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How to go from Tokyo to Kyoto - Bus, Trains, JR Pass, Shinkansen and more

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by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Kenzia V.

Last updated : Oct 18, 202211 min read

Travel Tips

When traveling to Japan, you would want to experience it as much and as best as possible. Other than Tokyo and Osaka, Kyoto is one of the major cities that you need to visit while in Japan. It offers a lot of charms and continues to attract millions of tourist each year.

 

You might want to travel to Kyoto, but think that traveling to Kyoto after Tokyo is too much of a hassle. You might not know how to travel to Kyoto and whether visiting Kyoto is worth it or not. The truth is, with so much available information on the internet, including this article, it’s easy to figure it out.

 

In this article, I’m going to share with you the many different ways to go to Kyoto from Tokyo both with and without JR pass, some the major attractions in Kyoto, how to have a better experience in Kyoto, and more recommendations. So, keep reading!

 

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Kyoto, located in the central part of the island of Honshu in Japan, is one of the most famous and major cities in Japan for tourists. Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for approximately a thousand years. It’s now a World Heritage site city that welcomes millions of tourists annually.

 

Kyoto has countless shrines and temples, 17 of which have been registered as World Heritage sites under the collective name of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Tokyo. The World Heritage site, charming districts, incredible places to view cherry blossoms and the autumn colors, and many other sights Kyoto offers make Kyoto the popular city it is now.

 

How to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo

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I’m going to tell you the way to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo with and without JR Pass. If you have never heard of what JR Pass is, I recommend reading this article about JR Pass “JR Pass (Japan Rail Pass) - Everything you need to know” first.

Without JR Pass

Shinkansen

The most effective and easiest way of getting to Kyoto from Tokyo is by Shinkansen, but it isn’t the cheapest. There are different kinds of Shinkansen, the Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. 

Here is the price and duration for each kind of Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto (one way) during peak season.

During the off-peak season, the prices go a few hundred yen lower than the above mentioned. (Spring holidays, summer holidays, Golden Week, and New Year period are peak seasons)

 Time: 2 hours - 4 hours 

 

 

Airplane

Sometimes, taking the airplane is preferred to go to Kyoto because most airlines carry lower prices than Shinkansen and it also takes less time. But, keep in mind that airport fees and transferred cost and time to the airport are not considered yet. 

 

Traveling by airplane is especially great if you just arrived at the airport in Tokyo and want to directly travel to Kyoto. 

 

However, Kyoto does not have an airport. Therefore, you need to go through the airport of Osaka (Kansai). Then, you have to travel from Osaka to Kyoto (30 minutes by train). Or, from Kansai Airport which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes to Kyoto.

 

There are budget airlines such as Peach, Jetstar Japan, and Vanilla Air if you want less expensive travel to Kyoto from Tokyo. There are also JAL and ANA. The ticket prices differ within the airlines, depending also on whether it is peak season or not. So, please check your preferred airline’s website, or google flights.

 

Time: around 4 and a half hours (including airport transfers) 

Price: Differs, but at least ¥7000 one way (including airport fee and transfer costs) 

 

Highway Bus

You can also take the highway bus to go to Kyoto from Tokyo. Many bus companies offer rides which prices differ depending on the season and bus type (comfort wise). The most famous ones are Willer Express, Kosoku Bus, and Midnight Express. It takes around 6 to 9 hours to reach Kyoto from Tokyo.

 

There are overnight and day buses with different departure times depending on different stations which you can check on the buses' official website. It is completely up to your preferences, but I recommend taking the overnight buses because there is less traffic and you can save your traveling time during the day. 

 

Time: 6-9 hours

Price: Differs, cheaper ones cost 5000 yen one way and can go even lower. 

 

Night Train (Moonlight Nagara) 

In Japanese: ムーンライトながら is an overnight rapid train service that operates seasonably running via Tokaido Main Line, between Tokyo and Ogaki. It operates during the spring break (from late March to early April), summer break (from late July to the end of August) and year-end holiday season. 

 

Even though Kyoto is not in the Tokaido Main Line, you can easily go from Ogaki to Kyoto by normal train service because this train is connected with other local trains to/from Kyoto at Ogaki. You can check the most updated schedule and timetable of the Moonlight Nagara train at Japan National Tourism Organization.

The trip to Kyoto from Tokyo costs around ¥8000, with an additional reservation fee of ¥510. 

 

 

Another thing! 

You can purchase the Seishun 18 ticket, which allows you unlimited rides on local and rapid JR trains (excluding reserved seats) for 5 days, costing ¥11,850. With this, you can travel throughout Japan from the north to the south. This ticket can even be used for more than 1 person, but they must be traveling together.  

 

This ticket can be used for the Moonlight Nagara as well, but you have to pay an additional reserved seat charge. Keep in mind that this ticket can only be purchased seasonably in the year:

 

Regular train 

Like mentioned above, the Seishun 18 ticket is valid for local and rapid JR trains, so if you want to enjoy tour travel to Kyoto from Tokyo at a more leisurely pace, you can take regular train using the Seishun 18 ticket. Along the way, you can stop and visit the destinations as well! 

 

Verdict- What's the best way to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo?

Shinkansen most effective (easiest and fastest) but cost the most expensive.
Airplane can be less expensive (depending on the airline) compared to Shinkansen but can be more of a hassle because of the transfers to airports. Perfect if you just arrived in Tokyo if you want to go to Kyoto (through Osaka) directly.
Highway Bus cheaper compared to Shinkansen and can be cheaper than Airplane, but takes longer time.
Moonlight Nagara train cheaper than Shinkansen, especially if you purchase the Seishun 18 ticket, but only operates 3 times per year.
Regular train if you purchase the Seishun 18 ticket, this is so much cheaper. Perfect if you want to travel to many places at a leisurely pace. Or else, it will take so long and can be inconvenient.

