Travel from Tokyo to Osaka: Faster and Cheapest Transportation Options

Travel from Tokyo to Osaka: Find the cheaper and faster transportation option!

Osaka, the kitchen of Japan, is one of the three most touristic cities in the country along with Tokyo and Kyoto. Tokyo to Osaka is the most popular route for travelers and is known as Japan’s Golden Route (Tokyo-Osaka-Kyoto).

Sometimes called the capital of the West, Osaka is a lively city renowned for its culinary and vibrant nightlife scene. Osaka offers historical landmarks like Osaka Castle, modern attractions such as Universal Studios Japan and entertainment districts like Dotonbori. It’s a must-visit if you’re exploring Japan for the first time.

Since the vast majority of tourists enter Japan through Tokyo, you might be wondering “How can I travel from Osaka to Tokyo?” “What’s the best way?

In this complete guide I’m going to explain all the ways to get to Osaka from Tokyo, how to book tickets, and some of the most asked questions.

*Please note that this article contains affiliate links.

How to Travel from Tokyo to Osaka

From shinkansen (Japan bullet train) to highway bus or even plane, they are several ways to go from Tokyo to Osaka, and it’s difficult to choose the best way for foreign travelers especially first time visitors. Which transportation option is the best? Which is cheaper or faster? These are some of the most frequently asked questions.

Let me jump to the conclusion. Shinkansen or highway bus are the best way for you to get from Tokyo to Osaka. Which of these two is better will depend on your priorities. Shinkansen is the fastest way and bus is the cheapest one, and both are easier for first time visitors to Japan to move.

▶︎Book Tokyo to Osaka bullet train tickets here

Both Tokyo and Osaka have two airports each. Tokyo has Narita Airport and Haneda Airport while Osaka has Kansai Airport (KIX) and Itami Airport, but take a flight usually is not the best option, since airports are far from the center of the city and it takes extra money and time to reach there.

So let’s compare Shinkansen, bus, plane and car to traveling from Tokyo to Osaka!!

From Tokyo to Osaka
Infographic comparing bus and shinkansen to go from Tokyo to Osaka

Tokyo to Osaka by Bullet Train: The Fastest Option

The fastest and most convenient way of traveling from Tokyo to Osaka is the bullet train. It takes 2 hours and half with the Nozomi, the shinkansen fastest train model, and about 3 hours with the Hikari. Not only that but, bullet trains in Japan are highly praised for their efficiency and cleanliness. Seats are spacious, comfortable and have plugs to charge your electronic products, as well as toilets in different cars. Food and drinks are also available during the trip.

▶︎Book Tokyo to Osaka bullet train tickets here

The plane option may seem faster, as it only takes a little over than an hour, but you have to go from the center of the city to the airport, be there beforehand to check in, go through security check, etc. With the shinkasen you just have to get to the tracks 5 minutes before the train arrives and jump on the car! And you will get straight to the city center, Shin-Osaka Station.

So Shinkansen is the best way to travel from Tokyo to Osaka, except for the price: around 17,000 JPY each way with a reserved seat or around 16,000 JPY with unreservead seat. Not the most budget friendly option. But in our opinion, it is worth the price if you can afford it, especially if you are traveling and have limited time.

Tip: There are 3 major shinkansen types that cover the route from Tokyo to Osaka, named are Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. In the past, the Nozomi shinkansen was more expensive since it’s the the fastest one. But currently JR made some changes, and Nozomi and Hikari have only a difference of 300 yen in the price. So it’s highly recommend to take the Nozomi bullet train.

On the other hand, the Kodama has practically the same price as the Hikari, but it takes almost 4 hours, being the slowest of the 3 models, being the least recommended option.

For more information about bullet trains in Japan: ▶︎Shinkansen: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Bullet Train

Where to Buy Tokyo to Osaka Bullet Train Tickets?

There are two ways to buy bulle train tickets from Tokyo to Osaka: at the major stations counters or ticket machines in Japan, or online in advance.

Buy Tokyo to Osaka Bullet Train Tickets Online

Buying your bullet train tickets online is the most recommended option. First, because especially in high season it’s possible that tickets may sell out, so it is better to secure them in advance so that everything goes smoothly on your trip.

On the other hand, the online process to buy bullet train tickets is much faster, simpler and above all: available in English. The staff at the shinkansen ticket counters can sometimes speak basic plain English for the job, but they are not very fluent. In addition, they are often crowded and the waiting line can be very long, exceeding one hour.

