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

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Dotonbori is "Must-See" place in Osaka.  	©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Dotonbori is “Must-See” place in Osaka. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

I wrote about train system in Kyoto before. But I have received many inquiries about Osaka too. I think it is very complicated for travellers from overseas. There are three types of railway, JR, Osaka Municipal Subway and Private company’s railways. Once you understand train system, you can find the best location to stay, the best deal for trains ride and the fastest way to visit that you want to see.

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

As probably you know, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Osaka Subway Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass. Each pass has different conditions. You must understand the coverage of your pass.

In this post, I tell you about using these deals and explain all train systems in Osaka.

Which train services that are covered by ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, subway deals and other JR deals

Many deals are available in Kansai area. But each pass have different coverage. I tell you about major passes and deals.

For the travellers who use ICOCA, Kansai one pass, Suica, Pasmo or other IC cards

You can take all trains on the map above except Shinkansen. When you travel in Kansai area, don’t try to take Shinkansen for such a short transfer, like going to Kyoto or Kobe. Please see the post, How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Compare Japan Railway and private lines.

ICOCA does not cover Osaka city bus service too. But I don’t think you have many chances to take city bus in Osaka. You can go anywhere by train services. Train is much faster than bus.

For the travellers who use Kansai Thru Pass and Rainbow Card

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Kansai Thru Pass is unlimited ride pass and Rainbow Card is pre-paid card for most of NON JR trains in Osaka.

The only place where you can’t go by these deals is USJ. But if you don’t care about riding city bus, you can catch the bus at Nishikujo station. Nishikujo can be accessed by Hanshin Railway that is covered by Kansai Thru Pass. Even if you pay for JR train, the fare is 160 yen foe one way. It is not a big deal. I will explain about access to Universal Studion Japan later.

JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Kansai Hokuriku Aea Pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

When you go to Kaiyukan and Tenpozan waterfront area, you can’t use these JR train’s pass because there is no JR line there. If you take subway train, the fare from Bentencho to Osakako is 230 yen for one way.

Next, in case that you go to Namba, it’s not very convenient. JR has a station in Namba, JR Namba station. But this station is not located in the center of Namba. Nankai Railway’s Namba station, Subway Midousuji line Namba station and Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin and Kintetsu) are very closed each other. But JR Namba station is 1km away from Nankai Railway’s Namba station. If you walk, it takes at least 15 minutes. And also when you go to Namba from Umeda area, You have to take Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka to Imamiya and need to transfer to the train to JR Namba. It’s a big detour and much longer trip than Osaka subway Midousuji line. I cannot find any reason to avoid paying only 230 yen fare to take subway from Umeda to Namba.

Osaka subway Enjoy Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Enjoy Eco Card covers Osaka subway and city bus. Osaka Unlimited Pass includes unlimited ride of subway and bus, and free admission for major attractions in Osaka. There are one day and two day available. But coverage is a bit different. One day covers subway, bus and major private railways, like Hanshin, Nankai, Keihan and Kintetsu. It is very similar to Kansai Thru Pass. But two day pass covers subway and bus only. When you choose this deal, please make sure your itinerary and which train you need to get on.

As long as you can take subway, most of places can be reached by subway.

How to access to major spots in Osaka by train

Most of places in Osaka can be accessed by train. I would like to share the information of access to major spots with you.

Namba, Dotonbori, Houzenji and Shinsaibashi area

There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO
There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO

You can reach Namba by many ways.

  • Namba station (Nankai Railways) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Mt. Koya (Koyasan) and Wakayama
  • Namba station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line, Yotsubashi line and Sennichimae line) to/from Umeda, Nishi-Umeda, Tennoji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Kintetsu Railways) to/from Nara, Ise and Nagoya
  • JR Namba station (JR) to/from Tennoji, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kansai Airport (KIX

As I mentioned above, JR Namba station is not located in the core of Namba. JR Namba is closed to Subway Yotsubashi line Namba station and Sennichimae line’s Sakuragawa station is actually closer than Namba station.


View Namba in a larger map

Nankai Railways is the best way to get Namba from Kansai Airport. And also train runs to Mt. Koya.

Hanshin Railways and Kintetsu Railways trains go through each other. And their station is “Osaka-Namba” station. When you search on Hyperdia, you can find Osaka-Namba. It’s not Namba for these train companies but Osaka-Namba. If you stay in Namba and want to go to Nara or Kobe, you can use these train companies. You can go there directly from Namba.

If you go to Nara, you can catch Kintetsu Railway’s train at Osaka-Namba station. Please see the post, How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient. to learn more about access to Nara.

Shinsaibashi is one station away from Namba by subway. But Namba and Shinsaibashi are connected by shopping arcade. Dotonbori is located between Namba and Shinsaibashi. And also Shinsaibashi is connected with Yotsubashi and Nihonbashi by underground. So most of places in Namba can be accessed by walk.

Umeda

Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO
Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO

Umeda and Namba are two biggest downtown core in Osaka. There are many department stores and shopping complex in Umeda area. In Umeda area, only JR station is called “Osaka”. JR Osaka station and other railway’s Umeda station are located in same area.

