Kyoto station guide. How to transfer among Shinkansen, Kintetsu, Subway and JR local trains.

Karasuma central exit is the main entrance of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail
Karasuma central exit is the main entrance of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail

Kyoto is the biggest name in Japan. Most of you will visit Kyoto. JR Kyoto station is probably the first step to Kyoto for you. There are so many trains, such as Shinkansen, Limited Express Haruka from Kansai airport, Limited Express Thuderbird to Kanazawa, commute trains to Osaka, Kobe and Nara, Kintetsu train, Kyoto city subway and many many more to depart and arrive in this station.

Now I would like to explain about Kyoto station. I will show you how to transfer among many trains there.

Station structure, tracks and platforms

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Kyoto station Karasuma side (north side) has a huge station building. There are Hotel Granvia and Isetan Department Store.

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Before I talk about station, please see the map at JR West official website.

Four railway companies, JR Central (Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo, Nagoya, Shin-Osaka), JR west (Kyoto line, Biwako line, Nara line, Sagano line, Haruka and many more), Kintetsu Railway (to Nara, Ise, Nagoya) and Kyoto Subway Karasuma line trains depart / arrive in Kyoto station. JR Central and JR West are technically different companies. But both companies are same JR group and those are covered by JR Pass as you probably know. (But Nozomi of Tokaido Shinkansen is not covered by JR Pass.)

Overview of Kyoto station's platforms. Left side is platform #0 and station building at Karasuma central exit. (C) JP Rail
Overview of Kyoto station’s platforms. Left side is platform #0 and station building at Karasuma central exit. (C) JP Rail

Kyoto station is three levels structure. On the ground floor, all JR West line’s platforms are located. You can take the train to Nara (Nara line), Kyoto line (Osaka, Kobe), Sagano line (Arashiyama), Limited Express Haruka (Kansai airport), Limited Express Thunderbird (Kanazawa), Limited Express Kinosaki (Kinosaki Onsen) and many more trains.

Shinkansen’s platforms are located at third floors and Kintetsu Railway’s platforms are located at second floors and is just under Shinkansen tracks.

All platforms are connected overpass walkway at second level, west side. You can find it at the right side of JR West map and it says “South-north pedestrian walkway”. You can use this walkway without ticket too.

Overpass near West Gate. You can find the signage that is written by English too. All signage of JR stations are written in English too.
Overpass near West Gate. You can find the signage that is written by English too. All signage of JR stations are written in English too.

On the other hand, there is underground walkway too. It connects all JR West lines, Shinkansen and Kyoto Subway Karasuma line. If you transfer to subway, you will use this walkway. You can find this walkway at left side of JR West map. It says “Underground pedestrian walkway”.

All platforms and tracks of Kyoto station are the following:

JR West lines (Conventional lines, other than Shinkansen)

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Track# Lines/Trains Destination
0 w681 Limited Express Thunderbird
c383 Limited Express Shinano
c85 Limited Express Hida
Kanazawa, Toyama
Nagano via Nagoya
Takayama via Gifu
2,3 w223-2 Biwako line Local, Special Rapid
w225 Kosei line Local, Special Rapid
Kusatsu, Hikone, Maibara
Katada, Oumi-Imazu
4,5 w321 Kyoto line Local
w225 Kyoto line Special Rapid, Rapid
Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Sannomiya, Kobe, Himeji
6, 7 hot7000 Limited Express Super Hakuto
w283 Limited Express Kuroshio
Tottori via Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Himeji
Shirahama, Kii-Katsuura, Shingu via Shin-Osaka and Tennoji
8,9,10 w103hka2 Nara line Local
w221 Miyakoji Rapid
Inari, Uji, Nara
30 w281 Limited Express Haruka Kansai Airport via Shin-Osaka, Tennoji
31 w287k Limited Express Maizuru, Hashidate, Kinosaki Fukuchiyama, Kinosaki-Onsen, Amanohashidate, Higashi-Maizuru
32,33,34 w221 Sagano line Local Rapid Saga-Arashiyama, Kameoka, Sonobe

As you saw, Kyoto station has so many tracks and platforms. You may be overwhelmed. There are some tricky part, like track #0 instead of #1, track #30 – 34 for Haruka and Sagano line trains.

