We travelled to Osaka from Odawara after our few days in Hakone. We took the bullet train to Shin-Osaka station. Although we had been on the Shinkansen (the proper name for the bullet train) from Tokyo to Odawara, this was a much longer ride (2.5 hours) and it was the first time we had experienced the train getting up to full speed. Everyone says how smooth the ride is on a bullet train and they are right - you would never know that you are going as fast as you are. Of course the landscape outside rushes past, but inside it is hard to accept that you going at 170 mph (270 kph). I had thought that there would be displays in the carriages giving the speed as I have seen in (much slower) Italian express trains, but there was nothing - so you just have to have faith!
Travelling on this route meant that we were on the original Shinkansen line, which was built in the early 1960s to link Tokyo and Osaka - the so-called Tōkaidō line (named after the ancient route of the same name).
When we got to Shin-Osaka we took the regular JR line the single stop to Osaka Station which was near our hotel. The reason for the two mainline stations so close to each other is that in several cities, Osaka among them, the introduction of the Shinkansen necessitated the construction of new a station to handle the faster (and I think longer) new rolling stock.
Next tip: our hotel, the Umeda OS
A huge Osaka Station is situated in the centre of the city of Osaka's Umeda district in Kita-ku.
I have noticed that this subway station is so busy anytime of the day. I guess this is because it is in the business area of Osaka.
There are a couple of other railway companies and subway lines run their own stations in the vicinity of JR Osaka Station named Umeda Station.
There are also shops within the station that you can spend time strolling around during your waiting time.
If you are staying at Hotel Taiyo in Osaka, it is very convenient to travel by train from Kansai International Airport. It is 55 minutes travel time for 1030 Yen by Express JR line. Get off at a subway train station called Shin-Imamiya. I posted a picture taken just outside the entrance of the station. From the signboard on the photo, it is only 3 minutes on foot to the Hotel Taiyo.
There are four major subway stations in Osaka, these are:
JR Osaka Station
Shin Osaka Station
Japan has one of the most extensive and advanced rail systems in the world with numerous private and municipal companies providing service local and long distance, usually at reasonable prices compared to other forms of transportation. One of the most outstanding examples of Japan's trains is the Shinkansen, which literally means "new trunk line." This train can travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour, and extends from the south of Kyushu to the north of Honshu, with an extension under construction to connect Hokkaido to the far north. The first Shinkansen route, the Tokaido Line, was constructed between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964, and the system has since expanded to almost 1,500 miles of track.
The Shinkansen is expensive and the tickets are somewhat complex. Tickets are comparable to airline rates, about 12,000 Yen each way between Yokohama and Kyoto, for a two-hour journey. You might be able to save using a Japan Rail Pass, but be aware that you cannot use a rail pass on the fastest Nozomi Trains. Some Shinkansen trains require two tickets for a single journey (like our Shin-Yokohama to Shin-Osaka trip), but other only need one ticket (Kyoto to Shin-Yokohama), with the first ticket used for the Shinkansen itself and the second for the regular connecting trains if applicable.
The Shinkansen is great for its frequency, timeliness, and convenience. Trains on the busiest routes run every 10-15 minutes, and they are almost always on time. Unlike air travel, ticket prices don't change every day, and there is minimal security or other hassles. You can walk up to the Shinkansen station 5-10 minutes before the next train departs, and you can usually get a non-reserved seat without problems, and be on board in no time. Nothing is easier!
Shinkansen trains to Osaka stop at Shin-Osaka Station, rather than Osaka Station. This station is three kilometers north of the older main station, but the stations are connected by several Osaka Subway and JR train lines.
Osaka is a big city and so it have few major train stations. We used Shin Osaka and Osaka station to get from/to the city. Check carefully where exactly your train stop and where you actually need to go when planning your trip.
Getting around osaka is a breeze coz they have a really efficient transport system of subways and trains. But, avoid the the peak hours when taking local trains, unless you really want to squeeze like sardines in a tin. Luckily for us, we had the choice of taking a rapid train instead of a local train. So it was not as crowded and we were spared the crush.
There is a very extensive railnetwork in Osaka. The main stations are:
Osaka station: This is the main gateway to the north central part of Osaka and the office district.
Shin-Osaka: North of Osaka, this is the station where the Shinkansen trains stop.
Tenoji Station/Namba Station: in South-Osaka these 2 stations are the main gateways. Namba is nearest to the shops/nightlife but Tenoji has better connections.
