Visit Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Kobe for 5 to 7 days sample itinerary

4 to 6 days
Fushimi Inari shrine is most popular spot in Kyoto in these days. ©Kyoto Convention Bureau /©JNTO
Yasaka shrine in Kyoto Higashiyama area. ©JNTO
Yasaka shrine in Kyoto Higashiyama area. ©JNTO

I have received inquiries about the trip to Kansai area many times. So I make a basic itinerary that includes Kansai area, such as Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Nara only. This is 7 days itinerary. But you can shorten or extend as you can.

Now I would like to tell you the best route and most economical deals about this trip.

Day 1 – Kansai airport (KIX) to Kyoto

Central exit of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail
Central exit of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail

Kansai One Pass and Haruka one way trip to Kyoto at 4,600 yen.
Overnight around JR Kyoto station

If you arrive in Kyoto early, you can visit somewhere around Kyoto station. Fushimi Inari is only 5 minutes away from Kyoto station. Kyoto Tower is just located in front of Kyoto station. You can use Kansai One Pass to get there.

Day 2 and 3 – Sightseeing in Kyoto

Togetsukyo bridge in Arashiyama, Kyoto. ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO
Togetsukyo bridge in Arashiyama, Kyoto. ©Yasufumi Nishi/©JNTO

There are several deals available. I recommend you to use both Kansai One Pass and Kyoto City Bus Pass. Kansai One Pass covers city bus too but Kansai One Pass does not give you unlimited travel. It offers only convenience. On the other hand, Kyoto City Bus Pass is sold at 600 yen for one day. You can take a bus as many as you want. You can get the worth of it by only 3 rides. You can use Kansai One Pass only for taking a train and/or a subway.

Kyoto City Bus and Subway Pass (Kyoto Sightseeing Card) is also available. But this does not cover other railways, such as JR, Hankyu, Keihan railways. You will take various trains in Kyoto. Please see the link below to find the train route in Kyoto:

Kyoto train guide

You can get anywhere in downtown Kyoto by bus. It is possible to visit all places only by city bus. However city bus is always crowded and the traffic in Kyoto has been very heavy in these days. I recommend you to take a train or a subway as much as you can.

Kansai One Pass and Bus Pass are the best combination for sightseeing in Kyoto, in my opinion.

Day 4 – Trip to Nara and transfer to Osaka

Todai-ji temple in Nara  	©Nara Prefecture/©JNTO
Todai-ji temple in Nara ©Nara Prefecture/©JNTO

Visit Nara on the way to Namba, Osaka from Kyoto.

You can take either Kintetsu Railway or JR to get Nara. Both trains depart from Kyoto station. But Kintetsu railway’s Nara station is better location. It is 1 km closer to most of tourist spots in Nara than JR Nara station.

After Nara, you can take either JR or Kintetsu to get Osaka. Please see the link below to find the route to Nara:

Nara access guide

Day 5 – Trip to Kobe and Himeji from Osaka

There are lots of castles in Japan. But Himeji castle is one of four existing original catle buildings. (C) JNTO
There are lots of castles in Japan. But Himeji castle is one of four existing original catle buildings. (C) JNTO

You may use JR Kansai Area Pass one day at 2,200 yen if you book it online in advance. If you buy it online, you have to exchange the pass at Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Kyoto or Kansai airport.

JR West Pass official site

You can purchase this pass at many major stations in downtown Osaka but the price is a bit higher. There is other trains to Kobe and Himeji, like Hanshin railway. But JR is the fastest to get Himeji. Please see the post, How to access to Himeji and Kobe from Osaka to get the details.

Day 6 – Sightseeing in Osaka

Dotonbori is very popular place to eat and shop near Namba. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Dotonbori is very popular place to eat and shop near Namba. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

There are lots of deals available in Osaka. Please see the link below to find the deal:

How to choose the pass for sightseeing in Osaka

Day 7 – Osaka to Kansai airport (KIX)

If you want to take Haruka again, you can purchase Haruka discount ticket. This discount ticket is available for overseas tourist who has ICOCA or Kansai One Pass only.

ICOCA and Haruka, Kansai One Pass and Haruka

Otherwise you can choose other deal in the link below:

How to choose the deal for trip to/from KIX

I hope this sample helps you to build your trip plan.