The choice is yours! 

 

With a JR Pass:

If you have a JR pass, the easiest and most economical way of getting to Kyoto from Tokyo is by Shinkansen. The JR pass covers Shinkansen, so you don’t have to pay extra cost to travel to Kyoto.

 

Here’s the catch:

You can’t take the Nozomi train, which is the fastest shinkansen type.

 

But it’s only around 20-minute difference with Hikari, the second fastest shinkansen type. So, definitely take the Shinkansen if you have a JR pass! It’s free to reserve seats as well.

 

For more information, you can check this article called "How to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and Osaka by Night train -Moonlight Nagara". 

 

Popular attractions in Kyoto

Here are some of the most popular attractions in Kyoto;

 

  • Fushimi-Inari Shrine

Fushimi-Inari Shrine is a 1300-year-old shrine for the god of bountiful crops and prosperous business, it serves as a place of worship. The most famous sight is the tunnel consisting of 10,000 torii gates.

 

Address Fushimi Inari Shrine, 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto See map

Phone +81 75-641-7331

Business hours 

Everyday ( 08:30 AM - 04:30 PM )

*Shrine grounds are open 24 hours a day

Price Free

Website http://inari.jp/en/

 

  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple

A Buddhist temple for goddess Kannon. It has a long history and is a registered World Heritage site, part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. A must visit in Kyoto.

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Address 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto See map

Phone 075-551-1234

Business hours 6:00 am- 6:00 pm

*differs on some days depending on whether there is special night viewing or not, so please check the website.

Price

Adults: 300 JPY

Child: 200 JPY

Website http://www.kiyomizudera.or.jp/en/

 

  • Gion

A very popular neighborhood for tourists in Kyoto, and is one of the most well-known geisha districts in all of Japan. Maiko and geisha entertain guests with songs and traditional dances in Gion. Here, you can enjoy Kyoto as its most “Kyoto-esque”.

 

Address Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto See map

Phone 075-561-1119

Website http://www.kyototourism.org/en/sightseeing-info/114.html

 

There are so many more attractions and sights in Kyoto, click here to check them out.


Want to make your Kyoto trip more interesting? Here's how! 

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There are ways to make your Kyoto trip more interesting. Go on a private tour in Kyoto!

 

Get this:

By going on a private tour, you will have your own personal guide! You can have an enhanced, hassle-free experience in Kyoto. Kyoto is a history-filled city, don’t you want to have a deeper understanding of the spots in Kyoto? Don’t you want a convenient trip by not having to make a Kyoto itinerary on your own and have to figure out the details of traveling such as directions and transport?

 

Joining a private tour or hiring a guide can really make all the difference. You don’t have to worry about getting lost, language difficulty, or any other issues. Guides can bring you to not only the popular spots, but also off-the-beaten-path spots. They can give you local insights, great food suggestions, and other things to make your trip so much more interesting and memorable.

 

You can follow the set itinerary suggestions of each tour or customize it according to your needs and preferences!

 

Where to hire a guide or look for private tours?

Look:

There are many places on the web where you can hire a guide, or offer private tours.

 

However, it is difficult to determine whether it’s good and trustworthy website or not. That’s why I’m recommending you GoWithGuide website. The website offers many qualified local tour guides options in Kyoto and also private tours from which you can choose according to your needs and preferences.

 

Recommended Kyoto tours

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To have a great experience in Kyoto, you need to find the right private tour option, so here are some of my recommendations.

You can check Your very own Kyoto Tour! (Sakura April!) tour, the 1-day special customized tour in Kyoto, and also One Day Kyoto Highlights tour. With these tours, you can visit some of the must-visit spots in Kyoto hassle-free!

 

If you want to choose the guides instead of the tour, click here to check the private guides in Kyoto to enhance your trip.

 

Another thing!

If you are not necessarily looking for a private tour with guides to guide you around, you can consider taking private chartered van around Kyoto to bring you around in Kyoto so it's so much more convenient. This is especially handy if you are traveling with big groups so the cost is cheaper!

 

There are still many more options for private cars or vans, depending on the hours and how many people are in your group. You can click here to check them out.

 

 

I hope this article provides useful information for your Kyoto trip, including ways to travel to Kyoto from Tokyo, some of the popular destinations in Kyoto, ways to make your Kyoto trip more interesting, and more recommendations. I hope you have a great time in Kyoto! 

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Hi! I'm Koichi. I was born in Osaka, I studied in Kyoto when I was a university student. Now I live in Shiga next to Kyoto. I am a national government licensed tour guide. I have been guiding about 160 groups over the past twelve months. I usually guide my customers mainly in Kansai region including Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe and Shiga by public transportation systems. Well, I am curious about Japanese history, especially the history of Japan's ancient times since I was raised next to the world biggest mausoleum of the ancient Emperor called "Nintoku" in Sakai city Osaka which has just become one of the world cultural heritage sites. I dug out some ancient earthen ware vessels around there when I was a primary school student like the adventure archaeologist “Indiana Jones" (It’s our secret!!). That was my hobby. Now, one of my hobbies is outdoor activities such as mountaineering, kayaking, skiing and others. So I would like to take you to some good places where you can enjoy Japanese unique nature. I love to guide foreign visitors from all over the world. I think it is my calling or heavenly given job. Let's go and enjoy together! I hope to see you soon.                                                                                                                                 

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