Japan Rail Pass is the best way to explore Kyoto? How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO
Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

Kyoto (京都) is most famous sightseeing destination in Japan. Most of you visit Kyoto by Japan Rail Pass. Hikari and Kodama on Tokaido Shinkansen can take you to Kyoto. You might stay in Kyoto for multiple days and use Japan Rail Pass before arrival at Kyoto and after departure from Kyoto. Some of you are wondering if we can use Japan Rail Pass to explore Kyoto?

In this post, I tell you how much you can use Japan Rail Pass to explore in Kyoto.

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

*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?.

First of all, please see the map below. I put some placemarks on the map. These marks show you some of the popular spot and Japan Railway stations.

View How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto in a larger map

You can find the line from the center to upper left. That is Sanin line (=山陰本線 a.k.a. Sagano line=嵯峨野線). You can use this line to Nijo Castle (二条城) and Arashiyama (嵐山). Actually Japan Railway Kyoto station is a bit away from most of sightseeing spot. There are some hotels around Kyoto station. But that is not perfect location to stay in Kyoto. East and North side are very popular for the tourists. Because there are Kinkaku-ji temple and Ryoan-ji Temple at North side. There are Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Heian-jingu Shrine and Ginkaku-ji Temple at East side. Especially Kawaramachi and Sanjo area are the core of Kyoto city. It is very close to East side. So I recommend to stay there. But if you want to explore East side and North side of Kyoto, you cannot use Japan Railway. You need to use some private company’s line (such as Hankyu or Keihan). If you stay at the hotel in Kyoto, I recommend to use Kyoto city bus lines and subway lines. They sell Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card. you can buy one day at adult/1,200 yen and child/600 yen, or two day at adult/2,000yen and child/1,000yen. Both cards are available for both bus and subway. You can go almost anywhere in Kyoto. If you need more informations, please refer Kyoto city public transportation website.

Added information
I added one bus line between Kyoto station and Syuzan via Shijo-Omiya, Nijo station, Ryoanji temple, Takao. This route is very scenic. There are lots of temples. Especially in Autumn season, the color leaves are gorgeous! This bus line is operated by Nishinihon JR Bus. According to Japan Rail Pass rule, all JR bus local lines are covered by the pass. I haven’t confirmed it yet. But in my understanding, it is covered by the pass.

Are you interested in Cruising train in Arashiyama, Kyoto? I strongly recommend to take “Sagano Sightseeing Tram”. Especially the scenery is breathtaking in the cherry blossom season (late March to beginning of April) and fall color leaves season (November). I show you two of their movies. The first movie is shot in the spring. The second one is shot in the autumn.

You can take this train at Saga-Arashiyama station on Sanin Line. Be careful that they do not have any scheduled train from December 30 to the end of February. You can get more informations at this PDF file. You can reserve a ticket at Midori-no-madoguchi (=みどりの窓口=Reservation ticket window at major Japan Railway station). Japan Rail Pass is not eligible for taking this train. But this is worth spending your money and your valuable time.

Find your hotels in 218 cities throughout Japan!!!

Karasuma Hotel Kyoto Traditional tatami room
Nine Hours Teramachi Kyoto Perfect location and price

196 thoughts on “Japan Rail Pass is the best way to explore Kyoto? How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto”

  1. Hello Takeshi ,
    At first: thanks for this website! It’s the first really helpful one I could find! 🙂

    We (8 friends) will fly to Japan in March 2017. But we are really insecure if the JR-PASS is really the best choice for our journey…

    This is our journey (more a city trip, maybe just 3-4 trips to a theme park, fuji, etc.):

    25. March > Landing on Kansai airport
    25. March – 31. March Osaka
    31. March – 05. April Kyoto
    05. April – 16. April Tokio
    16. April > flight back from Narita airport

    Maybe you can help as a bit answering this question? That would be so nice. 🙂

    Greetings from Munich
    Myriam & friends

  2. Hi Takeshi-san,

    Need you valuable advise here 😀
    I will travel to Japan in Feb 2017 and my itinerary is as follows:

    1. Arrival in Kansai Intl Airport, stay in Osaka for 1 night
    2. Kyoto 3 nights (want to visit Nara and Arashiyama as day trips)
    3. Takayama 1 night, Shirakawa-go as day trip from Takayama
    4. Tokyo 2 nights, Departure from Narita airport

    What pass should I purchase? Thank you!

