Tokyo is the place to be for an incredible urban experience. Everything that makes a big city exciting is here, from its restaurants to its futuristic appeal.
Meanwhile, Kyoto is the heart of Japan’s traditional culture. It’s what you’d imagine old Japan to be: a land of colorful shrines, neighborhoods with small-town warmth, and more.
Choosing between the two may be as simple as picking between old and new. But if you get to know these two more below, you may change your mind.
As the country’s cultural capital, Kyoto is the best place to get an authentic Japanese experience. From its accommodations, and food, to its many fun activities, you’ll get cultured in incredible ways in Kyoto. And its calm, old-time charm will make you feel like you’re back in time to Japan’s Edo period.
What Makes Kyoto Unique?
Find Your Zen in Kyoto’s Whimsical Green Oases
For centuries, Kyoto has long been famous for its scenic wonders. And this hasn’t changed today as you wander through the city’s green expanses of fairytale-like charms. If you love seeking out jaw-dropping sights, Kyoto is one of the best places on Earth to explore.
Take some time for quiet contemplation as you stroll through Sagano’s bamboo forest. This is one of Kyoto’s well-visited gems, and it should be a part of your itinerary in the city.
Here, you’ll walk through winding paths fringed with towering bamboo stalks. A bit of sunlight comes through the forest, giving you an out-of-this-world and magical ambiance.
Watch the bamboo forest sway in the wind as you listen to the leaves rusting. If you’re looking for a soothing and mesmerizing experience, there’s no better place than Sagano.
Other green oases in Kyoto are well-loved for their ever-changing views, like Kyoto Botanical Gardens. This is the oldest and most extensive of its kind in the country. This verdant garden is home to over 12000 plant species across various ecosystems.
And depending on the season, you’ll visit a completely different-looking garden here! Catch the flowers in full bloom during spring as you wind through paths filled with sakura blooms in all their pink splendor. Visit during summer for a little more green, in fall for a more tranquil visit, and in winter to see the garden transform into a winter wonderland!
Rounding off Kyoto’s list of green oases are its many traditional Japanese Gardens. These once served as a spot where lords and shoguns can relax in the distant past. But today, these are your scenic retreat to connect with nature.
One of the most popular of the bunch is Ryoan-ji Temple. What makes it unique is that this temple features a dry landscape garden. The focal point of the temple is the 15 rocks sprinkled across a plot of white sand, circled with patches of moss.
Pay Your Respects at Kyoto’s Many Beautiful Shrines and Temples
Kyoto is brimming with historic temples and shrines, with 1600 temples and over 400 shrines, to be exact. With this, wandering around the city feels like exploring a sprawling open-air museum. And it even gets more exciting as many of these are heritage sites.
Kyoto is home to one of the world’s biggest collections of these, with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites under its belt. And most that made it to the list are incredibly beautiful temples.
Two of the most memorable ones are Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion).
Kinkaku-ji got its name from the gold leaves that cover the top two stories of the temple. As light hits this stunning structure, it reflects on the Mirror Pond in front of it, offering views like no other. And for this alone, Kinkaku-ji is the top World Heritage site in the city.
With Ginkaku-ji’s nickname, you may think that it’s covered in silver leaves. Although it was originally meant to be clad in silver foil, it never happened.
Still, Ginkaku-ji is among the most beautiful temples in the city, and it’s worth visiting for its Philosopher’s Path alone. This is a scenic stone path that runs along a canal fringed with a plethora of cherry trees.
Kyoto’s most famous and best-loved shrine isn’t a UNESCO site though. But you’ve seen the Fushimi Inari Shrine everywhere, especially as it’s the backdrop of many tourist pictures. With 10000 orange torii gates, Fushimi Inari is Kyoto’s gem, and one of its most recognizable landmarks.
A stone path goes under these gates, and this path leads to the forest of the sacred Mount Inari. With lush greenery cradling the path and its gates, a stroll here means connecting with nature too.
Get a Glimpse of the Fascinating Geisha Culture
Before Tokyo became the capital city, Kyoto enjoyed this title for over 1000 years. Still, Kyoto is Japan’s cultural capital, a city where ancient traditions are still thriving. And along with that is the enchanting geisha culture, as Kyoto is the center of geisha.
Kyoto is dense with okiya, or maiko houses, where young women around the country train to become maiko. Maiko are apprentices to a geisha, undergoing five years of training to become a geisha.
Thus, you’ll find them walking to work in the evening with their makeup, kimonos, and wooden clogs. There are around five geisha districts in the city. But you’ll have a better chance of encountering geisha and maiko at the legendary Gion District.
