How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Wakayama. Compare Japan Railway and private railways.

Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO
Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO

As you probably have already known, train system in Japan is very complicated. Especially in urban area, there are lots of railways. You might not understand the difference between Japan Railways (JR), subways and private railways.

Especially in Kansai area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Wakayama, many trains runs among these cities. You may be overwhelmed. But it is very important to understand the train system. You will make a trip much smoothly and save your trip time.

I would like to explain about JR lines and private railway companies in Kansai area in this post. You may find which train line is the best for your trip.

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

Overview of train system in Kansai area

Please find the map below. It looks very complicated, but please do not upset. I will explain you one by one.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I tried to make this map as simple as possible. But it still shows you many train lines. This map actually does not show all stations and all train lines. It shows you only major stations, transfer points and the station that is near popular sightseeing spot.

At this point, you just need to know that there are many train lines among cities. You have to pick one of those things. Now I would like to explain train lines one by one.

JR trains

JR used to be Japanese National Railway. It has lines throughout Japan. In Kansai area, JR network is wider than any other railways. I would like to show you only JR lines in Kansai area at the map below:

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

You can catch JR train right after you arrive in Kansai airport. You can go almost anywhere in Kansai area, like Osaka (both Umeda and Namba), Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama and Himeji.

If you use Japan Rail Pass or any other JR deals, of course, try to use Japan Railway trains as much as you can. JR has two kinds of railways, Shinkansen and conventional lines.

Conventional line’s trains in Kansai area

Special Rapid Service operated by JR West 223 series.
Special Rapid Service dominates Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe-Himeji transfer.

There are many kinds of train on conventional lines.

  • Limited Express, such as Haruka (Kansai airport – Shin Osaka – Kyoto)
  • Rapid
  • Local

Most of you will take rapid trian service. This is a sort of commute train. But it stops at major stations only. This train service gives you high speed transfer among cities..

Especially if you want to move among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Himeji, Special Rapid Service gives you a fast transfer. The trip time for major segments are the following:

  • Osaka / Sannomiya (Kobe) — 22 minutes
  • Osaka / Kyoto — 28 minutes
  • Sannomiya / Kyoto — 50 minutes
  • Osaka / Himeji– 1 hour 10 minutes

There are many more rapid train services in Kansai area, such as Nara, Kansai airport and Wakayama. Please see the link below to get more information about rapid train services in Kansai area:

Most economical transfer, No express surcharge! Rapid Service Network in Kansai area
.

Shinkansen (a.k.a. Bullet Train)

Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. Shinkansen stops at Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Nishiakashi and Himeji in Kansai area.
Shinkansen stops at Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Nishiakashi and Himeji in Kansai area.

Shinkansen is a high speed train service as you probably know. It is much faster than any trains on conventional lines. Shinkansen usually used for long distance transfer, such as Tokyo to Osaka.

Check the details about Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen

But it can be used for short distance, like Shin-Osaka to Kyoto. It connects Shin-Osaka and Kyoto in 13 minutes, and Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe in 15 minutes. This is so fast. But if you leave from Umeda or other stations in Osaka, you may have to add some extra time to transrfer at Shin-Osaka. Because Shin-Osaka is one station away from Osaka (Umeda). Let’s compare trip time for Osaka (Umeda) to Kyoto between Shinkansen and Special Rapid Service.

By Special Rapid Service
Osaka – 28 minutes – Kyoto
By Shinkansen
Osaka – 4 minutes – Shin Osaka (5 to 10 minutes for transfer) – 13 minutes – Kyoto

It may take 25 minutes even if you take high speed train, Shinkansen.
Shinkansen is not much faster than Special Rapid Service.

How about trip to Kobe by Shinkansen? In my opinion, it is not a good idea if you think about using Shinkaksen from Osaka. It is same situation as trip to Kyoto. You have to move to Shin-Osaka to catch Shinkansen. And also Shin-Kobe station is one station away from Sannomiya by subway.

By Special Rapid Service
Osaka – 22 minutes – Sannomiya
By Shinkansen
Osaka – 4 minutes – Shin Osaka (5 to 10 minutes for transfer) – 15 minutes – Shin Kobe (5 to 10 minutes transfer) – 2 minutes – Sannomiya


View Downtown Kobe in a larger map

In this case, Shinkansen is slower than Special Rapid Service.

