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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

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.


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.

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

  1. Joanne says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I will be first time in Japan with my hubby from 14oct -22 oct and not sure which type of pass I should be getting with travel plan as follows:

    14/10 – Kansai airport – Osaka (stay in osaka)
    15/10 – Osaka – Nara
    16/10 – Kyoto (we will stay in Kyoto)
    17/10 – Kyoto -Himeji – Kobe
    18/10 – Kyoto
    19/10 – kyoto – tokyo (stay in tokyo)
    20/10 – Tokyo disney sea
    21/10 – Tokyo
    22/10 – Tokyo (Haneda airport)

    Should i buy JR pass? i’m kinda confused with the different passes…
    Greatly appreciate if you can advise the passes that would be best for me.

    Thanks in advance.


  2. Gracie says:

    Hello Takeshi-san,

    My family will be traveling to Japan for a couple of days from March 29 to April 6. I would like to ask your advice on which passes to get. I will not be getting a JR 7-day pass because we will arrive in Tokyo and leave from Osaka. The following is our itinerary.

    3/29 – Arrival in Tokyo, Harajuku area
    3/30 – Tsukiji Market and Asakusa
    3/31 – Shinjuku and Shibuya
    4/1 – Central Tokyo and transfer via Shinkansen to Osaka
    4/2 – Osaka to Kyoto (East Kyoto and Fushimi Inari Shrine) to Osaka
    4/3 – Osaka to Kyoto (Kinkakuji and Arashiyama area) to Osaka
    4/4 – Osaka to Nara to Osaka (Osaka Castle)
    4/5 – Osaka to Himeji to Osaka (Dotonbori area)
    4/6 – Osaka to Kansai Airport

    In Tokyo, we will be based in Shibuya. In Osaka, we will be based in Namba area (between Namba Station and Shinsaibashi Station).

    The following are the cards/passes I figured we should use.
    3/29 to 4/1 – Suica Card
    4/2 to 4/4 – 3 day Kansai Thru Pass
    4/5 – 1 day JR West Pass
    4/6 – Purchase 1 way ticket to airport

    What do you think? Are the day passes for travel within Tokyo worth it? We might be using the subways and buses a lot during our stay as my grandma will be coming with us.

    Thank you!


  3. Lena says:

    Hello Takeshi! I can’t believe how hard it is to figure out what passes to get that would be of most value for my trip in the Kansai area! I would love your help. Here is our itinerary.

    Day 1: Leave Tokyo (after 4 night stay). Arrive Osaka, self-tour for the afternoon.
    Day 2: Self-tour Osaka
    Day 3: Leave Osaka, arrive in Nara, self-tour.
    Day 4: Leave Nara, arrive in Koyasan, self-tour.
    Day 5. Leave Koysan, arrive Kyoto.
    Day 6. Self- tour Kyoto
    Day 7: Self – tour Kyoto
    Day 8: Self-tour Kyoto , leave Kyoto for Tokyo

    What we are thinking of doing is using PASSMO cards for most of the trip (I understand they are not just for the Toyko area anymore). We are considering getting Kansai thru passes to use on Days 3, 4, & 5 to get us between cities. Does this make sense? Should was get Kansai thru passes for any other period? Does a Kintetsu rail pass have any value for us? Should we get subway passes for our time in Kyoto or Osaka? Thank you!!!!

    • Hi Lena,

      Pasmo card is okay. But it gives you same value as cash. If you travel lots, try to avoid using Pasmo and use unlimited ride deal, such as subway pass, Kansai thru pass.

      By the way, how do you move from Tokyo to Osaka? Are you going to take Shinkansen? If so, your option is only single fare. If you complete Tokyo to Tokyo in 7 days, you can use JR pass. But 14 days pass is way more expensive than single fare. But round trip fare for Shinkansen and local deal are not bad combination. JR Pass does not cover Koyasan, subway and bus in Osaka and Kyoto

      Kansai thru pass is the best deal for day 3, 4 and 5. All trips are covered by this pass. On day 5, you still can use Kansai thru pass for taking subway and bus in Kyoto. But you may add subway or bus deal in Kyoto on day 6 to 8.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Valerie says:

    Hello Takeshi

    Even with weeks of research, I still neednyour help with which pass or card to get for my trip.
    Please advise on the following itinerary.

    Day1. Kansai airport to Umeda station.
    Self tour around Osaka.even.good Dotonburi, Osaka cattlemen.
    Day 2. Osaka sightseeing continued then to Kyoto for accommodation. 3 nights
    Day 3. 2 days Self tour around Kyoto.
    Day 4. As above. http://WWW.insidekyoto.come/kyoto-itinaries
    Day 5. Train to Tokyo Shinjuku area. 3 nights.
    Day 8. Shinjuku to Lake Yamanaka.
    Day 9-10. Hakone Sightseeing.
    Day 11. Fly out from Narita airport.

    I thought to buy a Suicide card, West Kansai pass for 3 days & Hakone free pass for 3 days.

    Thank you. For your help. My husband &I are leaving for Japan in a week.


  5. Lisa says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I will be travelling around Japan right before/during the golden week and have a few question about the JR west pass.

    So I will be flying from Narita to Kansai on April 27th, and will be visiting Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto over the duration of April 27-30. I will be flying out of Kansai on April 30th.

    I plan on getting the JR west Kansai 4 day pass (so it will cover the ride from/to airport as well as Osaka/kobe/kyoto). However because it’s golden week (starting April 29th), I am wondering if there will be any issue using the 4 day pass during april 27-30th?

    Also I will be spending most of the time in Kyoto, and JR west only covers the major stations. Are there any local trains/bus/transportation you would recommend in Kyoto?

    Thanks in advance!


  6. Danny Mataragnon says:

    Dear Takeshi-san,

    I will be in Japan with my wife from 12-19 Mar and not sure which type of pass I shoukd be getting with travel plan as follows
    12 Osaka
    13 Arima – Kobe
    14 Kobe Mt Rokko
    15 Kobe – Osaka
    16 Osaka – Nara – Osaka
    17 Osaka – Kyoto
    18 Kyoto – Osaka
    19 Osaka – HKG

    Greatly appreciate if you can advise the passes that wohkd be beat f or me.

    Thanks so much in advance !

    Danny Mataragnon

  7. Trang says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Appreciate your advice on which Pass I should buy for this trip. Below is my itinerary:

    9/4: Arrival at Narita – visit Tokyo
    10 – 11/4: Tokyo
    12/4: Yokohama
    13 – 15/4: Kyoto
    16/4: Kyoto – Nara
    17/4: Kyoto – Himeji – Kobe
    18/4: Kyoto – Osaka
    19/4: Kyoto – Tokyo – Departure from Narita

    I plan to buy the 7-day JR Pass and activate it on 13 Apr to make use of the round trip Tokyo-Kyoto and travel within Kansai area.
    Other than JR Pass, would you recommend me to buy Tokunai pass for Tokyo sightseeing (since I can’t use JR Pass in Tokyo) and Kansai Thru Pass? Would it be advisable to stay in Osaka from 17 Apr for easier travelling to Himeji & Kobe?

    Thanks a lot in advance.



  1. Which Pass? - www.hardwarezone.com.sg

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