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 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.

Now I would like to share the information about the discount ticket and pass with you. I classify these tickets and passes under three types, all Kansai area, Kyoto and Osaka. I hope this post will help you to find the right one for you.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

All Kansai area

This category is suitable for the tourists who visit Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and many more places in Kansai for multiple days. I recommend you Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass). And also JR West Kansai Area Pass may be considerble.
*If you will use Japan Rail Pass, don’t think about JR West Kansai Area Pass. Japan Rail Pass includes everything that JR West Rail Pass has.

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) (C) JNTO
Kansai Thru Pass include World Heritage site Koyasan (Mt. Koya) too. (C) JNTO

Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass)

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.

Kansai Airport Express Haruka
Kansai Airport Express Haruka is one of the fastest way to get Kansai airport.

JR West Rail Pass – 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.. And also one of my post, How to access from Kansai airport to downtown Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe may be helpful for you.

You don’t need to worry about express trains. There are lots of Rapid train services. These urban train services give you fast and frequent transfer. Please see the post, Rapid service network in Kansai area about Rapid trains in Kansai area.

Especially if you use this pass for Haruka, that is a good deal. But if you think about using this pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or Osaka, it may not work. Especially JR lines is not so convenient in Kyoto. Please read How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto to get more details. Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass) or the single fare and Kyoto day pass combination might be better choice for your trip in Kyoto and/or Osaka.

And also ICOCA and Haruka includes ride on Haruka and 1500 e-money that can be used for JR trains, private railway and subways. This is very good deal too. Please see the post, ICOCA and Haruka ticket. Very flexible and good deal for tourist who stay in Kansai.

Katsura river in Arashiyama, Kyoto is very popular in Spring and Fall. ©Yasufumi Nishi/© JNTO

Kyoto area

I explain several kinds of pass to you. These passes is suitable who stay in Kyoto or one day trip to Kyoto from Osaka.

Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card

This is a basic day pass of Kyoto City Subway and Bus. You can go anywhere in city of Kyoto. There are two types of pass, One day at 1200 yen and Two days at 2000 yen. Please see the details at Kyoto Municipal Transportation official website. If you pay a single fare, it costs 210 to 340 yen to take the subway and 220 yen to take the bus. So if you take a bus or subway more than 5 times a day, this pass is worth the price. If you are not sure how many times you take, I recommend you to purchase this pass. It is not bad deal, more convenient and save your time to calculate the fare at the station.

This pass is very suitable for the tourists who stay in Kyoto. Because you can use this pass even short distance transfer. For example, you can take a bus to move only several blocks to get the restaurant.

City Bus All-day Pass

This pass is very similar to the One or Two day pass above. But this pass does not include any subway lines. The price is only 500 yen for one day. If you take more than three, it would pay. Even though some of the popular spots in Kyoto, like Arashiyama, cannot be accessed by this pass, this affordable price may work for most of tourists.

I recommend this pass to the tourists who have one day trip to Kyoto from Osaka. If you have Kansai Thru Pass or JR West Kansai Area Pass, this pass will cover the place where these rail passes cannot cover. If you use Japan Rail pass, this pass is one of the best choice. Because you need to use subway or bus to get most of spots in Kyoto anyway. Of course you can combine this pass with a single fare from Osaka.

Floating Garden Observatory is popular observation deck in Osaka Umeda area. ©JNTO

Osaka area

There are lots of subway lines in downtown Osaka. This is the best way to explore in Osaka. You can use JR lines too. Especially if you will be Japan Rail Pass user, try to use JR lines as much as you ca. Please see the post, How to use Japan Rail Pass in downtown Osaka.

One-day unlimited Pass, Enjoy Eco Card

This is a basic day pass of Osaka Municipal Transportation. You take any subway lines and bus service that are operated by Osaka city. The price is 800 yen. But if you use buy this pass on weekends or holidays, the price is cheaper. It is only 600 yen. If you take subway train from Umeda to Namba, the fare is 230 yen. So it is not hard to use more than even higher price 800 yen.

Don’t forget to compare and check some more passes

At last, if you may travel to outside of Kansai area, like Kinosaki, Shirahama, Okayama and Kurashiki, don’t forget to check the post, The newest JR West rail pass for Kansai and Okayama, Kurashiki, Kinosakai and Shingu area, Kansai WIDE Area Pass. In my opinion, this pass gives you the greatest deal in all JR West rail passes.

