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.

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

  1. Dear Takeshi,

    I need your advice on ICOCA Haruka usage and Kansai thru pass.
    I will arrive on 11 Nov 2015. 6am Kansai airport and then straight to Kyoto for 3 or 4days and then come back to Tennoji Osaka on 14 Nov and leave Tennoji Osaka to Kansai airport on 16 Nov.
    1. Which pass is convenient for me to get to Kyoto and back to Kansai airport on 16nov?
    2. On return trip ICOCA Haruka pass can be used on 16 Nov ? Or 14 Nov from Kyoto to Osaka?

    Thanks for your help

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,

    Thank you so much for your quick reply. Will definitely explore your recommendations.

    Thanks again.


  3. Dear Takeshi san,

    My friends and I are planning for an eight day trip to Kansai.

    Our itinerary as follows. We are confused on which passes (currently contemplating between Kansai thru pass or JR pass) best suit us and would be grateful for your advice.

    Our hotels are located near Namba and Kyoto stations.
    Day 1 Osaka Castle and Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
    Day 2 Going to Kyoto (from Namba) Fushimi Inari Taisha, Bamboo grove, Tenryuji Temple and Gion
    Day 3 Zenrinji-temple, Nijio Castle and Kinkakuji temple
    Day 4 Kyoto to Nara (Todaiji and Nara Park) and going back to Namba
    Day 5 Exploring Shinsaibashisuji and nearby
    Day 6 Universal Studios
    Day 7 Sumiyoshi Taisha and exploring Umeda
    Day 8 Shinsekai and Shitennoji Temple (To Kansai International Airport going back to Singapore)

    Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Jamie san,

      My recommendations are the following:

      Day 1 Yokoso Osaka ticket

      Day 2 and 4 Kansai thru pass

      Day 3 Kyoto city deal

      Day 5, 6 and 8 Osaka city deal as you need

      Back to KIX


      Takeshi /

  4. Hi Takashi-san,

    We will be checking out from our Hotel at Asakusa. From Asakusa transfering to Shinagawa to Kujo (Kyoto).
    For the below itinerary is it suitable to use the Kansai Thru Pass?
    If not, can please help to advice which suitable discount pass that we can use.

    20 Oct – Kyoto:
    Check in to our hotel at Kujo
    Nara Park

    21 Oct – Kyoto:
    Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (Kyoto Studio Park)

    22 Oct – Kyoto:
    Kyoto Imperial Palace
    Fushimi Inari

    23 Oct – Kyoto:
    Jishu Shrine

    Check out from our Hotel at Kujo (Kyoto) to Universal City

    24 Oct – Osaka:

    Check in to our hotel at Universal City
    Dotonbori / Namba

    25 Oct – Osaka
    Universal Studio Japan

    26 Oct – Check out and made a fly off from Kansai International Airport to Singapore

    Appreciate your advice.
    Thank you in advance

    Best Regards,

  5. Dear Takeshi,

    First of all, thank you so much for your great and informative website. It really helps me a lot preparing me and my wife’s Japan trip.

    There is one thing I could not really figure out yet with regard to train passes/discount passes. If you could help us that would be great.

    We are going to be in the Kansai area for 4 nights and 5 days.

    1 Oct.
    I will arrive in the morning at Kansai Airport (KIX) and go to Osaka to spend the day. Then around 6pm (evening) I will go back to Kansai airport (KIX) to pick up my wife who is arriving in the evening. After she arrives we will go straight to Kyoto (near the Palace and the river). The hotel has a (free) shuttle bus from Kyoto Station.
    2. Oct.
    We will explore Kyoto mostly on foot probably but perhaps take a bus or metro to visit some farther away sights.
    3. Oct
    We will go from Kyoto to Kobe where we will stay for two nights.
    4. Oct
    We will sleep in Kobe but also want to go back and forth to Osaka to eat/sightseeing.
    5. Oct.
    We will go from Kobe to Kansai airport (KIX) and catch a Jetstar flight to Narita (Tokyo)

    Do you think it is wise for us to buy a 5-days Kansai WIDE Area Pass for 8500 yen ?(
    or would it be better to get a roundtrip ICOCA & HARUKA pass ( and use the credit for getting to Kobe and Osaka and the Roundtrip Haruka for the first day and last day only (for me it would mean I have to buy a separate roundtrip ticket to/from Osaka and Kansai Airport on the first day.

    There is so many options also JP West pass for max 4 days and Kansai Thru pass for max 3 days but it seems to me that the Kansai WIDE area pass might be the most convenient option here for us because it gives unlimited 5 day access to the JP railways, Haruka and even the bullet train from Osaka to Kobe?

    We don’t mind spending 1000 or 2000 yen extra to have more convenience of not having to change trains etc.

    Once again thank you for reading this! Hope it is understandable.

    Kind greetings from the Netherlands!


    1. Hi Niki,

      Kansai Wide Area Pass is too much for your trip. My recommendations are the following.

      Day 1 Kansai Area Pass one day for you and ICOCA and Haruka one way for your wife. ICOCA and Haruka is not a good idea for you because you will have another round trip between KIX and Osaka. Kansai area pass gives you unlimited ride.

      Day 2 Kyoto city deal as you need

      Day 3 Single ticket for JR is okay. Your wife can use ICOCA. JR train is only direct and the fastest from Kyoto to Kobe. But Kansai thru pass may be suitable if you visit some places in Kobe or Kyoto. This covers subway. But you have to transfer at Umeda or Juso to take Hankyu railway. There is no direct train.

      Day 4 If you use Kansai thru pass on day 3, you can use it for day 4 too. Otherwise single ticket and subway pass in Osaka are your choice.

      Day 5 Limousine bus or ferry service is the best way from Kobe to KIX.


      Takeshi /

      1. Dear Takeshi,

        We are very grateful for your kind advice, and so quick!
        I will definitely follow your advice.
        ICOCA + Haruka one way for my wife and a Kansai Area Pass 1-day for me.
        I think it will be smart to get a regular ICOCA for myself as well to save the hassle of buying tickets. Don’t thing we will need Kansai Thru Pass, it seems more convenient to use the ICOCA.
        Very convenient that we can go by bus or boat from Kobe to Kansai airport directly, I had not thought of that.

        Thanks again!


  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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