If you use JR pass, you can take Shinkansen for this short transfer because it is fully covered by JR pass. It is not worth taking Shinkansen for these short transfers by single fare.

Private Railways in Kansai area

There are many private company’s railways (=NON JR) in Kansai area. Actually these trains are more convenient than JR trains in many cases. I would like to show you all major companies in Kansai area.

This map shows you only NON JR railways (private railway and subway). Click to enlarge.
This map shows you only NON JR railways (private railway and subway). Click to enlarge.

Hankyu Railway

Hankyu Railway runs Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Takarazuka. In Osaka, Umeda is the terminal station. Umeda is same location as JR Osaka station. All trains depart from Umeda to all destinations. In Kyoto, you can reach Kawaramachi (near Gion) and Arashiyama. This train service takes you to Sannomiya in Kobe.

This map shows you Hankyu Railway and Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line. Click to enlarge.
This map shows you Hankyu Railway and Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line. Click to enlarge.
9300 series is mainly used for limited express on Kyoto line.
9300 series is mainly used for limited express on Kyoto line.

There is no direct scheduled trains between Kyoto and Kobe. You need to change the trains because they don’t have any scheduled direct train from Kyoto to Kobe. You need to change the train at Juso or Umeda. Juso is the junction of Kobe line, Kyoto line, and Takarazuka line. This station is only two stations away from Umeda. In peak period, like spring cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons, direct train service to Arashiyama from Umeda or sometimes Sannomiya is available. But in most cases you have to transfer at Katsura.

Hankyu Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. But express supplement is not required for takeing any trains, even limited express. It is same category as JR’s Special Rapid Service.

The trip times for major segments are the following:.

  • Umeda / Sannomiya — 27 minutes
  • Umeda / Kawaramachi — 43 minutes
  • Umeda / Arashiyama — 45 minutes

I show you Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line in the map above. Because this subway train go through Hankyu Railway line. You may get Kyoto by direct service from many places in downtown Osaka.

Keihan Railway

Keihan 8000 series have one double deck can in the formation. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Keihan 8000 series have one double deck can in the formation. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Keihan Railway is another way to get Kyoto from Osaka. At Osaka, Yodoyabashi and Nakanoshima are the terminal stations. But the primary station is Yodoyabashi. Most of express trains depart from Yodoyabashi. And this station is connected with Umeda and Namba by Osaka Subway Midousuji line.You can also take this railway at Kyobashi. You can transfer from JR Osaka Kanjo line at Kyobashi. At Kyoto, Gion-Shijo, Sanjo and Demachiyanagi are the terminal stations. It takes you many places in Higashiyama area directly.

Keihan Railway also runs to Uji. You can transfer the trains at Chushojima.

The map shows only Keihan Railway. Click to enlarge.
The map shows only Keihan Railway. Click to enlarge.
Keihan 8000 series have nice accommodation too. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Keihan 8000 series for limited express train has very nice interior. It is a good deal to take this train without any surcharge. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Keihan Railway operates many category of trains, such as limited express, express, semi-express, local. Most of limited express train has double decker passenger’s car in the train set. You can take this express train and any other trains without any surcharge. This limited express train is same tyep fo service as JR’s Special Rapid Service as well.

The trip time on major sections are the following:

  • Yodoyabashi / Gion-Shijo or Sanjo — 50 minutes
  • Kyobashi / Gion-Shijo or Sanjo — 45 minutes

Hanshin Railway

Hanshin Railway connect Osaka and Kobe. Hanshin has two terminals at two biggest downtown core in Osaka, Umeda and Namba. At Kobe side, Sannomiya and Motomachi are the major stations.

Hanshin Railway and Sanyo Railway are shown in the map. Click to enlarge.
Hanshin Railway and Sanyo Railway are shown in the map. Click to enlarge.
This 9000 series and most of Hanshin Railway's train equip a bench seat only.
This 9000 series and most of Hanshin Railway's train equip a bench seat only.

