by Bryce Marley-Jarrett
Tokyo is the main hub for people coming into Japan for tourism, however there is so much across this amazing country to see that, like most people, you will explore beyond the mega-city that is Tokyo. Once deciding where to head, the next question is how to get there. Today we take a look at going from Tokyo to Nagasaki, and look at the best options to travel there. Yes, today we’re comparing trains vs planes!
Nagasaki is about 1250km (around 780 miles) away from Tokyo, or a 15-hour car ride. It is an amazing city that often gets overlooked for closer, more convenient cities. Nagasaki sits on the west coast side of Kyushu island, and is a bayside city surrounded by lush, green mountains, and it bears a startling difference to Tokyo and even other port cities like Osaka. Strolling through Nagasaki, you will notice a great feeling of city life, while also maintaining that small town charm to it that feels very unique.
With plenty of sights and attractions to visit, you can easily spend a couple of days soaking in the city and just being a part of it. From paying your respects at the Nagasaki Peace Park and learning about the consequences of nuclear war at the atomic bomb museum, to a visit to their famous Chinatown districts to experience one of Nagasaki's finest delicacies: the Nagasaki Pork bun (be warned - you will live off these for your entire stay once you partake of one). You can take in the sights from Mount Inasa, which is considered one of the top 3 views in all of Japan.
One of the unmissable activities in Nagasaki is a boat tour to the abandoned island of Gunkanjima just of the coast of Nagasaki, to see what a once thriving community ends up like when its’ lifeblood - coal mining - dries up and is shut down (keep a look out for our review soon).
There is so much to do in Nagasaki and the surrounding prefecture that you won't be disappointed in adding to a trip to Japan.
Now, reading that you may be thinking, well this should be the shortest article ever: take a plane. Easy. Well maybe - but maybe not. Read along and we will show you the full picture and give our recommendation for best way to get to Nagasaki from Tokyo.
Taking a plane, the flight from Tokyo-Narita is 3 hours and 15 minutes, and costs between $300 to $500 one-way, because Nagasaki airport is quite small and none of the low cost airlines fly there. Basically, the majority of airlines don’t fly into Nagasaki.
The closest major airport is Fukuoka International Airport, which is a 2-hour train from Nagasaki. You can get Jetstar flights, for example, for about $50-$100 from Narita, and it's only a 2-hour flight! From Fukuoka you will take the train to Nagasaki, so you are looking at - just in transit alone of about 4 to 4.5 hours.
Okay, so, we are still about 5 hours shorter than taking a train the whole way down, however, when you factor in transit time, things become a little more interesting. You typically need to be at the airport 2-hours early, and then there is the possibility of delays which could push out your travel times. When you arrive in Fukuoka, grabbing your belongings at baggage collection, then transiting to the main station, Hakata, to take the express train to Nagasaki can add on around another 3-hours. Flights still have you at your destination approximately 2 hours faster. However, you are down your flight costs, and possible time loses from plane delays or even cancellations.
One final thing to consider is that if you are arriving into Narita fly out to Nagasaki straight away that you need to factor in wait times between flights. When I recently attempted this journey, the wait time between arriving into Narita and departing again was 4.5 hours. In this instance, trains were the clear victor.
We have run through the plane game, how does the train stack up? Well, up front, the train from Narita Airport to Nagasaki Station is about 9.5-hours, door-to-door. That is a bit daunting, yes, but it is incredibly impressive for 1250km!
The typical route is:
- Narita Airport to Shinagawa station via the Narita Express.
- Change here to the Shinkansen station (not a Nozomi, unless you are paying out of pocket rather than using a JR Rail Pass)
- Shinkansen from Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka station.
- Change here to another Shinkansen to Hakata (Fukuoka) Station.
- At Hakata station, you will be changing to the Kamome Limited Express to Nagasaki station.
Finally, 9.5 hours after you left Tokyo, you will be in Nagasaki down the other end of Japan.
With the train, however, you do have a lot more certainty. The Shinkansen (and trains in general in Japan), run meticulously on time. So that 9.5 hours is pretty solid. At train stations you can stock up on drinks and delicious snacks or grab a bento box to take on board and enjoy during your ride. There is no security lead time, and you can just jump on the next train with no need to show up 2-hours early.
The trains have ample leg room, comfy seats and also recline a lot, so it's easy to get some shut-eye. The trains all have decent facilities, so you can use the bathroom, grab a drink, or food from the food trolleys that frequently pass by.
A major perk of the train option is that you get to SEE Japan, see the changing landscapes along the country and enjoy the Shinkansen properly. It's a great way to be forced into some relaxation, and just kick back and enjoy the smooth, fast ride.
The biggest advantage to taking the train is: You can use your JR Rail Pass (if you have one) the whole journey, meaning no out of pocket costs for tickets, and you can get reserved tickets the entire way! Without a rail pass, this trip would cost about 27,980 yen (about $300AUD). If you had a 7-day rail pass, this almost pays for the pass on your first day! On our last journey, where we did this, we had 7-day passes for a week trip across Japan, and in the end we calculated about $1000 in trains used on the rail passes we each had, meaning we saved about $700 each!
In our opinion, although a longer travel time to get to your destination, trains in Japan are usually the best way to go. With a JR Rail Pass in your hand, the money’s worth you can get from it from taking the train over the plane, is only one pro.
Train stations are central, and quick to get to, with no security or check-in required. The train equivalent to economy on a plane, ‘ordinary class’, is nothing like flying economy. Seats are spacious, with generous legroom and ample recline which is far more pleasant than being crammed into a flying sardine can. We recommend taking the train in Japan if you have the time, you will not be disappointed.