If you need more information about rail passes in Japan for visitors, please check the post, How to choose Rail Pass to travel Japan. Summary of most of rail passes in Japan.

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

  1. Hi! Can you pls comment on this? We’ll be going to Japan on Oct24-Nov 3. Our accomodation in Tokyo is near Aoto while in Kansai is near Higashi-sano JR station (Osaka)

    Oct 24 – arrive at NRT, Asakusa, Ueno, Ameyoko
    Oct 25 – Tsukiji, Akihabara, Shinjuku
    Oct 26 – FUJI Q (use Qpack)
    Oct 27 – Disneysea
    Oct 28 – Hakone (use hakone freepass)
    Oct 29 – travel to osaka via shinkansen (my friends want to ride the bullet train), Namba, Himeji
    Oct 30 – USJ
    Oct 31 – Kyoto
    Nov 1 – Kyoto
    Nov 2 – Osaka, Koya-san
    Nov 3 – Osaka, flight back home from KIX

    From oct 24-26, we will use the Tokyo subway 3day ticket… My plan is to buy the shinkansen ticket separately then buy the 4day Kansai area pass.. I will not avail the 7 day JR pass.. What do you think? :)

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Joy,

      You have done a great job. You have picked really good deals.
      But I would like to mention to you just one thing.

      If you take Shinkansen to Himeji from Tokyo and take one more time to go back to Shin-Osaka by Shinkansen, the cost is around 20000 yen. At this point, the difference between single fares and 7 days JR pass is about 9000 yen. You can take JR train to go to KIX by limited express Haruka. It costs around 2500 yen. You can take Shinkansen to get Odawara when you go to Hakone. You can save 1000 yen between Shnjuku departure and Odawara departure. But Hakone Free Pass does not include limited express charge. So you may save more if you intend to take Odakyu limited express.

      So in my opinion, JR Pass is better option for Oct 28 to the end. It may not give you a big saving, but it will give you more flexibility. It’s of course much easier to handle than single fare ticket.

      You may need to add subway fare or pass for Kyoto and Osaka. But you can take JR train among the cities.


      Takeshi /

  2. Dear Takeshi,

    I will be heading to Japan for a 20-day trip in December 2015.
    Below is my itinerary:

    Day 1: Osaka Kansai Airport to Kyoto (Staying in Kyoto for the next 8 nights)
    Day 2-Day 8: Kyoto and day trips to Nara/Kobe/Osaka
    Day 9: Kyoto to Tokyo
    Day 10 – 13: Tokyo and day trip to Mt Fuji
    Day 14: Tokyo to Takayama
    Day 15-16: Takayama
    Day17: Takayama to Shirakawa-go (Nohi bus)
    Day 18: Shirakawa-go to Takayama (Bus) and back to Osaka
    Day 19: Osaka
    Day 20: To Kansai Airport

    Should I buy the Icoca and Haruka card to explore Kansai area from Day 1-8? I understand the round trip ticket is only valid for two weeks, hence I would not be able to use it for the trip back to Kansai Airport on the last day.

    Should I also get the JR pass for Kyoto to Tokyo and for exploring the rest of the trip?

    Not sure if my itinerary is the most cost-efficient in terms of planning for transport.Appreciate your advice. :) Thanks!!!

  3. Thanks for the quick reply Takeshi.
    But the question is, will JR Kansai 3 days pass enough?
    Or do we still have to purchase Osaka eco card?

    1. Hi Kristi,

      If you want to visit Tennoji, Osaka castle and Namba only, Kansai area pass covers all. Please see the link below to find the coverage of the pass.

      If you need to take subway to access somewhere in Osaka, just purchase single fare. I think that will be enough.


      Takeshi /

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    Just wondering if you can help me with Osaka/Kansai travel.
    Here’s our itinerary for the first part of the trip:
    1. Arrive at Kansai airport at 9am – activate JR Kansai 3 days pass
    Leave baggage at Tennoji station, lunch at namba, visit osaka castle, go to hotel in kyoto, dinner at namba
    2. Universal studio japan
    3. Visit Arashiyama, fushimi inari, go to kobe and osaka at night

    With this 3 days, would it be enough to use 3 days JR kansai area?
    I was thinking to purhase Osaka 1 day eco card as well for day 1.