Hanshin Railway lines are very short but this railway connects with other railways at both end. In Kobe, Hanshin is connected with Sanyo Railway. Some of express trains go through Himeji via Sanyo Railway. At the other side, Hanshin is connected with Kintetsu Railway at Osaka-Namba station. Many of trains go through Nara from Kyoto via Kintetsu Railway. This is only way to get Nara from Kobe directly

Hanshin Railway lines are very short but this railway connects with other railways at both end. In Kobe, Hanshin is connected with Sanyo Railway. Some of express trains go through Himeji via Sanyo Railway. At the other side, Hanshin is connected with Kintetsu Railway at Osaka-Namba station. Many of trains go through Nara from Kyoto via Kintetsu Railway. This is only way to get Nara from Kobe directly. Major direct train services and trip time are the following:

Hanshin Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. But you don’t need to pay any surcharge to take any trains. In Kansai area, JR and many private railways compete each other. Most of trains can be taken without surcharge.

  • Umeda / Sannomiya — 30 minutes
  • Osaka-Namba / Sannomiya — 45-50 minutes
  • Umeda – (Hanshin) – Motomachi – (Sanyo) – Himeji — 95 to 100 minutes
  • Nara – (Kintetsu) – Osaka-Namba – (Hanshin) – Motomachi — 80 minutes

Nankai Railway

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya (Namba - Gokurakubashi).
Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya (Namba – Gokurakubashi).

Nankai Railway is one of major ways to get Osaka from Kansai airport. It also takes you to Wakayama and Gokurakubashi that is the gateway to Koyasan (Mt. Koya). Nankai Railway has a huge terminal station in Namba, Osaka. Most of trains depart and arrive at this station.

How to access to Mt. Koya

Only Nankai Railway is shown in this map. Click to enlarge.
Only Nankai Railway is shown in this map. Click to enlarge.

Nankai Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. Express train surcharge is required to take limited express trains. Nankai Railway’s Limited Express trains have train’s name. The names and the trip time for major segments are the.following:

  • Limited Express “Southern” (Osaka-Namba / Wakayamashi) — 1 hour
  • Limited Express “Rapi:t” (Osaka-Namba / Kansai Airport) — 45 to 55 minutes
  • Limited Express “Koya” (Osaka-Namba / Gokurakubashi) — 80 minutes
  • Limited Express “Rinkan” (Osaka-Namba / Hashimoto) — 45 minutes

There are express trains and local trains if you want to avoid paying extra. Actually trip time is not so much different. It depends on the distance. In most of cases, you will spend 10 to 15 minutes extra. But interior is very different. Your seat is reserved if you take limited express and very comfortable. If you take express without surcharge, it is a commute train. You may not be able to get a seat.

*Only limited express “Southern” has two types of seats, limited express seat and commuter car seat. Commute car seat is same as other commute train. This is non reserved seat and express surcharge is not required to take this category.

Kintetsu Railway

Kintetsu Railway has the biggest limited express train network in all private railway companies.
Kintetsu Railway has the biggest limited express train network in all private railway companies.

Kintetsu Railway is the biggest private railway company in Japan. It connects not only Osaka, Nara, Yoshino and Kyoto but also Nagoya and Ise-Shima. But I would like to tell you about network in Kansai area only in this post.

Kintetsu Railway only is shown in the map above. Click to enlarge.
Kintetsu Railway only is shown in the map above. Click to enlarge.

In Osaka, Kintetsu Railway has two terminal stations, such as Osaka-Namba and Osaka-Abenobashi. As I mentioned at the chapter of Hanshin Railway, Kintetsu Railway is connected with Hanshin Railway at Osaka-Namba. You can take direct train service between Kobe and Nara by Hanshin and Kintetsu. You may take Kintetesu Railway train at Tsuruhashi. It connects to JR Osaka Kanjo line at this station.

Kintetsu is also major way to get Nara from Kyoto. Kintetsu Kyoto station is same location as JR Kyoto station. You can transfer from JR and Kyoto subway at Kyoto station very easily. But Kintetsu Railway is connected with Kyoto subway at Takeda station. Some of trains go through Kyoto subway Karasuma line.