  1. Detty says:

    HI Takeshi,
    We will stay in Osaka for 4 days since we have points in Hilton Hotel in Osaka.
    From Osaka, we plan to take day trips for 2 days to Kyoto. We want to visit Gion, Sagano, Arashiyama and some other places of interest.
    Is it cheaper to buy Kansai Thru pass or individual tickets as needed?
    Also, we will stay 2 nights in Hakone. If we just want to take the Hakone ropeway and the tozan rail car, is it better to buy tickets or hakone free pass?
    Thank you

    • HI Detty,

      Kansai thru pass is the best choice. This pass covers both Osaka-Kyoto (by Hankyu or Keihan) and subways/buses in Kyoto.

      In Hakone Hakone free pass it too much. Single ticket is okay.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Evelyn says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    May i know the diffrent for “KANSAI THRU PASS” and “ICOCA&HARUKA” ?

    This trip i’ll visit the osaka,kyoto n kobe.
    Arriving kansai airport on 18May @2235

  3. Lai Fong says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I bought the flight ticket to Japan and it will be arrived on 2/3/15 at 10.25pm at kansai international airport. I just wondering is that any public transportation can direct go to kyoto at this time-late night? I will stay in Japan at 2/3/2015 -7/3/2015. My departure flight back will be at 7/3/2015 11.35pm. I plan to cover kyoto,nara,osaka and kobe. My trip will be a budget trip.Any recommended budget pass should i buy? Which area nearby station should i book for my backpacker in kyoto,osaka,nara in order for me to easy access to the public transportation such as railway,train.i am looking forward your kind reply. thank you.

  4. Nur Hafidzah says:


    Planning to visit Osaka from 21/11/2014 to 26/11/2014 and will be staying at the Serenite Umedakita Hotel for the entire trip.However I would like to visit nearby cities like Kyoto, Kobe or Nara and spend sometime at the universal Studio Osaka and sight seeing the City of Osaka. Could you suggest the better arrangement to optimise my stay.There will be just the two of us..with me is an 8 year old boy.

    Thank you.

  5. Yap Eng Hui says:

    Hello Takeshi San,

    Just done with my hotel booking in Kyoto n Tokyo…

    Here is tentatively my itinerary
    12th Feb – landing at KIX. Haruka express to Kyoto Station.
    – Walk around attraction around probably fushimi inari
    – Race registration for Kyoto Marathon
    – check in Kyoto century hotel. Light n easy

    13/14th feb- Days trip to Osaka
    15th feb – Kyoto Marathon / Evening West Kyoto Kiyomizudera

    17th/18th feb – Day trip to Kobe, Himeji, Okayama, Kushashiki

    19th Feb Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo. Visit Odaiba, race check in for tokyo marathon

    20th feb – Joetsu SHinkanse to Gala yuzawa. Spend a night
    21th feb – Travel to niigata, then SL Bantetsu to Aizu Wakatsu n then to Koriyama n back Tokyo

    22th Feb – Tokyo Marathon. Evening light n easy tokyo

    23th Feb – Nagano Shinkansen – Visit Jigokudani Snow monkey- Day trip
    24th Feb – Keisei Skyliner to Narita. Fly home

    My plan tentatively…. Will probably cut short one day in kyoto n go tokyo instead, because young family, not likely kids will enjoy temple n shrine. Mom has slight problem with legs, can’t walk too much, especially visit temple in Kyoto might be tough for her…

    Please share your thoughts on this… I plan to take Jr East pass in tokyo, Jr West kansai wide, Haruka Icoca… Then will see what I need in Osaka n Kyoto to travel around

    • Hi Yap,

      ICOCA and Haruka is a good choice. And you can use JR Pass 7 days from Feb 17 to the end. It covers all trips for this period. If you use Kansai wide area pass and JR East Pass, you have to add single fare from Kyoto to Tokyo by Shinkansen. But JR Pass does cover this trip. It’s much cheaper. And you can take Narita Express instead of Skyliner. Narita Express is covered too.

      I agree with your opinion. Kids cannot enjoy shrine and temple so much. If you take them to Fushima and some popular sites, like Golden Pavilion or Kiyomizudera, that is enough. USJ or Toky Disney Resort is much more exciting for kids. But it does not meet to your mother in my opinion. It’s very hard to match for both demands.

