For many visitors to Japan, Tokyo Station will be their first real introduction to the country as they arrive from the airport at this massive station. As one of the busiest train stations in the world, navigating your way through Tokyo Station comes with its challenges.
A sprawling series of platforms and underground shopping areas can easily confuse seasoned Tokyo-ites as much as they bamboozle first-timers to the city. Don’t be put-off! Embrace the challenge and enjoy being in one of the world’s great cities and train stations.
The following information is intended for visitors coming through Tokyo Station on enroute to Nagano and Central Japan. It only touches the service of everything we could cover about the station but we hope it assists in making your transfer there, as easy and smooth as possible.
Shinkansen Services to Tokyo Station
As one of the largest train stations in the world, there are seemingly countless lines running to and from Tokyo. Commonly referred to as the ‘Bullet Train’ by many international visitors, the shinkansen network fans-out from Tokyo and connects the capital to many regions of Japan including:
Hokuriku: to Kanazawa via Nagano Station
Joetsu: to Niigata via Echigo-Yuzawa
Tokaido: to Osaka via Nagoya and Kyoto (connects to the Sanyo Shinkansen to Hiroshima at Shin-Osaka Station)
Tohoku: to Aomori (which connects to the Hokkaido Shinkansen)
Yamagata: to Yamagata
Akita: to Akita
All three shinkansen lines – Hokuriku, Joetsu and Tokaido – that run through Central Japan operate to and from Tokyo.
As the map above shows, there are no shinkansen lines running south to north / north to south through the region however several rapid/limited express services run from the following stations and in doing so, connect the Hokuriku and Tokaido lines: 1. Limited Express Shinano from Nagano to Nagoya via Matsumoto; 2. Limited Express Hida from Toyama to Nagoya via Takayama; and 3. Limited Express Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Kyoto and Osaka via Fukui.
Running from Tokyo to Kanazawa via Nagano Station, the Hokuriku Shinkansen runs to the north-northwest of the capital and stops at*:
*Different services stop and different stations however all Kagayaki, Hakutaka and Asama services stop at Tokyo and Nagano. Refer to our ‘Hokuriku Shinkansen Timetable’ page for the daily schedule.
Two services – the Kagayaki and Hakutaka – operate from Tokyo to Kanazawa. The Kagayaki is reservation-only and stops at Ueno, Omiya, Nagano and Toyama before terminating at Kanazawa. The journey from Tokyo to Kanazawa takes 150 minutes and Tokyo to Nagano takes 80 minutes. The Hakutaka includes both reserved and non-reserved carriages and stops at a greater number of stations. It takes between 180 to 200 minutes (depending on the stations included in the specific service) to travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa and 90 to 95 minutes to travel from Tokyo to Nagano.
A third service – Asama – is only available from Tokyo to Nagano. It includes both reserved and non-reserved carriages and stops at all stations between Tokyo and Nagano, taking between 100 to 110 minutes.
A fourth service – Tsurugi – is also available on the Hokuriku Shinkansen but only between Toyama and Kanazawa and does not service Tokyo Station.
For further information about how to use the Hokuriku line from Tokyo, please refer to our ‘How To: Getting to Nagano from Tokyo by Shinkansen’ page. Information regarding how to book a ticket can also be found on our ‘How To: Shinkansen Reservations to Nagano’ page.
All services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen are covered by the Japan Rail (JR Pass), JR East Pass and JR Hokuriku Pass – see below for details.
The Joetsu Shinkansen runs from Tokyo to Niigata and services Echigo-Yuzawa, located approximately at the mid-point of the line, and the surrounding ski resorts. The following stations are on the Joetsu line:
*In winter, some shinkansen services continue onto a winter-only stop at Gala-Yuzawa, directly underneath the ski resort of the same name. Refer to our ‘Joetsu Shinkansen Timetable’ page for daily train schedules to and from Tokyo.
There are two services on the line – the Toki and Tanigawa. The Toki (including Max Toki) is the fastest. Stopping at only a limited number of stations it takes around 80 minutes to reach Echigo-Yuzaawa and 130 minutes to reach Niigata.
The Tanigawa (including Max Tanigawa) does not operate all the way to Niigata and mainly runs in the morning and evening to cover peak periods. Stopping all stations between Tokyo and its final destination, the Tanigawa takes around 80 to 90 minutes to reach Echigo-Yuzawa.
All services on the Hokuriku Shinkansen are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass and JR East Pass – see below for details.
Running from Tokyo to Osaka via Nagoya Station and Kyoto Station, the Tokaido Shinkansen runs to the west of the capital and stops at*:
Refer to our ‘Tokaido Shinkansen Timetable’ page for the daily schedule. There are three services on the Tokaido line. The Nozomi is the fastest service on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line. Running between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, the Nozomi only stops at Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya and Kyoto. From Tokyo to Shin-Osaka takes 150 minutes, Kyoto takes 135 minutes and Nagoya takes 95 to 100 minutes.
