanyō Shinkansen

Besides the Nozomi and Mizuho service trains, the entire Sanyō Shinkansen route is covered by the countrywide JR Pass. In addition, the following JR rail passes also cover travel on all, or part, of the Sanyō Shinkansen:

For more information, including prices, see our guide to JR West rail passes.

Unfortunately, none of the above JR West passes are available to foreign residents of Japan — only visitors on a temporary visa. We do have a regularly updated list of JR Passes for foreign residents, though.

Other discounts and promotions

Besides JR Passes, there several ways to get discounted Sanyō Shinkansen tickets:

  • Eki-net: If you register for JR’s online ticket service, Eki-net, in Japanese, you may be able to snag Tokudane tickets. These have discounts ranging from 5% to 50% off, but dates and numbers are limited. Even if you can’t get Tokudane tickets, booking an e-ticket or a round trip will get you a small discount.
  • Otona no kyujitsu club: If you’re over 50, you can join the Otona no kyujitsu club. Membership gives you 5% to 30% off tickets for journeys over 201 km. More information can be found here (Japanese only).
  • Student discounts: Students — from junior-high school to university level — can get 20% off shinkansen tickets for journeys over 101 km. You need to get a ‘学生・生徒旅客運賃割引証’ (gakusei・seitoryokakuunchinwaribikishō, student passenger fare discount certificate) from your school and take it to a JR ticket office to buy your tickets.

Shinkansen and hotel packages

There are a few websites where you can buy combined Shinkansen ticket and hotel packages. However, the discounts vary considerably and the websites are often in Japanese only.

Here are a few to look at:

Stations of interest along the Sanyō Shinkansen

Consider adding a few of these to your itinerary.

Shin-Osaka Station

Shin Osaka train station. | Photo by iStock.com/Sanga Park

Shin-Osaka Station is in the city of Osaka — the second largest city in Japan, and also the largest city in the Kansai region. Osaka is known as a bustling metropolis, with a strong food culture. However, it’s not without its history, with Osaka Castle an impressive reconstruction of its predecessor.

You should keep in mind though that Shin-Osaka Station is not centrally located. Osaka and Umeda Stations are the main stations for the city, and are much more central. Despite this, Shin-Osaka Station does service several local JR lines and one subway line. It’s a 10-minute ride from Shin-Osaka Station to Osaka Station or Umeda Station (pretty much the same station, just different train lines).

Where can I go near Shin-Osaka Station?

To get to most attractions in Osaka, you can transfer to one of the train lines at Shin-Osaka. You’ll be able to get to Osaka Castle, Universal Studios Japan and Dōtonbori easily. For more ideas, check out our guide on things to do in Osaka.

Shin-Kobe Station

Shin-Kobe Station is just a little north of the city of Kobe, the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture. Kobe is a port city, and in the 19th century it was one of the first to be opened to foreign trade. It’s known for its high-quality beef and the nearby historic hotspring town Arima Onsen.

Shin-Kobe Station was specifically built for the Sanyō Shinkansen in 1972. Additionally, two local subway lines connect Shin-Kobe Station to the Kobe city center.

Where can I go near Shin-Kobe Station?

Arima
Photo by iStock.com/Sean Pavone

Conveniently, you’ll find the Shin-Kobe Ropeway Station immediately outside Shin-Kobe Station. This will take you past Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Garden to an observation deck on Mt Rokkō. The view of Kobe City from here is very impressive, especially at night.

There are also a few hiking trails that start near Shin-Kobe Station. Alternatively, for a more relaxing time it’s a 35-minute bus ride to Arima Onsen. Finally, you can head into the city center to check out Chinatown and the Kobe City Museum.

Himeji Station

Himeji Castle
Himeji Castle. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Himeji Station is in Himeji, the second largest city in Hyogo Prefecture. The most well-known attraction in the city is definitely Himeji Castle, considered one of the most beautiful castles in Japan. Besides this, the city has some lovely gardens, parks and temples.

Himeji Station is the main train and is located in the city centre. It serves the Sanyō Shinkansen, as well as two local JR lines.

Where can I go near Himeji Station?

From Himeji Station it is about 15 minutes by bus, or 20 minutes on foot, to Himeji Castle. Kokoen Garden and Himeji Park are conveniently right by the castle. Shoshazan Engyō Temple is a 30-minute bus ride away. For more ideas, check out our list of things to do in Himeji.

Okayama Station

Okayama Station is in the city of Okayama, the capital of Okayama Prefecture. The city is best known for Korakuen Garden, ranked as one of the top three landscape gardens in Japan. There is also a strong association with the story of Momotarō, known in English as Peach Boy.

Okayama Station is centrally located and is the main train station in the city. In addition to the Sanyō Shinkansen, it serves four local JR lines (including one that will get you to the island of Shikoku). There’s also a tram stop in front of the station.

Where can I go near Okayama Station?

Korakuen Garden is 15 minutes away from the station by bus. The striking black Okayama Castle is also 15 minutes by bus on a different route. If you go a little further, the “living art gallery” of Naoshima is 1.5 hours away by train and ferry. For more ideas, check out our guide to things to do in Okayama.

Hiroshima Station

Hiroshima Station is in Hiroshima City, the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture. Most of the city was destroyed by an atomic bomb in World War 2; however, it recovered and became a bustling modern city. History has not been forgotten though, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum are two key attractions.

Hiroshima Station is the main station in the city and is centrally located. As well as the Sanyō Shinkansen, it serves four local train lines and the tram line. There are also several local and highway bus routes that stop here.

Where can I go near Hiroshima Station?

From Hiroshima Station, it’s about 20 minutes by bus to the Peace Memorial Park and Museum; Hiroshima Castle and Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum are closer, taking 5 to 10 minutes by bus depending on the route.

A bit further away — but well worth your time — is Itsukushima Island. Also known as Miyajima, the island is home to the famously “floating” Itsukushima Shrine, and some very friendly deer. For more ideas on things to do, read our Hiroshima guide.

Hakata Station

Hakata Station is in Fukuoka City, the capital city of Fukuoka Prefecture. Fukuoka city is the largest city on the island of Kyūshū. In the past, there were two cities, Hakata — a port city — and Fukuoka — a castle town — in the area. They officially merged in the late 1800s and became what we now know as Fukuoka City. Today, it is known for its food culture and natural beauty.

Hakata Station is the main train station in Fukuoka. It’s located in the part of Fukuoka that was originally Hakata City. The station serves both the Sanyō and Kyūshū Shinkansen; there are also three local train lines and two subway lines that stop there.

Where can I go near Hakata Station?

Photo by Gregory Lane

It’s a short 10-minute walk from Hakata Station to Tōchō-ji Temple. Foodies should head to Nakasu Island to try the yatai (food stalls); it’s about a 15-minute walk from the station. Alternatively, Fukuoka Art Museum and the castle ruins are 20 minutes by train. Further afield, Dazaifu Tenmangu is 50 to 60 minutes by train. Find out about more of the things you can do in Fukuoka.

Also read:

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change.

Get the best Japan Cheapo hacks direct to your inbox