Gion is the city’s center for traditional arts and is where most geisha and maiko live and work. They may be too busy to stop for a picture with you through. So if you want to see them in action, it’s best to attend a festival or see one of their many shows!
Back then, geisha were secretive with their art, only catering to the affluent behind closed doors. But today, geisha culture is more open to the public. And there are several ways for you to discover this centuries-old art.
But now, you can watch them at annual public dance shows, where performances last for at least a week. Some of these Odori dance performances include:
- Miyako Odori: Known as the Dance of the Capital, Miyako Odori is the most famous of its kind. During this event, maiko and geisha from various districts come together to dazzle guests.
- Kyo Midori: A performance that’s reminiscent of Kabuki theater. Here, you can sip on some tea as you enjoy several scenes.
If your trip doesn’t coincide with these shows, don’t worry. Head to Gio Corner, where you can sample a variety of geisha performances with an hour-long show! There’s a show here during the evening daily, some of which includes:
- Kyo-mai: A Kyoto-style traditional performance danced by both geisha and maiko.
- Koto: A traditional stringed musical instrument, referred to as a Japanese harp. You’ll be able to watch geisha play this instrument for you.
- Ikebana: Watch geisha as they perform the art of traditional flower arranging.
Immerse Yourself in Centuries-Old Traditions
In a city so steeped in tradition and culture, being a spectator isn’t enough. Discovering Kyoto’s rich culture goes beyond watching a show or attending a festival. The city offers other allures that allow you to transport back in time too.
Hit the Hay at a Traditional Japanese Inn
With strong roots in ancient culture, Kyoto is full of ryokans. They are traditional inns or small hotels, with floors covered with tatami. And they’re incredible places to stay to get a feel of authentic Japanese lifestyle and the best of Japanese hospitality.
These ryokans feature amenities to give you the best traditional experience. Other ryokans are in modern buildings, but many others are in traditional wooden buildings. Some offer private gardens, delectable kaiseki meals, and more!
And because of this, ryokans are some of the best places to have traditional restaurants. These options, unlike restaurants in bustling cities, offer a more tranquil vibe. Thus, you’d have everything you need here.
Ryokans can be rooms, but some offer the entire building for your stay! From cheaper options to the most luxurious stays, there’s a ryokan in the city that’ll fit your budget. So when in Kyoto, ditch the hotels and opt for these lovely stays.
Step Back in Time to Japan’s Edo Period
Take your time traveling in Kyoto a step further at Toei Uzumasa Eigamura. This is a theme park that recreated an Edo-period town. And it doubles as a movie studio for period films and shows!
Here, you’ll find attendants dressed in historical clothing to really make you feel like you’ve stepped back in history. The park is perfect if you’re fascinated with samurai and ninjas as it has tons of themed attractions. This includes thrilling mazes, fun mystery houses, and even a spooky haunted house.
Get Cultured With an Authentic Tea Ceremony
Japan has had a strong tea culture for centuries with it even becoming a ritualized art form. This was once only limited to the nobility, such as warlords and samurai. But today, you can take part in this ritualized art form.
Tea ceremonies have roots in Kyoto, thus, this is the perfect city to enjoy a cup of tea. Look for a traditional wooden tea house and relax and unwind as you watch a tea master prepare your tea.
Endless Exciting Feasts With Kyoto’s Incredible Cuisine
Kyoto, Japan’s historic capital, has been a foodie’s paradise for centuries. Its cobblestone streets are the birthplace of many classics in the country’s cuisine. This includes kaiseki, a traditional multicourse meal that offers an incredible culinary experience.
With all the restaurants across Kyoto, you’ll have all the grilled chicken skewers, noodles, and karaage to fill your belly. And if you’re a vegan, Kyoto spoils you with options like silken tofu skin (yuba), shojin ryori, and more! Plus, you’ll find all these tasty delights prepared in various ways that have been around for centuries.
You’re exciting foodie adventure in Kyoto starts with its food belt, the centuries-old Nishiki Market. On this long and narrow street, you’ll find a multitude of restaurants to sample. Here’s where you’ll find Kyoto’s famous foods, from umami delights to sweet treats!
Some of the must-try food in Kyoto are:
- Yudofu: A tofu dish with kombu broth, eaten with soy source. Tofu is made with soybeans and water. And Kyoto’s excellent groundwater makes this dish even more delicious!
- Nishin Soba: Grab a bowl of sweet, boiled herring with some warm, buckwheat noodles, served with soy sauce. The herring’s sweetness blends with the broth, bringing the ingredients together.
- Warabi Mochi: A sweet, chewy, and addictive treat. In some versions, this dessert uses potatoes or tapioca instead of warabi. But in Kyoto, you’ll find the real deal.
