Tokyo and Kyoto are both attractive and worth visiting. They are very different in nature. Tokyo, which is the current capital, is by far the largest city in Japan. Although most people outside Japan might think that Tokyo is a single city, this concept is not entirely correct. Tokyo is the name of a prefecture, which consists of 23 wards, 26 cities, 5 towns and 8 villages. When most people imagine Tokyo, they are thinking of the metropolitan area, which is actually scattered across many wards, mostly on the eastern side of the prefecture. The areas foreign visitors might want to visit are also located on the right side, such as Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shibuya, Asakusa and Akihabara.
Even though this website mostly introduces the latest and useful information on visiting and sightseeing in Kyoto, visiting Tokyo is also a very good idea, and in fact, for those who are able stay in Japan more than 10 days, visiting Tokyo should be the second priority for sightseeing (the first one is of course, visiting Kyoto). Kyoto and Tokyo are not in the same part of Japan, unfortunately. Although Japan is a small country, it is not a good idea to go to Kyoto from Tokyo by bicycle or walk, unless that is the main purpose of the trip. So, here are more convenient and reasonable ways to travel between these two ultimate destinations.
This is the best solution. It’s very very fast. Shinkansen is the high speed express connecting big cities throughout Japan, except for a few parts of Japan. The Shinkansen, operated by JR Central, connects Tokyo to Shin-Osaka and Hakata (from Shin Osaka, JR West will be in charge). The fastest train, called Nozomi, will only stop at Shinagawa, Shin Yokohama and Nagoya between Tokyo to Kyoto, and it takes only 2 hours and 20 mins. Remember that there are two other Shinkansens, Hikari and Kodama. They stop at more stations, which results in taking more time to get to Kyoto. Hikari takes 2 hours and 37 mins, whereas Kodama takes almost 4 hours. Although they are cheaper than Nozomi, the difference is not big. Therefore, it is much better and wiser to take Nozomi. The downside of taking the Shikansen is, as it is easy to imagine, that the fee is very high (13910 yen for Nozomi from Tokyo to Kyoto).
How to get tickets: Go to the ticket machine for limited expresses (They have English). Or go to the ticket office and ask the staff. For those with Japan Rail Pass who want to reserve a seat, it is required to go to the ticket office (find the sign with a person relaxing at green seat). Note that Nozomi is NOT available for
Japan Rail Pass holders.
2. Local trains
This might be more difficult than option 1, but for those who want to travel slow and stop by places on the way, traveling by local trains can be a wonderful experience. This is an advanced option, and depending on how many stations you get off and how long you stay there, it is possible that staying at a hotel will be necessary. Since finding a route might be also a fun activity for train nerds, we won’t provide that information here. Have fun!
3. Long distance bus
This option is the most affordable among these three methods. It takes as long as the local trains, but the price-side is just as attractive. Actually the over night bus is pretty popular among young people in Japan. Note that it might take more time than the planed if there is heavy traffic. They might stop at a few places, but they won’t stay long. It is better to regard the stops as bathroom breaks.
How to get tickets: At Tokyo Station, the bus ticket center can be found at Yaesu South Exit. And the bus terminal is located near that exit. At Kyoto Station, the ticket office is located next to the bus terminal at Karasuma Exit (Kyoto Tower side). The price depends on some conditions such as departure times and seat classes.
Or if you rather want to read the guidebook on your Kindle e-book reader or application, then get our Kyoto e-Guidebook on Amazon instead.