JR Special Rapid Service, most useful train among Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji.

Many passengers are waiting for Special Rapid Service in Osaka station. Special Rapid is very popular for both commuters and the travelers.

Special Rapid Service is the fastest local train that is operated between Tsuruga (=敦賀) and Kamigori (=上郡) via Kyoto (=京都), Shin-Osaka (=新大阪), Osaka (=大阪), Sannomiya (=三ノ宮), Kobe (=神戸) and Himeji (=姫路). Especially JR West compete with Hankyu (=阪急) and Keihan (=京阪) between Kyoto and Osaka, with Hankyu and Hanshin (=阪神) between Osaka and Kobe. So JR West have to offer fast and good quality of services. As a result, the time required by this train is faster than Shinkansen between Osaka and Kyoto. Since Shinkansen do not have a station in downtown Kobe, this trains is faster than Shinkansen between Osaka and Kobe too. Of course this train is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see the details.

Route, schedule and travel time

Special Rapid Service runs the route and stop at these stations in the map below:

Operation route map (Click to view large)

In day time, Special Rapid Service train runs every 15 minutes between Yasu and Himeji. Some of this train services are extended service to Mabara, Nagahama, Tsuruga to east, and Banshu-Ako, Aboshi and Kamigori to west.

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Hotels in Kobe
Hotels in Himeji

When you move between Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Himeji, this train service is a primary choice. If you take Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, it takes only 13 minutes. It seems to be much faster than Shin-Osaka. But you have to change trains at Shin-Osaka if you go to somewhere in Osaka. You have to spend 10 more minutes to transfer at Shin-Osaka. Unless your destination is Shin-Osaka, Special Rapid is more convenient.

If you go to Kobe, it takes 15 minutes by Shinkansen. But Shin-Kobe station on Shinkansen is not located in downtown. You need to take subway to Sannomiya.

Even in case of going to Himeji, it may be very close. It takes 30 minutes by Shinkansen and takes 1 hour by Special Rapid. But if you take Shinkansen, you must get Shin-Osaka first. And Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Himeji does not run very frequently. It depends on your schedule in this case. If Shinkansen’s timetable fits in your schedule, take Shinkansen. Otherwise take Special Rapid Service.

Accommodation

Special Rapid Service is operated by 223 or 225 series. 225 is newer but the seat layout and the interior are same.

Images

Interior
Seat layout
The washroom is equipped in this train set.
Information screen is equipped and it is shown in a few languages.

In these above photos, the train is empty. But please see the photo below. This is the real shot. This is not the morning and evening peak times. It is a daytime scene. But this train is very busy even other than the peak hours.

260 thoughts on “JR Special Rapid Service, most useful train among Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji.”

  1. Hi, hope you are well. I am trying to figure it out if a pass is convenient or should i forget it an buy individual tickets, but only for the Kansai area as i don’t think anything else is worth the price, so could you please guide me with Kansai only?.
    My itinerary is the following: 4 nights Osaka/4 nights Kyoto (the rest is Hakone and Tokyo)
    Day 1: Arrive 20:45 hs to Kansai International Airport (2nd Nov). I need to get a train to Nakazakicho Station area (as closest i can get).
    Day 2: Just hang around Osaka (Jet lag probably). I will take some tubes probably.
    Day 3: Himeji from Osaka early in the morning – return. I might do an stopover in Kobe on my way back.
    Day 4: Nara return. Osaka in the evening (tubes as well).
    Day 5: Go to Kyoto, sightseeing in the are for 4 nights.
    Then i travel from Kyoto to Hanoke, staying one night and finally to Tokyo. I will return from Tokyo to UK.
    I have already seen that if i buy a one day pass for 2500 yenes that will cover the train to Himeji and i would be making a saving only with that one.
    But i was wondering if a 3 days pass or 2 day pass is worth it. Thank you very much.

    1. Hi Gonzalo,

      For the first day, you may use Nankai railway + subway combo deal. This is most affordable choice to get Nakazakicho:
      https://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/chikatoku.html

      For day 2, you may add one of the local deal as you need:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      For day 3 to 5, you have two choices, Kansai thru pass or Kansai area pass:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Kansai area pass covers basically JR trains only but in Kyoto, you can take subway and Keihan railway. It covers most part of Kyoto. You can take Special rapid between Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Himeji. You will stay in Nakazakicho which is subway station. You must pay a regular fare to get Higashi-Umeda from Nakazakicho whenever you use Kansai area pass. This pass does not cover subway.