      In Kyoto, Arashiyama is recommended too. You can take Torokko train (Sagano Scenic Railway) and rapid trip by boat is very recommended. You don’t need to walk and both kids and your mother can enjoy. But it’s winter season. So check the weather and decide it to go or not.

      I think SL Banetsu does not run in February. Usually it runs between April and November.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Yap Eng Hui says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        Right after I wrote to u, I check the cost of TOkaido line from Kyoto n Tokyo, and then check the price of Jr Pass.. I agree with u that JR pass is a better option since Tokaido line Hikari can be used. Will change my itinerary a bit.

        Will change 16th Feb to Himeji/Okayama, which supposed to be a day in Kyoto… Then 17th add a day in Nagoya, n spend a night there. Nagoya port is in my mind especially the Antartic museum n Fuji Icebreaker. Maglev n SHinkansen close tuesday, so will go early wednesday morning 18th, before proceed to Tokyo a day earlier, as opposed to 19th in the original plan… Move everything earlier for yuzamwa, n niigata n a day trip to nagano on 21st… Sunday Tokyo marathon n Monday light travelling in Tokyo metropolitan…

        Few questions that I ‘m unable to find, hope can get answer from u… Does JR pass cover train ticket for SL Banetsu? Is Nabano No Sato light illumination still available ? Doesn’t seems to be in any official guide, but only in pass blog achieve…

        Ya, was excited to see Sagano romantic train, but found out that the train is off season during january n february… Boat ride I think too hardcore for my young kids, 4 n 5 only.

        Thanks again. Really appreciate your feedback… You enlighten me a lot.

      • Yap Eng Hui says:

        Sorry didn’t see your last sentence about Banetsu. Certainly a big disappointment not able to ride on one, since my son love it so much.

        Will not go Universal City n Disney. Not really keen, considering Japan is a sacred ground for anime… We did tried to get ticket for Ghibli museum earlier this year when visited Tokyo, but no luck, ticket all sold out

        • Hi Yap,

          Nabano no Sato will have winter illumination event from Dec to end of March. So you can enjoy it. You can get English and other language brochure by PDF.

          As you mentioned, Sagano train will not run in Feb. It was out of my mind. Sorry for unnecessary info.

          I have taken my daughter to Ghibli museum in last year. She was 4 years old at that time. She enjoyed short film movie (appx 10 minuted in Japanese) and huge “Neko Bus” (from Totoro) play area. But in my opinion, that museum is designed for matured visitors. Most of exhibitions are very artistic. It is okay but honestly it’s not very suitable for small kids.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Yap says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Enjoy reading your blog, very informative… I will be travelling to Japan in 2015 for Kyoto Marathon n Tokyo Marathon… Arriving 12th Feb Morning at KIX… Was thinking about spending Thursday n Friday in Osaka, n Saturday afternoon travel to Kyoto. Plan to stay a couple of days in Kyoto for sight seeing after marathon… Thinking about day trip to Kobe, Himeji, Okayama… Hope to leave for Tokyo Thursday morning. I’m wondering which pass should I can… Haruka+Icoca once I touch down, and then Jr West Wide pass from sunday onwards? Can JR pass be used in subway, tram or local bus in Kyoto n Osaka.

    Thanks in advance

  7. wina says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’ll be arriving at KIX early in the morning. The plan is to go to Rinku Premium Outlet whilst waiting for check in time. Planning to take the bus from KIX to Rinku but wanted to know if i buy Icoca + Haruka return ticket, can i use it from Rinku station and take the train straight to Osaka Station. I do not want to waste time to take the bus back to KIX and take the Haruka from there.

    Appreciate your advice. Thank you in advance!


    • Hi Wina,

      I think you have to go back to KIX station. I am not 100% sure but this ticket is issued for departure from KIX.
      And also Haruka does not stop at Rinku station. If you want to take Haruka, you have to go back to KIX anyway. If you want to take a train from Rinku, use single fare to take regular trains and purchase ICOCA card itself. That will be cheaper.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Wina says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for your reply. Going back to KIX from Osaka Station at the end of my trip, i can just use the ICOCA card?

