The Sanyo Shinkansen is a high-speed “bullet train” rail line operated by JR West between Shin-Osaka Station and Hakata Station in Fukuoka, Kyushu. This is the fastest and most comfortable route to take if you are traveling between Osaka and major western cities in Japan such as Kobe, Himeji, and Hiroshima.
Traveling west from Shin-Osaka Station you can reach Kobe in 12 minutes, Himeji in 30 minutes, Hiroshima in 1 hour and 30 minutes, and Hakata in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Traveling east from Shin-Osaka, the line is extended by the Tokaido Shinkansen line, which goes to Kyoto, Nagoya, Shin-Yokohama and Tokyo. Beyond Hakata, the line is extended by the Kyushu Shinkansen line which goes to Kumamoto and Kagoshima.
This route can be very economical if you have a Japan Rail Pass. However, be aware that two of the fastest shinkansen trains, the Nozomi and the Mizuho, are not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
There are 5 different trains running on the Sanyo Shinkansen line: the Nozomi, Hikari, Kodama, Mizuho and Sakura. The Nozomi is the fastest and most frequent train service as it stops at only the largest stations on the route. However, this train is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. If you wish to use the Japan Rail Pass, your best choice is the Hikari, which is the next fastest train. The Kodama is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but is the slowest service as it stops at every station on the way.
The Mizuho and Sakura trains offer a through service from Shin-Osaka, through Hakata and onto Kumamoto and Kagoshima via the Kyushu Shinkansen line. Of these two trains the Sakura is covered by the Japan Rail Pass, but the Mizuho is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
For most shinkansen lines reserved ticket prices are variable according to the season. The standard reserved ticket charge for most shinkansen lines is an extra 510 yen on top of the non-reserved ticket price. However, in off-peak periods a reserved ticket charge is just 310 yen, and in peak periods it can go up to 710 yen. On the Kyushu Line, reserved ticket charges are fixed at an extra 510 yen. Non-reserved ticket fares are given below.
If you are travelling by shinkansen, Shin-Osaka Station is your gateway for the Osaka metropolitan area. This is the common terminus for two shinkansen lines, the Tokaido from Tokyo in the east, and the Sanyo from Fukuoka in the west. At Shin-Osaka station passengers can connect with the Subway Midosuji Line, which is the main line running north to south of the Osaka city subway network. They can also connect with regular JR lines and several Limited Express services. The Special Rapid train on the JR Kyoto Line also provides quick and easy access from here to both Osaka Station and Kyoto Station.
Shin-Kobe Station serves the city of Kobe, the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture. Kobe is an attractive cosmopolitan port city. Its main attractions are Chinatown, Kobe Harborland, Meriken Park, Mount Rokko, and the Ijinkan, an area of foreign houses built in the 19th century.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 1500 yen
The city of Himeji is most famous for its spectacular white castle. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Himeji Castle is one of only 12 original medieval castles to have survived the last World War. Nicknamed “White Heron Castle” it is renowned for its beauty.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 3220 yen
Okayama Station is a major transportation hub in western Japan. The city of Okayama is known for its castle and the Korakuen Garden. It is also just 16 minutes away by local train from the city of Kurashiki which is famous for its beautifully preserved traditional buildings, canal views and the Ohara Art Museum.
You can also travel from Osaka to Okayama via regular JR train and express bus.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 5500 yen
Hiroshima is sadly best known as the location of the world’s first nuclear bombing. Its most poignant sites are the Genbaku Atomic Dome, Hiroshima Peace Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Other sites of interest include Hiroshima Castle, the Shukkeien Garden and Hiroshima Art Museum. Hiroshima is also a good base from which to travel to Miyajima Island (also known as Itsukushima) with its famous sea-front shrine and giant torii gate, which at high tide is partially submerged in the sea.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 9710 yen
Shin-Iwakuni Station serves the city of Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Iwakuni is famous for its castle, the arched Kintai bridge which dates from 1673, cormorant fishing on the Nishiki River, and the white snake sanctuary in Kikko Park. These white snakes are found only in Iwakuni and are a designated national treasure.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 10350 yen
This station serves the city of Yamaguchi, the capital city of Yamaguchi Prefecture. Yamaguchi’s best known attractions are the Rurikoji Temple with its five storied pagoda, Joeji Temple’s Zen garden and the modern Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church. Passengers who wish to travel to either the historic samurai town of Hagi, or the limestone caves of the Akiyoshidai Plateau can reach them by bus services from Shin-Yamaguchi Station.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 12100 yen
Kokura Station is a major transportation hub in the city of Kitakyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture. As the northernmost city of Kyushu it acts as a gateway between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu. Its best known attractions are Kokura Castle, the Space World amusement park and the Mojiko Retro district with its wooden station built in 1914. Hourly buses run from Kokura Station to Kitakyushu Airport. There are also ferry services from Kitakyushu to major cities on the islands of Shikoku and Honshu as well as South Korea.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 13620 yen
Hakata Station in the city of Fukuoka is the last stop on the Sanyo Shinkansen line. Fukuoka is Kyushu’s largest city and Hakata Station is Kyushu’s largest and busiest station. The city’s major attractions are its hilltop castle ruins, the Fukuoka Art Museum, and the expansive Ohori Park.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 14480 yen
Beyond Hakata only the through trains Sakura and Mizuho continue on via the Kyushu Shinkansen line.
Traveling to Nagasaki? Read our article Traveling from Osaka to Nagasaki
Kumamoto city’s most famous attractions are Kumamoto Castle, and the Hosokawa Gyobu-tei which is a wooden mansion and garden within the castle walls. Kumamoto is also a good jumping off point for visits to nearby Mount Aso and Aso Kuju National Park. In April 2016, Kumamoto suffered serious earthquakes which resulted in several fatalities and much structural damage. At the time of writing authorities advise against travel to this region.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 18020 yen
This is the southern terminus of the Kyushu Shinkansen line and a major transportation hub in Kagoshima city. Kagoshima is a scenic bayside city at the south western tip of Kyushu. The city lies across from the active volcano of Sakurajima, and has been nicknamed the “Naples of the East”. Ferries to Sakurajima are a ten minute walk from Kagoshima-Chuo Station. Other attractions include the Sengan-en Garden, the Museum of the Meiji Restoration, and the Reimeikan museum.
Non-reserved ticket fare from Shin-Osaka: 21380 yen
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Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.