How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area

Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO
Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO

I wrote about the transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe in the previous post. There are lots of railways by Japan Railway and several private railways, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Kintetsu and Keihan. This means you have many many choices to choose the ticket or pass. All private railways have own pass. And also JR West has Kansai Area Pass. You may be overwhelmed to choose the right ticket.

In this post, I would like to share the information about the discount ticket and pass that cover Kansai area. But if you stay in Kyoto or Osaka and visit the places in the city, you may find the deals in the links below:

How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto
How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Osaka

Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass)

  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,000 yen / Child:2,000 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,200 yen / Child:2,600 yen
  • Coverage – All Non JR railway lines, subway lines and city bus in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (not required using in consecutive days)

This is the most recommend one! This pass includes all major private lines and subway lines, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Keihan, Kintetsu, Nankai, Osaka Subway and Kyoto Subway. You can access Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Mt. Koya, Kansai airport, Wakayama and many more place. This pass is sold at 5,200 yen for 3 days and 4,000 yen for 2 days. It gives you the greatest value in any railway pass of Kansai area. But if you think about only round trip between Kyoto and Osaka, the regular fare may be cheaper. Please see the details at the post, .How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare. I compare the price of pass and single fare in many cases. You will find which you should buy or not.

JR West Rail Pass – Kansai Area Pass

  • Price (one day) – Adult:2,200 yen / Child:1,100 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,300 yen / Child:2,150 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,300 yen / Child:2,650 yen
  • Price (four days) – Adult:6,300 yen / Child:3,150 yen
  • Coverage – All JR railway lines in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one to four days (midnight to midnight)
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by Kansai area pass.
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by Kansai area pass.

This pass includes most of JR lines in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji and Kansai airport. Shinkansen and all express trains are not included except Kansai airport express “Haruka”. Please see the details about this pass on the post, How to use JR West Kansai Area Pass. Compare pass and single fare..

As long as you travel within Kansai area, limited express train is not an issue. There are lots of Rapid train services. These urban commute train services give you fast and frequent movement. Please see the post, Rapid service network in Kansai area about Rapid trains in Kansai area.

If you think about using this pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or Osaka, it may not work. However JR train coverage is very limited especially in Kyoto. Please see these following links to make sure the coverage of JR trains in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Hankyu Tourist Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:800 yen / Child:Not available
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,400 yen / Child:not available
  • Coverage – All Hankyu railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Hankyu Railway operates trains among Umeda (Osaka), Takarazuka, Kawaramachi (Kyoto near Gion), Arashiyama (Kyoto) and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive to cover three cities, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Umeda, single fare is 320 yen. If you access to Kawaramachi from Umeda, single fare is 400 yen. You can get the worth of one day pass by one round trip to Kawaramachi from Umeda. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, Arashiyama and Gion area, this is the one for your trip.

But if you want to visit all part of Kyoto and many places in Kobe, Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice.

Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:700 yen / Child:350 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,000 yen / Child:700 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Keihan Railway connects Yodoyabashi (Osaka) and Demachiyanagi (Kyoto). It covers Kyoto and Osaka only but the price is cheaper than Hankyu Tourist Pass. And many places in Kyoto are located along Keihan Railway. Fushimi Inari shrine, Uji, Kiyomizu-dera temple and many places in Higashiyama area can be accessed from Keihan Railway stations.

This pass has same issue as Hankyu Tourist Pass. You may need to take subway to get Keihan Railway station in Osaka, such as Yodoyabashi, Nakanoshima, Kitahama, Temmabashi and Kyobashi. And when you visit western part of Kyoto, such as Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji temple, you need to pay extra to access this place. Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice.

Kintetsu Rail Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:1,500 yen / Child:750 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:2,500 yen / Child:1,250 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

This deals covers Kintetsu Railway in Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

In Nara, many of places can be accessed by walk from the station. But this deal can take you to Kyoto station only You cannot use this deal to access to most of places in Kyoto.