But if you want to splurge, allow Kyoto’s 200 Michelin-starred restaurants to tickle your tastebuds. Kyoto is one of the world’s top cities with the most Michelin stars. And here, you’ll find an impressive traditional haute cuisine scene.
Tokyo is a city of juxtaposition. It’s a city of skyscrapers and temples, where futuristic technology and ancient traditions meet. And in a place where every interest gets catered to, you’ll never get bored of this vibrant megacity.
What Makes Tokyo Unique?
A Megalopolis With a Heart of Green
When you think of Tokyo, you’d likely imagine a dense cityscape filled with sleek skyscrapers, neon lights, and a sea of huge crowds. With that comes the electrifying and addicting buzz of Tokyo, a vibe that fills wide-eyed visitors with excitement.
Like famous big cities around the world, Tokyo has its fair share of iconic landmarks. Tokyo Tower, the city’s answer to the Eiffel Tower, stands out in the skyline as a red-and-white latticed wonder.
The Tokyo Skytree, one of the tallest towers in the world, is another impressive monolith. Climb up to its observation deck and you’ll have miles and miles of fascinating views in every direction.
Then there’s the thrilling chaos of the Shibuya Crossing. It’s famous for the “scramble” that occurs when a sea of pedestrians cross the intersection. Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest of its kind in the world, with thousands of pedestrians crossing it at a given time.
Despite its reputation as an urban jungle, Tokyo has a wealth of green oases. You’ll find small parks around, plus the many greenery-filled shrines and temples in the city.
For a change of pace, Ueno Park is an easy choice. It sits at the heart of this bustling city, and it’s the largest park in Tokyo. This massive expanse of green isn’t only a great place to take in the scenery though.
Here, you can hop on a boat and enjoy the views from Shibobazu’s waters. If you love history, head to the park’s Toshogu Shrine. And if you want to see some wildlife, head to Ueno Zoo, the home to over 3000 animals across 400 species, like the adorable pandas.
Tokyo’s smaller parks are also no less beautiful than Ueno though.
Head to Imperial Palace East Gardens during spring, and you’ll find a soft, pink wonderland of cherry blossoms. Flock to Odaiba Seaside Park and stroll along the beach or see the Rainbow Bridge light up at night. Or wander around the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen. This famous garden blends French Formal, Japanese Traditional, and English landscape gardens.
It’s the City Where the Old Meets the New
The vibrant city of Tokyo is famous across the world for its urban charm and cutting-edge technology. Bustling and always full of life, its green oases aren’t the only place to escape the hubbub of this megacity.
Tokyo has several neighborhoods that still feel much like a small town. Step into one, and you won’t feel like you’re in the busy city of Tokyo. Instead, you’ll find a relaxed paradise with a subdued vibe.
These areas, called “shitamachi”, are pockets of Tokyo that haven’t kept up with the city’s rapid modernization. Imagine an enclave of narrow streets and wooden buildings, you’ll find many of them in Tokyo!
Yanesen is the place to be if you want a hit of nostalgia. This consists of the districts of Yanaka, which is arguably the best, Sendagi, and Nezu. Visit Yanaka Ginza for retro shops, Nezu Shrine for its splendor and stunning azaleas, and the Senbon Torii Gate!
Of all the shitamachi though, Asakusa is the most famous. It’s a well-loved district as it has the charm of older Tokyo. Even more, because Asakusa has a great collection of important historical landmarks.
One of these is the oldest temple in the city, Sensoji. Featuring a giant lantern at its entrance, Kaminarion Gate, this temple is among Tokyo’s most iconic sights.
Other shitamachi areas in the city also have their fair share of historical wonder. This includes the Toshogu Shrine in Ueno and Shibamata Taishakuten in Katsushika.
Experience Tokyo’s Old Traditions
Despite being an ultramodern megalopolis, centuries-old traditions endure in Tokyo. Kyoto may be the country’s cultural capital. But Tokyo still has a ton to offer to get you cultured.
Watch a Sumo Wrestling Tournament
If you want to see a living tradition of Japanese culture, see an exciting sumo tournament. This is not only the country’s national sport, but it’s one where hints of old Japan remain today. The use of top knots, traditional attire, and ancient customs live in sumo wrestling.
These happen a few times a year, six times in Japan, and three of those in Tokyo. And if you’re keen on seeing sumo professionals in action, visit Tokyo in January, May, or September! You’ll find sumo wrestlers in action at Ryoguku Kokugian, where every tournament lasts for around 15 days.
Try on a Kimono
You don’t only get to see geishas and maikos in their beautiful kimonos here, you can wear one yourself. This traditional Japanese clothing has been around since the Heian era, from 794 to 1192 AD. It’s often worn only on special occasions, but you can always rent one near temples or in historic neighborhoods.
