Kyoto train route guide. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

kyoto stationKansai Area
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Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge. (C) JP Rail

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.

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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:

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

I wrote another post which focus on JR Pass and JR regional deals in the link below. You may find how much you can use JR Pass and JR regional deals in Kyoto. You can learn how to maximize using these passes:

Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card and Kyoto subway pass

Please see the map below:

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

These deals cover Kyoto city subway lines. Kyoto city bus and Kyoto Bus (private bus company) are also covered by Kyoto Sightseeing one day and two day cards. 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.

Comments

  1. Jenny says:

    Hi mr takeshi
    Thank you for elaborating so much on the different transportation in kyoto. I have been doing some research myself too but i still couldnt decide which deal is the best for my itinerary.
    I will be coming to kyoto for 4d3n from tokyo with a JR Pass Trip, will be leaving kyoto to osaka in the morning on the 4th day. Below is my itinerary, i am deciding whether should i buy the bus pass only for two days , or the train+ bus pass(1day/2day? Should i just buy 1 day and reaarange my itinerary to save cost?) not sure if it is even necessary or should i just use my IC card to pay for single ride price ( not sure how much?)since majority site have a JR station closeby.

    Day 1 – tokyo > kyoto ( kyoto station JR) > hostel ( nishioji station JR ) > kinkakuji temple > nijo castle > fushimi inari > nishiki market > gion hanami koji dori

    Day 2 – arashiyama bamboo forest > tenryuji temple – kiyomizu dera > gion > yasaka shrine

    Day 3 – day trip to nara ( JR ) – UJI (JR) – back to kyoto (JR)

    Day 4 – osaka ( JR)

  2. Seu Chen says:

    Hi, thank you so much for this post. I need some advise on the passes that I need to use. Below will be my itirinery:
    Day 1: Kansai Airport to Osaka ( will reach at night)
    Day 2: Osaka 1 day visit the tourist spot
    Day 3: Osaka to Kyoto ( stay in Gion)
    Day 4: Kyoto – Arashima
    Day 5: Kyoto to Kanazawa

    Appreciate if I can have your advice about the pass that we can have
    Thank you

  3. JL says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    My family & I will be in Osaka from 1-8 Dec.
    We will be staying near Nippombashi Station and Tanimachi Kyuchome Station.
    Could you help advise me on below :
    1) Which pass to buy for Kansai Airport to the station mentioned above? Can the pass also use for train travel within Osaka?
    2) During our stay, we will make 1-day trip each to Kyoto, Nara, Kobe. What pass should we buy?
    3) In Kyoto, we wanted to visit Nijo Castle, Fushimi Inari-Taisha and Arashiyama.
    a. Which one should we visit first based on the train route?
    b. We intend to visit Arashiyama via Sagano Scenic Railway, where can we get the tickets and how much does it cost?
    c. We could also like to drop by Okuto to try out the famous Go Go Curry . How should we get there?

    Thank you so much!

  4. Jessica Lee says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    Can you teach me the steps and best way to take the train from Shinsaibashi Station to Kyoto Station?

    My hostel is 10 mins walk to Shinsaibashi station.

    My check out time is 12pm and i will be carrying one luggage bag while walking to Shinsaibashi Station.

    My hostel in Kyoto is at Shimogyo-ku Nishiyaoyacho 152, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto and from Google map it is about 15 mins walk from Kyoto station. Thanks!!

  5. chin khai says:

    Hi,

    i would like to share my plan and itenarary for your comment in order to gain the information to get the railway pass. i’m quite confusing of different kind of the pass in kansai. kindly comment and share your opinion regarding what kind of pass should i get.

    Kyoto
    Keihan Grande

    14/12/2018
    3-4pm reach kansai Estimate reaching Kyoto at night and check in
    Hanging around nearby hotel
    Kyoto tower
    JR Isetan kyoto station
    Avanti (Mall opposite hotel)

    15/12/2018
    1st half day
    Yasaka Shrine (八阪神寺) (FOC)
    Gion – Shirakawa river
    – Tatsumi bridge
    Higashiyama ward
    Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) (400 yen +)

    2nd half day
    Heian Shrine (平安神宫) (FOC)
    Ginkakuji temple (银阁寺) (500 yen +)
    Tetsugaku-no-michi (哲学之道)

    Teramachi shopping street (东大文字町)
    Shinkyogoku Shopping street (新京极商店街)
    Nishiki Market (锦市场)

    16/12/2018
    1st half day
    Fushimi Inari Taisha
    Jonangu Shrine
    Nijo castle
    Nishijin Textile Center
    Kyoto imperial palace

    Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine
    Hirano Jinja Shrine
    Izumiya Hakubaicho

    2nd half day Kinkaku-ji
    Tenryuji Temple
    Nonomiya-Jinja Shrine
    Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
    Tongetsu-kyo bridge (渡月桥)

    Nara
    Hotel Attractions
    17/12/2018
    Day Trip from Kyoto
    1st half day Nara Park
    Kasuga-taisha
    Nara Museum
    Todai-ji

    If we could finish visiting here for half day. We shall return back to kyoto for the previously missed out attractions

    18/12/2018
    1st half day Kyoto
    free and easy – shopping
    check out 12p.m

    2nd half day Heading to Osaka to check in hotel
    Universal studio japan
    Universal city walk mall

    Umeda area & Hommachi area
    Umeda sky building

    Osaka

    Hotel WBF Hommachi

    19/12/2018
    1st half day Shinsaibashi area
    Shinsaibashi suji shopping street

    2nd half day Namba Dotonbori
    Dotonbori-osaka night market
    Kuromon Ichiba Market

    Kobe

    Day Trip from Osaka

    20/12/2018
    1st half day Mint kobe
    Sannomiya Center street
    Ikuta Shrine
    Kitano Ichikan

    2nd half day Nankin Machi
    神户元町商店街
    元町高架通商店街
    Mosaic Big Ferris Wheel
    Kobe Harbourland Umie
    World buffet harbourland store

    Osaka

    Hotel WBF Hommachi

    21/12/2018
    1st half day Cup noodle museum Osaka
    Rifrel
    Expo city mall

    2nd half day Shinsaibashi/Namba Dotonbori area

    22/12/2018
    1st half day hommachi area nearby

    2nd half day check out at 11am or 12pm and request for luggage keeping at the hotel

    heading to airport at 2pm to 3pm

    Thanks,
    Chin

  6. doi says:

    Good day Mr Takeshi san,

    I will travel to Kix on the end of july, and will arrive at Kix around 0630 am..

    Our plan is

    Day 1

    KIX to Kyoto and return to Osaka

    Day 2

    Osaka

    Day 3

    return home

    As I know there many type of passes such as KAP,KTP,OAP and more. Can you suggest me which the convenience pass i need to use for my trip?

    Thanks for your help. Really appreciate.

  7. David Monaghan says:

    Very helpful advice, thank you.

  8. Daniel says:

    Hi,

    I intend to stay in Kyoto only for 5 days. Will JR pass be enough to cover all those tourist spot?

    Thanks
    Daniel

  9. tan says:

    Hi, I would like advise about my Kyoto itinerary. I am visiting Kyoto for 2 days, staying at a hotel near the Kyoto Zoo. Is this plan an efficient way of traveling:
    Day 1:
    Osaka Shinsabaishi to Kyoto Bamboo forest
    Bamboo forest to Gion
    Gion to hotel
    Day 2:
    Kyoto Zoo
    Downtown (is this the same area as Gion or a separate area? Should this be in Day 1)?
    Inari shrine
    Back to Osaka

    Could you advise the subway route I should take to move from place to place? I am very confused. Thanks!

    • Hi Tan,

      Your route is the following:

      Shinsaibashi (subway) Umeda (Hankyu railway) Arashiyama (Randen / Keifuku railway) Omiya (Hankyu railway) Kawaramachi/Gion-Shijo (Keihan railway) Sanjo (City bus) Kyoto zoo

      Kyoto zoo (city bus) Kyoto station (JR Nara line) Fushimi-Inari (Keihan railway) Yodoyabashi (Subway) Shinsaibashi

      Your plan is okay. Kyoto has two downtown cores, Gion and JR Kyoto station.

      There is no deals to cover whole part of the route. Kansai one pass gives you convenience. It does not give your any discount but you don’t need to purchase a ticket one by one. You can use this for taking all trains and buses.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Angeli says:

    Hi,

    We are arriving Osaka on 27 May.
    Our plan is to stay 3 nights in Osaka, then 6 nights in Kyoto.
    While in Kyoto, we plan to visit Nara, Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari. The rest will be within Kyoto visiting Gion, Kinkaju temple, Kiyomizudera temple…

    Do you think we are staying too long in Kyoto?
    What pass should we buy?
    Kansai Thru Pass (how many days) Will it cover the Osaka-Kyoto train?

    We are staying at:
    Hearton Hotel Umeda in Osaka
    Hotel Keihan Kyoto Grande in Kyoto

    We will be taking the airport bus from Kyoto to Kansai airport on departure date. This is doable, right?

    Thank you,
    Angeli

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