***Twilight Express was discontinued in 12 March, 2015. There is no overnight train option between Osaka and Hokkaido any more.***
Twilight Express is operated between Osaka and Sapporo. This is the longest service operation train in Japan. It takes more than 22 hours to reach Sapporo from Osaka. (If you take other way, it takes 22 hours 45 minutes.)
When you use a berth or a bedroom, Japan Rail Pass does not cover any accommodation charges and even Limited Express surcharge either. Even though you have to pay lots of the extra on Japan Rail Pass, the experience on board will be worthy. First class hospitality, the beautiful scenery and the sunset on the Sea of Japan, will be very memorable moment in your trip.
Tokaido Shinkansen is the oldest and busiest Shinkasen line and it is operated between Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka. Sanyo Shinkansen is operated between Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima and Hakata (Fukuoka). Both lines are connected each other. Many trains, “Nozomi” that is the fastest train on Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen, run from Tokyo to Hiroshima and some of those run to even Hakata.
Most of Hikari run between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, But some of those run to Okayama and Hiroshima.
Sanyo Shinkansen connected to Kyushu Shinkansen at Hakata. Many trains, Mizuho and Sakura are operated between Shin-Osaka and KUmamoto or Kagoshima-Chuo directly. Please see the post, Kyushu Shinkansen to get details.
We cannot think about the travel in Japan without Shinkansen. Especially Tokaido Shinkansen (Tokyo-Shin Osaka) can be used for transfer to Kyoto and Osaka from Tokyo. Most of travellers take this Shinkansen once or more. Probably you want to see the interior of Shinkansen trains. There are several types of trains to be operated on Tokaido Shinkansen. I show you all types of trains of Tokaido Shinkansen trains. And also most of Tokaido Shinkansen trains go through on Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. So if you take Sanyo Shinkansen, this post may be useful for you too.
Limited Express Super Hakuto (スーパーはくと) connects Kyoto (京都), Shin-Osaka (新大阪), Osaka (大阪), Sannomiya (三ノ宮) and Himeji (姫路) with Tottori (鳥取) and Kurayoshi (倉吉). This it the fastest and most frequent direct train service to Tottori from Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. But this train goes through non JR line, Chizu Kyuko Railway. That means you need to pay extra if you use this train by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t want to pay extra, Limited Express Hamakaze is available between Osaka and Tottori. However there is only one round trip and travel time is 1.5 hours longer than Super Hakuto.
Hashidate connects Kyoto and Miyazu, Amanohashidate and Toyooka. This is only train to go directly one of “Three Views of Japan”, Amanohashidate.
This train, Hashidate goes through KTR (Kyoto Tango Railway) between Fukuchiyama and Toyooka. So if you use this train and go to stations further than Fukuchiyama by Japan Rail Pass, you have to pay extra fare. But if you use Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass or Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass, this segment on KTR is covered.
Kinosaki (きのさき) connects Kyoto (京都) with Kinosaki-Onsen (城崎温泉), Toyooka (豊岡) and Fukuchiyama (福知山). When you go to the popular hot springs town, Kinosaki or one of “Three Views of Japan”, Amanohashidate (天橋立) from Kyoto you may take this train.
Maizuru (まいづる) connects Kyoto with Maizuru (舞鶴). This limited express train is always combined operation with Kinosaki between Kyoto and Ayabe (綾部).
Yamatoji Rapid Service is the fastest local train that is operated between Osaka (=大阪) and Nara (=奈良). Most of local tourists take Kintetsu line (近鉄) to Nara. Because they have many more trains and very frequent. If you travel in Japan without Japan Rail Pass, you may use Kintetsu line. But most of travellers from foreign countries use Japan Rail Pass. So this Rapid Service is your best choice, because you don’t need to pay any extra by Japan Rail Pass. This line used to be very local and inconvenient. But JR West upgrade the trains and operate many Rapid trains. It is very convenient and frequent departure these days.
Miyakoji Rapid Service is the fastest local train that is operated between Kyoto (=京都) and Nara (=奈良). Most of local tourists take Kintetsu (近鉄) line to Nara. Because they have many more trains and very frequent. If you travel in Japan without Japan Rail Pass, you may use Kintetsu line. But most of travellers from foreign countries use Japan Rail Pass. So this Rapid Service is your best choice, because you don’t need to pay any extra. This line used to be very local and inconvenient. But JR West upgrade the trains and timetable. Now JR West operate many Rapid trains. It is very convenient and frequent departure these days.
Special Rapid Service is the fastest local train that is operated between Tsuruga (=敦賀) and Kamigori (=上郡) via Kyoto (=京都), Shin-Osaka (=新大阪), Osaka (=大阪), Sannomiya (=三ノ宮), Kobe (=神戸) and Himeji (=姫路). Especially JR West compete with Hankyu (=阪急) and Keihan (=京阪) between Kyoto and Osaka, with Hankyu and Hanshin (=阪神) between Osaka and Kobe. So JR West have to offer fast and good quality of services. As a result, the time required by this train is faster than Shinkansen between Osaka and Kyoto. Since Shinkansen do not have a station in downtown Kobe, this trains is faster than Shinkansen between Osaka and Kobe too. Of course this train is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see the details.
JR West operates many commute trains, rapid and local between 5:30 am and midnight. But when you travel in Kansai area by JR trains, special rapid service trains are the best way to travel among cities, like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama and Kansai airport. These “Special” rapid service skips many stations and much faster than rapid and local trains. If you use JR pass, you may take limited express trains. But these rapid service trains are sometimes faster than express trains and run much more frequently. That means you do not check the timetable. These are commute trains and mostly very busy in even daytime and late night, but it is convenient. It is a key to understand this rapid train system to travel among cities in Kansai area.
Kansai Airport Limited Express Haruka may be your first train in Japan. It is operated between Kansai (Osaka) airport and Greater Osaka area, Kyoto, Kusatsu and Maibara. But please be careful that Haruka does not stop at Osaka station. It stop at Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. If you want to go to Osaka station, you have to transfer to the local train at Shin-Osaka. This express train has 30 round trips a day and are operated mostly every 30 minutes.
Limited Express Kuroshio connects Kii peninsula, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka and Tennoji. This is the train which you take to get Shingu, Kii-Katsuura, Shirahama, Kii-Tanabe. These places are known as the gateway to UNESCO World Heritage site, “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range”.
This train is covered by Japan Rail Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass and Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass.