Jump on Board the Hello Kitty Shinkansen: Your Complete Guide

If you’re a Hello Kitty fan and planning a trip to Japan, get ready for an adorable adventure on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen! It’s a super cute bullet train that’s all pink and full of Hello Kitty magic. From its cute design to the fun stuff inside, this train ride is a fun moment for everyone. Unfortunately, there is only one Hello Kitty Shinkansen, and it runs only once per day, so you might not get the chance to see it if you don’t know all the information I’m about to give you.

The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is a special bullet train that runs between Hakata and Shin-Osaka, stopping at all the stations on the way. The full trip takes around 4 hours and 20 minutes, so there’s only one train early in the morning from Hakata to Shin-Osaka, and it goes back to Hakata just before midday.

In this comprehensive guide, I will cover all the essential information about the Hello Kitty Shinkansen and show you everything you need to know to board this unique bullet train.

What is the Hello Kitty Shinkansen?

My son and I having fun at Hello Kitty Shinkansen (car 2)
© Ana Costa

The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is a unique train in Japan that’s all about Hello Kitty. It’s like a regular Kodama Shinkansen but with a Hello Kitty-themed exterior and interior design. This themed bullet train was launched in 2018 and operates on the Sanyo Shinkansen line in western Japan between Hakata and Osaka.

This super cute bullet train is an unmissable experience for those looking for kawaii (cute) experiences in Japan. Inside the bullet train, passengers can enjoy Hello Kitty-themed decor on cars number 1 and 2. Car number 1 is called Hello! Plaza, and it’s beautifully decorated. Here, you can find exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise that is irresistible (I know what I’m talking about because I left the train with a plastic bag full of it). You can also sit and eat some snacks, or take lovely pictures (see picture below).

Car number 2 is called Kawaii! Room, and has purple seats with pink armrests, and Hello Kitty headrests. It also has a lovely Hello Kitty luggage storage and a photo spot with a huge Hello Kitty character (see picture above). Car number 2 is an unreserved seat car. This means that you can sit in car number 2 as long as there are seats available. Please notice that this is the most wanted car, so if you’re planning on using it, queue at the train station in advance.

You also have non-reserved seats on cars number 7 and 8, but these cars are not decorated. Still, you can visit cars 1 and 2 to take some pictures whenever you want during your trip.

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Where does Hello Kitty Shinkansen Go?

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The Hello Kitty Shinkansen runs between Hakata Station and Shin-Osaka Station. Tourists can easily board this bullet train on common day trips to Hiroshima, Okayama, Himeji, or Kobe, for example. The Hello Kitty Shinkansen doesn’t run between Osaka and Kyoto like the Hello Kitty Haruka train.

To ride the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, you have to use the Kodama Shinkansen N°842 (between Hakata and Shin-Osaka) or the Kodama N°849 (between Shin-Osaka and Hakata). It is the same bullet train, but it changes its number to make the ride back to Hakata. The full Hello Kitty Shinkansen route takes 4 hours and 21 minutes each way, but you can ride this Shinkansen on a shorter route on your way to Himeji or Hiroshima.

I did the ride between Hiroshima and Shin-Osaka which took almost 3 hours, but time flies when you’re taking pictures and buying merchandise 🙂

Is The Hello Kitty Shinkansen Still Running?

Relaxing at Hello Kitty Shinkansen Plaza (car 1)
© Ana Costa

The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is scheduled to run at least until June 30, 2024. The operation schedule for the following months will be released before the end of the current schedule. This shinkansen runs almost every day of the month, but it usually doesn’t run for 2 consecutive days for maintenance (usually a Tuesday and a Wednesday).

Although train schedules are very reliable in Japan, sudden changes might occur, so before planning your ride on this shinkansen, make sure you check the current train status on the official website.

To help you get an idea of what to expect in terms of calendar and departure times, I put all the necessary information in the tables below. This information is accurate at the time of writing, but always check the official website for the latest information.

Station NameTimeStation NameTime
Shin-Osaka11:25 (arrival)Hakata15:51 (arrival)
Hello Kitty Shinkansen Timetable
MonthHello Kitty Shinkansen Unavailable
FebruaryTuesday 13
FebruaryWednesday 14
MarchTuesday 12
MarchWednesday 13
AprilTuesday 9
AprilWednesday 10
MayTuesday 7
MayWednesday 8
JuneTuesday 4
JuneWednesday 5
Hello Kitty Shinkansen Scheduled maintenance dates

How to Reserve The Hello Kitty Shinkansen?