    1. Hi Yuli san,

      You may use 7 days JR pass for the last 7 days of your trip.

      You need another deal for KIX to Osaka. There are some deals available. Please see the link below:


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hello Takeshi. We are flying in to Narita Airport and flying out of Haneda Airport.

    Our itinerary in Japan is as follows:

    Tokyo – April 2 to 5 (Staying at 101-0032, Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, Chiyoda-Ku Iwamoto-Cho 2-1-1 )

    Kyoto – April 5 to 11 (Staying at 7-8 Okazakinishifukunokawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto 606-8326, Japan)

    Tokyo – April 11 to 14 (Staying at 101-0032, Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, Chiyoda-Ku Iwamoto-Cho 2-1-1 )

    We was considering purchasing the 14-day JR Pass. We would like to maximize the use of the JR Pass, but we read somewhere that the JR Pass was not universally accepted in Kyoto. Or is the 7-day pass more practical?

    Thank you in advance for your comments and suggestions.


    1. Hi George,

      Actually Tokyo-Kyoto round trip fare is almost same as 7 days pass price. As long as you stay in Tokyo, single fare is quite cheap and it won’t help to get the worth of 14 days pass. You may add local deal, such as Tokyo subway ticket for sightseeing in Tokyo.

      If you plan to travel outside Tokyo, 14 days pass may work. But you must have one big trip or a few small trips to outside Tokyo. Otherwise 14 day is not your choice.

      At this point, 7 days pass is okay for Apr 5 to 11.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hello I will arrive at Haneda airport and stay in Tokyo for 3 days before heading to Kyoto for another 3 days. I will leave Kyoto and depart Japan through Haneda airport on Jan 19th.

    Will the Jr Pass be best suitable option? Or pay as we go?


  5. Hi Takeshi-san

    I will be in Osaka for 7days and arriving in Kansai Airport.

    Itinerary are as follows:

    Osaka to Kyoto – 2days
    Kyoto to Kobe/Nara – 2days
    Kobe to Osaka – 3days

    I plan to stay lastly in Osaka as there were many tourist spots therein. Is it possible to get a JR Pass for 7days? What is advisable route to get into the abovementioned places?

    PS: I just want to go to dotonbori longer and eat kobe beef

    Thank you.

  6. Hi Takeshi san,

    Thank you for this post. It is very helpful!
    May I ask for advice on the JR Pass?

    I will be in Japan from May 10-27, 2017, and I want to visit southern Japan, Kyoto area, between May 17-May 23.

    1. May 10-17 Narita airport to Tokyo on single ticket.
    2. May 17-23 travel to Kyoto on Shinkansen. I will visit around Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kobe, and Miyajima during this time.
    3. May 23 travel back to Tokyo on Shinkansen.
    4. May 27 Tokyo to Narita airport on single ticket.

    What do you think?
    Is the 7-day JR Pass the best option for the duration of my trip in southern Japan? I am planning to use the IC Card for travelling within Tokyo. Can I use this on the Kyoto bus lines?

    Thank you for your time,

  7. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I will be visiting Japan on April 3-7, 2017.

    1. April 3-5 at Kyoto from Kansai Airport
    2. April 5 travel to Tokyo through Bullet Train
    3. April 5-7 Tokyo
    4. April 7 fly out of Tokyo from Narita Airport

    Will JR Pass be worth to purchase for the duration of my travel?

    Will I be able to navigate through Kyoto and Tokyo through JR Pass?

    Thank you very much for your help!!!


      1. Hi Takeshi- San,

        I forgot to mention that I am also planning to have a quick half day trip to Nara on my 2nd day at Kyoto. Are there deals for a round trip ticket? Is it better to purchase the ICOCA card over the Haruka discount only?

        Just a refresher of my planned itenerary:

        April 3:
        -arrival at Kansai Airport
        – take train to Kyoto
        -explore Kyoto

        April 4:
        – explore Nara (half day)
        – explore Kyoto (hald day)

        April 5:
        – take train to Tokyo
        – explore Tokyo

        April 6:
        – explore Tokyo

        April 7:
        – fly from Narita Airport back to Manila

        Thank you very much! Your reply is so precious for my trip planning!


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