With its renowned high speed rail network, it is easy to assume that the quickest way from Osaka to Narita Airport is by shinkansen, or the bullet train. Where this plan comes unstuck is the absence of direct trains between these two points. So depending on your schedule, any of these five options by train or plane could work.
Option 1 – Plane from Osaka Itami Airport
This route requires just one transfer. Take the airport limousine bus (basically a glorified name for a dedicated airport express coach) from various hotels or stations in central Osaka direct to the Itami Airport, and then a direct flight to Narita. JAL or ANA operates this route, with fares starting from ¥10,800 (Yokoso Japan or any Japan air pass available for foreign visitors. After including the ¥640 airport bus, you are looking a total cost from ¥11440. Passengers with a connecting inter-continental flight on JAL or ANA within 24 hours may have this domestic connection for no or nominal charge.
It is a minimum of 150 Minutes door to door from Osaka station, for a trip of 462 km, including a 35 min wait at Itami Airport.
Pros – Quickest option with the minimum transfers if you are boarding from a hotel that is on the airport limousine route (e.g. Toyoko Inn Namba, Sheraton Miyako Osaka). You can see Mount Fuji from the plane on the left.
Con - Flights from Itami to Narita are irregular, currently only twice daily at 0800 and 1445 (JAL), or 0750 and 1415 (ANA), the flight taking 1 hour and 15 mins.
My rating - Speed: 9/10, Frequency: 3/10, Convenience: 9/10
Option 2 – Plane from Kansai Airport
This option also has one transfer, but Kansai is much further away than Itami Airport. Fortunately the airport train keeps the train trip down to just 67 minutes, while Airport Limousine Buses from various hotels and Universal Studios will take a bit longer. When added to the 35 min wait at the airport and 85 minutes on the plane, the total travel time of just over 200 minutes is only second to an Itami flight. Kansai to Narita is the domain of low cost carriers like Jetstar Japan and Peach Airlines. With airfares around ¥6,000, you are looking at a total cost of around ¥7,200, saving a good ¥3,000. Similar to the Yokoso Japan air pass, there are no discounts for children with low cost airlines.
Pros – Cheapest and second fastest option with good connections for evening departures from Narita.
Con – Flights from Kansai to Narita are irregular, with Jetstar Japan currently five times daily with schedules changing seasonally.
My rating - Speed: 8/10, Frequency: 4/10, Convenience: 8/10
Option 3 – Osaka/ Shin Osaka to Tokyo/ Narita (Train and Bullet Train)
Two transfers are required, first at Shin-Osaka for the Nozomi shinkansen bullet train, and second at Tokyo for the Narita Airport express. The 230 minute trip costs ¥17,590, with discount shops saving you another 5%.
Pro – Nozomi trains depart every 10 mins from Shin Osaka
Con –The JR Pass is not valid on the Nozomi.
My rating - Speed: 7/10, Frequency: 9/10, Convenience: 7/10
Option 4 – Hikari Bullet Train - valid for Japan Rail (JR) pass
There are two differences between the Hikari and the Nozomi. One is that Hikari stops at more stations on the way to Tokyo, so the trip from Osaka to Narita would take 254 to 278 minutes, as some Hikari trains are slower. The other is that the Hikari is less frequent. Other than that, they use the exactly the same trains.
From a ticketing perspective, there is one huge difference. JR pass holders can use the Hikari for free, but not the Nozomi. If you don’t have a JR pass, this trip would total ¥16,700.
Pro – can use the JR Pass
Con – Hikari trains only run every 30 mins
My rating - Speed: 6/10, Frequency: 7/10, Convenience: 7/10
Option 5 – Sunrise Seto Overnight Train
The Sunrise Seto is the slowest option at 470 minutes, but may be the best use of your time, as the train travels leisurely while you sleep. Departing form Osaka at 0034, there is only one transfer after you wake up at 7am at Tokyo, and fares start from ¥ 14,650, with options to upgrade to flat bed sleepers for the price of a 2 star hotel room. From Tokyo the overnight train does not stop at Osaka, so you have to double back from Himeji
Pro – Ideal for early connections at Narita
Con – Light sleepers could struggle to sleep well on the overnight train.
My rating - Speed: 2/10, Frequency: 1/10, Convenience: 9/10