A kimono experience in Tokyo is more than just taking pretty pictures. You’ll get to immerse yourself in Japan’s ancient traditions too.
When you rent one, you’ll have a kimono expert dress you in your chosen kimono and obi belt. After which, a guide will take you to temples and show you how to do some ancient customs. Once done, you’ll get to stroll around as the guide walks you through traditional neighborhoods!
Take a Taiko Drum Lesson
In Japanese, the word “taiko” means “drum”. Taiko drumming has been a crucial aspect of Buddhist ceremonies for thousands of years.
To play these drums, you don’t need any musical skill, to begin with. With a drum lesson, experts will teach you basic rhythms before you’ll have a go at it!
Engage Yourself in Its World-Famous Anime and Gaming Culture
What’s known across the world about Tokyo is probably its pop culture scene. A driving force that has pushed tourists from far and wide to visit the city, it’s only right to explore this vibrant scene on your trip.
Of course, you can’t talk about Tokyo without mentioning its anime and gaming culture. It’s the cradle of the PlayStation, and where you’ll see iconic characters like Mario almost everywhere. In Tokyo, die-hard anime, manga, or video game fans get spoiled to the fullest.
And for you to experience Tokyo’s great enthusiasm for this, make your way to Akihabara. Akihabara is the “Geek Mecca” of the country. And here’s where you’ll find an astounding number of shops that focus on anime, card and video games, manga, and more!
You can also take your fun-filled adventure to Nanako, another magnet for anime lovers. This area is famous for the Nanako Broadway, a massive, four-floor shopping complex. Nanako is where you’ll find almost everything you could possibly need for your anime, cosplay, and manga needs!
Dine Like Royalty With the City’s Renowned Food Scene
Holding every object in high regard is one of the root principles of Shintoism, Japan’s native belief system. And this belief is evident in Tokyo’s renowned and thriving food scene. From picking out the best ingredients to selecting the perfect tableware to go with your hearty meal.
This constant pursuit of perfection has set up a plethora of incredible restaurants in the city. And this has made Tokyo the city with the most Michelin-star restaurants. The most of any city in the world as of this writing.
Dining in Tokyo doesn’t have to cost a fortune though.
You can dine like royalty in the city on a shoestring budget thanks to its smaller restaurants fueled by passionate chefs. If you don’t know where to eat, look for a place that’s filled with locals. This should tell you that the restaurant can be just as good as the city’s upscale restaurants!
With this, what’s on your plate seems to be more important than where you’re eating in Tokyo. Sure, you can have delicious sushi prepared before your eyes. Or a hearty bowl of ramen to warm up your belly.
Tokyo is a food belt for all your favorite Japanese food, and you’re always near a place that serves them. But to taste your way through the city’s world-renowned food scene, you need to grab a plate of other tasty dishes:
- Yakitori: Grab a skewer of meat, brushed with a sweet soy glaze, and grilled to perfection over charcoal. This often uses chicken meat, but you can also find liver, gizzards, and skins if you’re adventurous. You’ll find no better place to eat these than in an izakaya.
- Monjayaki: This is a similar dish to okonomiyaki. Both have finely chopped ingredients mixed into a flour batter and cooked on a hot grill. But Monjayaki is runnier in texture and is a must-try in Tokyo.
- Pastries: Japanese pastries are not only celebrated for their quality, but also for their wide selection. Here, seasonal ingredients make their way into every type of pastry you can imagine. From matcha green tea, cherry blossom, red beans, and more!
Which Is Better – Tokyo or Kyoto?
The better city between the two depends on your preference.
If you love all things modern, go for Tokyo. Tokyo has a vibrancy like no other, with a bustling nightlife, tons of shopping enclaves, and more. Plus, Tokyo has more culinary diversity, offering cuisines from around the world.
Kyoto wins for its old-time appeal, as it transports you back to old Japan. It’s better for those who want artistic and cultural activities. Kyoto is the place to be for exploring Japan’s ancient traditions.
Gas lamps light Kyoto’s streets, and it’s not unusual to see people in kimonos walking around. You may find this in smaller areas of Tokyo, but this is much more evident throughout Kyoto.
Is Kyoto Cheaper Than Tokyo?
Kyoto is a cheaper city to visit than Tokyo across the board. Like capital cities in other countries, visiting Tokyo comes at a high price tag. And on average, Tokyo is around 30 percent pricier than Kyoto.
A trip to Tokyo costs around 148 USD per day, on average. Meanwhile, daily expenses in Kyoto only cost around 79 USD. This takes accommodation, food, and transportation into consideration.