Passengers can reserve the Hello Kitty Shinkansen up to one month in advance at JR ticket offices, green ticket vending machines, or online using Smart-Ex website. It is also possible to ride the Hello Kitty Shinkansen without reservation by using cars number 2, 3, 7, and 8 which are non-reserved. Cars number 4, 5 and 6 are for reserved seats only.

Hello Kitty Shinkansen Car 2
© Ana Costa

As you can see, there are 4 unreserved cars on the Hello Kitty Shinkansen and only 3 reserved cars, so you should be able to get on an unreserved car for your trip. The most difficult part is to get a seat on the Kawaii! Room (car 2) which is completely decorated. However, I found it easier to ride this car when boarding the Hello Kitty Shinkansen in the morning from Hiroshima because it has fewer passengers at the station. Also, if you board the Shinkansen at the first station, and queue up in line early enough, you should be okay to experience car number 2.

Please notice that reserved seats cost more than unreserved seats unless you have a Japan Rail Pass, which allows you to book seats for free.

You can find more information on Japan Rail Pass on these pages:

Is The Japan Rail Pass Worth it? Why You Need a Calculator
How Far in Advance Should I Buy The Japan Rail Pass?
What’s The Difference Between JR Pass and Suica Card?

The price of the ride, as well as the price of the seats, will depend on the traveled distance. For example, a short 12-minute ride from Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe will cost between 1530 yen (660 yen for the base fare, plus 870 yen for an unreserved seat) and 2950 yen (660 yen for the base fare, plus 2,290 yen for a reserved seat).

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The full Hello Kitty Shinkansen route can cost up to 14,750 yen (9,790 yen for the base fare, plus 4,960 yen for an unreserved seat) or 15,280 yen if you choose a reserved seat (9,790 yen plus 5,490 yen). Notice that picking a reserved seat is more affordable when traveling long distances. For short distances, the reserved seats are quite expensive, as you can see in the example above.

You can save money on your Hello Kitty Shinkansen ride if you have bought some JR passes for your trip in Japan. Here is a list of the passes you can use for this bullet train:

Tips to Enjoy The Hello Kitty Shinkansen

Hello Kitty Shinkansen Baggage Storage (car 2)
© Ana Costa
  • Save the official website on your favorites: This is the best way to have access to the most up-to-date information about Hello Kitty Shinkansen.
  • Check the schedule regularly: As the end date approaches, JR West might announce schedule changes, so keep an eye out for updates.
  • Book early: Secure your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment, especially during peak travel periods.
  • Arrive early at the station: Arrive with ample time before departure to avoid any last-minute stress. If you didn’t reserve a seat, arriving early allows to queue in front of car number 2 and enjoy the Kawaii! Room.
  • Capture memories: Don’t forget to take plenty of photos and selfies to capture the magic of your Hello Kitty Shinkansen journey. It’s a unique experience.
  • Shop onboard: Explore the onboard souvenir shop for exclusive Hello Kitty merchandise and souvenirs to cherish.
  • Utilize luggage storage: Large suitcases can be stored in designated areas to free up space in the main compartments.
  • Be mindful of others: Keep noise levels down, respect personal space, and avoid blocking doorways, especially when taking photos.

The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is a super fun and adorable way to travel around Japan. Whether you’re a huge Hello Kitty fan or just love cute stuff, this train ride is sure to make you smile. However, if you’re not planning on going West, there’s a Hello Kitty alternative to this shinkansen that you can ribe between Osaka and Kyoto: the Hello Kitty Haruka train.

The Alternative to The Shinkansen: Hello Kitty Haruka

The Hello Kitty Haruka Train is an express train service operated by JR West in Japan. It runs on the JR West Kansai Airport Line, between Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Kyoto with stops at Tennoji, Osaka, and Shin-Osaka. The train’s exterior and interior are adorned with adorable Hello Kitty-themed decorations.

Hello Kitty Haruka
© Ana Costa

Unlike the Hello Kitty Shinkansen, there are several Hello Kitty Haruka trains during the day, but not all Haruka trains are decorated. Haruka trains going to Yasu are not decorated, as well as some other Haruka trains early in the morning.

You can use Japan Travel by Navitime to help you with the route search and timetable. Here’s a video to help you use this useful tool:

For more information about the Hello Kitty Haruka check out the official website.

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