Japan Bullet Train

Japan Bullet Train is a new service launched by our partner company, which offers bullet train and express train tickets in Japan for tourists. All the service is in English, including customer service.

When purchasing your bullet train fare online, you’ll receive a QR code within 24 hours. You can simply scan this QR code at the designated machines located in major Shinkansen stations to obtain your physical ticket. Easy and simple!

▶︎Book now your Tokyo to Osaka bullet train tickets

Buy Tokyo to Osaka Bullet Train Tickets in Japan

If you prefer to buy your bullet train tickets Tokyo-Osaka in Japan because you are unsure about your itinerary, it is also possible. Simply go to any official JR ticket counter (called “Midori-no-madoguchi”) , and wait for your turn. If there are seats available, buying the same day is also possible.

At some stations there are also vending machines located next to gates, but they are somewhat complicated to use if you are not familiar with the system and many tourists find them inconvenient.

Special: Japan Rail Pass

If you are a tourist in Japan there is a way to save some money and travel comfortably by shinkansen. We are talking about the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), a special pass that allows unlimited travel for 7,14 or 21 days on any JR transport, including bullet trains.

For more info: ▶︎A Guide to Japan Rail Pass

However, after the price increase in October 2024, the Japan Rail Pass is no longer cost-effective if you are only going to make a couple of trips. Check your route and see which is the most economical way for you.

▶︎Get Japan Rail Pass online here!!

Shin Osaka Station
Shin Osaka Station

How to Ride the Shinkansen?

Basically, it depends on what type of ticket you bought. If you have a reserved seat ticket, find your car (marked on the platform floor) and wait for the train to arrive. Board and proceed to your assigned seat. If you have purchased a unreservead seat ticket, locate the cars designed for non-reserved seat (usually 1-4), line up and when you enter, look for an available seat.

For those with the JR Pass, you can just go to the platform and get on any of the trains in the non-reserved cars. If you prefer to reserve a seat to be sure, you can do it in the same places where they are sold (vending machine or ticket office).

For more information: ▶︎How to Use a Non-reserved Seat on the Shinkansen

Where to Take the Shinkansen in Tokyo?

If you decide to go by shinkansen, you can take the train from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station.

Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Shin Osaka Station

First bullet train: 6:00

Last bullet train: 22:47

Location of ticket gates: blue areas on this map

Platform: platform No.14–19

Shinkansen from Shinagawa Station to Shin Osaka Station

First bullet train: 6:00

Last bullet train: 22:54

Location of ticket gates: blue areas at the bottom of this map

Platform: platform No.23&24

For more information about shinkansen in Japan

If you don’t have much information about regular trains and bullet trains in Japan, the following articles may be useful.

▶︎A Comprehensive Guide to Trains in Japan

▶︎What to Do If You Missed the Shinkansen

▶︎How to Refund a Shinkansen Ticket

Osaka Dotonbori
Dotonbori area in Osaka, one of the most popular spots.

Tokyo to Osaka by Bus: The Cheapest Option

On the other hand we have the bus, which is the cheaper option. Tickets start at around 4,400 JPY  and can go up to 10,000 JPY depending on the type of seat, departure time, conditions, etc. The counterpart is time, since it will take 8-10 hours at the best.

Usually if you choose the bus, the most frequent options is the night bus. It allows you to sleep on the bus and be able to spend more time in Osaka instead of wasting a day on the trip. In addition, at night there is less risk of traffic jams, etc. Many buses also stop directly at the famous Universal Studios Japan theme park, so you can go directly to the park first thing in the morning and be among the first to get in!

Another advantage of buses is the time of the last bus: about 1 hour later than the train’s one.

▶︎Get discounted night bus tickets from Tokyo to Osaka here!

If you decide to go by bus, generally buses depart from Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station. There are different bus companies offering this service, so it will depend on each company. One of the most recommended is Willerexpress. They have different types of buses available but even the most economical ones have large and comfortable seats.

Tickets can be purchased in person at the office of each bus terminal, but we recommend buying them in advance because depending on which dates they may sell out.

From Tokyo Station to Shin Osaka Station

Tokyo station bus terminal is located in Yaesu Exit (八重洲口.) Long distance bus tickets can be purchased at JR Expressway Bus at the bus terminal in Tokyo Station Yaesu Exit or online via bus company.