A big chunk of this cost goes to accommodation. A hotel for one person in Tokyo costs around 70 USD and only 47 USD in Kyoto. If you’re looking for a room for two, it’ll be around 140 USD in Tokyo and 94 USD in Kyoto.
Getting around Tokyo costs around 18 USD daily. But this is only around 8 USD in Kyoto.
Daily food expenses cost around 35 USD in Tokyo and only 22 USD in Kyoto. Alcohol is also pricier in Tokyo. A day’s worth of drinks in Tokyo cost around 30 USD. But in Kyoto, this is only around 11 USD.
Entertainment costs, such as shows and entrance tickets for a day, will be around 65 USD in Tokyo. But in Kyoto, you’ll only spend around 15 USD for these.
Is Kyoto Colder Than Tokyo?
Kyoto is colder than Tokyo during winter. But Tokyo is cooler than Kyoto during summer.
Kyoto’s year-round temperature varies from 33 to 89 F (0.6 to 31.7 C). Meanwhile, Tokyo’s average annual temperature is around 35 to 87 F (1.7 to 30.6 C).
Kyoto experiences more drastic weather changes between seasons. Meanwhile, Tokyo enjoys a milder climate. This difference is all because of location.
Kyoto lies between the mountains. Generally speaking, mountains cool easily, but they also get pretty warm fast.
Plus, Kyoto is an inland city, and being one makes the city get cold during the winter fast. And there is no large body of water near Kyoto to warm up the city.
It also doesn’t help that Kyoto has a much higher elevation than Tokyo. Kyoto’s altitude is over 3281 feet (1000 m) above sea level. With this, Kyoto’s atmosphere is less dense, making it much colder.
Meanwhile, Tokyo is a port city that faces the sea. Large bodies of water act as great insulators as they don’t get warm or cool fast. Tokyo also doesn’t get hit by cold Siberian winds, instead, these winds travel to Japan’s west coast.
Are Kyoto and Tokyo the Same Place?
Kyoto and Tokyo are not the same places, as they are two different cities within Japan. You’ll find both cities on Japan’s main island, Honshu.
But Kyoto is in Kyoto Prefecture, which is on the southwest of the island. Meanwhile, Tokyo is a merged city and is considered a prefecture in itself. It sits at the head of Tokyo Bay, which is on the central coast of Honshu.
How Far Is Kyoto From Tokyo?
The straight line distance from Tokyo to Kyoto is around 227 miles (365 km). But your actual travel distance will depend on your chosen transportation and the routes you take.
Kyoto to Tokyo
You have several transportation options when traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo. Your options include the train, bus, or plane. You can even drive as long as you have an international driver’s license!
The most popular way to travel between the two cities is by train. Japan has several types of trains, but the most famous one is the shinkansen, which is a bullet train.
With the fastest bullet train, Nozomi, you’ll reach Tokyo in only around 2 hours and 15 minutes. The slowest one, Kodama, will need 3 hours and 50 minutes of travel time. Regular, non-bullet trains, can make this trip in 9 hours or longer.
If you want a more affordable option, you can also take a bus. Several companies offer this service, but only Willer Express has an English website. Buses have a travel time of around 8 to 9 hours.
If you need to be in Tokyo right away, you can travel by plane instead. Japan has several low-cost airlines to choose from like Peach and Jetstar. This option has a travel time of only 1 hour and 30 minutes.
You can also rent a car in Japan. Some car rental companies include Hertz and Avis.
How Much Is It To Travel From Tokyo to Kyoto?
The cost of traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto depends on your chosen transportation.
If you want to travel by train, you first have to choose between a bullet train or a regular train. A bullet train costs around 100 to 120 USD during off-peak season and around 160 USD during peak season. But a regular train costs around 62 USD on average.
Keep in mind that the train service, your travel class, and whether you pick reserved seats or not will affect these prices.
If you want to travel by bus, tickets can cost around 26 to 69 USD. Ticket prices depend on the train class and the season. Keep in mind that overnight buses are often cheaper than day buses.
If you want to travel by plane, one-way tickets cost around 30 to 45 USD, but these tickets can cost twice as much. But keep in mind that Kyoto doesn’t have an airport. So you’ll have to fly from Tokyo to Osaka.
From Osaka, you can travel to Kyoto on a train, which has a travel time of only under an hour. Or, you can take a bus. With this, you have to factor in expenses for transfers too.
How Long Is the Trip From Tokyo to Kyoto?
The length of your journey from Tokyo to Kyoto depends on your transportation option.
Bullet trains are the fastest and they’ll take you to Kyoto in around 2 hours and 15 minutes to 3 hours and 39 minutes. Bullet trains have a few categories, and they vary in speed.
