Info: Getting from Tokyo to Kyoto as cheaply as possibly

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Intra-city public transportation In Japan is excellent with extensive subways, buses, and light rail systems. However, you quickly find that while inter-city transportation is very fast using the Shinkansen (bullet-train) which travels at about 300 km/h, it's also very expensive. Here's my guide to getting from Tokyo to Kyoto (400 miles; 600 kilometers) as cheaply as possibly:

  1. Train: Tokaido line with Seishun 18 ticket ¥2,300 each day (9 hours, 1-3 transfers) - warning: Seishun 18 can only be bought/used during particular periods of the year; otherwise it's ¥9000 if you buy the train ticket normally
  2. Bus: City Liner - ¥4,300-¥4,500 each way by overnight bus (7 hrs)
  3. Bus: JR Highway Bus - ¥8,180 each way by "deluxe" overnight bus (7 hrs)
  4. Train: Shinkansen Nozomi - ¥13,990 each way -- that's about US$130, $260 round trip! (2.5 hrs)
  5. Car: If you're driving, tolls will be ¥10,050 (according the JH Navigator) + gas will be about ¥8,000 = ¥18,000. It will take you about 6~7 hours each way, depending on traffic. I've never seen anyone (Japanese/female) hitchhike in Japan, so that's not really an option for me.
  6. Plane: about ¥19,000 each way / Y27,000 round trip. (45 minutes)

Astute people will note that the round-trip plane is slightly cheaper than the train, although getting to the airport adds another Y3000 or so to your bill and isn't any faster. Really astute people will note that it's cheaper to fly to Seoul, Korea from Japan than it is to fly between Kyoto and Tokyo. Go figure!

I'm just about to go to yet another disability protest in Japan, so these were my back of the napkin figures. If you have updated figures or more information, please post them! Well, I'm off to catch the City Liner! :-)

Updated 2005.02.16: Added Seishin 18 information and hitchhiking caveat
Updated 2005.03.16: Added accurate highway tolls (and gasoline guesstimate)


6 Comments from the old system:

Peter said...

When I lived in Japan in the early 90s, it was possible to hitchike long distances for free or pretty close to free. This seemed to work for "gaijin" but not Japanese. Make sure your sign has the Kanji characters for "homen" (direction) after the characters for the destination, or many people won't pick you up to give you a lift part way.There was also a "Juhachikippu" which was a book of 5 tickets for about Y1800 per ticket. This gave you one day travel on the JR "futsu" trains. Not sure if they still have these tickets, but that was a very cheap way to get around.

11:55 AM

mehyar said...

i usually combine several trips and use a week long Japan Rail Pass. if one plans to travel a lot, then it pays to purchase several before leaving for Japan. unused ones get refunded minus 10%. they can even be purchased when one is in any rate, the mobility, hence freedom, one gets with the darn thing is awesome especially now that there is Shinkansen service to Kagoshima.

4:33 PM

nasukaren said...

The Seishun 18 ticket mentioned by Dreddiboy is a great deal. But you can only take locals and the Tokaido line no longer runs straight from Kyoto to Tokyo, so you have to keep changing trains. If any one know how long it takes on locals, that'd be great info to post.Mehyar, you're right that the JR pass is the best deal if you're making more than one round trip. One week is around Y27000. I wish they had a Eurail type situation where you could choose any 5 days in a 21 day period, that would make it much easier to use.

10:26 AM

nasukaren said...

p.s. Where did you buy the JR pass in Japan? I thought they were very strictly sold abroad only.

10:27 AM

mehyar said...

not in Japan. i purchase from a travel agency in San Diego. if already in Japan, just phone/e-mail and have it sent. same thing with flights. Sankei Travel is their name. they are popular with my friends from the Tokyo office for personal travel outside of Japan. best

2:03 PM

ckapublishing said...

Heya,I did the Seishun 18 Kippu thing in September of last year and it took exactly 9 hours and 2 minutes to get from Osaka to Shinagawa (Tokyo).

10:47 AM

thank you very much for your info about how to get as cheap as possible from tokio to kyoto! Thanks!

i m form germany and actually i study in seoul. but i want to come to tokio next weekend. If you know, how much cost a xd card 1 gb in tokio in average, please tell me by wendsday, so i m able to buy one in seoul, if it s cheaper!
Thank you very much!

Matze -

The cheapest store in Tokyo that I know of for flash memory is Pasokon-Arc in Akihabara. Their web page is here ( According to them, their XD cards are around ¥8000-9000.

Arc is impossible to find unless you can read their map in Japanese and/or have a friend show you. The regular camera stores should be about the same + about 20%.


From tokyo station to kyoto 9 hours 12 minutes

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on February 14, 2005 9:34 PM.

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