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 below to find more information:

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Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTOAs 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 betwee...

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 below to find more information:

 Rail travel in Japan complete guide - JPRa... 
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https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/how-to-use-japan-rail-pass-in-kyoto.html
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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 Japan-Guide.com

Gion

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.

Kiyomizudera

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.

Arashiyama

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.

Uji

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.

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

  1. Hi Takeshi,
    I would like to ask for an advise. Our hotel for Kyoto is near the Kyoto Station while for Osaka it is near the Universal Studios Japan. What would be the best pass to avail if my itinerary is as follows:
    Day 1: KIX to Kyoto Station

    Day 2: Kyoto Station to Nara Park

    Day 3: Kyoto Station to Universal Studios Japan

    Day 4: USJ to Osaka/Dotonburi

    Day 5: USJ to KIX

    I am still thinking if I should get the JR Rail Pass but i don’t think I can use it that much. What would be the best and cheaper alternative for this?

    Thank you very much.

  2. Hi there, I’m Kesshmita frm Malaysia.
    My family and I (all adults) are staying in Nara during our entire stay. We would like to go to Kobe & Himeji (day trip) then come back to Nara same day, next day to Namba and then back to Nara, and lasty to Kyoto for another day trip. Basically everyday we come back to Nara as we will stay here. Can you pls advise on the cheapest mode o travel? Arigatao gozaimasu 🙂

  3. Hi Takeshi-san

    I am traveling to Kansai region soon and is thinking of getting either the JR Kansai West WIDE Area Pass or the JR Kansai West Area Pass.

    These are the place I am going to:

    1)Kyoto(plan to stay here for about 5 days, visiting and traveling out to side trips to the below region.)

    2)Shiga Region for Biwako
    3)Azuchi Region for Azuchi Castle
    4)Nara

    5)Osaka(stay for the next 4 days, then travel to Kansai Internation Airport to fly home from there.

    Are any of the JR Kansai Passes covering all these area?

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be travelling to Japan in Feb/March 2018 for business and leisure with my mum. Below is my itinerary and will appreciate it if you could advise.

    Day 1 (24/2/2018) Narita Airport – Tokyo Downtown (One Way Tokyo Skyliner); Shinjuku/Harajuku/Shibuya area (Tokyo Subway 48 hours)
    Day 2 (25/2/2018) Tokyo Disneyland (Tokyo Subway 48 hours)
    Day 3 (26/2/2018) Business
    Day 4 (27/2/2018) Business
    Day 5 (28/2/2018) 1/2 day business; Ginza area (Tokyo Subway 48 hours)
    Day 6 (1/3/2018) Tsukiji Fish Market, Asakusa area (Tokyo Subway 48 hours)
    Day 7 (2/3/2018) Tokyo – Mount Fuji (Fuji Hakone Pass)
    Day 8 (3/3/2018) Hakone (Fuji Hakone Pass)
    Day 9 (4/3/2018) Tokyo – Takayama – Shirakawago – Takayama (7 Days JR Pass-Hokuriku Shinkansen Kagayaki + JR Limited Wide View Hilda 8 + 2 Ways Nohi Bus)
    Day 10 (5/3/2018) Takayama – Kanazawa (7 Days JR Pass-Hokuriku Shinkansen Kagayaki + JR Limited Wide View Hilda 8)
    Day 11 (6/3/2018) Kanazawa – Kyoto (7 Days JR Pass-Limited Express Thunderbird); Kyoto (Kyoto City Sightseeing Card or All Day Bus Pass)
    Day 12 (7/3/2018) Kyoto – Osaka (7 Days JR Pass-Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari); Osaka sightseeing (Osaka 2Days Amazing Pass)
    Day 13 (8/3/2018) Osaka – Nara (7 Days JR Pass-Osaka Loop Line + Yamatoji Line); Osaka sightseeing (Osaka 2Days Amazing Pass)
    Day 14 (9/3/2018) Osaka-Universal Studio Japan (7 Days JR Pass-Osaka Loop Line)
    Day 15 (10/3/2018) Kansai Airport (One way Kansai Skyliner)

    Couple of questions:
    1) Is it still worthwhile that we activate our 7 days JR pass on 4/3/2018?
    2) Can I use JR pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or do I need to purchase Kyoto City Sightseeing Card? Can I purchase the Kyoto City Sightseeing Card online?
    3) Is this itinerary workable?
    4) Can I purchase the Fuji Hakone Pass online?
    5) Can I purchase the Nohi Bus tickets online?

    Regards,
    Cornelia Lim

    1. Hi Cornelia,

      1. It my rough calculation, total costs is almost same or slightly cheaper than JR pass 7 days. If you want convenience, use JR pass anyway. This is only deal to cover your trip.

      2. It depends on which place you go. Please see the link below to find the coverage of JR Pass in Kyoto.
      https://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

      Any local deals in Kyoto cannot be purchase online.

      3. Yes.

      4. No. Please go to Odakyu Shinjuku station.

      5. Yes. Advanced reservation is highly recommended.
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi San,

    I am using the Takayama Hokuriku Pass, which was reissued about a year ago. I once heard that the pass could be used from Kyoto station to JR Arashiyama, as it is in a line to Osaka. Could you please clarify this for me?

    Thank you so mich in advance and Happy belated New Year ! 🙂

  6. Hi Takeshi San,

    I am using the JR 7 day pass from tokyo to osaka, passing through kanazawa and kyoto on the way. We will have a day trip to Kyoto and going to these places below. Can you please advise if the JR Pass will cover each of these places? Thank you in advance
    Kiyumizudera Temple
    Nishiki Market
    Arashiyama
    Gion for Geisha
    Fushimi inari-taisha
    Kinkaku ji

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