The fastest line is Nozomi, which has a travel time of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Second in line is Hikari, which takes you to Kyoto in 2 hours and 30 minutes. The slowest is Kodama, which has a travel time of 3 hours and 39 minutes.
A regular train, while cheaper, takes much longer. It has an estimated travel time of 9 hours, but it usually takes much longer.
If you take a bus, the journey will be 6 to 9 hours long.
You’d think that taking a plane is the fastest option, but Kyoto doesn’t have an airport. So you need to fly into Osaka first.
A plane can take you from Tokyo to Osaka in 1 hour and 30 minutes. But from Osaka to Kyoto, it’ll be 15 to 55 minutes on a train, 2 hours on a bus, and 1 hour and 30 minutes on a taxi.
Kyoto to Tokyo Flight
Traveling via plane from Kyoto to Tokyo isn’t as straightforward as you’d expect. Kyoto, unfortunately, doesn’t have an airport. Thus, you need to travel to nearby airports if you want to travel by air.
The two nearest airports to Kyoto are in Osaka. These two are the Itami Airport and the Kansai Airport.
A shinkansen, or a bullet train, can take you from Kyoto to Osaka in only 12 minutes. This is the fastest way to get to Osaka. You can also take a cheaper train, but these are much slower than a shinkansen.
With this, you need to travel to Osaka first. And you have to consider the travel time and cost of getting to Kansai or Itami airports too. This will lengthen your travel time.
Despite this, taking a plane to Tokyo is the fastest travel option. Planes can take you to Tokyo in only around an hour and 30 minutes. And the best part about this is that plane travel between the two cities doesn’t cost a lot—
That is because Japan has several low-cost carriers to choose from. Peach and Jetstar offer affordable services. The average plane ticket on this route only costs around 74 USD!
Train From Tokyo to Kyoto
When traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto on a train, you can choose between a bullet train or a regular train. Bullet trains, or shinkansen, are the popular option. As they’re faster and more comfortable.
The fastest shinkansen is the Nozomi line, which takes only 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Kyoto. You can’t use this line with a Japan Rail Pass through. This is a discounted rail ticket that allows you unlimited access to major trains, including bullet trains.
If you want to use your Japan Rail Pass, you can ride the second fastest shinkansen, the Hikari line. This service will get you to Kyoto in only around 2 hours and 30 minutes. which is almost as fast as Nozomi.
Shinkansen train tickets cost around 100 to 120 USD. But this will depend on the travel season, your travel class, and if you buy tickets with reserved seats or not.
A regular train costs around 62 USD per ticket. But these trains have a travel time of 9 hours, and usually, it takes much longer.
For bigger savings on a regular train, get a Seishun 18 Pass. Though you can only use it on local and rapid JR trains.
Overnight Train From Tokyo to Kyoto
Unfortunately, there are no overnight trains between Tokyo and Kyoto. With bullet trains departing from Tokyo to Kyoto every 10 minutes or so, overnight trains have become obsolete.
The only remaining sleeper trains in the country are Sunrise Izumo and Sunrise Seto. From Tokyo, these two trains follow the same route, only separating once they reach Okayama. But neither train stops at Kyoto.
If you’re persistent to ride an overnight train from Tokyo to Kyoto, it’s possible. But this will be a long and tricky journey.
To do this, you’ll have to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto via Osaka. But this isn’t the challenging part yet.
Outbound overnight trains from Tokyo do not stop at Osaka Station. These trains only stop at Osaka on the way back to Tokyo. With this, you have to take the train again on the way back again to reach Osaka.
Once in Osaka, you can ride a train again to Kyoto. Kyoto is around 30 minutes away from Osaka via the Special Rapid Service train.
Plus, you cannot book tickets for Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo online. You have to go to the station early to buy tickets, and they sell out quite fast.
Tokyo to Kyoto Train Price
The cost of a train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto depends on several factors. The first consideration is if you take a bullet train or a regular train. Then you’ll have to factor in the travel date, train category, and whether you buy tickets with reserved seats or not.
A shinkansen, or bullet train, is the fastest, most comfortable option. Plus, these trains take minimal stops along the way too.
Train tickets for bullet trains cost around 100 to 120 USD during off-peak season. But during peak season, tickets can surge up to 160 USD.
If you take the Nozomi line, the fastest service, you’ll spend around 99 USD for a non-reserved seat. But if you buy a reserved seat, this can set you back 105 USD. You can’t use your JR Pass on this line though.
The second fastest service is the Hikari line, and on this, you can use your JR Pass. This costs around 103 USD for reserved seats and around 99 USD for non-reserved seats.
If you want to ride a regular train, tickets can cost only around 62 USD. You can get a Seishun 18 Pass to save even more money on your trip!
