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Which Shinkansen to Choose: Nozomi, Hikari, or Kodama?

November 04, 2023

Which Shinkansen to Choose: Nozomi, Hikari, or Kodama?

If you plan to visit the big cities in western Japan like Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka, you'll likely choose the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen as your mode of transportation.

However, when you start searching for your train, you'll notice three types of Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama.

Do you know which one is the best fit for your journey? Let's dive into the distinctions between these Shinkansen and the situations where each one shines.

The Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Route

First, let's clarify that the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen runs from Tokyo station to Hakata station.
To be more precise, the Tokaido Shinkansen stretches between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, while the Sanyo Shinkansen covers the route from Shin-Osaka to Hakata.

These two segments are operated by different companies, but passengers don't have to worry about this. Passengers can conveniently purchase tickets for their entire journey from the departure station to the destination.
Even when traveling on routes that span beyond Shin-Osaka, there is no need for passengers to transfer at Shin-Osaka Station.

Three Varieties of Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen

Now, let's talk about the three types of Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen: Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama.

In a nutshell, the key difference among these trains is the number of stations they stop at.


  • Nozomi is the fastest train in this group.
  • It stops at major stations such as Tokyo, Shinagawa, Shin-Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, and Shin-Osaka.
  • For example, it takes about two hours and 30 minutes to run from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, with Nozomi trains departing approximately every ten minutes.
  • Nozomi offers sixteen cabins: four Green reserved (first-class) cabins, ten ordinary reserved cabins, and three unreserved cabins.
  • Recommended for passengers who need to reach Nagoya, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, and Hakata promptly.
  • Note: Japan Rail Pass holders cannot use Nozomi.


  • Hikari is the second fastest option.
  • It stops at significant stations where Nozomi does not, such as Odawara (not all Hikari trains), Shizuoka, or Hamamatsu, in addition to the major stations mentioned earlier.
  • For example, the journey from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka takes about two hours and 50 minutes, which is 20 minutes longer than Nozomi.
  • Hikari provides sixteen cabins: three Green reserved (first-class) cabins, eight ordinary reserved cabins, and five unreserved cabins.
  • Recommended for passengers using the Japan Rail Pass for their trip or those who want to reach big stations that Nozomi skips earlier than Kodama.


  • Kodama is the third fastest train (the slowest of these three)
  • It stops at all 16 stations between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka.
  • For example, the trip from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka takes about four hours and four minutes, which is an hour and 30 minutes longer than Nozomi.
  • Kodama offers sixteen cabins: three Green reserved (first-class) cabins, three ordinary reserved cabins, and ten unreserved cabins.
  • Kodama stops at all stations within the JR Central area (listed below).
  • Recommended for passengers using the Japan Rail Pass for their trip or those interested in visiting smaller yet charming cities such as Shin-Fuji, Kakegawa, Mikawa-Anjo, and Asa.

Now that you're acquainted with the differences between Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama, you can choose the one that best suits your travel plans.

Whether you need to reach your destination quickly, want to explore diverse stations, or have flexibility in your schedule, there's a Shinkansen type for everyone.

Secure Your Shinkansen Tickets in advance!

Once your Japan travel plans are in place, be sure to reach out to us and reserve your Shinkansen tickets.

We prioritize providing tickets on the Nozomi train route when it aligns with your departure and destination stations. This way, we ensure you can travel quickly and comfortably according to your specific itinerary.

Seat guide

Shinkansen seats are available in four levels depending on the comfort and services your require.

Ordinary Seat

Regular seats used on Reserved cars and Unreserved cars of Shinkansen. Consider it as "economy class" seat.

Green Seat

Better seats with more space than ordinary seats. All Green Seats are reserved only. Consider it as "business class" seats.

Reserved Seat (Ordinary Reserved Seat)

Your seat is reserved and secured when you book your tickets. Head to the station with a peace of mind.
Seats are the same as Ordinary Seat.

Green Reserved Seat

Better seats and free blankets. Popular among Japanese business persons, executives and people who values comfortable travel. Consider it as "business class" seats.

GranClass Seat

Know as "First Class" of Shinkansen seats. Only available on Hokuriku and Tohoku Shinkansen lines. Gran Class seats comes with airline-like amenities and meals.The most expensive of all.

Unreserved Seat

You can take any open seats in unreserved cars of any train on the departure date. (No departure time will be indicated on your tickets.)
The best seat type if your priority is the cost and are traveling during less-crowded season/time.



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