The Hikari is the second fastest service on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line and also runs between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, stopping at different stations depending on the specific service. From Tokyo to Shin-Osaka takes 175 minutes, Kyoto takes 155 to1 60 minutes, and Nagoya takes 100 to 120 (depending on the service)
Stopping at all stations, the Kodama service is the slowestinclude both reserved and non-reserved seating. If you are travelling a long distance i.e. from Tokyo Kyoto or Osaka (or the reverse journey), we recommend using the Nozomi or Hikari as it will be substantially faster than the Kodama.
Tokaido Shinkansen services other than the Nozomi are covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass – see below for details.
How to access the Hokuriku platform at Tokyo Station
As shown in the information above, multiple shinkansen lines run to and from Tokyo Station. Access to specific shinkansen lines is therefore divided by region – those servicing the lines running to the north/east and those running to the south/west.
As you can see from the images above, platforms service multiple shinkansen lines which are clearly labelled both outside and inside of the gates. If you are heading to Nagano Station, ensure that you entering one of these gates. Where many visitors get confused and ultimately lost, is by accessing the gates for Tokaido/Sanyo Shinkansen Lines (running to the south/west of Tokyo).
If you are using the JR Rail Pass, no one will check which train you are intending to use. You simply show your pass at the window and they will let you pass through the gates. Meaning that if you’ve entered the wrong area, you won’t see your train listed and suddenly, you’re feeling lost! Avoid this by following the directions above and making sure you enter the correct section.
Train lines to Narita Airport & Haneda Airport
Tokyo is serviced by two international airports – Narita and Haneda. Narita is substantially further from the city than Haneda, however a rapid train service makes the journey quick and easy. Narita is connected to Tokyo Station by the Narita Express (NEX) whereas Haneda can be reached using the Tokyo Monorail.
To Narita: The Narita Express / NEX
Making stops at Narita Airport Terminal 1 and a joint stop for Terminal 2 & 3, the Narita Express takes approximately 55 minutes to travel from Tokyo Station to the airport (depending on the specific service and which terminal you are using).
The N’EX also services Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shingawa and Yokohama Stations. The NEX usually departs from Platform No.4 at Tokyo Station. Tickets can be purchased online up to one month in advance however there really is no need to book ahead of time. Tickets are available using the ticket machines or service windows at Tokyo Station or the airport terminals.
A one-way journey costs JPY3070 per adult or JPY4640 per adult for a Green Car reservation*. Regular sales on return fares can also provide good savings. Departing every 30 to 60 minutes, there are numerous services throughout the day. The earliest train from Narita departs at 07:45 with the final service departing at 21:45.
The Narita Express is covered by the JR Pass, JR East Pass and JR Hokuriku Arch Pass (please see below).
*Green Cars have fewer seats, more legroom, etc. They are often described as the equivalent of business or first-class on an airline. While they are very comfortable, a standard Ordinary Car is also enjoyable and will suit the needs of most visitor for the short journey to and from the airport.
To Haneda: Tokyo Monorail
Servicing Haneda Airport, the Tokyo Monorail connects the airport to Tokyo Station via Hamamatsucho Station in around 30 minutes. Overall, Haneda is the busier of the two airports handles fewer international flights than Narita. Most international services from Haneda arrive and depart at Terminal 3.
Unlike the NEX – which is primarily used by passengers travelling to and from the Narita Airport – the Tokyo Monorail is used by many people going about their daily lives. It is designed for general commuters and not as comfortable or spacious as the NEX. Navigating your way on and off with luggage at peak hour ca be a little challenging.
Nevertheless, the monorail makes the journey to and from Haneda Airport quick and relatively smooth. From Tokyo Station, take the JR Yamanote Line bound for Osaki or JR Keihin-Tohoku/Negishi Line Rapid bound for Ofuna and disembark at Hamamatsucho Station (5 min/JPY160). At Hamamatsucho, transfer to the Tokyo Monorail bound for Haneda Airport (20 min/JPY500) – a journey of around 30 minutes, costing a total of JPY660 one-way.
Alternatively, visitors can also use the Keikyu Airport Line to reach the airport. To do so, take the JR Yamanote or JR Keihin-Tohoku Lines from Tokyo Station to Shinagawa Station (10 min/JPY170) and then transfer to the Keikyu Airport Line Bound for Haneda (20 min/JPY300). These are conventional train lines. Advanced bookings are not possible.
Both services are covered by the JR Pass, JR East Pass and JR Hokuriku Arch Pass (please see below).