How Far Is Kyoto From Tokyo by Train?
The distance from Tokyo to Kyoto by train is around 295 miles (475 km).
Tokyo to Kyoto Train Time
The train time from Tokyo to Kyoto takes anywhere between 2 hours and 15 minutes to 3 hours and 39 minutes on a bullet train. The fastest line is Nozomi, followed by Hikari, and then the slowest one is Kodama. But on a regular train, it’ll take around 6 to 9 hours to reach Kyoto from Tokyo.
Trains on this route have a wide schedule, so won’t have trouble finding a train to fit your travel time. Around 31 trains travel from Tokyo to Kyoto daily. And they leave from Tokyo around every 30 minutes from 6 AM each day.
How Often Do Trains Run From Tokyo to Kyoto?
Trains leave from Tokyo to Kyoto every 30 minutes starting from 6 AM each day. Around 31 trains travel between the two cities daily, so you’re bound to find one that fits your schedule.
Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station
Tokyo Station and Kyoto Station are around 295 miles (475 km) apart. The fastest bullet train, Nozomi, can cover this distance in around 2 hours and 15 minutes! The Hikari line needs around 15 more minutes to cover this, while the Kodoma line can cover this distance in 3 hours and 39 minutes.
But if you were to cover that distance on a regular train, it will take around 6 to 9 hours. Like bullet trains, these trains also have categories. The fastest option is a Special Express train, while the slowest is a Local train.
Bullet Train From Tokyo to Kyoto
Bullet trains, or shinkansen, are the speediest, most comfortable travel options when going around Japan. Tokaido Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Kyoto.
And the Tokaido Shinkansen has a few train types to choose from. These three train types are Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Each of these trains varies in speed.
On the speediest train, Nozomi, you’ll reach Kyoto in only 2 hours and 15 minutes. The Hikari will finish the journey to Kyoto in around 2 hours and 30 minutes. The slowest of the bunch, Kodama, will take you to your destination in around 3 hours and 39 minutes.
Tokyo to Kyoto Bullet Train Cost
The cost of a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto depends on your chosen shinkansen type. The Tokaido Shinkansen runs between these two cities, and you have three trains to choose from. Each train varies not only in its speed but also in its ticket price.
Nozomi, being the fastest train, is also the most expensive option. Tickets for this cost around 105 USD for reserved seats and around 99 USD for non-reserved seats. Hikari is the second-fastest line on this route.
Tickets for the Hikari train cost around 103 for reserved tickets and around 99 USD for non-reserved ones. Unlike Nozomi, you can use your Japan Rail Pass with the Hikari, giving it an edge for budget-conscious travelers.
The slowest train, Kodama, costs around the same as the Hikari line.
Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen – Green Car Price
Green Car shinkansen seats are equal to a first-class train in Japan. This carriage has soft carpeting, wider and comfy seats, offers more privacy, and more. With these added amenities, a Green Class train travel comes with a high price tag.
The cost of a Green Car depends on your chosen pass.
A 7-day pass costs around 307 USD. While a 14-day pass costs around 497 USD. With a 21-day pass, you can expect to shell out around 647 USD.
You don’t have to worry about spending more on reserved seats on a Green Car. You’ll get a reserved seat in this class, but you have to choose one at a ticket window before you travel.
How Fast Is the Shinkansen From Tokyo to Kyoto?
Tokaido Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo and Kyoto, have three train categories. Each train varies in speed, so your travel time to Kyoto depends on your chosen train.
If you want to get to Kyoto right away, choose the Nozomi train. This is the fastest train on this route, completing the trip in around 2 hours and 15 minutes.
If you want to use your Japan Rail Pass, you can choose the Hikari train instead. This is the second-fastest train option, taking you to Kyoto in around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
The last and slowest option is the Kodama train. This train can finish the trip in around 3 hours and 39 minutes. This is because Kodama stops at each train station you’ll pass by on your way to Kyoto.
How Far Is Kyoto From Tokyo by Bullet Train?
Kyoto is around 295 miles (475 km) away from Tokyo by bullet train or shinkansen.
Tokyo to Kyoto Bullet Train Time
The bullet train time from Tokyo to Kyoto depends on the train category you’ll choose.
For the fastest journey, ride a Nozomi train. This bullet train will get you to Kyoto in as fast as 2 hours and 15 minutes!
If you want to save a bit more money without sacrificing speed, choose the Hikari train. This bullet train is the next in line to Nozomi when it comes to speed. On this, you’ll finish your trip in only around 2 hours and 30 minutes.
If you don’t mind stopping at every station en route to Kyoto, you can go by Kodama train. This train, while cheaper than Nozomi, is the slowest train you could choose. It’ll finish your trip in around 3 hours and 39 minutes.