Technically you can use Kintetsu Railway for Osaka-Kyoto transfer. But it is a big detour and there is no direct train service provided between Osaka and Kyoto by Kintetsu Railway. You have to change the trains at Yamato-Saidaiji. If you really need to use Kintetsu Railway, you can take this route. Otherwise it is wasing time and money.

Kintetsu Railway is only way to get Yoshino that is very popular to see cherry blossom. There is a direct train service from Osaka-Abenobashi. If you access to Yoshino from Kyoto, Nara or Osaka-Namba, you have to transfer the trains at least once at Kashihara-Jingumae station.

Kintetsu Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, rapid express, express, local. Express train surcharge is required to take limited express trains. Kintetsu Railway has a big limited express train network. But if you take Kintetsu Railway to get Nara from Osaka or Kyoto, you may not use limited express train because it is short transfer. If you visit Yoshino, limited express may be your choice. The trip time for major segments are the.following:

  • Osaka-Namba / Kintetsu Nara — 40 minutes
  • Kyoto / Kintetsu Nara — 45 minutes
  • Osaka-Abenobashi / Yoshino — 85 minutes (75 minutes by limited express)

If you intend to take limited express lots or make trips to Ise-Shima or Nagoya, Kintetsu Rail Pass is recommended.
Kintetsu Rail Pass, Most affordable deals for Osaka, Kyoto and access to Ise-Shima.

How to choose the lines and trains to Kyoto from Osaka

Departure station in Osaka

Where are you going to stay in Osaka? If you will stay in Umeda area, Hankyu and Japan Railway may be your choice. If you stay near Yodoyabashi, Tenmabashi or Kyobashi, Keihan is more accessible. If you stay in Namba or other location in Osaka, you need to take subway line or JR Osaka loop line anyway. Think about arrival station in Kyoto.


View Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe in a larger map

You can find the train network map at the post, Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Arrival station in Kyoto

Which part of Kyoto do you want to go? Japan Railway is the fastest way to get Kyoto.

Japan Railway Osaka – Kyoto 28 minutes
Hankyu Umeda – Kawaramachi 43 minutes
Keihan Yodoyamabashi – Gion-Shijo 50 minutes

But Kyoto station is not tourist friendly location. You need to take a bus or subway to get most of popular spots, like Kinkakuji temple, Kiyomizudera temple, Yasaka Jinja shrine. Only Arashiyama and Nijo castle is accessible by Japan Railway. Please read the post, How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto. If you are not Japan Rail Pass user, do not take Japan Railway.
If you want to go to Higashiyama or Gion, such as Kiyomizudera temple, Yasaka Jinja shrine, Philosopher’s Walk, Hankyu Railway and Keihan Railway are more convenient than Japan Railway. If you want to go to Arashiayama, you can use Japan Railway. But Hankyu Railway is faster and cheaper.

If you are looking for information about all trains in Kyoto, please refer the post, Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?.

How to choose the lines and trains to Kobe from Osaka

Departure station in Osaka

You have two options, Umeda/JR Osaka or Namba. If you stay around Umeda area, you can choose from Japan Railway, Hankyu or Hanshin. Hankyu and Hanshin are cheaper than Japan Railway. But Japan Railway is the fastest.
If you will stay in Namba area, Hanshin is only and the best choice.

You can find the train network map of Osaka at the post, Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Arrival station in Kobe

Which part of Kobe do you want to go? You can go anywhere in Kobe by Japan Railway and Hanshin Electric Railway. Most of trains of Hankyu Railway go to Sannomiya only. If you are looking for the transfer to other area in Kobe, think about JR or Hanshin.
But Kobe is smaller than Kyoto. So it is not much different among JR, Hanshin and Hankyu.

You can find the train network map of Kobe at the post, Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

How to choose the lines and trains between Kobe and Kyoto

Only Japan Railway’s Special Rapid Service gives you direct transfer. It is the fastest and maybe faster than even Shinkansen. But as I mentioned to you above, JR Kyoto station is not good location for the tourists. On the other hand, Hankyu Railway can take you to Kyoto from Kobe. They don’t have any scheduled train on this section. But Kawaramachi station is located near Gion and Higashiyama. Let’s compare JR and Hankyu.