Hanshin Tourist Pass

  • Price – Adult:700 yen / Child:Not available
  • Coverage – All Hanshin railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight)

Hanshin Railway operate trains among Umeda (Osaka), Osaka-Namba, Kousoku-Kobe and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Osaka-Nmaba, single fare is 410 yen. It is paid off by just one round trip. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, this is the one for your trip.

However if you access to Arima-Onsen and/or Himeji, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass may be better choice.

Kansai Wide Area Pass

Kyushu Shinkansen Sakura and Mizuho give you direct trainsfer to Shin-Osaka from Kyusyu.
All Shinkansen trains non reserved seat on Sanyo Shinkansen are covered by this deal.

If you may travel both inside and outside of Kansai area, Kansai Wide Area Pass is the best choice. You can get same coverage as Kansai area pass in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji and Wakayama. And also this pass covers Kinosaki Onsen, Shirahama, Kii-Katsuura, Shingu, Okayama, Kurashiki and even Takamatsu in Shikoku. You can take non reserved seat on limited express trains and Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama.

ICOCA, Pitata and other IC cards

ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may use these cards to take any trains and buses in all Kansai area. You can use even other area’s card, such as Suica, Pasmo too. These cards give you convenience. You can avoid to purchase a ticket whenever you make a train trip. You can take any kinds of trains, such as JR, subway and Non JR trains. However these cards do not give you any discount and unlimited ride.

If you meet these following things, IC card is your choice.

1. You intend to visit a few places in a day.
2. You need to take several kinds of trains and buses, like subway, Hankyu, Keihan, JR.
3. You cannot fix your plan and want to have some flexibility.

However if you have day trip to other cities, such as day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass is better choice in most of cases.

Kansai One Pass

This is same type of card as ICOCA. You can use this pass by same way as ICOCA. But this card is designed for overseas tourist. Preload amount is 2,500 yen (plus 500 yen deposit and sold at 3,000 yen) and you can get discount at many attractions. ICOCA is sold at any JR stations throughout Kansai area. But Kansai One Pass is sold in the designated stations only. Please see the link below to find the detailed information at official site.

Kansai One Pass official site

For traveler who use national or regional pass

If you use JR pass (national pass) or other regional deal, such as Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, JR train network in Kansai area is covered. You may have same or better coverage than Kansai Wide Area Pass. If you use these passes, please try to use this pass as much as you can. I think you may add only city deal, such as bus pass in Kyoto.

I hope you get the best deal in this post and enjoy your trip in Kansai area.

768 thoughts on “How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area”

  1. Hi takeshi san,
    What’s the difference between kansai one pass and kansai thru pass? It seems the same to me. Both can be used on most railway in osaka and kyoto except kansai thru pass sold in 2 or 3 days pass. Kansai one pass can be used as long as I have limit in it.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Renee san,

      Actually it’s completely different.
      You can take any trains by Kanasi one pass but it does not give you unlimited ride. It gives you same value as regular ticket. But you don’t need to purchase a ticket one by one. All you can do is tapping the card to enter and exit ticket gate. The fare is subtracted from the card automatically. So you need to check the balance and you may need to add the fund into the card. You can do it at the ticket vending machine. The card is valid for 10 years from the last day of usage. So as long as you use the card, it’s valid almost forever.

      Kansai thru pass covers non JR trains, subway and city bus. It does not cover city bus. It’s valid for 2 or 3 days. It gives you unlimited ride. You can take the train as much as you want.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi-San,

    Appreciate your helpfulness! Hope you could help a trip with my Family. I will be going to Nagoya on July 23 and will travel to different cities until Aug 5 when we depart. please see below itinerary. Thanks!