    Please advise?
    Thank you.

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    Good day! My family will be travelling to Osaka on Sept 6(Night) until Sept 13, with a Day Trip to Kyoto on the 11th…

    Since we’ll be all over the place at Osaka for Universal Studios, Umeda Sky Building, Doutonburi, Osaka Castle, Shinkansen for Kyoto and others, can you recommend a suitable pass for us for 7 days(to cover Sept 7-13)?

    We’ll be staying somewhere at Namba, near Daikokucho and Namba-Nankai Stations, so both would work as easy-access transportations…

    I can’t seem to find the most suitable pass for us to save time and money, any tips and suggestions would be very much appreciated…

    Thank you very much in advance!


  6. Hi Takeshi

    My family and I would like to make our first trip to Japan this mid Dec.
    We need some advice on how best we can travel and below is a rough itinerary that we have worked out:

    Day 1 : SIN-HND (Tokyo) Arrival 6:30pm. (Stay overnight in Tokyo)
    Day 2 : Tokyo – Nagano
    Day 3 : Myoko Kogen
    Day 4 : Myoko Kogen
    Day 6 : Toyama – Kanazawa / Kenrokuen Garden
    Day 7 : Kanazawa – Takayama / Hida Takayama)
    Day 8 : Takayama / Shirakawa
    Day 9 : Takayama / Kiso Valley / Tsumago Azuma
    Day 10 : Takyama – Nagoya / Nagoya City
    Day 11 : Nagoya / Suzuka Circuit Theme Park
    Day 12 : Mt. Fuji 5 Lakes
    Day 13 : Hakone / Outlet Shopping
    Day 14 : Tokyo / Shopping / Toyota Mega Web
    Day 15 : Tokyo / Shopping / Markets
    Day 16 : Tokyo / Last Minute Grabs / Depart for SIN


    1. Hi Paulyn,

      Your itinerary is good, but I just want to mention only one thing on your itinerary.
      As far as I know, there is no direct transportation between Takayama and Kiso valley. You can go but you have to take several local bus and it’s very hard for even residence. This area is much more accessible from Nagoya. If you want to visit there as day trip, Nagoya is better base city.

      Regarding deals, unfortunately there is no deal is available. In rough calculation, total fares for Tokyo-Nagano-Myoko-Toyama/Kanazawa-Takayama-Nagoya-Tokyo is not far from 7 days JR pass. Only JR pass covers whole part of your trip. 14 days pass is too expensive at this point. But if you take a train to get Kiso valley from Nagoya, take JR train to get Suzuka and will do one more long trip, 14 day pass may be suitable.

      You may use 14 days pass for Fuji and Hakone partially. But Fuji Hakone Pass is better choice. I don’t think JR Pass is a good idea to get these places.

      I don’t think you have any extra time to squeeze one more long trip. So if you keep this itinerary, your choice is single ticket. This is the most affordable choice.


      Takeshi /

  7. Hi Takeshi,

    First of all, thank you so much for providing such an informative website.

    My husband and I are travelling in Japan for the first time (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara & maybe Kobe) from 23 Aug to 30 Aug.
    We need some help as we are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information we have read on the different rail passes.

    Below is our rough itinerary:
    Day 1: 23 Aug – Arrive KIX in the evening at about 7p.m.
    Accommodation for the night is at a hotel connected to Shin-Osaka station. Will explore nearby areas for the night.

    Day 2: Travel to Kyoto.
    Days 2 – 5: Base is Kyoto. Staying at a hotel that is 7 mins walk away from Kyoto Station.
    In between Days 2 to Days 5, we plan to do one day trip to Nara, and maybe another day trip to Kobe. (We are undecided about Kobe, because we are not sure if it’s worth a visit.)

    Day 6: Travel back to Osaka.
    Days 6 & 7, staying in at a place near to Shinsaibashi subway station and Nagahoribashi subway station.
    Day 8: Fly back to Singapore (late evening flight) from KIX.

    Which pass(es) do you recommend for us for these 8 days?
    Friends told us to get the JR pass, but I figured we don’t need that since we are only at Kansai area, and not travelling to Tokyo.

    Appreciate your help and advice.

    Thank you so much!


    1. Hi Aileen,

      I recommend you to use ICOCA and Haruka for your first choice.