Sannomiya / JR Kyoto — 50 minutes / 1050 yen
Sannomiya / Hankyu Kawaramachi — 65 minutes (change the trains at Juso) / 600 yen

Hankyu is slower, but cheaper. And also we need to think about the location in Kyoto. If you take JR, you need to take a bus or subway to get Gion. You may spend another 15-20 minutes get there from JR Kyoto station. So if you want to go to Gion Higashiyama area, Hankyu is better choice. If you go to Arashiyama in Kyoto, it is same story. Hankyu is better as well.

I show you how to choose discount ticket and pass in this post. If you need more info, please refer that.

560 thoughts on “How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Wakayama. Compare Japan Railway and private railways.”

  1. Hi

    We will be staying at 2-12-22 Minamisemba, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka. Which train station do you recommend that we board going to Kyoto? As per your instructions above:
    Where are you going to stay in Osaka? If you will stay in Umeda area, Hankyu and Japan Railway may be your choice. If you stay near Yodoyabashi, Tenmabashi or Kyobashi, Keihan is more accessible. If you stay in Namba or other location in Osaka, you need to take subway line or JR Osaka loop line anyway. Think about arrival station in Kyoto.

    I don’t know which area is our hotel.

  2. Hi Takeshi San,

    I’m planning a family trip for 5 person this coming 23th Dec till 2nd Jan. I have not yet buy flight tickets and book hotels yet, so i would love to seek your opinion before purchasing.

    This is my current plan of 10 days trip:
    Day 1 (23th Dec)- Arrive Osaka Kansai 8.25am –> Kobe
    23/24- Kobe
    25/26/27- Kyoto
    28/29- Takayama & Shirakawago
    30/31/1- Osaka
    2nd January- Flight at 11am Osaka Kansai

    1) Do you think the flight schedule is ok? I want to arrive early because i thought i could explore longer 🙂 (provided i can leave the luggage at hotel lobby)
    2) How would you recommend the transport? 🙂
    3) Do you think i should change the plan, and perhaps spend new year in Kyoto instead of Osaka?

    Thank you so much for your help.
    Very much appreciated 🙂

    Ling San

      1. Dear Takeshi San,

        Thank you So much for your prompt reply! Really appreciate it. I will read up the links that you’ve tagged me, and will ask you if i have questions.

        Thank you once again!!!!

        Ling San

  3. Hi Takeshi-san,

    Our family of 4 are visiting Japan next month – below is our draft itinerary which require your advise:->

    Day 1 – Arrived Tokyo -> transfer Hotel -> Rest
    Day 2 – Shinjuku, Shibuya etc..
    Day 3 – Planning to go Nikko
    Day 4 – Tokyo Haneda > Osaka Itami, visit Dotonbori
    Day 5 – Kyoto (Kiyomizudera, Arashiyama, Kinkakuji)
    Day 6 – Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Shrine + Nara)
    Day 7 – Osaka
    Day 8 – USJ
    Day 9 – USJ (May replace with Hiroshima day trip Miyajima)
    Day 10 – Kobe/Himeji
    Day 11 – Flight Home

    Need some advise on some of the train passes and airport transfer.

    – What will be the best way to transfer from Osaka Itami Airport to Shin-Fukushima Station
    – Understand Kansai pass might be more suitable for my trip ?
    – Will i be able to buy the Kansai thru pass from any other location beside Osaka Kansai Airport?
    – Travelling to Nikko – i should purchasing Tobu All Nikko Pass for my family and i would like to check where could i find information with bus schedule, Lake Chuzenji boat ride schedule/cost as well as Akechidaira Ropeway schedule/cost?

    Thanks very much!

    1. Hi Foli san,

      – What will be the best way to transfer from Osaka Itami Airport to Shin-Fukushima Station
      Take a bus to Umeda and catch the train to Fukushima. You can choose Hanshin Railway or Osaka Kanjo line. Shin-Fukushima and Fukushima are almost same location.

      – Understand Kansai pass might be more suitable for my trip ?
      – Will i be able to buy the Kansai thru pass from any other location beside Osaka Kansai Airport?

