No trip to Japan would be complete without a visit to Tokyo: Japan’s capital city and its most populous metropolis. The city has endless opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment.
Popular sightseeing districts include the historic area of Asakusa, Harajuku for its pop culture and fashion boutiques, and the Roppongi and Shibuya areas for their neon-lit nightlife. Tokyo’s famous landmarks include the soaring tower of Tokyo Sky Tree, the ornate Kabukiza Theater, and the grand shrine of Meiji-jingu.
The high speed shinkansen or “bullet train” provides the fastest, most convenient and most comfortable transport service between Osaka and Tokyo. Trains depart from Shin-Osaka Station. This route can be economical if you have a Japan Rail Pass. If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass then the fare will be 13,620 yen one way.
There are three types of train on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: the Nozomi, Hikari and Kodama. The Nozomi is the most frequent and the fastest train as it travels between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo in just 2 hours and 30 minutes. 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 takes just three hours to cover the distance. The Kodama stops at every station en route and so takes a little over four hours.
Platt Kodama offers a discount ticket of 10,300 yen on the Kodama (slow) train between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo. This must be booked at least one day in advance at JR Tokai Tours offices.
There are a variety of companies offering highway express bus services from Osaka Station to Tokyo. This is certainly an economical option. However, the journey can take up to 8 or 9 hours. There are also night buses that leave the station in the evening and reach Tokyo at around 6 or 7 in the morning. If you can sleep on the journey, this will save you time and the cost of one night’s stay at a hotel. However, if you are a light sleeper and find the bus seat uncomfortable, then you won’t be able to sleep and will arrive tired at your destination.
Two reliable bus companies are JR Bus and Willer Express. JR Bus services run from the JR Express Bus Terminal at Osaka Station to the following destinations in Tokyo: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo Station and Yokohama. Both daytime and nighttime services are available. The cost can vary between 4,000 and 8,000 yen depending on the service you book and your choice of seating. There may also be a discount if you book early. Some services can be found and booked online at kousokubus.net. However, you may find more services are available if you enquire directly at Osaka Station’s Bus Terminal Ticket Office.
Willer Express are a reputable company that run fairly comfortable night bus services between Osaka and the following destinations: Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Tokyo Station, Tokyo Tower, and Tokyo Disneyland. Prices vary by the service and the date of the journey. The cheapest fares start at 3,520 yen but most tickets are in the 5,000 – 12,000 yen range, with the more expensive services having comfier seats. Buses depart from their office at the Umeda Sky Building and you can book tickets there directly or from the Willer Express website.
Osaka has two airports from which it is possible to fly to Tokyo: Kansai International Airport and Osaka Itami Airport. The cheapest option overall is to travel from Kansai International Airport to Narita Airport in Tokyo, because low cost airlines Peach and Jetstar operate 7 flights a day on this route. A flight lasting 1 hour and 25 minutes can cost as little as 3,990 yen (before tax).
There are also 13 flights a day from Kansai International Airport to Haneda Airport in Tokyo. These flights are run by the airlines ANA, JAL and StarFlyer. Flight times vary between 1 hour and 10 minutes and 1 hour and 20 minutes depending on the service and fares can cost between 12,000 and 28,000 yen.
From Osaka Itami Airport there are 4 flights a day to Narita Airport which are operated by ANA and JAL. These takes 1 hour and 20 minutes and fares can cost between 19,000 and 26,000 yen.
From Osaka Itami Airport to Haneda Airport there are 30 flights a day which are operated by ANA and JAL. These take between 1 hour and 10 minutes and I hour and 15 minutes depending in the service and fares can cost between 13,000 and 25,000 yen.
Though flight times are short and flights from Kansai Airport to Narita in particular are very cheap, you should also factor in the time and cost of getting to the airport in Osaka and the cost of traveling from either Narita or Haneda into Tokyo city. Depending on the starting and end points of your journey, it may well be easier and cheaper to take the shinkansen.
It is possible to drive from Osaka to Tokyo via the Chuo Expressway or the Tomei Expressway. This will take 5 or 6 hours depending on traffic. However, when you factor in expressway toll fees of around 10,000 yen this does not seem cost effective. To find out more about routes and toll fees check the Central Nippon Expressway Company’s website. To find out more about car rental, check our article: Car Rental at Osaka Station.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.