Transferring from airport trains to the shinkansen at Tokyo Station
For many visitors, this is the confusing part. Arriving at bustling Tokyo Station after a long flight and searching for the shinkansen platforms, it can all seem too much. For passengers transferring straight onto a shinkansen and not staying in Tokyo, follow these simple instructions and you’ll find your way to the shinkansen platforms.
Coming off any of the above train services from the airports, take the escalator up from the underground platform to the main area of the station. You will likely see some ticket gates nearby leading to the regular train lines with Tokyo,other intercity trains and exit gates. Don’t go through these gates. Instead, look around and somewhere above your head you’ll see the sign pointing you toward the shinkansen gates. Simply follow these signs until you find them.
Japan Rail (JR) Passes covering Tokyo to Nagano
There is no escaping the fact that travel using the shinkansen is expensive. Given the speed and distances covered by these trains, travelers should think of them much like taking a flight, with tickets accordingly priced. International visitors to Japan have the option of purchasing one of several passes which allow for unlimited use of the Hokuriku along with other services:
Japan Rail (JR) Pass
Covering all 9 shinkansen lines in Japan and many other train services, the JR Pass is a great option for visitors planning to use the shinkansen more than a handful of times and/or travel large distances. Travelers have the option of 7, 14 and 21-day passes covering either Ordinary or Ordinary and Green Cars.
The JR Pass allows for use of any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line at no additional cost but noting that should holders wish to have a reserved seat, they are still required to book a seat at the ticket office (at no additional cost).
Japan Rail (JR) East Pass/ Nagano & Niigata
The JR East Pass covers the Hokuriku and Joetsu Shinkansen lines serving Nagano and Niigata, along with other regional services. There is only one option of pass, covering 5 days of use within a 14-day period from its date of activation.
Notably cheaper than the JR Pass, this is a great option for visitors staying within Nagano and Niigata. Much like the JR Pass, it allows for use of any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line at no additional cost but noting that should holders wish to have a reserved seat, they are still required to book a seat at the ticket office (at no additional cost).
Hokuriku Arch Pass
Valid for 7 consecutive days from date of activation, the Hokuriku Arch Pass covers train services from Tokyo – including trains from both Narita and Haneda Airports – to Nagano and Kanazawa and then onto Kyoto, Osaka and Kansai Airport.
For many international visitors, this pass covers the majority of their intended destinations as the they follow the most popular tourist route from Tokyo to Kanazawa and onto Kyoto and Osaka. Notably cheaper than the full JR Pass, the Hokuriku Arch Pass offers fantastic convenience and savings.
Purchasing a JR Pass
Passes can be purchased via the official website or via a JR-affiliated overseas sales office. Once you have completed payment, you will receive an exchange order. This is a proof of payment and looks almost like a flight ticket with your personal details, type of pass, and validity (three months from the date of issue). It is important to note that the exchange order is not your actual pass and will need to be exchanged for your pass once in Japan. Whatever you do, do not lose the exchange order and prioritise exchanging it for your pass when you arrive.
For full details please refer to the specific page for each pass (as listed above).
Activating a JR Pass
Prior to using your pass, you must actually get your hands on it by exchanging the order/proof of purchase you received online. This can be done a numerous JR Pass Exchange Offices found at any major train station or airport including Narita Airport, Haneda Airport, Chubu Centrair International Airport and Kansai International Airport.
If you have time to do so before leaving the airport, you can use the pass immediately. Tokyo Station is another popular place to exchange and activate a JR Pass at either of these offices:
JR East Travel Service Center (Marunouchi North Exit): 07:30 to 20:00
JR Central Ticket Office (Yaesu North Exit): 07:30 to 20:00
To exchange/activate your pass you will need your exchange order and passport. Make sure you allow adequate time to exchange and activate your pass if you are intending to use it on the same day or do so a day or two before you plan to start using it (you can always nominate a later activation date).
Tokyo Station Tourist Information
For visitors traveling to and from Nagano, the JR East Travel Service Center located at Marunouchi North Exit of Tokyo Station is the most convenient. Open daily from 07:30 to 20:30, this office provides English, Chinese and Korean language services. General information, accommodation, transportation and other services including baggage storage, currency exchange and ATM can be found here. As noted above, exchange orders for any of Japan Rail’s passes can be processed here.
Accommodation In & Around the Station
Visitors coming through Tokyo Station might want to consider staying in or nearby the station. As one of Japan’s major train stations, there are many options surrounding the station including hotels directly accessible from inside the station – a great option to avoid having to carry luggage with you and when using the shinkansen to move to and from Tokyo including Narita Airport.For hotel bookings in and around the station, please refer to the following accommodation listings in the ‘Tokyo Station Area’.
Book a Private Charter from/to Tokyo
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Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations, in combination with any activity that suits your interests and schedule.
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2019 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano.
Got a question about visiting Nagano and Central Japan from Tokyo? Feel free to contact us at email@example.com and let’s get planning together!