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

kyoto stationKansai Area
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.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


  1. kolaxiong says:

    Hi , can i just double check, if i am holding JR pass , and i will be staying 3 night in Kyoto. First day i will go nara from osaka then to kyoto , i can drop by Fushimi Inari before going to my hotel near gojio area, then walk around that area. Day 2 if i am going to Arashiyama i can still use my JR pass , it can be use to explore the north-west side of kyoto ? then day 3 i can get the 1 day pass @ 1200 and explore the north eastern side ? day 4 i will leave kyoto. Should I get 1 day ? or 2 day pass ? cos was thinking is it worth the money as 1 bus or subway trip is bat 200-300 , i will need to make bat 5-6 trip a day to make the 1 day pass worth it ? This is just a brief plan , but basically will be going to most of the temple you listed on top

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      JPRail says:

      Hi kolaxiong,

      Your plan is good.

      Regarding day 2, you can use JR pass. There is the bus route to get north west area of Kyoto.
      You may be able to visit Nijo castle, Kinkakuji and Ryoanji other than Arashiyama by JR Pass.

      Regarding day 3, I think All day bus pass at 500 yen for one day is enough. You may not have many chances to take subway. You can purchase one more for day 4 too if you like. Bus fare is 220 yen. 500 yen is very easy to get worth.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. James says:

    Are you able to please advice the best travel option to get to the Grand Arc Honzomon, from Haneda airport please. Whether with be on JR railways or not.
    thank you

  3. Admin
    Songsak says:

    Excuse me, I’m not sure that did you miss spell Kinkakji (Golden Pavilion)

  4. Hai Takeshi.

    It seems most of attractions in Kyoto are accesibble by JR trains as you recommended, so is it worth it taking the Kyoto One Day pass? Subways cant reach most of the places, taking city bus might takes longer time.

    Please advice.

    And let say from Kyoto i wanna go Nara for sunset experience and later heading to my hotel in Nagahoribashi, recommend the best route pls, thank you.

  5. WeiYen says:

    Pls advise on my iternary

    Osaka + Kyoto ( 5D4N)

    DAY 1

    Reach KIX airport late evening around 5.30

    Buy ICOCA + Haruka (return) 4000yen

    Check in Kyoto Gion Hostel near Gion Shijo stn

    Geisha/Maiko di Gion

    Shijo Street,Kawaramachi Street? Walking distance?

    DAY 2

    Arashiyama->Togetsukyo Bridge, Bamboo Forest, Tenryu-ji Temple

    Romantic Scenic Train->Kyoto Station

    From Kyoto Station->Kinka-kuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) Kitaoji Station

    Gion again? or can suggest any night happening place?

    DAY 3

    Fushimi Inari (Fushimini Inari Keihan Line)

    Back hostel sleep for a while…lol (near Gion Shijo line)

    Kiyomizudera Temple (Kiyomizu-gojo station then walk for 20 mins)

    souvenirs shopping di Shinkyogoku

    DAY 4

    Take Haruka line from Kyoto to Tennoji

    Check in Hotel Taiyo (near Dobutsuemae station)

    Take Kintetsu line to Kintetsu nara Station

    Nara Park, Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and etc

    Osaka Castle

    Namba, Shinshabashi

    Day 5

    Take early train from tennoji to KIX airport

    Based from your explanation, since im staying in gion shijo station I should take hankyu train to omiya then shijo omiya-> randen train to arashiyama? Means I need to change 2times? Based hyperdia it seems that it needs40mins? Is it better using Hankyu route passing Katsura?
    So I should buy 1day bus pass for day2 is more worth? Kyoto sightseeing card seems applicable to some subway lines only.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      JPRail says:

      Hi WeiYen,

      Shijo street and Kawaramachi street cross at Shijo-Kawaramachi.

      In the evening in Kyoto, Gion is always the best spot.

