How to Get to Kyoto
One of Japan’s most popular destinations, Kyoto is the most historic city in the country, attracting millions of visitors each year. A city of huge cultural importance, Kyoto boasts some of Japan’s most impressive temples, shrines and gardens along with many excellent museum, galleries, shopping and dining. On this page you will find the following information:
As the former capital of Japan and seat of power for more than one thousand years, Kyoto is the most historically important city in country boasting numerous grand temples, shrines and palaces. A stylish and refined city, visitors to Kyoto will also encounter some of Japan’s best shopping, dining and endless charm.
The following information is intended for international visitors, most of whom will have a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. For that reason, this page focuses on train travel and only uses buses in the absence of a good option to use the train network. Most but not all services are covered by the full JR Pass. Let’s start with the obvious question:
WHERE IS KYOTO?
The former capital of Japan, Kyoto lies around 470KM to the west of Tokyo and 45KM to the north-east of Tokyo. Serviced by Kyoto Station in the central city, Kyoto is easy to move to and from using the Tokaido Shinkansen – to Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo – and other train lines including the Limited Express Thunderbird which runs to Fukui and onto Kanazawa on the north coast. Whether you are visiting Japan for the first time or are a seasoned veteran, Kyoto rarely disappoints. The city boasts numerous temples, shrines and other historic buildings of national and international importance – with several having World Heritage-listing – while also offering fantastic dining, shopping and other entertainment – all of which combines to make Kyoto a must-do destination when visiting Japan.
HOW TO GET TO KYOTO
In this section you will find information on how to reach Kyoto from the following starting points:
OSAKA – KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – NARA – NAGOYA – TOKYO – NARITA AIRPORT – HANEDA AIRPORT – KANAZAWA – TOYAMA – NAGANO CITY – JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK – MATSUMOTO – KAMIKOCHI – TAKAYAMA – SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA – TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE
We endeavour to keep this information as up-to-date as possible and in recognition that most international visitors will be using the train network to move around Japan, most directions are for using the trains. If there is alternative option i.e. express or local bus, that is notably faster or economical, we also include that information.
FROM OSAKA / between 13 to 30 minutes
Reaching Kyoto from Osaka is quick and easy as both are stops on the Tokaido Shinkansen running from Shin-Osaka Station to Tokyo Station, including stops at Kyoto and Nagoya among others. The fastest services on the Tokaido Shinkansen line will get you from Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto in just 13 minutes / JPY1440. Alternatively, the JR Special Rapid service bound for Nagahama from Shin-Osaka takes 25-minutes / JPY570 to reach Kyoto.
For visitors coming from Osaka Station, you can take the same service – JR Special Rapid service bound for Nagahama – taking around 30-minutes / JPY570 to reach Kyoto. Visitors starting from Namba or Umeda, will head to first get to Osaka Station or Shin-Osaka Station for the onward journey to Kyoto Station.
FROM KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT / approx. 80 minutes
From the Kansai Airport, take the Limited Express Haruka service bound from Kyoto. The train includes both reserved and non-reserved seating and takes 80-minutes / JPY3230 (res.) and JPY2900 (non-res.) to reach Kyoto Station.
FROM NARA / between 40 to 50 minutes
When travelling from Nara to Osaka, you have two options with a couple of important points to note. Two lines connect the two cities – the Kintetsu Nara Line to/from Kintetsu-Nara Station and the JR Yamatoji Line to/from JR Nara Station. Of the two, the Kintetsu Nara Line is faster and Kintetsu-Nara Station is closer to the city’s most popular attractions including Todai-ji, Nara Park and the Kasuga Grand Shrine. This Kintestsu Nara Line is not however covered by any Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Taking a little longer and heading to Osaka Station from Nara Station, the Yamatoji Rapid Service is covered by the JR Pass. For that reason, we have included both options below:
1 / Starting from Kintetsu-Nara Station (fastest/most convenient): take the rapid express service on the Kintetsu Nara Line bound for Osaka-Namba Station, switching trains at Yamatosaidaiji and onto Kyoto Station – approx. 40-minutes / JPY1160 – not covered by JR Pass.
