Guide to take trains in Kyoto. 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
Toji temple is just 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. © Q.Sawami/© JNTO
Toji temple is just 10 minutes away from Kyoto station. © Q.Sawami/© JNTO

Train system in Kyoto may be complicated for you. There are three types of railway, JR, Kyoto City Subway and Private company’s railways. Actually it’s a key to travel in Kyoto smoothly and avoid wasting your valuable time. Of course city of Kyoto has city wide bus service. But during peak season, bus service runs behind the schedule sometimes due to traffic congestion.

And also, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kyoto city pass. Each pass has different conditions. You have to understand which train system is covered by your pass.

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

Which train services that are covered by ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass 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 and Sagano Scenic Railway. When you travel in Kansai area, don’t try to take Shinkansen for such a short transfer. Please see the post, How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Compare Japan Railway and private lines.

Regarding Sagano Scenic Railway, it is not a public transportation but an attraction. This is the reason why it is not covered by any rail pass.

By the way, ICOCA does not cover Kyoto city bus service either. In sometimes 2014, Kyoto city bus will accept ICOCA.

For the travellers who use Kansai Thru Pass

Please see the map below:

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

You can go anywhere in city of Kyoto. Most of places can be accessed by train. And this pass covers Kyoto City Bus too. Bus services cover all part of city of Kyoto. If you access from Osaka (Umeda) to Kyoto station, you cannot get a direct transfer by this pass. This is only things that you may care.

JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass, Hokuriku Arch Pass

Please see the map below:

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

You can get direct access from Osaka (Umeda) to Kyoto station. Uji, Fushimi-Inari, Nijo castle and Arashiyama can be accessed by JR trains. But it is very inconvenient to access to Higashiyama area, such as Kiyomizudera, Gion, Sanjo and Kifune.

If you intend to take Sagano Scenic Railway and take JR train to come back to Arashiyama or Kyoto, Kansai Area Pass and Sanyo Area Pass cover only to Hozukyo station. The nearest station of Torokko Kameoka station is JR Umahoti station. But this station is out of coverage area of Kansai Area Pass and Sanyo Area Pass. If you use JR Pass or Kansai WIDE Area Pass, it is covered.

If you use JR Pass, JR Bus service can be used by only JR Pass. Please see the post, Japan Rail Pass is the best way to explore Kyoto? How to use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto.

Other JR passes, such as Kansai Area Pass and other JR West deals do not cover any bus services.

If you use Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass, you can get Kyoto but you cannot get any places in Kyoto city, like Fushimi, Arashiyama. Kyoto is located on the way to Kanazawa. You can stopover at Kyoto, but that is it you can do by Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass.

Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card

Please see the map below:

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

This deal covers Kyoto city subway lines, Kyoto city bus and Kyoto Bus (private bus company). If you will take bus, you can go almost anywhere in city of Kyoto. Only place where is not covered by this pass is Uji.

How to access to major spots in Kyoto by train

As I mentioned above, sometimes bus services are affected by heavy traffic. And there are too many lines of bus in city of Kyoto. You may be confused by too many choices. Therefore I recommend you to use train service as much as you can.

If you need more info about bus, you may be able to find it at


If you see Maiko in Gion, you are very lucky.  © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO
If you see Maiko in Gion, you are very lucky. © Y.Shimizu/© JNTO

You can get there by both Hankyu Railway and Keihan Railway. Hankyu’s Kawaramachi station is located 5 minutes away from Keihan’s Gion-Shijo staiton. There is Kamo river between these two stations. One of most popular market, Nishiki market is located bear Kawaramachi station. This area is one of the busiest area in Kyoto.

If you access from Osaka, take Hankyu if you stay in Umeda (JR Osaka station) and take Keihan if you stay in Namba or Shinsaibashi area. Yodoyabashi is connected by Osaka subway Midousuji line.


It is Must-See spot in Kyoto. ©Sue Ann Simon/©JNTO
It is Must-See spot in Kyoto. ©Sue Ann Simon/©JNTO

Actually it’s a bit away from the station. But you can get there from Keihan’s Kiyomizu-Gojo station. The distance is 1.7 km and takes about 20 minutes.


Togetsukyo is the icon of Arashiyama. ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO
Togetsukyo is the icon of Arashiyama. ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

There are three stations, Hankyu, Randen and JR. Randen’s Arashiyama station is located in the heart of Arashiyama. But you will be okay with other two stations. JR’s Saga-Arashiyama station is about 15 minutes away from Randen’s Arashiyama station. Hankyu’s Arashiyama station is located at other side of Katsura river. Togetsu bridge connects these two stations.