    Nagoya
    July 24 – Legoland
    July 24 – Nagoya Castle
    July 25 – Higashiyama Zoo leave for Tokyo

    Tokyo
    July 25 – Airbnb, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Fuunji
    July 26 – Tukiji Market, Hama rikyu Garden, Imperial Palace East Gardens
    July 27 – Ueno Park, Tokyo National museum, Akihabara
    July 28 – leave for Kyoto

    Kyoto
    July 28 – Airbnb, Higashihonganji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine
    July 29 – Nara
    July 30 – Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto Gion Shinbashi,
    July 31 – Kinkaku Ji (Golden Pavilion), (Ryoanji Temple), Arashiyama bamboo grove,
    Aug 1 – Nishiki Market , Leave for Osaka

    Osaka
    Aug 1 – Airbnb, Minami (Namba)
    Aug 2 – Nissin Ramen Museum, Osaka Castle, Kuromon Ichiba Market
    Aug 3 – Universal Studios
    Aug 4 – Tennoji Park and Zoo, Tenmangu Shrine
    Aug 5 – Departure

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Unfortunately there is no deals to cover whole part of your trip.

      In Nagoya, single ticket is okay.

      In Tokyo, you can use Tokyo subway pass.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      In Kyoto and Osaka, you can get Kansai one pass.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi,
    Can you tell me which pass would be the best for my family. There will be 4 adults and 1 child. We will be staying 7 days in Osaka. We need to get from the airport to hotel and end of trip back to airport. For Osaka, we plan to visit the Osaka aquarium, osaka river cruise, Osaka castle, Ferris wheel, dotonbori, konamon museum, mimami, kemasa kuranimija park, Kuchu observatory, and Koromon market. For Kyoto, we plan to visit gion nishiki matket, kinkaku-ji temple, bamboo forest, Kyoto museum, arashiyama, botanical garden, and Katsura imperial villa. For Nara, we plan to visit the deer park, visitors center, Isvlen garden and wakakusa hill. There is so many passes to decide on. Please help us.
    Thank you.

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    Need your kind assistance.

    Below is the draft of my itinerary

    Day 1 (KIX – Kyoto)
    – Arival at Kansai Airport (3 pm)
    – Go to Kyoto and check in accommodation
    – Dinner and walk around Kyoto City

    Day 2 (Kyoto)
    – fushimi inari
    – kiyomizu
    – ginkakoji
    – gion

    Day 3 (Kyoto)
    – kinkakuji
    – togetsukyo bridge
    – tenruji garden
    – bamboo groove
    – Go to Osaka and Check in Accommodation

    Day 4 (Kobe)
    – Kobe garden (mt rokko)
    – Kobe Tower
    – Kobe Habour

    Day 5 (Nara)
    – Deer Park
    – Isuien Garden
    – Dotonbori at Night

    Day 6 (Osaka – 1 day amazing pass)
    – Osaka castle, Santa maria cruise, Ferris wheel, sky building etc

    Day 7 (Osaka)
    – Shopping & Souvenir
    – depart from Kansai Airport (10 pm)

    In your opinion, what’s the best pass for the above itinerary.
    Should I re-arange the itinerary to maximize pass usage?

    TQVM 🙂

  5. Hi Takeshi San,

    I will stay in Osaka (Sakuragawa station in Namba area) for 11 days and plan to visit the tourist spots in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Himeji. I plan to buy the following tickets/pass and would appreciate your view/help to find the best deals for those tickets/passes.

    1. Kanku Chikatoku Tickets for the airport transfer to and from the Sakuragawa station
    2. Hankyu Tourist Pass 2 days or Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass 2 days for Kyoto trip
    3. Kansai Thru Pass (2 days) for Nara/Himeji Castle
    4. Hanshin Tourist Pass for Kobe
    5. Osaka amazing pass for 2 days
    6. Osaka visitor ticket for touring around Osaka tour if I don’t go to Kyoto for the 3rd day

    If I have bought the Kyoto-Osaka sightseeing pass, do I still need to buy the Kyoto sightseeing 2-days pass card for travelling around the tourist spots in Kyoto ?