Shinkansen From Tokyo to Kyoto Schedule
The Tokaido Shinkansen is one of the busiest and most popular connections in Japan. Because of this, around 31 trains travel between Tokyo and Kyoto each day. Trains run between the two regularly, leaving Tokyo every 30 minutes each day.
The first train of the day starts making its way to Kyoto at around 6 AM. The last train departing from Tokyo leaves at around 9 PM.
What Time Is the First Shinkansen From Tokyo to Kyoto?
The first shinkansen departing from Tokyo to Kyoto leaves at 6 AM each day.
Highway Bus From Tokyo to Kyoto
There’s a wealth of bus companies offering services between Tokyo and Kyoto. Because the two are a staple to an itinerary to Japan, you have options when it comes to comfort levels too. While there’s a plethora of low-priced bus options here, you also have super luxurious bus options.
Taking the bus from Tokyo to Kyoto ranges from 26 USD for the cheapest buses to 74 USD for premium buses. A bus can take you to Kyoto in around 6 to 9 hours. You can use a Japan Bus Pass to reduce the cost of traveling around the country.
Keep in mind that buses that leave Tokyo during the day often have a longer travel time due to heavy traffic. Meanwhile, late-night buses don’t have this issue as much. If the bus leaves Tokyo at around 9 PM, you can reach Kyoto as early as 5 AM, giving you tons of time to explore!
Night Bus, Tokyo–Kyoto
If you want to save money or avoid traffic, a night bus is the best way to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto. You’ll avoid the sea of cars that you’d run into during the day. Plus, you’ll get to save on accommodation overnight on the way to Kyoto!
The cost of a seat on a night bus ranges from 13 to 74 USD, the most expensive being a luxurious, comfortable option.
Most buses leave at around 10 PM or 12 midnight and arrive in Kyoto at around 6 AM or 8 PM. The travel time on a bus can take around 7 to 9 hours.
Night buses make this journey comfortable with several amenities though. This includes outlets by your seat, toilets, free WiFi, reclining seats, and even blankets.
You’ll find night buses at several terminals across Tokyo. This includes the Yaesu exit right outside JR Tokyo Station. Or you can head to Busta Shinjuku, which is outside the south exit of JR Shinjuku Station.
Distance From Tokyo to Kyoto by Car
The distance between Tokyo and Kyoto depends on the route you choose.
The shortest route is the Second Tokai Expressway. This route has a distance of around 280 miles (451 km). And on this route, you’ll drive for around 6 hours and 9 minutes.
The second option is hopping on the Chuo Expressway and Nishinomiya Line. Traveling on this route, you’ll cover a distance of around 307 miles (494 km). This option has an estimated driving time of 6 hours and 16 minutes.
The last route is a combination of the Second Tokai Expressway, Tomei Expressway, and Nishinomiya Line. If you choose this option, you’ll cover around 301 miles (485 km) on your journey. It takes around 6 hours and 32 minutes to complete this trip on this route.
Day Trip to Kyoto From Tokyo
Despite being quite far from each other, it’s easy to go on a day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo! With direct bullet trains running between the two cities daily, you’ll have all the time to explore Kyoto once you get there.
To get to Kyoto right away, take the Nozomi train as you’ll reach the city in around 2 hours and 15 minutes. But if you have a Japan Rail Pass, take the Hikari, the second fastest train. It’s still quite speedy as it’ll take you to Kyoto in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
To make the most out of your trip, take the first train of the day, which leaves Tokyo at 6 AM. You’ll arrive in Kyoto at around 8 AM, giving you a full day to explore Kyoto.
See the Sagano Bamboo Forest, dress like a geisha, explore the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and more!
You still have enough time to have dinner at around 6 PM and enjoy Kyoto’s fun nightlife a bit. But keep track of your time, though, as the last train from Kyoto leaves at around 11 PM.
Best Way to Travel From Tokyo to Kyoto
The best way to get to Kyoto from Tokyo depends on your priorities.
If you want to be in Kyoto right away, the best option is to take a bullet train. Nozomi is the fastest train on this route, and it can finish the trip in only 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you want to save a bit more money, then choose the Hikari train, which is only 15 minutes slower than Nozomi.
If you want to save more money on your trip, taking the bus is the most affordable option. A plethora of bus companies offer services between Tokyo and Kyoto daily. And a ticket can cost as low as 26 USD or as high as 74 USD if you want a more comfortable trip.
You can always choose a day bus. But if you want to save even more money, choose a night bus instead.
Tickets for overnight buses are cheaper than day buses. Plus, since you’re sleeping on the bus, you don’t have to spend extra money on an overnight stay in a hotel!