*Please get off at Osaka Station JR Expressway Bus Terminal.

Day service: 6:40–14:10

Night service: 21:00–23:50

Location of bus terminal: Yaesu South Exit (upper right on this map)

From Shinjuku Station to Shin Osaka Station

JR Shinjuku Station is connected to BUSTA, the biggest bus terminal in Tokyo. Ticket counters and vending machines are located on the 4th floor, which is the departure floor. The fare from Shinjuku BUSTA is the same that from Tokyo Station.

*Please get off at Osaka Station JR Expressway Bus Terminal.

Day service: 7:20–13:50

Night service: 21:40–23:50

Location of bus terminal: buses to Osaka generally depart from the D Area on the 4th floor

For more information about bus in Japan

If you don’t have much information about normal buses or highway buses in Japan, the following articles may be useful.

▶︎How to Ride a Bus in Japan: A Detailed Bus Guide for Tourists

▶︎How to Book Bus Tickets in Japan

▶︎3 Best Highway Buses in Japan

▶︎10 Best Destinations to Go from Tokyo by Bus

▶︎How to Ride a Night Bus in Japan

From Tokyo to Osaka by Plane

Flight from Tokyo to Osaka it’s also possible. Several airlines operate frequent flights between Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) or Narita International Airport (NRT) and Osaka’s Itami Airport (ITM) or Kansai International Airport (KIX). The ticket price ranges from around 5,000 yen with a low-cost airline to about 15,000 yen for a one-way trip.

The flight duration is typically around 1 to 1.5 hours, making it on paper the fastest way to travel between the two cities. However, you also need to consider the travel time from the city center to the airports (more than an hour in the case of Narita, for example). Additionally, unlike the bullet train, you need to arrive at the airport at least an hour before your flight, go through security checks, etc. So the total travel time can be more than three hours.

You also have to add the cost of transportation from the city center to the airport to the total cost, so it generally ends up being more expensive than the bullet train, and it’s an option we don’t recommend.

From Tokyo to Osaka by Car

If you enjoy driving, you can rent a car and drive from Tokyo to Osaka. Using the highway, it takes about 6-7 hours, assuming no traffic jams. However, this is also an option we don’t recommend. You have to pay for the car rental, highway tolls, gasoline, and parking once you arrive in Osaka.

Just in tolls alone, you’ll spend between 11,000 and 14,000 yen, which is more than the cost of taking the bullet train.

From Tokyo to Osaka by Regular Train

If you want to save money, there’s also the option of traveling by local train, although it’s not highly recommended. From Tokyo to Osaka by local train takes over 9 hours, and you may have to change trains up to 5 times (sometimes more). The total cost would be around 9,000 yen.

There’s a train pass called the Seishun 18 Kippu, which allows you to use any JR line transport for 5 days for 12,050 yen. This means your daily transportation cost comes out to 2,410 yen, and you can travel from Tokyo to Osaka for that price. However, the Seishun 18 Kippu is only sold 3 times a year and is only valid during certain months. So, if your trip doesn’t coincide with its availability dates, you can’t use it.

Personally, I used the Seishun 18 Kippu once when I was a student, and it was quite tiring. If you buy a bus ticket in advance, it costs approximately the same, and I think it’s a better option. There’s also an overnight train, but considering the ticket costs 18,000 yen, it’s more cost-effective to buy a regular Shinkansen ticket.

Traveling from Tokyo to Osaka: Which is the Best Option?

As you can see, to travel from Tokyo to Osaka Shinkansen is much faster but buses are the best cheaper option. So if you are searching for the fastest option over the price, bullet train is your best choice. In the other hand, for those searching for the cheapest option to get from Tokyo to Osaka, that’s no doubt the bus. An overnight bus may be the better choice for those who want to also save accommodation expenses.

Other options as a rental car or local train are not really a good value for money. On the other hand, take a flight is not a bad option, more like a middle ground between the bus and the bullet train. If you don’t mind having to travel to the airport, go through security checks, etc.

So, it depends on which you value, time or money during the trip. As a conclusion, here is a small comparative chart with the pros and cons of all the options to help you to decide.

Bullet Train Bus Flight Car Local Train
Value for money ★★★ ★★☆ ★★★ ☆☆☆ ☆☆☆
Time ★★★ ★☆☆ ★★☆ ★☆☆ ☆☆☆
Comfort ★★★ ★☆☆ ★★☆ ★☆☆ ☆☆☆
Convenient ★★★ ★★☆ ★★☆ ★☆☆ ☆☆☆
Book Here Here

How to Travel from Tokyo to Osaka, FAQs

How far is Osaka from Tokyo?

