Travel from Tokyo to Osaka
Tokyo and Osaka are Japan’s most populated cities. Both are hard-working and the rivalry between them is intense, transcending the baseball matches between the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers. While Tokyo is more reserved and sophisticated, Osaka is generally more earthy and friendly. There are three options available to travel from Tokyo to Osaka.
The best way to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, or the one that offers the best value for money, is the premium overnight bus. By travelling at night, you can sleep comfortably during most of the trip and arrive the following morning at your destination. There are many low cost flights available on this route, but most of the cheapest fares are from Narita to Kansai airports, which are farther from the centre than the domestic airports used by JAL and ANA. The train offers a fantastic experience, but is often the most expensive mode of transport on this route.
1. Travel by Air
Use our flight comparison site to find the lowest price. If possible, choose the airports closest to the centre as this will ultimately help you save time and money.
If you are holder of a Japan Rail Pass you can take the Narita Express train at no extra cost.
There are two main airports in the Tokyo region. For many years, Narita would handle all the international flights, while Haneda was used for domestic. In 2014 however, Haneda started to accept international traffic and there are now flights to Haneda from cities around the world including Paris, Doha, Hong Kong and Sydney.
There are several ways to reach Tokyo from Narita, by train, bus, taxi and even helicopter. The most popular are the JR Narita Express and the Limousine bus. A great alternative is to pre-book a shared transfer to/from* the airport, cheaper than a taxi. From Haneda, the Limousine bus is also among the several ways to connect with the city centre.
Understand however that Narita is located about 70km (40 mi) northeast of Tokyo, while Haneda is just 15km (9mi) south of central Tokyo. You can also book a private transfer* between Narita and Haneda if needed.
Then there is Ibaraki, a very small airport 85km (53mi) north of Tokyo, close to Tsukuba Science City. Very few airlines use this airport but there are plans to turn it into a low-cost hub in the future.
Osaka has two airports. Kansai is the international airport, located on an artificial island. It is 45km (28mi) away and connected to the centre with trains, limousine buses and private transfers*, which can be booked online. Itami airport is used for domestic flights, and is 18km (11mi) away from Osaka. Take a limousine bus or the Osaka Monorail.
Kobe airport, also located on an artificial island, is a smaller airport in the neighbouring city of Kobe, 40km (25mi) away from Osaka and can easily be reached by train. It could be used as an alternative to the other main airports.
The flight routes available at present are:
HND to ITM with ANA, JAL,
HND to KIX with ANA, JAL, StarFlyer
HND to UKB with ANA, Skymark
NRT to ITM with ANA, JAL
NRT to KIX with Jetstar, Peach, Spring
IBR to UKB with Skymark
The best airport connection is HND to ITM, as these two airports are closest to Tokyo and Osaka respectively. However, you are more likely to find cheaper flights with budget airlines Jetstar, Peach or Spring, that operate from NRT to KIX.
2. Travel by Rail
2.30h on the fastest Nozomi train
3h on the semi-fast Hikari train
4h on the slower Kodama train
13,620JPY/124USD/100GBP one way on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line for an unreserved seat
Travelling by train in Japan is expensive. Taking a bullet train is a great experience but the price is off-putting for thrifty travellers.
You can buy a ticket from any ticket counter at the train station. Non-reserved seats are always cheaper.
There are two ways in which you can save money if you decide to travel by train.
- Buy a Japan Rail pass. A 7-day JR pass will cost 29,000JPY/262USD/210GBP. Unlimited travel allowed on almost all JR trains nationwide and some local trains like the Narita Express, but you are not allowed to take the Nozomi train. Bear in mind you have to buy your ticket before you travel to Japan, this is an absolute requirement. You can buy a JR pass from the following sites
JRpass UK*: The official JR pass site for UK customers only
Japan Experience: European based travel agency, specialised in all things Japan. Worldwide deliveries.
ACPRail International: Canadian site. Accepts customers worldwide.
- Buy a train+hotel package. This is a fantastic alternative for those who want to save a few yen and are not interested in buying a rail pass. You could book 2 hotel nights + return train tickets from just 26,700JPY/240USD/195GBP, which is about the same as what a return ticket would cost. You can buy a package from JapaniCan, which claim to be Japan’s largest travel booking site.
An alternative way to get from Tokyo to Osaka by train is to explore the Hokuriku region, instead of taking the more popular Tokaido line. You can buy a 7 day Hokuriku arch rail pass from JRpass UK* or Japan Experience.
3. Travel by Bus
Several pick-up and drop-off locations, including Yamanote Osaki Station, Shinjuku Expressway Bus terminal and Disneyland in the Tokyo area and Willer bus terminal Umeda, Namba Station, Tennoji Station in Osaka
JR Bus (Japanese)
From 10,000JPY/90USD/73GBP return depending on level of comfort.
Offline you can purchase tickets at the bus terminals, 7 eleven stores, JR train stations and over the telephone but do not expect to be spoken to in English. We recommend booking in advance.
If you know your dates of travel, always buy a return ticket as they are a bit cheaper. Consider buying a Bus Pass if you are planning to visit other cities. The cheapest is 10,000JPY/90USD/70GBP and is valid for three days (Monday to Thursday)
There are female only buses available for women who want to travel this way. Look out for “women only” icons or select “female” passenger.
Highway buses are a cheaper alternative to trains for long and medium distance travel in Japan. You can travel during the day or overnight. There are different levels of comfort, from standard seats to luxury single-aisle reclining seats with personal entertainment screens. There are several companies operating this route from different locations in Tokyo, including Disneyland, to a number of bus terminals in Osaka. Our favourite is to pay a little extra for an overnight bus and sleep on board, arriving refreshed the following day.
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