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. Rajendra Prasad says:

    Hello Takeshi-San,

    I found your site and the posts very interesting. However, since the available information and the options are quite extensive, it is difficult to do much without expert help from someone like you. I am scheduled to visit Kyoto/Tokyo for two weeks with my wife starting from 14 September 2019 landing at Narita at about 7.35 AM. We plan to buy a JR Pass for two weeks. On arrival in Tokyo, I intend to get or JR Passes activated and rush to Kyoto by Hikari Shinkansen Train. I am booked a Hotel Kuu not far from Kyoto station.I shall be busy with official work on 15 Sept 2019 but would like to spend rest of the time as follows:

    14 Sept A/N To be decided
    15 Sept Busy
    16 Sept Morning busy, A/N Visit to Nara – half day.
    17 Sept Planning to visit Bamboo Forest, Kinaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), Fushimi Inari
    ShrineSaiho-ji Temple, Nijo castle or as suggested
    18 Sept Day trip – Osaka, visit Mt. Manaitaishi, Takagiyama hill, Mt Koyasan etc. or
    as suggested
    19 Sept Day trip to Hiroshima, to visit Himeji Castle on return
    20 Sept To Tokyo by Shinkansen – to stay in Hotel sun Members: explore Shibuya
    Crossing, Tokyo Skytree, gardens nearby
    21 Sept Tokyo local such as Asakusa, Sensoji temple, Tokyo Museums, Imperial
    Palace, Yoyogi, Ueno or as suggested
    22 Sept To be decided
    23 Sept Day trip to Day Nikko
    24 Sept Day trip to Disneyland
    25 Sept Tokyo local – to be decided
    26 Sept to Narita and disembark in the morning 11.20 hrs.

    I would like you to advise, if we are okay with 14 day JR Pass for each of us or we manage with 7-day JR Pass for the week in Kyoto and manage the week in Tokyo with local buses. Also kindly suggest how can be bset use our time visiting all important attaractions. Also kindly note that we are both senior citizens above 70 years.

    Looking forward to hearing from you with sane advice.

    Rajendra

  2. Alliet says:

    Alliet here again, Mr. Takeshi, I didn’t reread my question, so sorry.
    I meant that “we CANNOT ride the Tokaido Shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto”. My apologies for not editing my query. Thank you for your kind understanding.

  3. Alliet says:

    Hi Mr. Takeshi,
    I have been reading so many info and I am getting so confused. I have once asked for your kind help and I would like to ask it again, if you do not mind, kind sir. We are buying JR Kansai Hiroshima Pass. As I was plotting out IT for Kyoto, I know that we can use the pass on the Tokaido Shinkansen, but upon researching on Hyperdia, there are Shinkansen Hikari and Nozomi from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto. Can our JR Kansai Hiroshima Pass valid for this? I pray that it will be, as it will be so convenient riding this trains as we shall visit Kyoto twice from Osaka before we go the other way down to Hiroshima. Thank you so much for your generous time. God bless you, kind sir.

  4. Christie Fernandez says:

    Hi, Takeshi!
    I am truly grateful to come across this website. It helped me adjust my upcoming trip to Osaka. I will be visiting Osaka and Kyoto this coming May 26, 2019.
    I have already purchased the Osaka Amazing Pass and the Hankyu Rail Pass. I planned on this itenerary:
    Day 1 – Tour Osaka using the Pass
    Day 2 – Trip to Kyoto to use Hankyu Rail Pass. Explore areas where I can maximize the
    said Pass. Should I get another Pass that can cover other areas of Kyoto?
    Day 3 – Explore Osaka again mostly car accessory shops
    Day 4 – Universal Studios
    Day 5 – Rinku Outlet then Kansai Airport

  5. Leong says:

    Hi, Takeshi
    Day 1
    From Karaksa Spring Hotel Kansai Air Gate to Kyoto Shichijo station.
    Day 2
    Fushimi-Inari, Gion Ginkakuji, Nishiki market
    Day 3
    Arashiyama Bamboo, Kinkakuji, kyoto station
    Day 4
    Travel from Kyoto to Osaka Tengachaya station, Dondoburi
    Day 5
    Aquarium, osaka castle
    Day 6
    Sightseeing in Osaka
    Day 7
    Nara half day trip
    Day 8
    Osaka city

    I have bought 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass.
    What is the best way to travel from Karaksa hotel (osaka) to Kyoto Shichijo station?

    Should I buy:
    1-Day Kyoto Sightseeing pass for Day 2 in Kyoto. Then buy 2-Day kyoto-osaka sightseeing pass for the rest of the day (travel from kyoto to Osaka may need it too).
    I will be using 2-Day Osaka Amazing Pass in osaka.
    Big group of us, 11 pax with children.