      Kansai thru pass is the best choice. There is JR Kansai area pass too. Please be careful to mix up.
      Actually you can purchase Kansai thru pass at Itami airport too. You also can purchase it at Umeda.
      http://www.surutto.com/tickets/kansai_thru_english02.html

      – Travelling to Nikko – i should purchasing Tobu All Nikko Pass for my family and i would like to check where could i find information with bus schedule, Lake Chuzenji boat ride schedule/cost as well as Akechidaira Ropeway schedule/cost?
      Please see the link below:
      http://www.tobu-bus.com/en/nikko/

      As far as I know, this is only info that is provided in English.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3806.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thanks for your previous comments on my post.

        I have a final question, that is not really related to railway.

        Im wanted to buy USJ Tickets in advance (2 day pass), however im struggling to do it on the USJ Japanese website.

        Where in Japan (Tokyo/Osaka), i could purchase 2 days pass for USJ in advance?

        Can i do this directly at USJ itself, example going down on 25 Nov to buy for 1/2 Dec ?

        Regards
        Foli

        1. Hi Foli san,

          Midori no Madoguchi (ticket reservation window) in major JR stations handle a ticket. But I have never bought USJ ticket at JR ticket window. I actually don’t know the details but USJ official site says they sell it.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    Thanks a lot for the great guides!!! It’s a lot of help!
    I can’t decide between JR pass and Kansai Thru Pass, so I would like you to recommend the best pass for my coming trip in Kansai area next month.

    Arrive at KIX airport at night, go check in.
    (5 nights in Osaka, staying near Abeno Harukas)
    -Day trip to Himeji castle, if time allows, stop by Kobe on the way back
    -Day trip to Nara
    -Tour Osaka
    -Day trip to Kobe

    Also, what’s the best way to explore Nara?

    Osaka to Kyoto
    -From Osaka to Arashiyama -> Kinkakuji
    (1 night stay near Kinkakuji)
    -Other temples -> night stay near KIX Airport

    Take Nankai Line to Airport.

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Best wishes.

    1. Hi Sophia,

      I recommend you to use Kansai area pass 4 days for trip to Himeji/Kobe, trip to Nara, trip to Kyoto from Osaka, and back to KIX from Kyoto.
      But you have to use this pass in 4 consecutive days. You have to do Osaka sightseeing before going to Himeji, Kobe and Nara. I think you can do Himeji and Kobe in one day.

      In Nara, most of places can be accessed by walk from the station. You can get Nara from Tennoji by JR train directly. And also you can take limited express Haruka to get Kyoto from Tennoji directly. Arashiayam can also be accessed by JR trains.

      On arrival day, if you are okay with taking rapid train, you can purchase a single ticket. If you want to take limited express Haruka to get Tennoji, you can use ICOCA and Haruka.
      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

      ICOCA can be used for sightseeing in Osaka. Or you can purchase Haruka discount ticket (without ICOCA) and purchase city deal in Osaka. You can save ICOCA later to take local bus in Kyoto. And bus pass is available in Kyoto too. The choice is yours.

      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html#Kyoto_area

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you very much for the fast reply and all the links. I’ve been trying to make sense of everything (very bad at math).

        Me and my family will be spending 6days in Kansai. I will get the ICOCA & Haruka round-trip to use from (and to) KIX.
        As you recommended, I will change my itinerary so that we visit Osaka castle and the aquarium on Day 1. I read the link you provided, and I think I’ll get the Osaka Kaiyu ticket.

        This leaves me with 5days.
        I checked the other link you provided, and I think on Day 2 I could get the Kansai Area Pass 4days for trip to Himeji/Kobe, trip to Nara, trip to Kobe (&free time), and trip to Kyoto from Osaka. Then on Day 6, I could get Kyoto Pass Card, and at night use Haruka to KIX.

        I have a different question for you. I’ve been reading your articles in details, and I realized that my family who’s visiting can purchase the Kansai Area Pass, but I live in Shikoku Japan. Are there any passes I could use?

        Thank you again!
        Best wishes.

        1. Hi Sophia,

          I did not expect that all of you visit Kobe twice. If you want to visit Kobe twice, go to Kobe only on day 2. And don’t use Kansai area pass for day 2 and use ICOCA to get Kobe. Start using Kansai area pass on day 3 and it will cover until the end of the trip. Don’t purchase round trip ICOCA and Haruka. One way is okay.

