If you want something different on your trip to Kansai area, Kansai Wide Area Pass is highly recommended. I always recommend to use Kansai Thru Pass and Kansai Area Pass to travel within Kansai area, such as Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Osaka, Wakayama, Himeji. But Kansai Wide Area Pass covers outside these areas, such as Shingu, Okayama, Kinosaki Onsen, Takamatsu. And this pass is valid for 5 days. It makes your trip more interesting.
This will be on sale in March, 2015 and will replace currently selling Sanyo Area Pass. This pass includes all Sanyo Area Pass coverage area, such as Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Hakata. This pass also includes Sanin area (Matsue, Izumo, Tsuwano), Hikone, Maibara, Tsuruga, Wakayama and even part of Shikoku. It is wider coverage area, cheaper price and longer duration.
I published several post about the limited express trains to Sanin area, such as Super Oki, Super Matsukaze, Super Inaba, Super Hakuto and Hamakaze. But there are some more trains from Osaka and Kyoto to Kinosaki-Onsen area. And there are several gateway stations. You might be confused.
Limited Express Super Oki (スーパーおき) is operated between Tottori (鳥取), Yonago (米子) and Shin-Yamaguchi (新山口). This train connects all major cities in Sanin area with Shinkansen station Shin-Yamaguchi. Especially you can access to west part of Sanin area, such as Masuda (益田), Hamada (浜田), Odashi (大田市) where is UNESCO World Heritage Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine gate station, this train is your choice. And you can use this train for transfer among Matsue (松江), Izumoshi (出雲市) and other cities in Sanin area. Other limited express Super Matsukaze is operated between Tottori and Masuda. You can use both trains for inter-city transfer in Sanin area. Moreover don’t forget than Tsuwano (津和野) is on the way. This small town is called “Sanin’s little Kyoto”.
Limited Express Super Matsukaze (スーパーまつかぜ) is operated between Tottori (鳥取), Yonago (米子) and Masuda (益田). This train connects all major cities in Sanin area. Matsue (松江) has castle and Samurai district. Izumoshi (出雲市) is very well known by Japan’s second most important shrine, Izumo Taisha. Odashi (大田市) is a gate station to UNESCO World Heritage Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine. You can travel all these cities by Super Matsukaze. It is no doubt that this train is essential to travel in Sanin area. This train is fully covered by JR pass and JR West Sanyo Sanin Area Pass.
Limited Express Super Inaba (スーパーいなば) connects Okayama (岡山) with Tottori (鳥取). It is connected with Shinkansen and Sunrise Izumo/Sunrise Seto. This is the fastest access to Tottori from Tokyo by Sunrise Seto and Sunrise Izumo. If you access to Tottori from Okayama and to the west from Okayama, such as Hiroshima, Hakara and all places in Kyushu and Shikoku. But this train goes through non JR line, Chizu Kyuko Railway. It is operated on same route as Super Hakuto between Kamigori and Tottori. That means you need to pay extra if you use this train by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t want to pay extra, get on Limited Express Yakumo from Okayama to Yonago and transfer to another Limited Express Super Matsukaze or Limited Express Super Oki to Tottori. However travel time of this combination is at least 1.5 hours longer than Super Inaba. Sometimes it may take more because of connection at Yonago.
Limited Express Super Hakuto (スーパーはくと) connects Kyoto (京都), Shin-Osaka (新大阪), Osaka (大阪), Sannomiya (三ノ宮) and Himeji (姫路) with Tottori (鳥取) and Kurayoshi (倉吉). This it the fastest and most frequent direct train service to Tottori from Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto. But this train goes through non JR line, Chizu Kyuko Railway. That means you need to pay extra if you use this train by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t want to pay extra, Limited Express Hamakaze is available between Osaka and Tottori. However there is only one round trip and travel time is 1.5 hours longer than Super Hakuto.
I think Super Hakuto may be your choice even if you have to pay extra on top of Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see about route, schedule and accommodations.
Route, schedule and travel time
There are seven round trips. Some of these seven round trips go to Tottori only, not Kurayoshi. Kyoto/Osaka – Tottori : 5 trips Kyoto/Osaka – Tottori/Kurayoshi : 2 trips Tottori – Osaka/Kyoto : 6 trips Kurayoshi/Tottori – Osaka/Kyoto : 1 trip
Trains are operated every 2 hours. Travel time is 2 hours 30 minutes from Osaka to Tottori and 3 hours from Kyoto to Tottori. You can take Limited Express Hamakaze without any extra charge on top of Japan Rail Pass. But it takes more than 4 hours to get Tottori from Osaka. I think it is worth getting on this train with extra charge. I will tell you about extra charge later.
If you see the map below, you might think this train’s route seems to be a big detour. However this is the fastest route because Chizu Kyuko line is a high standard track for high speed train operation. And if you travel from Nagoya or Tokyo, you can transfer at Himeji.
Limited Express Super Hakuto makes a stop at these stations: Kyoto (京都) – Shin-Osaka (新大阪) – Osaka (大阪) – Sannomiya (三ノ宮) – Akashi (明石) – Himeji (姫路) – Kamigori (上郡) – Sayo (佐用) – Ohara (大原) – Chizu (智頭) – Koge (郡家) – Tottori (鳥取) – Kurayoshi (倉吉)
Super Hakuto is operated by the Chizu Kyuko Railway’s HOT 7000 series. In ordinary class, the seat configuration is 2+2 and the seat pitch is 970 mm. But Reserved seat is a better seat than non reserved. Green class seat is one of the best seat in Kansai area. The seat configuration is 2+1 and the seat pitch is 1,160 mm. There are only 18 seats available on one train set. It is very popular and sold out very often. On board sales is available between Kamigori and Tottori only.
*G=Green seat R=Reserved ordinary seat NR=Non reserved ordinary seat Smoking is not allowed on this train.
Unfortunately there is no most updated images of ordinary class seats. Please find it at Chizu Kyuko official site. The first seat images are reserved ordinary class seat an next one is non reserved ordinary class seat.