There are many stations in Umeda.

  • Osaka station (JR Kobe line, Kyoto line, Osaka Kanjo line) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, USJ, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line) to/from Namba, Shin-Osaka, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Umeda station (Hankyu Railways) to/from Kawaramachi, Arashiyama, Shijo, Sannomiya, Takarazuka
  • Higashi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Tanimachi line) to/from Uehonmachi/Tanimachi Kyuchome, Tennoji
  • Nishi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Yotsubashi line) to/from Namba
  • Kitashinchi station (JR Tozai line) to/from Namba

Please see the post, Osaka station guide. How to change JR trains, subway trains and other private railways – See more at: http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-station-guide-how-to-change-jr-trains-subway-trains-and-other-private-railways.html to get more detail about Osaka and Umeda station area.

Tenpozan, Kaiyukan

Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Osaka Subway Chuo line’s Osakako station is the nearest station. You can catch Chuo line’s train at Honmachi, Bentencho and many other places. If you stay in Umeda or Namba, simple take Midousuji line or Yotsubashi line train and transfer to Chuo line’s train at Honmachi. If you are JR Pass user, you can get Bentencho by Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka or Tennoji. You have to pay extra on top of your pass for taking subway from Bentencho.

USJ is located just across the river. But there is no direct train or bus. Please see next chapter to get USJ from Tenpozan.

Universal Studion Japan (USJ)

Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001 / TAKA@P.P.R.S

JR Yumesaki line’s Universal City station is the nearest station. There is no subway or private railway’s service available. If you are not JR train user, you can catch the pass to USJ at Nishikujo station.

If you want to access to Tenpozan/Kaiyukan from USJ, shuttle cruise service is the fastest and only direct way to connect both places.

Shuttle Cruise Capt. Line

Otherwise you have to take Universal City station – Nishikujo station – Bentencho station – Osakako station route. It is a big detour.

Osakajo (Osaka castle)

Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

There are several stations around Osaka castle. You can access there from Tenmabashi station (Keihan Railway), Tanimachi-Yonchome station (Subway Tanimachi line), Osakajo-Koen station (JR), Osaka Business Park station (Subway Nagahori-Tsurumi Ryokuchi line), and Morinomiya station (JR). The nearest stations to access to the castle are Tenmabashi and Tanimachi-Yonchome. Other stations are okay, but these stations are closed to Osaka Castle Park.

Shinsekai, Tennoji zoo

You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai.   	©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Shinsekai is old town of Osaka. There is very traditional shopping arcade. Tsutenkaku tower is located in Shinsekai area. This area can be accessed from JR and Nankai Railway’s Shin-Imamiya station.

Tennoji Zoo is located between Tennoji station and Dobutsuenmae station. (Dobutsuenma means “in front of zoo”.)

Minoo falls

Minoo is located outside downtown Osaka. Most of city deals, such as Osaka subway pass does not cover Minoo falls. Only Kansai Thru Pass covers this falls.

You need to take Hankyu Railway Takarazuka line train from Umeda to Ishibashi. And then take another Hankyu Railway Minoo line train to Minoo. You can change trains at Ishibashi very easily. Trip time is around 35 minutes from Umeda to Minoo

In peak season, like fall foliage season, direct train service runs between Umeda and Minoo.

Instant Ramen Museum

This museum is located outside downtown Osaka either. Most of city deals, such as Osaka subway pass does not cover this attraction. Only Kansai Thru Pass covers the trip to Instant Ramen Museum.

You need to take Hankyu Railway Takarazuka line train from Umeda to Ikeda. Trip time is around 20 minutes from Umeda to Ikeda.

549 thoughts on “Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?”

  1. Hi Takeshi. Travelling to Japan tomorrow and need your advice on what passes to get. Already have my accomodation in Osaka booked for first two nights so they are fixed.

    Day 1 – KIX to Osaka Namba
    Day 2 – Travelling around Osaka
    Day 3 – Nara day trip and night in Kyoto
    Day 4 – Travelling around Kyoto
    Day 5 – Himeiji day trip for Aioi Peron Festival. Night in Kyoto
    Day 6 – Travelling around Kyoto
    Day 7 – Travelling around Kyoto, sleeper bus to Tokyo
    Day 8, 9, 10, 11 – Travelling around Tokyo

      1. Dear Takeshi,

        May i ask you which place is better to stay between Namba and shin-osaka?
        We plan to visit USJ (2days), Nara, Kyoto and Dotonbori area.

        Thanks,
        Anne

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    Your information is really helpful. Japan has so much to see yet we have so little time to explore.
    Below is my brief itinerary:

    Day 1:
    Arrive at KIX at 4pm. Staying at Osaka area and explore nearby area.

    Day 2:
    Universal studio

    Day 3:
    Go Tokyo. Explore Shinjuku / Ginza area.

    Day 4:
    Disneyland

    Day 5 & 6:
    Back to Osaka. Explore Nara / Himeji / Kobe.