          Unfortunately there is no deals for residents in Japan. You have to use ICOCA or single ticket instead of Kansai area pass.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi, i am going to japan leaving next week and it would be great if you can give me some tips/recommendation of what is the/cost effective pass to get. Many thanks.

    This is the itinerary for the trip (2 adults)
    14/10: Melb to Tokyo – Narita, stay in Narita airport hotel overnight. Hotel Narita Tobu

    15/10: Fly from Narita to Hokkaido – Sapporo (Chitose) with Jetstar, departs at 6.05am

    15 – 18/10: stay in Sapporo hotel – Dormy Inn Premium Sapporo HotSprings

    18/10: Fly from Sapporo to Osaka Kansai (KIX) airport. From Osaka airport catch train to hotel

    18 – 21/10: stay in Osaka hotel – Hotel Keihan Kyobashi Grande

    21/10: Catch train from hotel to Nagoya – haven’t planned anything from here yet.

    In summary, would like to know whether JR pass covers the express/bullet train from: (if not which pass are you recommending)

    – Osaka to Kyoto

    – Osaka to Nara

    – Osaka to Nagoya

    – Osaka to Tokyo

    – Kyoto to Nara

    – Kyoto to Nagoya

    – Kyoto to Tokyo

    – Nagoya to Tokyo
    Thanks,

    1. Hi Ozchilli,

      Only JR Pass covers all trips .
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      But you should have round trip between Tokyo and Osaka. Because 7 days pass price is almost same value as round trip fare by Shinkansen (bullet train). If you stay in Osaka and make a trip to Tokyo, and depart from Tokyo to your country, JR Pass may not work. In this case, you should use single fare between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo. And you may use local deals in Kansai area. Please find the link below to see more info about local deals:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

      You may find the fare at hyperdia if you use regular ticket:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thanks Takeshi.

        I just want to confirm, i should get a 7 days JR pass (JAPAN NATIONAL RAILPASS 7 DAYS) to cover most of my travel area and use single fare between osaka/kyoto and tokyo ? (will be staying in tokyo a few days to roam around before heading home)
        Also can JR (National pass) be purchase in japan or haveto be pre-purchase before living my country? As i am leaving next week the pass may not arrive in time.

        1. Hi Ozchilli,

          If you use JR pass, you can take JR trains among the cities. All trips will be covered. But you need to add the fare in the cities because you have to take subway or city bus to access tourists spots. JR pass does not cover subway and bus. Please see the links below:
          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
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
          http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

          JR pass can be purchased outside Japan only. You cannot purchase it in Japan. If you cannot purchase it, you should consider to pay single fare for city to city transfer. Please see the link below about single fare ticket.
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/for-non-jr-pass-travellers-guide-to-use-jr-single-ticket-basic-rules-validity-and-stopover.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Sorry to bother you again Takeshi,

            The more i read about the different passes the more confuse i get, so i have simplified my journey to this so please advised of the cheapest pass fare i could get.

            My up to date Intinerary as follow (different from my initial itinerary due to unforseen event) , sorry.

            1. 14/10 to 19/10 stay in Shinjuku (accommodation booked)- will explore Tokyo and the nearby areas (whats the cost effective fare to cover this?

            2. 19/10 Train from Shinjuku to Osaka (Whats the cost effective and transport type for this?)

            3. staying at Osaka from 19/10 to 24/10 (accommodation booked) will be going to Nara, Kobe, Kyoto etc (KANSAI THROUGH PASS?)

            3. 24/10 Depart from Kansai airport (osaka to kansai airport covered by Kansai Thru Pass if i am not wrong) to Sapporo and stay from 24/10 to 27/10, visit University museum, Aurora town, Pole Town, Odori park etc (single fare or what pass is most cost effective here.)

            4. 27/10 Sapporo back to Narita, stay the night near the airport and fly back to Melb.

            Thanks heaps

          2. Hi Ozchilli,

            1. Subway pass is available. This is most cost effective way. You may find more info at the links below:
            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
            http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

            2. Basically single ticket is your choice. It’s about 15000 yen for base fare and Shinkansen (bullet train) seat fee. You can take local train to Shinagawa from Shinjuku and then take Shinkansen there. The ticket can be purchased at any JR stations in advance.