        My plan for the week is as below.
        Day 1 – Arrival, RinkuTown, Osaka
        Day 2 – Day trip to Kyoto (mainly central Kyoto)
        Day 3 – USJ and Osaka City
        Day 4 – Osaka city
        Day 5 – Day trip to Kobe
        Day 6 – Departure

        I will stay around Osaka Station. In your opinion, should I take the Kansai Thru Pass (is it worth the cost)? I am planning to take the Osaka Amazing Pass for my Day 4.

        Thank you.


        • Hi Wina,

          At this point, only day 2 will meet to Kansai Thru Pass. If you take subway many times (maybe 5 or more times) on day 1, you can use 2 days pass for day 1 and 2.
          Or if you make a lot of trips by subway in Osaka after you come back from Kobe on day 5, you can use Kansai Thru Pass for day 2 and 5

          If you are very sensitive for the budget, Kansai Thru Pass is not recommended. But if you have this pass, it makes your trip be very easy. You can get Kobe, Kyoto and can take subway in Osaka as many as you want.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Gwen says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I am planning for a 7-8 days (still deciding) to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara & Kobe in coming December. Below is my tentative plan. I will be staying in Osaka as a friend is staying there, so I am thinking of doing day trips to those above places.

    Day 1: Arrive Osaka
    Day 2: Day trip to Kyoto to visit the temples then back to Osaka
    Day 3: Day trip to Kyoto to visit more temples then back to Osaka
    Day 4: Day Trip to Kyoto to visit more temples then back to Osaka
    Day 5: Day Trip to Nara and back to Osaka
    Day 6: Day Trip to Kobe and back to Osaka
    Day 7: Explore Osaka
    Day 8: Explore Osaka
    Day 9: Early flight back home

    Just wonder if 3 days in Kyoto is too much to spend time on and if there’s any other places that you would recommend so that I can make full use of my Kansai Thru Pass and JR West Pass. I know Himeji is under construction till March 2015 so I guess no point visiting it.

    While in Kyoto, as I am planning for 3 day trips there, do I need to get a bus pass so that easier for me to move around with buses? What pass do I need to get or Kansai Thru Pass is good enough for it?

    Speaking of these Passes, while reading your blog article, it seems these 2 passes are the most useful, however may I check with you looking at my itinerary above, do u recommend me to get both passes?? If you do, how many day of Kansai Thru Pass and JR West Pass are good for me? I will most probably stay at Osaka (Umeda).

    As I am staying at Umeda, it seems Kansai Rapid Service would be the best choice for me to travel from KIX-Osaka-KIX, so may I also check with you for Kansai Rapid Service, how do I get about buying the pass and if there is any pass that u would recommend me to use for that? or Round trip fare would be a better choice for me?

    This will be my first time in Japan, so I am kind of lost looking at the subways, railway passes etc. So really need your help to guide me through.

    Thanks so much!! Hope to hear from you soon!

    • Hi Gwen,

      You can visit Himeji now. It’s still under construction partially but you can see “Pure White” exterior. It’s getting darker and darker. This white Himeji castle can be seen right after exterior renovation. It’s now to see it.

      If you go to Kyoto for 3 days, you can use 3 days Kansai Thru Pass. You don’t need to add any other passes.

      In my opinion, you don’t need to purchase any other passes other than some deals in Osaka, like Eco card (Osaka subway pass) or Osaka Amazing pass (if you visit many places in Osaka). Even for trip to Kobe and Nara, single fare is cheaper than other deals.

      For Kansai Airport Rapid, single fare is the cheapest.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Jade says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    We will b arriving in kansai airport on 19sep n stay in Hotel Monterey La Soeur Osaka for 4 nights. We intend to travel to kyoto and nara within these few days in osaka. Thereafter we will travel to kobe n stay at Oriental hotel for 3 nights. What is yr advice whether to buy any pass? Tia

  10. Kiki says:

    hi Takeshi,
    We are going to Osaka, Nara (with a day trip to Iga) and mount Koya 28 sept to 5 oct.
    Should we take JP rail pass?
    I read your post about Koyasan-World heritage ticket. How does it work if we buy JP rail pass?
    Could you please advise us on how to travel economically between these places?

    Thank you so much!


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