    Thank you in advance

  6. Matet says:

    Hello,

    We are planning to go in Kyoto on the month of May. What route would you suggest if we are coming from Daikokucho Station ? and what do you think will be the best pass should get (JY Pass/ Hankyu Pass/Keihan Pass or Icoca) if are itinerary is Arashimaya Bamboo Grove – Kinkakuji Temple – Kiyomizudera Temple then last stop is Gion.

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  7. Elvira says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Your blog is a great help in my plans for my upcoming Japan trip to Kyoto and Osaka in May. However, I am still not sure what pass I should get with my plans.

    My draft itinerary is as below:
    Day 1 – arrive 1pm at KIX airport and stay near Namba/Umeda station + free and easy at Dotonbori & Shinsaibashi
    Day 2 – USJ –> We think we are purchasing a 1-time ride using JR Sakurajima (180 yen)
    Day 3 – 1 day trip to Kobe
    Day 4 – Cup Noodles Museum Osaka Ikeda, Osaka castle (maybe some other attractions, have not decided yet) + night we are going to Kyoto (staying near Gojo subway station)
    Day 5,6 – Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama bamboo forest, Arashiyama Togetsukyo Bridge, Gion District, Golden Pavillion, Nijo Castle, (maybe some other attractions, have not decided yet) → Do you think this is too many attractions for 2 days? We might give Kobe a miss if 2 days is not enough for Kyoto main attractions.
    Day 7 – Day Trip to Nara
    Day 8 – Any other Kyoto attractions (have not decided) + Catch flight at KTX 7pm (will leave hotel at 3pm for buffer time)

    What we plan to do is purchase train tickets to our hotel on Day 1 and purchase the JR tickets to USJ on Day 2. Then, we will get Kansai Thru Pass for Day 3-8, so 5 days in total, is that a good plan? Also, is 2 days (Day 5 and 6) enough for Kyoto? We are thinking of giving Kobe a skip if it’s not! Thank you for the help you have provided readers (:

  8. Fanne says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Your blog is great and detail but i still confused which is the best transport / pass i should get for my 10 days trip in Japan..

    My draft itinerary is as below:
    Day 1 – arrive late night 10pm at KIX airport and stay near Namba station (Nankai line) => taking Airport Express or Rapi’t express?
    Day 2 – free and easy at Dotonbori & Shinsaibashi
    Day 3 – free and easy at Kuromon & Tsutenkaku => is it advisable to go Osaka kaiyukan Aquarium on that day? and what subway ticket/pass i should buy for this?
    Day 4 & 5- sight-seeing several places in Osaka => Osaka amazing pass for 2 days
    Day 6 – USJ => what transport/ ticket to purchase to head to USJ?
    Day 7 , 8, 9 – Go to Kyoto (1.5 days did not fix which places to visit), Nara (0.5days), Kobe (0.5 days ) (everyday travel back & stay in Namba) => which pass is advisable? Kansai Thru Pass is it worth for 3 days? or other Pass?
    Day 10 – Go to Kix airport (5pm) , before that to Rinku outlet (is there any locker to put luggage)? what ticket/pass is worth to?

    Thanks in advance if I can get your help on my itinerary. Thanks a lot..=)

  9. Shine says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    Our itinerary will be as below :
    16/4 to 20/4 we already purchased Takayama Hokuriku Pass (which cover Our first 5 days KIX – Osaka – Kanazawa – Kyoto)
    21/4 Kyoto – Wisteria Discover in Byodoin, Uji
    22/4 Osaka Namba – Dotonburi – KIX

    May I know which railway / train pass is more suitable for our last 2 days in Kyoto and Osaka, which cover the journey from Kyoto to Osaka?

    Thanks.

  10. dessy says:

    Hello Takeshi-san,

    May i ask what’s the best train pass that suit my itinerary?

    Day 1 – Osaka Umeda, USJ, stay near Shitennojimaeyuhigaoka Station.
    Day 2 – Kyoto Day trip, Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Nishiki Market, Gion, Yasaka Pagoda, back to Osaka
    Day 3 – from Osaka Half day trip near Kyoto Station, Strolling around Dotonburi, Osaka Castle, Shinsekai, Umeda

    I’m planning to use Suica card for Day 1 and Kansai Thru Pass on Day 2 & 3, but i calculated the fare it’s not worth the price. Should i insert half day trip to Nara instead of Kyoto if i intend to use Kansai Thru Pass?

    Thank you in advance, takeshi-san.

    • Hi Dessy san,

      If you make a round trip to somewhere in Kyoto, such as Fushimiinari from Shitennojimaeyuhigaoka, it costs around 600 to 700 yen one way. And you will take bus, subway and or train in Kyoto a few times. You may not be able to get the worth of it but total fare will be closed to the pass price. Kansai thru pass gives you flexibility. If you finish your trip early, you can add some more places easier. I think you can get Kansai thru pass anyway even if you don’t add Nara.

      Suica is okay for day 1.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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