2 / Starting from JR Nara Station: take the JR Nara Line bound for Kyoto Station – approx. 50-minutes / JPY720 – covered by JR Pass.
FROM NAGOYA / approx. 35 minutes
Nagoya Station is another stop on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, as you head from Tokyo to Kyoto. From Nagoya, the fastest services take only 35-minutes / JPY5170 to reach Kyoto before heading onto Osaka. There are numerous services each day. For more information about everything on offer in and around Nagoya, see our ‘Nagoya & Kii Peninsula’ destination page.
FROM TOKYO / approx. 2 to 2.5 hours
From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen, between 135 to 160-minutes / JPY13000 to JPY14,000 (depending on which service you choose). For more information about everything on offer in the capital, see our ‘Tokyo’ destination page.
FROM NARITA AIRPORT / approx. 3.5 to 4 hours
Narita Airport is connected to Tokyo by two rapid services – the Narita Express (NEX) and Keisei Skyliner. Travelers heading directly to Kyoto from the airport should use the NEX to Tokyo Station and once there, switch to the Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Kyoto.
The NEX takes around 55-minutes / JPY3070 to travel from Narita to Tokyo Station. Once in Tokyo, follow the directions above to reach Kyoto.
FROM HANEDA AIRPORT / approx. 2.5 to 3 hours
It is faster to reach Kyoto from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport than Narita Airport. Haneda is serviced by two rail lines – the Tokyo Monorail and Keikyu Line. When heading directly to Kyoto from Haneda Airport, it is best to use the Keikyu Line to Shinagawa Station and then switch to the Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Kyoto. – a total journey time of 155 to 180-minutes / JPY13,620.
FROM KANAZAWA / approx. 2 hours
Reaching Kyoto from Kanazawa Station is very straight-forward. From Kanazawa, take the Limited Express Thunderbird – 125-minutes / JPY6490. The service continues onto Shin-Osaka Station after stopping at Kyoto. For more information about everything on offer in around Kanazawa, see our ‘Kanazawa’ destination page.
FROM TOYAMA / approx. 3 hours
From Toyama Station, take any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line to nearby Kanazawa – 20 to 25-minutes / JPY2860 – and then follow the directions above. For more information about everything on offer in around Toyama, see our ‘Alpine Route & Toyama’ destination page.
FROM NAGANO CITY / approx. 4 to 4.5 hours
When travelling from Nagano Station to Kyoto, visitors have a choice of three routes – via Nagoya, Kanazawa or Tokyo – each taking between 4 to 4.5-hours. We recommend making the journey via either Nagoya or Kanazawa, allowing you to incorporate other destinations in Central Japan into your travel itinerary. Here are your three options:
1 / via Nagoya (recommended): from Nagano Station, take the Limited Express Shinano. Operating approximately once per hour, the journey takes around 3 hours and costs JPY6930. Much of the line takes you through a particularly beautiful part of Japan and stopping at Matsumoto and Kiso-Fukushima, allowing you to visit Matsumoto Castle, the Kiso-Ontake Mountain Range and/or the Nakasendo Trail on the way. Once in Nagoya, follow the directions above.
2 / via Kanazawa: take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Kanazawa Station – between 65 to 90-minutes / JPY8920 to JPY8590 (depending on which service you use). Once in Kanazawa, follow the directions above.
3 / via Tokyo: take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Tokyo Station – between 80 to 110 minutes / JPY8000 to JPY9000 (depending on which service you use). Once in Tokyo, follow the directions above to reach Kyoto.
For more information about everything on offer in around Nagano City, see our ‘Nagano’ destination page.
FROM THE JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / approx. 5 to 5.5 hours
To reach Kyoto from the Jigokudani Monkey Park takes time but is relatively straight-forward when done via Nagano Station. From the park, you have the option of: 1. a direct express bus from the park to Nagano Station or 2. a local bus to Yudanaka Station followed by an express train to Nagano Station.