If you get Arashiyama from Umeda, obviously Hankyu Railway is the best choice. But there is no direct train service from Umeda to Arashiyama. You have to transfer at Katsura.

If you get Arashiyama from Kyoto station or using JR deals, JR Sagano line is the best choice.

If you get Arashiyama from Gion and Kawaramachi area, I recommend you to take Hankyu to Omiya and transfer to Randen. Randen is not very well known. This rail service is like street car and it runs on the street at some part of this line. This 20 minutes ride will be nice experience in your Kyoto visit. Hankyu’s Omiya station is located underground and Randen’s Shijo-Omiya station is on the ground. But it’s just cross the road and only 3 minutes away.

If you stay in Sanjo area and get Arashiyama, take subway to Uzumasa-Tenjingawa station and transfer to Randen. Randen-Tenjingawa station is located on the ground and subway’s station is underground. But it’s same place.

Kinkakji (Golden Pavilion)

I recommend you to drop by Ryoanji temple before visit Kinkakuji.  	©JNTO
I recommend you to drop by Ryoanji temple before visit Kinkakuji. ©JNTO

It can be accessed from randen’s Kitano-Hakubaicho station on foot. It takes about 20 nminutes. Of course you can catch the bus at Kitano-Hakubaicho station. It is three bus stops away from Kinkakuji and takes about 5 minutes.

If you access there from Arashiyama, Randen is a good choice. But if you get there from Gion, Kyoto station and other places, Randen is considerable. You have to change the train at Katabiranotsuji. It takes about 30 minutes from both Shijo-Omiya and Arashiyama. But Kinakakuji can be accessed by direct bus from many places in Kyoto. Even though I consider traffic, bus service may be faster than Randen. And also Kinkakuji can be accessed from subway’s Kitaoji staion by bus. If you get there from Kyoto station and Gion, this route is the fastest.

Nijo castle

Nijo castle is located in the heart of Kyoto. It is very easy to access there.  ©JNTO
Nijo castle is located in the heart of Kyoto. It is very easy to access there. ©JNTO

The nearest station is subway’s Nijojo staton. But you can access there from JR Nijo station too. So you can choose the trains by you pass/deal.

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Shrine is very famous as thousands of torii gates. ©Kyoto Convention Bureau /©JNTO
Fushimi Inari Shrine is very famous as thousands of torii gates. ©Kyoto Convention Bureau /©JNTO

It can be accessed by both JR and Keihan. JR’s Inari station is the nearest station. But Keihan’s station is only 5 minutes away from the shrine. You can choose it by your pass/deals.

If you combine this place with Nara, JR’s Inari station is on the way to Nara.


Byodoin Hououdou is the highlight in Uji. © JNTO
Byodoin Hououdou is the highlight in Uji. © JNTO

It is not located in city of Kyoto. So you cannot get there by city bus.

Both JR and Keihan can take you there. The biggest spot, Byodoin is located between JR Uji and Keihan’s Uji stations. It take about 10 minutes from both stations.

If you get there from Osaka, Keihan Railway is the best choice. But there is no direct train to Uji from Yodoyambashi. You have to change the trains at Chushojima.

Kyoto subway line goes to Rokujizo station. This is located at same place as JR’s Rokujizo station. You can change the trains very easily there. But Keihan’s Rokujizo station is a bit away from subway/JR stations. So if you access there from the heart of Kyoto, subway and JR combination is a good choice too.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi San,
    I’m new to Osaka, need some advise. Thank you very much.

    Staying at Sheraton Miyako, pls advice what is the easiest best route to travel to following place.

    1. Day trip to Kyoto
    a. Arashiyama bamboo grove
    b. Fushimi Inari Shrine.
    c. Can I buy scenic rail ticket when I arrive Kyoto or I should get it before arriving Kyoto ?
    d. How to travel back to Sheraton Miyako from Kyoto ?
    e. Will I be able to cover point a & b in 1 day ?

    2. To Osaka Aquarium

    1. Hi New,

      First of all, please see the link below to understand the train route in Osaka.

      Your hotel is located at Osaka-Uehonmachi and Tanimachikyuchome (Tanimachi 9 chome).

      When you go to Kyoto, first of all, take subway to get Umeda or Higashi-Umeda. The following map may help you to understand subway network too.