Sagano line (to Arashiyama, Kinosaki) platforms. "Kyoto Station Sagano-Line Platform" by Shrr - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wkimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Station_Sagano-Line_Platform.jpg#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Kyoto_Station_Sagano-Line_Platform.jpg
Sagano line (to Arashiyama, Kinosaki) platforms. “Kyoto Station Sagano-Line Platform” by Shrr – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wkimedia Commons

But there are so many signage in English. Kyoto is the international destination. So don’t worry. Things will be much easier than you think.

JR Central lines (Shinkansen)

"Kyoto Station 11" by Terence Ong - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Station_11.JPG#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Kyoto_Station_11.JPG
“Kyoto Station 11” by Terence Ong – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Track# Lines/Trains Destination
1,2 c700n Tokaido Shinkansen Nagoya, Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, Atami
3,4 Shin-Osaka, Himeji, Hiroshima, Hakata, Kumamoto, Kagoshima-Chuo

There are only two platforms and four tracks. It is quite simple and easy to understand to get direction.

Kintetsu Railway

By calflier001 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By calflier001 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Track# Lines/Trains Destination
1,2 kin23001 Limited Express Nara, Kashiwara-Jingumae, Ise
3,4 kin5801 Nara line Express, Semi Express, Local Tambabashi, Yamato-Saidaiji, Nara, Kashiwara-Jingumae

Kintetsu Kyoto station has four tracks only. Two tracks are for limited express and other two are for local trains. There is only one ticket gate and very simple.

You can watch this Youtube movie to see Kintetsu Kyoto station.

Kyoto Subway

"Subway Platform of Kyoto Station" by もんじゃ - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Subway_Platform_of_Kyoto_Station.JPG#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Subway_Platform_of_Kyoto_Station.JPG
“Subway Platform of Kyoto Station” by もんじゃ – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Track# Lines/Trains Destination
1 kyot10-1 Karasuma line Takeda, Nara
2 Shijo, Kitaoji

There is only one platform. Once you get there, you cannot lose your way.

*All above train icons are produced by Train Front View.

Ticket gate/Exit

Kyoto station has two sides, Karasuma (north) and Hachijo (south). Both sides are connected by walkway underground and overpass. Both sides have several ticket gates. Before I explain about gates, Please refer JR West Kyoto station map again.

Central Gate and Underground Central Gate

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This is the main gate of Kyoto station. Most of bus services depart and arrive at this side.

In the map, Underground Central Gate is not shown. But it is located just under Central Gate. It connects to underground shopping complex.

West Gate

By そらみみ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By そらみみ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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This gate is located in the middle of overpass. It is connected with South-North pedestrian walkway and can be accessed to both Hachijo and Karasuma side.

Shinkansen Central Gate

"Kyotosta shinkansen-ceet". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyotosta_shinkansen-ceet.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Kyotosta_shinkansen-ceet.jpg
“Kyotosta shinkansen-ceet”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

You can find is at upper middle of the map.

If you transfer from Shinkansen to Kintetsu Railway, this is the best way. You may exit from this gate to Karasuma side after getting off Shinkansen. After you exit this gate, you can take South-north pedestrian walkway to get Karasuma side.

Shinkansen Hachijo Gate

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This is one of Shinkansen ticket gates and it is located at the center of Hachijo side on ground floor. You can find it at the middle of the map.

If you want to exit to Hachijo side, this gate is the closest.

Hachijo East Gate

There are both Shinkansen and Conventional trains gates. Especially if you transfer to subway from Shinkansen, this gate is the easiest way.

Underground East Gate

It is located in the underground at Karasuma side. You can find it at lower middle in the map. If you want to transfer from JR train to subway, this gate is the best way.

Nishinotoin Gate

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This gate can be accessed from Sagano line platform only. It is small and connect to mega retail store “Big Camera”. I think you will not use this gate. But the map shows it and I would line to mention it just for your information.

Shinkansen Transfer Gate

By Terence Ong (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Terence Ong (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

When you transfer between Shinkansen and conventional trains (JR trains other than Shinkansen), you have to go through Shinkansen Transfer Gate because fare system is different. If you use JR pass or other passes, you cannot go through automatic ticket gate. You can go through manned wicket and show your pass and Shinkansen ticket.

