Best Way to Travel from Tokyo to Kyoto (with Mt. Fuji Views)


When planning a trip to Japan, two of the most popular destinations are Tokyo city and Kyoto city. Whether you’re drawn to the bustling metropolis of Tokyo or Kyoto’s rich history and culture, getting from one city to the other can be a seamless experience, especially if you take the shinkansen bullet train.

In this post, we’ll be going over all the basic info about the shinkansen, and the best ways to enjoy a shinkansen during your adventures in Japan. 

What is the Shinkansen?

Photo by Henry Perks (Unsplash)

The shinkansen, also known as the bullet train, is a high-speed train designed to travel at 320 km/h~ (200 mph~), and has been operating on Japan’s railways since the 1964. These trains connect major cities throughout Japan, making them incredibly convenient and efficient.

If we are just considering speed, as of 2023, the “Hayabusa” train is known to be the fastest shinkansen train in Japan. There are 10 different shinkansen lines that run throughout Japan, and on average, transports a total of 1 million passengers per day.

How to ride the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto

Photo by Rikku Sama (Unsplash)

Taking the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto is surprisingly simple. Follow the simple step-by-step guide below: 

  1. Getting to the train station – The Tokyo to Kyoto bullet train leaves from Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station. Each is located in the center of Tokyo and is easily accessible by busses, trains, or taxis. 

  2. Purchasing tickets – First, you’ll need to purchase tickets for the Shinkansen. You can purchase tickets from the automated ticket machines located near the station entrances, or head towards the “Midori no Madoguchi” (JR Ticket Window). The JR ticket windows are manned by JR staff members, so they’ll be able to assist you with recommending the best route, reserving a seat, and more.
  3. JR Rail Pass
    The most cost-effective way of doing this is with a JR Rail Pass. If you are a JR Rail Pass holder, you’ll have unlimited access to the JR public transport (including buses, ferries, airport transfers, and the Shinkansen bullet trains) for a designated timeframe. 

    However, note that you won’t be able to ride the “Nozomi” shinkansen train, as it is not covered with your JR Rail Pass. You will need to catch the “Hikari” or “Kodama” trains, but we recommend the “Hikari” as it is slightly faster. The difference between these 2 trains and the “Nozomi” train is the number of stops that are made. (Nozomi trains make less frequent stops). 

    If you’d like to use the Nozomi shinkansen train, you will need to pay the fare in full. 

  4. Making Seat Reservations – With the shinkansen, when purchasing your tickets, you can choose to sit in the reserved seating area or non-reserved seating area. However, as many passengers travel along the line between Tokyo City~Kyoto City, we highly recommend reserving a seat.

    The difference in cost between the reserved seats and non-reserved seats falls between 330 yen〜1,990 yen, but on average is about 530 yen. JR Rail Pass holders will automatically be able to board the non-reserved seats and reserved seats (so long as it is the Hikari or Kodama train). If you would like to sit in a reserved seat, you won’t be charged an extra fee, but you will need to make a seat reservation ahead of time at the JR Ticketing Office (Midori no Madoguch – みどりの窓口). 

  5. Eating on the train? – Is eating allowed on the shinkansen train? Yes! The shinkansen is famous for its food carts – JR staff members walk up and down the aisles pushing a cart with snacks, drinks, and even bento boxes. You can grab a can of beer, Pocky snacks, ice cream, coffee and more. 

    ekiben (eki = station / ben = bento box)

    If you want more of a full meal, we recommend grabbing an ekiben before jumping on the shinkansen train. You’ll find that throughout major stations in Japan, many shops will sell bento boxes (packed lunches) that you can purchase and bring onto the train. Each seat comes with a cup holder and fold out tray, so you’ll be able to enjoy your meal quite comfortably. 

  6. Arriving at Kyoto – Once you arrive at Kyoto, you’ll be at their major railway in the city’s center. There are 2 main exits (train gates) at Kyoto Station.
    ・ Hachijo Gate (South Gate)
    ・ Chuo Gate (Central Gate, Kyoto Tower side)

    If you are not transferring to the Kyoto city subway line or another train line, be sure to exit from one of the 2 main gates. Once you’ve exited, you can catch a taxi, or bus to get to your next destination or hotel. 

Rent an entire traditional Japanese house during your stay in Kyoto : MACHIYA RESIDENCE INN

How to view Mount Fuji from the train

Did you know that the bullet train is actually one of the best ways to view Japan’s iconic landmark, Mount Fuji?

Shinkansen Train in front of Mount Fuji
©︎ beeboys / Adobe Stock

When taking the Tokaido & Sanyō Shinkansen line, there’s a way to guarantee that you can get a wonderful view of the magnificent Mount Fuji (if it is sunny, that is). 

The Tokaido Shinkansen has a row of five seats. These are in a row of three seats and a row of two seats. The seats in a row of three are labeled A, B, and C, while the seats in a row of two are D and E. 

If you want to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji from your seat, make sure to reserve seat EYou’ll get the best view of Mount Fuji just after passing Shizuoka Station. Once your train has passed through Shizuoka Station, you’ll go through a tunnel and pass by the Fuji River. Once you’ve passed the river, you’ll have an excellent photo opportunity to capture Mount Fuji.  

Did you know that Mount Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan? It is located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. It’s an active stratovolcano that stands 3,776.24 meters (12,389 feet) tall and has been considered a sacred site in Japanese culture for centuries. 

Is there luggage storage space on the shinkansen?


The shinkansen provides overhead luggage storage for all seats. You’ll have enough space to store a large backpack or small suitcase. For your luggage to be classified as a backpack or small suitcase, it must be 160cm or less on three sides. 

Traveling with more luggage? 

If you use the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and need more luggage than the standard size (160cm), you must reserve an “Oversized baggage” seat. This is a rule that has recently been implemented, and requires you to purchase a “Seats with oversized baggage areas” instead of purchasing a “Standard” JR Rail Pass ticket.

Unlike the standard luggage storage area that’s located above your seat, you’ll have a designated area just behind your seat where you can store large luggage. Therefore, if you’re traveling with large suitcases, bags, or strollers over 160cm, we recommend making a reservation for these designated seats. 

To make a reservation for seats that can accommodate larger luggage or suitcases on the shinkansen bullet train, stop by the “Midori no Madoguchi” (JR Ticket Window). You’ll find these ticket windows at all major train stations. 

Start your journey!

So if you’re looking for the most efficient & best way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto, it’s with the JR shinkansen bullet train. What’s more, if you have the JR Rail Pass, we definitely recommend that you to use this method. It’s easy, effective, great for the environment, and you just might be able to see the famous Mount Fuji, too. 

See our recommended accommodations in Kyoto : THE MACHIYA HOTELS

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