      You can use round trip ticket but I recommend to use one way more than round trip. Because your hotel after Kyoto is not located near JR station. Subway and Nankai railway via Namba is more convenient. There are other deal to use subway and Nankai on the way back to KIX, like Kanku Chikatoku or Rapi:t Tokuwai.

      ICOCA and Haruka includes 1500 yen e-money in ICOCA card. This e-money is towards to trip to Kyoto and back to Osaka from Kyoto.

      When are in Kyoto, you can use subway or/and bus deal for exploring Kyoto.

      If you go to both Nara and Kobe, Kansai thru pass is recommended.

      But if you go to Nara only, single fare is okay because 2 days is minimum for Kansai thru pass. You may use ICOCA for visiting Nara. You can add more fund into ICOCA as you need at the vending machine in JR station, like Kyoto station.

      In Osaka, subway pass or amazing pass is recommended.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        Thank you so much for your prompt reply.

        So sorry I took so long to thank and reply you. I am always very last minute when it comes to planning trips. I actually only now read your reply in details.

        Would like to clarify to make sure I understand correctly:
        1) From KIX to Shin-Osaka Station –> to use one-way “ICOCA & HARUKA”.
        2) From Shin-Osaka to Kyoto Station –> to use the 1500 yen e-money in ICOCA card.
        3) Kyoto Station to Osaka –> to use the 1500 yen e-money in ICOCA card.
        Will the 1500 yen e-money be sufficient for both 2) and 3)?

        Also a few more questions:
        4) Can I get the “ICOCA & HARUKA” from KIX on the day I arrive? Or must I reserve beforehand?
        5) How should I get to Shinsaibashi subway station from Kyoto?

        We will not go to Kobe, hence I think I will stick to single fare to Nara.
        I’ll also check out the Kyoto subway and/or bus deals!

        So sorry for asking so many questions, and thank you so much for your help!


        1. Hi Aileen,

          You can use ICOCA and Haruka for this trip and 1500 yen is enough for round trip to Kyoto from Shin-Osaka.
          You can purchase is at KIX on the spot. Advance purchasing is not required.
          Shinsaibashi can be got by subway Midousuji line via Shin-Osaka or Osaka. Please find the location at the link below:


          Takeshi /

  8. Hi Takeshi,

    My friend and I are going to Japan coming this November (mid). The thing is that we will be flying into Osaka and flying out from Tokyo. This will be our first time visiting Japan. I’ve read few travel materials especially on the web but until now I’m still quite confused on the transportation mode in between here and there [especially the lines, like you have the JR line, Kansai line, Hankyu line, Sanyo line and so forth. And then you have the Shinkanzen, Railway, Subway, midnight express bus (Willer Express ), ICOCA, Haruka etc.
    We plan to cover Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and Tokyo within 14 days as based on blogs that I’ve came across, these are the few places which are highly recommended. We plan to travel ‘as cheaply as possible’. We do note that transportation in Japan are quite expensive. We do hope you could advise us on these few things :

    1) Mode of transportation in between cities ie. from Osaka to Kyoto, then from Kyoto to Nara and so on.
    2) Next place to go from Osaka ?
    3) Can we possibly cover Hiroshima and Hakone too ?
    4) How long should we stay in 1 place ?
    5) Cheaper to move around within a city with subway/railway ?

    Really appreciate your help and looking forward in hearing from you soon !

    Thank you !

    1. Hi Chris,

      1) There are lots of ways, but you have to decide the location to stay. And also you have to make sure where you want to go. The following link may give you some idea.

      For example, if you stay in Umeda and want to go to Gion in Kyoto, Hankyu Railway is the best choice. If you take JR, you have to transfer at Kyoto station to catch a bus. If you take Keihan, it takes you to Gion but you have to take subway to get Yodoyabashi. This is a reason why you have to make the detailed itinerary. Otherwise we cannot choose the deals.

      2. If you mean the place where you should go on the way to Tokyo, only Kyoto is on the way to Tokyo. If you just want to know the place to go from Osaka, you can go any cities other than Tokyo.

      3. Yes. 14 days is enough to cover Kansai area, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Hakone.

      4. It’s tough to say. It depends what you want to see. Try to make sure what you want to see, you want to go and you want to do. I have several sample itineraries at the link below:

      5. Subway is usually most convenient. The links above for your first inquiry show railway/subway map.


      Takeshi /

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