Asia Destinations

How to Take the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen Bullet Train

Taking the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen bullet train is definitely an experience. The train zips by so fast it’s hard to even take pictures.


This was my second time riding a bullet train. The first time was on the KTX in South Korea. However, the bullet trains in Japan are legendary. They began in 1964 and were the first high speed rail in the world.

Purchase tickets for the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen Route

Start with buying tickets for the Tokaido Shinkansen. This is the route from Tokyo to Kyoto. We left out of Tokyo Station and purchased our tickets there in person. There are ways to purchase tickets online ahead of time. However, it is also possible to purchase tickets the day of.

The process was super complicated, and we were glad there was someone at the ticket desk to help. We even attempted to purchase the tickets at a kiosk in the station. In the end, it was much safer for us to purchase them at the desk with a station staff member.

You will receive both a receipt and a ticket. They both look like tickets, so hang on to both of them. I believe the photo above is of the actual ticket. But don’t quote me on that. Ticket prices were 13,970 Japanese Yen. That converted to approximately $94 USD at the time of purchase. This is the price for a one-way ticket. I did not return to Tokyo.

We were required to show our Suica cards (I explain more about the Suica card in this post.) to purchase tickets. I’m not sure what someone would do if they did not have this card. For example, if you drove to Tokyo station instead of taking the train to get there.

Buy Bento Boxes

Since the ride is long, and you might get hungry, picking up a bento box for your train trip is a must. There are many varieties to choose from. Many had rice. Some contained eggs and meat.


And they come in such cute boxes. Check out these kids’ bento boxes that are shaped like trains.

My sister purchased a bento box with rice and chicken (below). She observed that most bento boxes were cold. We did not notice a microwave anywhere to heat them up. So, keep this in mind when choosing the type of food inside your bento box.

The portion sizes are definitely much smaller than what you would find in the U.S. However, “when in Rome, do what the Romans do.”

Shinkansen classes

There are a few different train classes. Generally, you’ll see the Ordinary Class and the Green Class (first class). Some Shinkansen trains even have a class above the green class, called the Gran Class.

My seat was in the Ordinary Class. The seats reclined. They could also be turned so that two rows would face each other.


My group and I purchased reserved seats. This allowed us to reserve space for our oversized luggage behind our seats. Normal sized luggage (carry-on size) can be stored in the overhead compartment. This is similar to the Metro North commuter train between New York and Connecticut. In addition, there is more storage space near the doors of the train (below).


I was surprised at the attention to detail when it came to cleaning. When the train arrived at Tokyo station I attempted to board after the previous passengers had left. I was asked to exit the train. Then the train gates were put up to prevent more people from boarding the train. These gates are in many train stations in Japan and prevent people from falling onto the tracks.

A cleaning crew in uniforms (pink for women, blue for men) boarded the train and cleaned it from top to bottom. None of this prevented the train from leaving on time at 1:12PM sharp. (The Tokyo station was the first station on this route. Cleaning is not done at every station.) The whole trip from Tokyo to Kyoto is 2 hours and 15 minutes.


The seats on the Shinkansen trains have so much legroom. I am 5’7″ (1.7018 M) and was able to completely stretch my legs out. After reclining my seat, I had even more room.

Each seat has a tray table, a net storage compartment and a coat hook. The seats were very soft and comfortable. Each seat also has a fabric cover where your head goes.


The bathroom

The bathroom was spacious for being a bathroom on a train. It was also spotless, like every other bathroom I encountered in Japan.

The area outside the bathroom was spacious as well and included an additional sink with a mirror. This was also where the soap was located.


Take in the view!

One of the major reasons we take trains is to see the view. This is one of many benefits of slow travel. Gaze out the window and enjoy the Japan countryside. On the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen train, you will pass many cute villages and towns. You will also pass Mount Fuji on your right-hand side. Hope for a good day because when we passed that area it was very cloudy. Fuji San, as Mount Fuji is called in Japan, was nowhere to be found. 

You will notice that a lot of walls block your view from seeing the areas you pass. I believe these walls protect the privacy of those living near the train tracks. They also provide a sound barrier that blocks the noise of this very fast-moving train.

I was curious about the building in the photo below. I used Google Translate and it is a karaoke chain called Jankara. They offer many rooms to sing karaoke. There is also a kid’s room with a little gym for them to play.

Maybe when I go back to Japan, I’ll have time to sing karaoke. The Japanese invented karaoke after all. 

Kyoto Station

After arriving at Kyoto station, be sure to explore the station. There was the cutest Starbucks as soon as we got off the train.

There were also lots of little shops to buy souvenirs and gifts. Something stood out to me about all the gift sets I saw in Japan. They have a sample that shows you exactly what is in the box. If the box has strawberry crepes, there will be a plastic model of the strawberry crepes. (These are not the crepes I was used to. They taste more like fresh dough with fruit jelly inside. Not bad, just different.)

I regret not buying anything in this section. They had such a wide variety of items, with decent prices. I thought I’d be able to go back to this same area later on in the trip. That did not happen. Most stations are so large that if you see something that you really want, just buy it. You may never find it again.

So definitely check out this area if you are taking the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen train. It’s the area you walk to shortly after you exit the train platform.

All in all, I recommend the Tokyo to Kyoto Shinkansen bullet train if you are traveling in Japan.


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