Kintetsu Ticket Gate

By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It is located in front of Shinkansen Central Gate. There is only one gate of Kintetsu railway.

Kyoto Subway Karasuma Line Ticket Gate

By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are four gates for subway. You can find Subway Ticket Gate near Underground East Gate and Hachijo East Gate. Especially Underground East Gate is located just in front of Subway Ticket Gate.

How to transfer among JR trains, Kintesu trains and Kyoto subway trains

There are many ticket gates. Let’s see all transfers in Kyoto station. I also show you minimum connecting time.

Shinkansen – Conventional lines (10 minutes)
Do not exit and go through Shinkansen transfer gate.

Conventional lines – Kintetsu Railway (10 minutes)
Exit at West Gate and go to Kintetsu ticket gate

Conventional lines – Kyoto Subway (10 minutes)
Exit at Underground East Gage and go to subway ticket gate

Shinkansen – Kintetsu Railway (10 minutes)
Exit at Shinkansen Central Gate and go to Kintetsu ticket gate

Shinkansen – Kyoto Subway (10 minutes)
Exit at Shinkansen Hachijo East Gate and go to subway ticket gate

Kintetsu – Kyoto Subway (15 minutes)
Exit at Kintetsu ticket gate and go through Hachijo side and then go to underground to subway ticket gate.
But Kyoto Subway Karasuma line and Kintetsu line go through each other. Some of subway trains run on Kintetsu line. You may not need to transfer at Kyoto station when you go to Nara / come back from Nara.

The movie below shows you transfer from Shinkansen to Kyoto subway. You may think it is complicated. But there are lots of signage in English. As long as you follow the sign, it will be okay.

Next movie shows you how to transfer from Shinkansen to Kintetsu.

The last movie shows you how to transfer from JR conventional line (such as Special Rapid) to Kyoto subway Karasuma line at the movie below.

Go down to underground path, and proceed to Underground East exit and you will find subway ticket gate.

JR Pass and JR West Passes (Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass and etc) sales and exchange place

Please see JR West Kyoto station map again. You can find “star marked” beside Central Gate. That is the place to exchange and purchase. This ticket window is open 5:30 to 23:00. You can also exchange JR Pass at Shinkansen Hachijo Gate too. Since this is JR Central ticket office, you cannot purchase JR West Passes there.

42 thoughts on “Kyoto station guide. How to transfer among Shinkansen, Kintetsu, Subway and JR local trains.”

  1. Dear Takeshi,

    We will be arriving to Kyoto and plan to spend 3 days there. We have the JR rail pass because we plan to take the Narita express from Narita to Shinogawa and then ride on the tokaido shinkansen to Kyoto. Would we need to buy other tickets to go around kyoto i.e. to Arashimaya etc or JR Rail pass is sufficient. If not, can we use the Suica because we will buy that to go around Tokyo as well.

    Thank you for your input.

    1. Hi Hasanah,

      Some places, like Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari can be accessed by JR pass. Please see the link below to find the coverage area.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      All day bus pass is sold at 500 yen in Kyoto. You can access most of places in Kyoto by bus and this is recommended because the price is very reasonable.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hola Takeshi! All the best from Argentina!
    I have 2 questions, and thanks for your time, of course:
    We arrive at Kyoto from Tokyo via the Hikari 501 train at 9.30.
    1. Do we have time to get the 9.33 Miyakoji train to Nara?.
    Not sure how far are one gate from the other. Otherwise, I read we have the next Miyaoki train at 10.40.
    2. We have the JR Pass and I know is all covered. But do we need a ticket for the Miyakoji or is like travelling at the Yamanote line, without any papers in hand.
    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Juan,

      1. I can do it. But it may be tight for the first timer.
      2. No. All you have to do is show your JR Pass at Shinkansen-Conventional line transfer gate to proceed to Miyakoji rapid train platform.
      When you take Yamatoji rapid, it’s same. Just show your pass at ticket gate. You don’t need to have any other papers.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Arigato gozaimasu, Takeshi!
        It will be our 2nd time in Japan and your tips and ideas are great! Thanks for the time!
        JM

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