Fukuoka is the most populated city of Japan’s southernmost island, Kyūshū.

It’s a popular domestic vacation spot for Japanese locals and beloved for its delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery. From rich tonkatsu ramen, plump and crispy gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumplings), and if you’re feeling adventurous, motsunabe (a hot pot dish made from beef or pork offal), Fukuoka is a fantastic destination for foreign foodies.

And then, of course, there’s Osaka — the land of takoyaki (fried octopus balls), yakisoba (pan-fried noodles), and okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake).

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Both cities are a foodie explorer’s paradise. So how can you most efficiently plan a trip between Fukuoka and Osaka? From the blazing fast shinkansen (bullet train) to the affordable night bus, there are plenty of ways to get around south of Tokyo.

What are your options?

Unlike some of our other travel guides, there’s no clear best choice for this trip. It’ll be more of a choice based on your budget and what you find most efficient and enjoyable. The Shinkansen is certainly a strong option, offering a direct and relatively quick trip to Fukuoka in comfort. In addition, the San’yō San’in Rail Pass offers more opportunities to travel locally and experience the area on top of your trip.

If you’re more budget conscious, a highway bus might prove more tempting. The cheapest of our options, you will find your yourself paying with a night of semi-sleep. But if that’s not a problem and the bottom line is king, hop on board! And finally, for pure speed, you can’t beat a flight out to Fukuoka from one of Osaka’s airports. With prices almost rivaling the highway bus, this might be your best option if you’re looking to balance budget, speed, and comfort.

Shinkansen: Quick and direct

2 hours 20 minutes or 2 hours 36 minutes depending on Shinkansen
¥15,080 or ¥15,820 one way
Direct

Sanyō Shinkansen.

When it comes to traveling between Fukuoka and Osaka, though, the Shinkansen is surely one of your better options, as we’ve explored in the past. Specifically, the Sanyō Shinkansen, offering a lightning-fast and convenient trip between the two cities. The fastest options are the high-speed Nozomi or Mizuho Shinkansen. The trip between Fukuoka’s Hakata Station and Osaka’s Shin Osaka Station clocks in at just about 2 hours and 20 minutes. The slightly slower Sakura shinkansen takes about 15 minutes longer.

The Shinkansen departs frequently from both Hakata and Shin Osaka — but unless you’re traveling during non-peak hours (weekdays, particularly outside of spring and summer holidays) it can be difficult to get a seat. It’s hardly fun to stand on a train for 2 hours and change, so reserving a seat ahead of time is always recommended. All in all though, the Sanyō Shinkansen offers a reliable and direct route between Osaka and Fukuoka if you’re willing to pay for it.

How much will the trip cost me?

Calculating your Shinkansen fare can have some variables baked in, as we’ve gone over before. Depending on the time you book, demand, and other price changes, you might pay a little more or less than we do. But you can expect to pay around ¥15,080 for the slower Sakura Shinkansen, and ¥15,820 for the faster Nozomi or Mizuho Shinkansen one way. If you’re thinking of making more than a one-way trip, or want to explore, however, we have another option that might save you some money…

The Sanyō San’in Rail Pass

Purchasing the pass allows you to take any of the Japan Rail West Shinkansen on the Sanyō route, limited express trains, buses, or even the Miyajima ferry as much as you want for an entire week. Scenic stops such as Kyoto, Kobe, Tottori, and Nara are all accessible via the San’yō San’in Rail Pass.

It’s an ideal option if you’re planning on doing almost any traveling after the Shinkansen, or a return trip. Purchasing it before you come to Japan will cost you ¥20,000, whereas after you’re in Japan it’ll be ¥21,500 online or ¥22,000 at a ticket office. Considering the one-way trip alone is around ¥15,000, the extra ¥5,000 offering unlimited travel for 7 days is a great deal to snatch up!

You can even use it to ride…

The Hello Kitty Shinkansen also runs between the two cities. | Photo by Gregory Lane

But, if the Shinkansen is a little pricey for your taste, there are also cheaper options to check out.

Highway bus: A long night that’s easy on the wallet

8 hours 30 minutes with light traffic
Between ¥4,100 and ¥13,500 one way depending on season
Direct

If you’re looking to keep your journey budget-friendly, taking a highway bus is a classic option (that is admittedly much less comfortable than the Shinkansen). That said, what you sacrifice in comfort you make up for in affordability. The highway bus is much easier on the wallet, costing less than half of a one-way Shinkansen ticket.

Buses departing Hakata Station. | Photo by iStock.com/yokaew

It’s also worth noting that the highway bus takes substantially longer than the Shinkansen. The journey from Osaka Bus Terminal to Hakata Bus Terminal clocks in at around 8 and a half hours, so be prepared to settle in for the night. The bus will pull over at rest stops periodically for passengers to use the restroom and stretch their legs. If you’re good at it, you can try to sleep throughout the majority of the bus ride. I’ve never managed to, but if it works for you the savings and sleep are a win-win.

Willer express offers trips from Fukuoka to Osaka starting at ¥4,100 on weekdays — going up to as high as ¥13,500 if you’re traveling around the holidays. Since the prices vary, it’s best to check online ahead of time.

Where can I buy an highway bus ticket from Osaka to Fukuoka?

Whereas the Shinkansen has several different options and price points, the highway bus is a bit more straightforward.

You’ll need to book a ticket online ahead of time via the Willer Express website — but unlike the bullet train, you don’t need to worry about purchasing from abroad to get a discount. The prices are flat across the board for tourists and locals alike. However, the earlier you book, the cheaper the ticket.

Willer buses are a lovely shade of pink. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Once you confirm your order, you’ll receive an email with your e-ticket. Make sure to arrive at the bus terminal ahead of time as you’ll need to hop in line and load your luggage in the storage area beneath the bus before you get on. Simply show the bus driver the e-ticket attached to your confirmation e-mail and you’ll be on your way!

Flying: The skies for speed

Around 1 hour 10 minutes + transfer time
Around ¥7,000 for low-cost carriers and ¥11,000 for larger carriers
From Osaka Itami/Kansai International to Fukuoka Airport

Of course, if you’re simply trying to get between cities as quickly (and surprisingly, cheaply) as possible, taking a domestic flight is a great option. Flying domestically in Japan is relatively painless, and while budget airlines like Peach may not have the best legroom, what you’ll lose in comfort you’ll make up for in time and money. Or you can pay a little extra for the comfort of a larger airline like Japan Airlines or ANA.

Flights from Kansai International Airport to Fukuoka start at just around the same price as a Willer night bus trip — but they take a fraction of the time. Low-cost carrier Peach Airlines has flights starting at around ¥7,000 one way. Meanwhile, if Osaka’s Itami Airport is closer, you can choose from larger carriers Japan Airlines and ANA for around ¥11,000. If you’re willing to deal with the bustle of an airport, you could be in Fukuoka in as little as 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Fukuoka Airport is located very conveniently to the central city. | Photo by Gregory Lane

Ultimately, how you travel between Fukuoka and Osaka is up to you and your preferences — but it’s safe to say that there are plenty of options to suit any type of traveler or budget.

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