    My initial itinerary as follows:

    Day 1 – Airport to Sakuragawa station

    Day 2 – Osaka (Walking)
    Dotonbori
    Shinsaibashi
    Kuromon Ichiba Market

    Day 3 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Kyoto
    Kinkaku-ji Temple
    Kiyomizu Temple
    Fushimi Inari Taisha

    Day 4 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Kyoto
    Arashiyama (Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest & Iwatayama Monkey Park)

    Day 5 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Kyoto (Optional)
    Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Kyoto
    Gion
    Other tourist spots in Kyoto

    Day 6 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Nara
    Todai-ji Temple
    Sika Deer in Nara Park
    Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine
    Higashimuki Shopping Street

    Day 7 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Himeji castle

    Day 8 – Round trip from Sakuragawa station to Kobe
    Maiko Marine Promenade (Akashi Kaikyo Bridge)
    Sannomiya Center Gai Shopping Street
    Kobe Harborland
    Tetsujin No. 28 Statue

    Day 9/10 – Osaka
    Osaka Castle
    Umeda Sky Building
    Shitennoji Temple
    etc

    Day 11 – Sakuragawa station to Airport

    1. Hi Kratos san,

      Hankyu Tourist Pass 2 days or Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass 2 days are cheaper than Kansai thru pass. But Hankyu Tourist Pass covers only Hankyu railway. Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass covers only Keihan railway. You need to pay single fare for getting Umeda (Hankyu) or Yodoyabashi (Keihan) by subway from Sakuragawa which is around 200 yen one way. And also you need to pay single fare or all day bus pass at 500 yen because you need access to the areas which is not on Keihan or Hankyu railway.

      On the other hand, Kansai thru pass covers both Hankyu and Keihan, And also it covers subway and city bus in Osaka and Kyoto. It’s more expensive but it covers more and more flexible. If you are pretty sure that you will visit the places in Kyoto on your list only, Keihan or Hankyu railway pass + additional may be cheaper but if you change your mind and visit more, Kansai thru pass may be cheaper.

      For trip to Kobe, Maiko is not in coverage area of Hanshin tourist pass. Kansai thru pass is better for this trip.

      So you may use 2 X 3 days Kansai thru pass to cover other than Osaka.

      Amazing pass is a good choice.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi!
    Loving your assistance and comments so far!

    I will be going to Japan from 8th Nov to 15th Nov:
    Please find my itinenary –

    Day 1 – 8th Nov
    Nankai airport to Namba
    Osaka Castle
    Dotonburi

    Day 2 – 9th Nov
    Minoo Park
    Tempozan Ferris Wheel
    Umeda for shopping

    Day 3 – 10th Nov
    Kyoto – Kinkakuji, Arashimaya, Nishiki Market, Gion
    Back to Namba

    Day 4 – 11th Nov
    Namba to Himeji Castle
    Himeji to Kobe
    Back to Namba

    Day 5 – 12th Nov
    Namba to Kyoto – Fushimi Inari
    Kyoto to Nara Park
    Back to Namba

    Day 6 -13th Nov
    Shinsekai
    Tsutenkaku Tower
    Den Den Town
    Shinsaibashi

    Day 7 – 14th Nov
    Kuromon market, Shinsaibashi, Dotonburi

    Day 8 – 15th Nov
    Namba to Kansai airport

    I have considered Nankai Thru Pass 3 Days from Day 3 to 5.
    Please advise on the other passes to purchase for the rest of the day.

    Domo Arigato!!

    Regards,

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Kansai thru pass 3 days is a right choice.
      Yokoso Osaka ticket is recommended for day 1 and Osaka amazing pass is good for day 2. But you should visit Osaka castle on day 2 by Osaka amazing pass.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/yokoso.html
      https://www.osaka-info.jp/osp/en/about/about_1day.html

      Single ticket or using Kansai one pass is okay for day 6 to 8.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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