The distance between Tokyo and Osaka is approximately 500 kilometers. And as I explained before, it can be done in about 2.5 to 3 hours if you choose the bullet train. However, if you want to travel from Tokyo to Osaka by highway bus or car, then the time can vary depending on the route and the traffic condition. Usually is from 8 to 9 hours.

On the other hand, a flight from Tokyo to Osaka takes less than an hour and a half, but you need to factor in the time it takes to get to the airport from the city center.

Can I do a one day trip to Osaka from Tokyo?

Yes, you can do a day trip to Osaka from Tokyo using the bullet train. The first Shinkansen heading to Osaka from Tokyo departs at 6:00 in the morning, arriving at Shin-Osaka before 8:30, while the last Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo is at 21:24, reaching Tokyo by 23:45 night.

However, Osaka is a city with much to offer, especially known for its nightlife, so I personally recommend spending at least one night in Osaka and returning to Tokyo the next day with the first train!

You can probably do something similar by flying depending on the day and availability, but since you have to travel from the airports to the city center, you lose a lot of time and can barely enjoy the city.

If you’re feeling up to it, you can also take an overnight bus from Tokyo to Osaka, arriving in the morning, and return to Tokyo the same day on another overnight bus (for example, departing Tokyo on Tuesday night, arriving in Osaka on Wednesday, spending the day there, and taking a bus that night, arriving in Tokyo on Thursday morning).

When I should book my tickets to travel from Tokyo to Osaka?

It’s recommended to book tickets at least one month in advance. Prices for long-distance bus and airplane tickets can vary depending on the date, and they typically increase as the travel date approaches. While Shinkansen ticket prices remain stable, the Shinkansen connecting Tokyo to Osaka is heavily used, including by many Japanese for business travel, etc. As a result, especially during peak seasons, there’s a risk of tickets selling out.

As an extra tip, weekdays offer less crowded transportation options, while weekends might have more availability for accommodations and activities. Early morning or late evening travel times can also be less busy.

When is the best time to travel to Tokyo and Osaka?

Spring and autumn, with cherry blossoms or momiji (autumn leaves), are the two most popular seasons for traveling to Japan. But especially in spring, you’ll encounter the most people. Summer is also high season, with festivals and fireworks. However, I recommend avoiding the Golden Week and Obon week in summer, as these are when many Japanese people also have vacations.

What To Do in Osaka

Osaka is the most popular gourmet city. Enjoy dining in Dotonbori is the top priority!! In Shinsaibashi, you may be a shopaholic with countless stores and you can discover about the legendary Japanese samurais at Osaka Castle. But if there’s one place you can’t miss in Osaka, it’s Universal Studio Japan!

<< Book your Universal Studios Japan Osaka e-tickets here! >>

▼Make your perfect itinerary in Osaka with this article▼

▽Transportation Guide for Other Popular Destinations▽

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to Kyoto

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to Hakone

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to Nikko

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to Mt.Fuji

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to Hiroshima

▶︎How to Get from Tokyo to DisneyLand and Disney Sea

Also how to get to Tokyo from the two main airports, Narita Airport and Haneda Airport.

▶︎How to Get from Nartita Airport to Tokyo

▶︎How to Get from Haneda Airport to Tokyo


If is your first time in Japan and don’t know much about the bullet train, this guide can help you! ▶︎Shinkansen: A Complete Guide to the Japanese Bullet Train

▽For more Transportation Information in Osaka Area▽

▶︎Hello Kitty Shinkansen: The Most Kawaii Bullet Train in Japan

▶︎Best Train Passes in Japan

▶︎Bus Guide between Osaka and Kansai International Airport (KIX)

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Written by

From Barcelona to Tokyo. Coffee & Adventure lover🌏☕️ 

I started to like Japan because of the anime, music and doramas, but after my first trip to the country I found what I love the most: traveling around, the culture and history. I have travelled a lot in Japan, but I still have many places to discover that I want to share with you🙋🏼‍♀️ Let’s discover Japan together!

 

Also, as a foreigner living in Japan for over 6 years I understand what kind of things are difficult when you move here and I want to help other people in the same situation that I have in the past.