      Regarding trip to Arashiyama, if you take Hankyu, you have to transfer at Katsura. There is no direct train from Shijo-Kawaramachi to Hankyu Arashiyama. Randen’s Arashiyama station is better location. That is reason why I recommend to use Randen. But if you purchase either Kyoto sightseeing card Kyoto bus pass, you can’t get Hankyu and Randen by these deals. Kyoto sightseeing card covers both subway and bus. Bus pass is cheaper but sightseeing card is much more convenient. Both deals will work for your trip.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Please help me decide which travel pass is best for my itinerary on April 4-9, 2014:
    April 4, Fri – Arrive KIK, stay in B&S
    April 5, Sat – Tokyo, stay in First Inn
    April 6, Sun – AM -still in Tokyo
    After lunch – Nara
    Night- stay at Hotel Taiyo near Tennoji Stn
    April 7, Mon – Kyoto, see Kobe at night
    April 8, Tues – Hiroshima
    April 9, Wed – Osaka
    Midnight – return flight

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      JPRail says:

      Hi Loida,

      It’s no doubt JR Pass 7 days is the best and unbeatable deal. Even though you need to add some fares for local subways in Kyoto and Tokyo, most part of your trip will be covered by this pass.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Ant says:

    Hi Sir
    I would like to ask if this itinerary works because its my first time planning for Japan and not sure if this is the most efficient travel by destination. I would really appreciate if you could assist by commenting if the flow of destinations are logical:

    Day 1 – Arrive Tokyo, stay 3x nights
    Day 4 – Arrive Takayama, stay 2x nights
    Day 6 – Arrive Nagoya, 1x day
    Day 7 – Arrive Kyoto, 2x nights total
    Day 8 – Arrive Nara, day trip
    Day 9 – Arrive Osaka, 3x nights

    Can you please comment on if the day trip Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto works?
    I am planning to buy 7-day rail pass to arrive all these destinations.


  8. Rob says:

    I really love Kyoto and the only thing that ever bothered me was the seemingly lack of train service to areas of interest… so thank you for this post!

  9. Jac says:

    Hi, Takeshi-san,

    I’m going to Osaka in November. The following is my plan itinerary:

    Day 1 – Kansai Airport yo Kyoto
    – JR west pass
    Day 2 – Kyto

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      JPRail says:

      Hi Jac,

      Would you please complete your question?


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Jac says:

        Hi, Takeshi-san,

        My apologies. I’m going to Osaka in November. Append below are my itinerary.

        Day 1 – Kansai to Kyoto – using ICOCA & Haruka and kyoyo city bus
        Day 2 – Kyoto to Arashiyama – we will be staying near Keihan Shichijo station, please advise how should we go to Arashiyama
        Day 4 – Kyoto sightseeing – Northern Kyoto – using Kyoto city bus. After that we will be going to Osaka from Keihan Shichijo station by using ICOCA
        Day 5 – Osaka to Nara – we will be staying near Nagahoribashi.- using single trip fare to Nara?
        Day 6 – Osaka to Kobe and sightseeing in Osaka – should we using single trip fare or kansai Thru pass?
        Day 7 – Osaka to Kansai Airport and sightseeing in Osaka – we plan to have sightseeing in the morning till afternoon and going to airport ftom Nagahoribashi – should we using single trip fare of Kansai Thru pass

        The information in this website is very useful and helpful. Thank you very much for your sharing.

        • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
          JPRail says:

          Hi Jac,

          First of all, you may purchase ICOCA and Haruka round trip ticket. Even though you will stay in Nagahoribashi where is not JR station, you can get return trip from Tennoji to KIX by Haruka. It’s a big bonus. You can get Tennoji from Nagahoribashi by subway.

          Shichijo is not very far from JR Kyoto station. It’s about 1.3 km and 15 minutes walk. Once you get JR Kyoto station, take JR train to Saga-Arashiyama station. This is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to get there. Of course you can use ICOCA to get the trains.

          I recommend you to use Kansai Thru Pass for day 4, 5 and 6. You might have to take a bus on day 4 to get some places in northern Kyoto. However most of places can be accessed by train.

          It will not be a big saving even if you use Kansai Thru Pass. But I estimate it will be almost same as total single fares. So it’s much easier to travel by pass than single ticket. I think you can make your ICOCA empty on day 2 and day 7.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. reeder says:

    Thanks for the Arashiyama Randen suggestion. I thought Sanjo Keihan to Saga Arashiyama might be the quickest route to Arashiyama based on Hyperdia but Sanjo Keihan to Arashiyama Randen looks to be the better route and will save a lot of walking.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      JPRail says:

      Hi reeder,

      If you take Torokko train, Saga-Arashiyama station is the right place. But Randen’s Arashiyama station is located in the heart of Arashiyama. As you thought, you can save the time.
      Enjoy your stay in Kyoto.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

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