            Or, take highway bus from Tokyo to Osaka. It’s way cheaper. You can find some at the link below. But I’m not familiar with highway bus. I have not taken it for the last two decades. Please do not ask me about the bus.
            https://willerexpress.com/en/

            3. Kansai thru pass is most convenient pass to go outside Osaka, such as Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. You can find other deals to get KIX from Osaka other than Kansai thru pass.
            http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

            In Sapporo, subway pass and IC card is available.
            http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5306.html

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. hi Takeshi-san,

    We, a party of 4 is making a trip from 11 to 22 Nov 16. Need your expert advice 🙂
    Day 1 Arrive KIX airport at 930pm (intend to buy 2-way limousine ticket to/from Umeda Station)
    Day 2/3/4 – Osaka
    Day 5/6 – Kyoto
    Day 7/8 Hakone
    Day 9/10 Shinjuku
    Day 11 Back to Osaka
    Day 12 Home sweet home

    1)Planning to buy JR pass (7-day) to commute from Kyoto to Hakone then Shinjuku back to Osaka. 2)Need you to clarify which pass to buy =JR National pass? What is the difference with JR West or Central pass? 3)Plan to activate on Day 5 when we travel from Osaka to Kyoto so the 7-day pass will bring us back on Day 11 to Osaka. Can we use the JR pass for some travel in Kyoto/Shinjuku or nearby areas?
    4) Been reading about KYOTO & OSAKA Train systems, what is your recommendation on what additional pass to buy so we can save some costs while travelling in Osaka/Kyoto/ Kobe/Himeji/Nara/Namba etc… area – JR West Kansai Area pass; Kansai WIDE Area pass; Kansai Thru pass…?
    Thank you so much!
    Cecilia

    1. Hi Cecilia san,

      You should have JR pass 7 days (National pass).
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      As you think, day 5 is the best time to start using it. You may use the pass in the cities too. But you cannot access some places by JR pass. Please see the links below.
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      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

      For the trip to Nara and Kobe, Kansai thru pass is the best choice. But Kansai area pass is the best choice for the trip to Himeji because JR train is much faster than other Non JR train that is covered by Kansai thru pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi! I need your help.. I plan to stay at Shin-Osaka area and I see the location is near Kobe and Kyoto but is it easy to access as a JR pass holder?

    Also, from Shin-Osaka, can we travel to Tokyo via Shinkansen?

    1. Hi Lee,

      Yes, it’s very accessible. It takes less than 30 minutes by rapid train. Please see the chapter “JR trains” in the post above. Everything are explained. YOu can take Shinkansen to get Tokyo from Shin-Osaka by JR pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. I see! If I am staying in Ueno and holding a JR Pass, do I need to buy ticket to take the keisei skyliner train to Narita International Airport Terminal 2? Or is free?

        1. Hi Lee,

          JR pass does not cover Keisei. You have to pay extra. If you want to use JR pass to get Narita, you have to go to Tokyo station and then change to take Narita Express. It’s covered fully but not direct and trip time is 15 to 20 minutes longer than Keisei Skyliner.

          Please make sure which is covered by JR pass at the link below:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html#Other_train_services

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi! Thanks for the info. For the airport shuttle bus, do I need to be a guest staying at the hotel to take the bus from the hotel to Narita Airport ?

          2. Thanks for the reply! We can buy the icoca card + haruka train tickets at Kansai Airport right? But for the suica card, we can only buy in the Tokyo area?

  8. Hi Takeshi,

    Need your help again pls. I’m checking on the Kansai thru pass, I understand that this can use on nankai electric railway as well but there are additional charges. May I know how much approximately? As I intend to use this pass when I arrive Kansai airport. I’m going to tengachaya station only to change to subway.

        1. Hi Belle,

          Rapid and local train (normal trains) are slower than limited express Rapi:t. And also interior is quite different. Normal train is very typical commute trains. It’s nothing special. Rapi:t has very comfortable interior. Please see the link below:
          http://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-from-kansai-airport-to-downtown-osaka-kyoto-and-kobe.html#Nankai_Railway_Limited_Express_rapit

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

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