      You can get either Umeda or Higashi-Umeda. These stations are located within walking distance to JR Osaka station. You can take JR train to get Kyoto. And then you will find the location of Fushimi-Inari and Saga Arashiyama in the post above. Both stations can be accessed from Kyoto station by JR trains.

      You can buy Sagano train ticket at “Midori no madoguchi” which is the reservation window in JR major stations, such as Tennoji, JR-Namba, Tsuruhashi, Osaka, in advance. Sagano scenic train is very popular and advanced booking is highly recommended.

      Osaka aquarium is located at subway Osakako station. You can find it in the subway map too.



      1. Hi Takeshi San,
        Thanks for your advice.
        To get to Kyoto, is Hankyu railway the best (fastest and cheapest) option ?
        Day 3 – going to Nara / Shinsaibaishi
        Day 4 – going to Shinsaibaishi area, likely to make trip back to hotel and out again to Shinsaibaishi.
        Day 5 – to Kyoto Bamboo Grove / Inari Shrine / Kiyomizudera Shrine.
        Day 6 – Osaka Castle / Osaka Aquarium
        Day 7 – Uemeda area
        Day 8 – Kuromon
        Can you advice if I should get Kansai Pass or which type of Pass should I get for Adult and Child.

        1. Hi New san,

          You can take Hankyu railway from Umeda to get Arashiyama. After than, you can take Hankyu and Keihan to visit Inari and Kiyomizudera. You can use Kansai thru pass for day 3 and 5. It covers all trains which you need to take.

          You may use other deal for the rest of day. Please see the link below:


          Takeshi /

  2. Hello Takeshi san

    I plan to go to Japan this winter season with family of 5 (4 Adults & 1 Child), and I’m trying to see which is the most cost efficient when it comes to passes. I’m not sure whether to buy the JR Pass or Kansai thru pass. We’ll be in arriving at Japan KIX from Dec 1 -8. Here is our itinerary. Would much appreciate if you could help to advise.

    1Dec – Arriving KIX at 05.40 am, to Kobe – Kitano Museum, Kobe Harborland & Nankinmachi, afternoon to Kyoto for Nishiki Market , Gion-Shijo , Kyoto Tower.
    Overnight stay booking through Arbnb – Stay old kyo-machiya style house near Kinkakuji / Nijo-jo

    2Dec – Kyoto
    Fushimi Inari, Kiyumizu-dera Temple, Yasaka Shrine, Kodaji Temple
    Overnight stay booking through Arbnb – Stay old kyo-machiya style house near Kinkakuji / Nijo-jo

    3Dec – Kyoto –Arashiyama, Saga Scenice Railway, Togetsukyo Bridge, Kinkakuji,Nijo Castle, Nara Park – Todai-ji – Kasuga Taisha Shrine – Osaka
    Overnight star booking through Arbnb – Stay Namba OCT area

    4Dec – Osaka –Using Osaka Amazing 2 Days Pass

    5Dec – Osaka – Using Osaka Amazing 2 Days Pass

    6Dec – Universe Studio Japan

    7Dec –Shisabashi & Dotonbori Area

    8Dec – Early morning Flight departure using Airport bus

    D1-D3 – JR Pass or Kansai Thru Pass
    D4-D5 – Osaka Amazing 2 Days Pass
    D6-D8 – Icoca Card

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Chester san,

      Kansai thru pass is better choice for day 1 to 3 because it covers city bus, subway and non JR trains in Kyoto. Those transports are enough to see Kyoto. JR Kansai area pass covers only JR trains and not enough to cover it.

      Other deals are good.


      Takeshi /

  3. Hi Takeshi-San,

    Thank you so much for the great works in detailing all the passes.

    I’ll will visiting Kyoto, Nara & Osaka in Nov. Am undecided whether to buy Kansai Thru Pass/ICOCA for day 2 to 4.

    My itinerary:
    Day 1:Late arrival in KIX – 2100pm, stay in Nikko hotel KIX.
    Day 2: To Kyoto – taking Haruka Express. Sightseeing Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Path of Philosophy, Kyoto Railway Museum, Gion.
    Day 3: Arashiyama, Nishiki market
    Day 4: Nara, Kiyomizura-dera
    Day 5: Osaka Aquarium – use Kaiyu pass
    Day 6: Osaka sightseeing Dotonbori, Shinsaibashi – use Osaka Visitor’s Ticket
    Day 7: Shin-Osaka to KIX using Haruka Express


      1. Many thanks for your prompt reply Takeshi-san.
        Yes, I’ll be staying in Kyoto between day 2 to 4, nearby Gojo station and Shin-Osaka in Osaka.