Another important thing is the Osaka Loop line. If you travel through Japan on a JR Rail pass, this loop line will make subways unnecessary, the loop-line runs very frequently around the center of Osaka and also stops at Osaka & Tenoji station and Osaka-Ji Castle. Connections to Namba (from Tenoji) and Shin-Osaka (Osaka) are very frequent and easy, so you can get everywhere by train.
Kyoto is a easy day trip from Osaka, or even half a day. The whole Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara area is just a big urban blob that blends together.
Check www.hyperdia.com/en/ for travel times and details.
Check the following link on how to ride the shinkansen (bullet trains), which link cities from Fukuoka in the southwest to Hachinohe in the northeast with many stops in between, with Tokyo being about central to those two cities mentioned. There is also a short line from Yatsushiro to Kagoshima (in the southwest). In total there are 8 distinct lines, but all are linked except for the line between Yatsushiro and Kagoshima. OSAKA is at the junction of the Tokaido and Sanyo shinkansen lines. a 7-day (consecutive) pass costs around 240 USD (23,800 yen). A one-way trip from Tokyo to Osaka is around 115 USD! (13,500 yen). Regardless, you can buy a base ticket and pay the difference at your destination should you go wrong. The cost is approximately 20 yen per km, for short distances, decreasing to 10 yen for longer distances.
Here is the link:
If you have the JR railpass, you can take a tour around Osaka City on the JR train. Circle route.
There's a station called "Shin-Osaka" where the Shinkansen trains will stop. Change to another train to "JR Osaka" station.
The major stop for the city of Osaka on the Shinkansen line is Shin-Osaka Station. There are Shinkansen trains running from Tokyo in the north right down to Fukuoka in Kyushu. The cost from Tokyo on the Sanyo Shinkansen line is 13,750 Yen.
The Shinkansen is by far the most convenient way to travel around Japan. Unfortunately it isn't very cheap! Luckily there is a Japan JR Rail Pass available to foreign travellers. See the JR East website for details:
It must be bought abroad and stamped in Japan before you can use it. There are several options including one week (unlimited JR travel except for the super fast Nozomi service), two week, JR East and JR West passes. Check with your local travel agent for the best option or click on the link to see for yourself!
Here is a link to a very cool page that lets you see the routing between cities/stations/ports within Japan. It will tell you the route and includes the cost and time. http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/norikae/.
Nankai Railways is a good choice to get from Kaisai International Airport to Namba, which is near Shinsaibashi, the most popular shopping and dining area in Osaka.
If you just getting around within the downtown in Osaka, Subway is a good choice. It's not cheap though for a single ride: the cheapest fare for the shortest destinations costs you aout 250yen. There is a 1-day ticket for unlimited rides within 1 day, which costs 850yen.
Nara is served by both the JR trains and the Kintetsu company's trains. We chose the Kintetsu Line for our travels from Osaka to Nara and from Nara to Kyoto, primarily because the Kintetsu Station in Nara is much closer to the tourist sites than the JR Nara Station, saving us a good amount of walking. The Kintetsu Nara Station is small, but clean, with many gift shops, tourist information areas, coin lockers, clean restrooms. The Kintetsu Station in Central Osaka, called Osaka-Namba, was also very close and convenient to our hotel.
We took the local train from Osaka to Nara for around 500 Yen. The local train took about an hour to cover 27 kilometers, but we could have chosen the Kintetsu Limited Express for about 550 Yen more per seat to cut the trip length in half. Much of the ride was scenic, along the mountains east of Osaka, overlooking the city. Approaching Nara, we also got a good look at Nara's Heijo Palace site to the north of the train.
Going from Nara to Kyoto, we chose the Limited Express train and sat in the upper level of car three. This also offered us a good view of the former palace, but the rest of the 30 minute journey offered few sites other than small towns and rice fields. This ticket,for reserved seats cost us 1110 Yen (I think a local train would normally be about 600 Yen).
Osaka Station, and the attached Umeda Station, form the busiest station in Western Japan and the third busiest trains station in the world, serving about 2.4 million passengers a day. Located in the north of Osaka, this huge station connects several JR rail lines, excluding the Shinkansen, with Hankyu, Hanshin, and Osaka Municipal Subway lines.
Osaka is great to visit in its own right but is also an excellent base for visiting places nearby. High speed trains can whisk you off to Kyoto in around 15 minutes. It's also just 15 minutes in the opposite direction to Kobe.