Starting from the park, the express bus costs JPY1500 each way and takes 55 minutes to reach Nagano Station. In comparison, taking the local bus from the park to Yudanaka Station followed by the train, takes 15 minutes and costs JPY310 before the limited express train to Nagano takes 45 minutes and costs JPY1290 – a total journey of around 60 to 70 minutes and costing JPY1600.
Once at Nagano Station, choose your preferred route to Kyoto following the directions above – please note, public transport to and from the monkey park is not covered by any Japan (JR) Pass. For more information about everything on offer in around the park, see our ‘Explore Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ page.
FROM MATSUMOTO / approx. 3 to 4 hours
Take the Limited Express Shinano from Matsumoto Station to Nagoya Station – approx. 130-minutes / JPY5610. Once in Nagoya, follow the directions above to reach Kyoto. For more information about everything on offer in around the city, see our ‘Matsumoto’ destination page.
FROM KAMIKOCHI / approx. 5 to 6 hours
Reaching Kyoto from Kamikochi is a 3-step journey via Takayama and then Nagoya. From the Kamikochi Bus Terminal, take the bus to the Hirayu Onsen Bus Terminal – 25 to 30 minutes – and then switch to the bus headed to Takayama – another 60 minutes. Once in Takayama, follow the directions below to reach Nagoya and then onto Kyoto. Kamikochi is one of Japan’s most spectacular natural landscapes. For more information about what’s on offer there, see our ‘Kamikochi’ activity page.
FROM TAKAYAMA / approx. 3.5 to 4 hours
To reach Kyoto from the historic town of Takayama, take the Limited Express Hida service from Takayama Station bound for Nagoya Station – approximately 145-minutes / JPY5610. Once in Nagoya, follow the directions above. For more information about everything on offer in around the city, see our ‘Takayama’ destination page.
FROM SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA / approx. 4 hours
When traveling from the World Heritage-listed villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama to Kyoto, it will be fastest to do so via Kanazawa. The Hokuetsu Bus company operates regular services between the main village of Ogimachi (with some additional services to Suganuma from March until November) and Kanazawa Station. A one-way journey takes approximately 85 minutes and costs JPY1850. Once in Kanazawa follow the directions above to reach Kyoto. For more information about one of Central Japan’s most remarkable destinations see our ‘Shirakawa-go & Gokayama’ activity page.
FROM THE TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE / approx. 4.5 hours
To reach Kyoto from the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route it will fastest to descend to the Toyama-side of the mountain and do so from Tateyama Station. From Tateyama, take the Toyama Chiho Railway from Tateyama Station to Dentetsu Toyama Station – 60 minutes / JPY1230. Once in Toyama, walk the short distance to Toyama Station and follow the directions above onto Kanazawa and then onto Kyoto. One of Japan’s most remarkable experiences, our ‘Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route’ page is a great place to start when planning your visit.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING KYOTO
As Japan’s most historic city, Kyoto attracts millions of visitor each year. As such, it is no surprise that there is plenty of accommodation of choose from, ranging from high-end hotels and traditional guesthouses, to mid-range and budget options dotted in and around the city. Our ‘Where to Stay in Kyoto & Nara’ page listed the best areas including accommodation listings.
40 THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO, NARA & OSAKA
Boasting some of Japan’s most important temples and shrines, the former capitals of Kyoto and Nara are the country’s most historic cities. Our ’40 Things to Do in Kyoto, Nara & Osaka’ page lists some of the most popular and rewarding attractions in the cities along with nearby Osaka – one of Japan’s great metropolises, famous for its friendly locals, food, shopping and nightlife.
PRIVATE CHARTERS & TOURS IN CENTRAL JAPAN
Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator, offering a range of services including group tours, private tours and charters. We can arrange transport including a private vehicle and driver, to transport you to, from and between any destination in Central Japan.
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 including transport to and from any destination in Central Japan. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
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 Central Japan.
Got a question about arranging a charter or tour in Central Japan? Contact us and let’s get planning together!