        1. Hi Phuah san,

          ICOCA and Haruka is your choice for KIX to Kyoto and you may use ICOCA for trip to Nara and Kyoto to Shin-Osaka. You can add Haruka discount ticket for Shin-Osaka to KIX.

          And you may add local deals, such as subway pass or bus pass or Kaiyu ticket as you think in Osaka and Kyoto.


          Takeshi /

  4. Hello Takeshi

    Thank you for doing such a great job of helping people with determining best options for rail tickets.

    I am traveling to Kyoto with my family of four. I have bought the round trip Tokyo->Kyoto->Tokyo unreserved Shinkansen travel package from JR Tokai. That includes 1-day Kyoto sightseeing pass. I will be staying in the Gion area.

    My itinerary is as follows:

    Day 1: Arrive Kyoto in the morning and local sightseeing
    Day 2: Travel to Nara and/or Himeji (May be tight if I do both but it’s possible)
    Day 3: Local sightseeing in Kyoto
    Day 4 (Sat): Leave for Koyasan overnight
    Day 5 (Sunday): Come back from Koyasan to Kyoto and catch Shinkansen train to Tokyo (Have to come to Kyoto to catch Shinkansen because of JR Tokai package)

    My options are:

    Option 1: JR East 1-day pass on Day 2, 2-day Kansai Thru pass for Day 4 and 5

    Option 2: JR East 1-day pass on Day 2, Koyasan Heritage pass for Day 4 and 5

    Option 3: 3-day Kansai Thru Pass for Day 2, 4 and 5

    Which combination would you recommend from convenience and cost perspective?

    Also, how hard will it be to get a seat on Shinkansen in unreserved carriage around 3-4 PM from Kyoto-> Tokyo on Sunday?

    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Ashu,

      First of all, switch day 3 and 2. So stay in Kyoto on day 2 and trip to Nara/Himeji on day 3,
      And then you may use JR West Kansai area pass 3 days and Koyasan World Heritage Pass. Even if you have Koyasan World Heritage Pass, you need to pay single fare or pass for Kyoto-Osaka round trip. Kansai thru pass covers both Koyasan and Kyoto-Osaka. It’s cheaper choice but not convenience. Because you need to change trains at least twice between Osaka and Kyoto.

      If you use Kansai area pass 3 days, you can take limited express Haruka between Tennoji and Kyoto. Shin-Imamiya station is just one station away from Tennoji and you can catch Nankai railway to get Koyasan.

      Regarding non reserved seat, I think you can get a seat but you may not get a seat side by side if you travel with someone. Most of window side seat will be occupied first.


      Takeshi /

  5. Dear Takeshi-san,
    I’m Li Hong and am visiting Japan in early November 17 with my family. Could you advise what passes should we get for 4 people?
    Below is my itinerary for the trip:

    Day 1: Arrive at KIX at 9.30am and am staying near Imamiya Ebisu station. To visit Tsutenkaku Shinsekai area, Nipponbashi

    Day 2: Sightseeing at Osaka Castle, Dotonburi, Sinshaibashi shopping street , Namba

    Day 3: Transfer to Kyoto and will be staying at Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0853, Japan. Sightseeing at Gion, Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizu-Dera

    Day 4: Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, Tofukuji, Nijo Castle, Ginkakuji temple and Tetsugaku no michi

    Day 5: Day trip to Arashiyama, ride on Sagano Scenic Railway, Kinkakuji Castle

    Day 6: Day trip to Nara, Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji temple, Nara park, Higashimuki Shopping district

    Day 7: Transfer to Kanazawa – staying at Kanazawa downtown area, sightseeing at Kanazawa castle, Higashi geisha district , Kenrokuen Gardens, Myoryuji Ninja Temple

    Day 8: Transfer to Shirakawago – staying for a night exploring the small town and Gokayama

    Day 9: Transfer to Takayama, exploring Takayama town, Shinhotaka Ropeway, staying a night in between Shinhotaka Ropeway and Takayama (1 hr from Takayama)

    Day 10: Transfer back to Osaka and flying back from KIX on day 11 at 11am.

    I’m thinking of getting the 5-day Takayama-Hokuriku area tourist pass from day7-11. What do you think?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Li Hong san,

      You may use Kansai thru pass 3 days for day 1, 3 and 6.

      For day 2, you may use one of the deals in the link below:

      Single fare is okay for day 4 and 5.