    Day 7:
    Flight from KIX back home at 11am.

    Can you please advice which pass to get for the best deal?

    Thank you very much.

    Peggy

  3. Dear Takeshi! Could you please give me your advice about the best passes for my family trip including 3 people: my husband, a 4 year old boy and I.
    Day 1-2: stay in Osaka
    Day 1
    KIX- Universal studios Japan
    Osaka Castle
    Kuromon Ichiba Market, Don Quijote Dotonbori

    Day 2
    Ikeda, Instant Ramen Museum
    Shinsaibashi, Abeno Harukas

    Day 3: Osaka-Nara- Osaka
    Nakanoshima Park, Yodoyabashi
    Nara

    Day 4-5: stay in Kyoto
    Day 4:
    Kyoto, Nijo-jo Castle
    Golden Pavilion
    Ginkajuki, Silver Temple.

    Day 5
    Gion Fukyzumi, Nishiki Food Market

    Day 6: From Kyoto to Himeji and Kobe.

    Day 7: back to Osaka
    Osaka-KIX

    Thank you and i am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    1. Hi Moon,

      I recommend you to use Kansai thru pass 3 days for day 3, 4 and 6.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      But you should switch day 3 and 6. So you will visit Himeji and Kobe on day 3 from Osaka, and visit Nara from Kyoto on day 6. Nara can be visited from either Kyoto or Osaka. Trip time is almost same. But Himeji and Kobe is much closer to Osaka than Kyoto.

      Haruka discount ticket to Tennoji (1,100 yen) and Knasai one pass covers day 1, 2 and 5.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Haruka discount ticket covers express Haruka to Tennoji and local train to Universal city. After that you will use Kansai one pass. Kansai one pass covers trips in day 2 and 5 too.

      I think day 1 is very very tight. You may not have enough time to see USJ. Most of travelers spend whole day in USJ. But it’s totally up to you.

      For day 7, please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi! I would like to ask the best passes to use for our trip.

    Day 1
    KIX-Kyoto
    Fushimi Inari Shrine
    Nishiki Market
    Pontocho, Gion

    Day 2
    Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Ninnaji
    Arashiyama
    Nijo Castle

    Day 3
    USJ

    Day 4
    Kiyomizudera
    Higashiyama District
    Kodaiji
    Travel to Osaka late in the afternoon til evening for Namba, Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi

    Day 5
    Kyoto-KIX

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Kay,

      You can use Haruka discount ticket round trip between Kyoto and KIX at 3,200 yen.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      And you may add Kansai one pass to take trains in Kyoto and taking subway and JR in Osaka.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Kyoto-Osaka sightseeing pass 2 day is recommended for day 2 and 4 but you need to use Kansai one pass too because you need to take subway and JR trains in Osaka and it’s not covered by this pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi San
    Can you advise me on the best travel pass to buy if I’m travelling from haneda airport to meguro station and then shopping at shinjuku/ shibuya area for a day or 3 day pass (visiting shimokitazawa, harajuku, etc) and back to haneda on day 3? Thank you!

  6. Hello takeshi. Your replies and insights are very helpful. Can you help me with our trip and train rides? We are a family of 5 adults and 2 kids spending 6 days in japan (3days tokyo,3 days osaka/kyoto)..
    1.) we will be arriving tokyo thru narita may19 to 22.
    2.) Transfer hotel from tokyo to osaka. Spend the whole day there.
    3.) One day trip to kyoto then go back to osaka at night. (May 23)
    4.) Universal studios then leave osaka(may 24)….

    What is the most practical train or pass system that we can use? is it worth to take the 7day pass of jrpass? Thank you.

  7. Hi would like to know your opinion as to which passes to get per day…
    Day 1 kix to kyoto
    Day 2 kyoto
    Day 3 kyoto to osaka
    Day 4 usj
    Day 5 osaka
    Day 6 osaka to kix
    Wanted to go to kobe & nara too… May i also ask where is the best time to insert it…
    Looking forward for a positive response..
    Thank you…

    1. Hi Sherry,

      You can find the sample itinerary in the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/visit-kyoto-osaka-nara-and-kobe-for-5-to-7-days-sample-itinerary.html

      As you read, you can squeeze Nara between Kyoto and Osaka on day 3. If you go to Kobe, you can do in half day but you will lose half day in Osaka on day 5.

      In the sample itinerary, Kobe and Himeji are included by Kansai area pass one day. If you do Kobe only, you can use Hanshin tourist pass instead of kansai area pass.
      http://www.hanshin.co.jp/global/en/tourist/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

Before you leave your comment, please see the conditions below.
  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve. When you submit your comment, the page will be reloaded and nothing happens. But your comment will be shown when I approve. Please click submit only once and wait for my approval.
  • 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.
  • Please do not ask me about the access to your hotel. You can google your hotel and find it at hotel website or google map easily.
  • 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.
  • Please do not ask me to reply to your inquiry by email. In this website, I would like to share all information with any readers. I do not communicate with you directly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*