      Takayama Hokuriku area pass is the choice after day 7 as you think. But it does not cover Shin-Hotaka. You need to add regular fare.


      Takeshi /

  6. Hi Takeshi-san,

    would love to know your advice as to what pass should I purchase for 3 people.
    Day 1: Reach KIX at 3.45 PM and will be staying in 京都市, 京都府 6008422 Japan area
    Day 2: Sightseeing in Kyoto: Nijo Castle, Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden Pavilion), Arashiyama
    Day 3: Sightseeing in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari shrine, temples and shrine in Gion and Higashiyama area, such as Yasaka shrine, Kiyomizu-dera temple, Gion-shijo area, Ginkaku-ji temple
    Day 4: Day trip to Hikone from Kyoto. Visiting: Hikone Castle, Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine Maple Festival | If time permits: stop by at Nagahama for sightseeing | Go back to Kyoto
    Day 5: Day trip to Nara and visit Todai-ji Temple,
    Nara Park, Kofuuku-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Grand Shrine, Higashimuki Shopping Street and transfer to Namba Osaka from Kyoto | Will be staying at: Naniwa-ku, Ōsaka-shi, Ōsaka-fu 556-0011 Japan
    Day 6: Trip to Kobe & Himeji from Osaka | Kobe: Arima Onsen Town, Zuijoji Park, Kobe Arboretum | Himeji: World Heritage Himeji Castle
    Day 7: Sightseeing in Osaka: Dotonburi, Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium
    Day 8: Sightseeing in Osaka Half Day, then going to KIX.
    Flight departs from KIX 5.25 PM

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,
        Thank you so much for your reply ^^
        On my Day 1, do you recommend if I purchase just Haruka ticket only (one way) instead of ICOCA + Haruka? My hotel is near Shijo Station in Kyoto, so I will have to transfer from Kyoto Station. Will it be possible if I just pay single fare for the trip (Kyoto Station to Shijo station). On Day 1 I just plan to explore the surrounding area of my hotel by walking. Not really going anywhere after I checked in.

        Thank you so much in advance.


        1. Hi Maria san,

          It’s totally up to you. If you don’t want to have either ICOCA or Kansai one pass, you can use Haruka discount ticket only.
          I think you may use train or subway on day 2 and 3. Kansai one pass will give you convenience when you take a train or subway. You don’t need to purchase a ticket one by one. And you can get the discount at many attractions.


          Takeshi /

  7. Hi!!

    Is kyoto city bus covered by ICOCA? Is there a way going to arashimaya without taking the bus?

    And is there a way I can buy tickets for sagano scenic train in advance?


    1. Hi Jeffrey,

      You can take a bus by ICOCA. You also can take JR train to Saga-Arahisyama, Hankyu railway to Arashiyama or Keifuku railway to Arashiyama.

      You can book a seat for Sagano train at Midori no Madoguchi which is reservation window in most of JR stations in Kansai area.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi!

        I am finalizing my Kyoto itinerary and came up with this..

        Day 1: Higashiyama district – Ginkakuji, Nanzenji, Shoren-in, Maruyama park, Kodai-ji, and Kiyomizudera

        – I understand these can be done by walking? My hotel is near Karawamachi station.

        Day 2: Kinkakuji, Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji, Arashiyama/Tenryuji

        – I’ve been using google maps to check how to get around for this and most of the directions that come up are by Bus. I planned to buy Kansai one pass but now I don’t know if I shoud I get a Bus pass for Day 2? but I also read that the bus pass does not cover Arashiyama area, is this correct?

        Day 3: Fushimi Inari and Tofuku-ji temple and then go to Osaka in the afternoon.

        Thank you I really appreciate your help.

  8. Hi Takeshi!

    I have read all comments here and I’m still confused as to what pass we’re going to get, either ICOCA or Kansai One Pass. We will be arriving in Osaka on Day 1 and will be staying in Namba. We will be going to Kyoto on our 2nd day and back to Osaka, then going to Nara on day 3 then back to Osaka.

    Here’s our itinerary:

    Day 1

    KIX -> Namba

    Day 2

    (What will be riding from Namba to Kyoto?)

    Fushimi Inari Shrine
    Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)
    Kiyomizu-dera Temple

    Day 3

    Nara Park
    Todai-ji Temple
    Kasuga Taisha Shrine

    Is my itinerary okay? We will be doing just day trips to Kyoto and Nara.

    A. Which travel pass will be the best for my trip?
    B. What is the best price option or pass to purchase from Kansai airport to Osaka – Namba?

    Thanks a lot!

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