      Kansai thru pass covers other than JR. It means that this pass covers subway in Osaka. You can start using this from Nakazakicho. But you have to take Hanshin railway and Sanyo railway to get Himeji. It’s much slower than JR Special rapid:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/how-to-access-to-himeji-and-kobe-from-osaka.html

      Kansai area pass is better than Kansai thru pass. But when you go to Nara, you can take subway and Kintetsu railway. You can get Nara by Kansai area pass but you have to pay for Nakazakicho to Higashi-Umeda. And also Kintetsu Nara station is better location than JR Nara station:
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/subway/how-to-access-to-nara-by-japan-rail-pass-if-you-dont-use-jr-pass-kintetsu-railway-is-more-convenient.html

      For the trip to Kyoto from Osaka, Kansai area pass is better if you stay near Kyoto station. If you stay near subway or non JR railway station, Kansai thru pass is better choice.

      Anyway, I recommend you to use either Kansai thru pass 3-day or Kansai area pass 3-day. But you must visit a few places in Kyoto on the day when you get there. It’s hard to say which one is better. If I were you, I go for Kansai area pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi San,

    Can you advice what is the best pass I should get if my itinerary is as below:

    Arriving and departing: Nagoya
    Places to travel: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara

    We will be arriving at Nagoya, then wanting to travel to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Final day travel back to Nagoya to take our flight. Is there a pass that can cover all areas?

      1. Hi Takeshi san,

        Thank you for the advice.

        I took a look at the Kintetsu pass, seems that it uses local train, the traveling time is long.

        Is there any pass that allows us to use shinkansen so the traveling between these cities: Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara would be faster?

        Or what do you advice for a shorter traveling plan?

        Thank you.

        1. Hi Sylvia san,

          There is no deals to cover all places. But you may use Flex Rail Ticket Osaka or Kyoto. You can get round trip to Osaka or Kyoto from Nagoya by the Shinkansen.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/flex-rail-ticket-the-tokaido-shinkansen-round-trip-deal-between-tokyo-shin-yokohama-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-for-all-of-you.html

          This deal covers the round trip only. You have to add the fare for Osaka to Kyoto (or versa) and Kyoto or Osaka to Nara. You may be able to use Kansai thru pass or Kansai area pass:
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

          And also please see the link below. If you add the limited express fee on top of Kintetsu rail pass, the trip time to Osaka is not bad. Especially if you want to get Namba in Osaka, Kintetsu is not a bad choice.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/how-to-transfer-between-nagoya-and-osaka-kyoto-by-train.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Dear Takeshi san,

    I need your advice on determining which JR Pass works best for my itinerary below. I will be arriving August 4th into Osaka and flying out of Tokyo on August 17th.

    4 days in Osaka with 2 day trips (Aug 4 to 7):
    –>1) Aug 6 Nara and 2) Aug 7 Himeji Castle and on the way back to Osaka, a stopover in Kobe)
    4 days in Kyoto (Aug 8 to 11)
    5 days in Tokyo (Aug 12 to 17)

    Because I fly into Osaka and fly out of Tokyo, the 7 day JR Pass is not economical. I am not sure if the 5 day Kansai Wide Area pass is better or the 3 day Kansai Area Pass works.

    5 Day Kansai Wide Area – I would activate the pass on Day 1 to transfer from Kansai airport to Shin-Osaka station and on Day 5, I would use to get to Kyoto. I would purchase a separate JR ticket to travel from Kyoto to Tokyo and for the airport transfer from Tokyo. This pass does not allow reserved seating – can I pay extra to reserve?

    3 Day Kansai Area pass – I would activate this pass on Day 6 so that this pass will work for Rapid Service for travel to Nara, Day 7 to Himeji and Kobe and Day 8 to Kyoto. I would pay separate JR tickets for the transfer from Kansai airport to Shin-Osaka and for Kyoto to Tokyo and for the airport transfer from Tokyo. From your comments above, I would not need to use the shinkansen lines or the express lines. My concern is that you mention this line is very busy – am I able to pay extra to reserve seats?

    If I purchase individual tickets for the above itinerary, the savings are not so much but I think the other benefits of a JR pass is that I have access to the Osaka Loop and the Yamanote Line.

    Thank you very much for your advice and time.

    Best regards,

    Julie

    1. Hi Julie san,

      If you want the most affordable way, Kansai area pass is the best choice. But this pass does not cover any express trains except Haruka. If you use this pass, you should use it for KIX to Shin-Osaka, trip to Himeji and Kobe, and trip to Nara in the first 3 days of your trip.

      If you want to use Kansai Wide Area Pass, you must take the Shinkansen to Himeji. Otherwise it is very hard to get the worth of it. You also must take Haruka from KIX to Shin-Osaka. And you can take Haruka from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto and avoid taking the other commute trains.

      Please do not think about the reserved seat. Because if you want to reserve a seat by Kansai Wide Area Pass, you have to pay the full fare of the reserved seat fee. This extra charge is not the difference between the reserved seat fee and the non reserved seat fee. Even though Kansai Wide Area Pass includes the non reserved seat fee, you have to pay the full fare of the reserved seat fee. As a result, you cannot get the worth of it.

      And you will travel in the busy period.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/travel-tips/2019-busiest-period-to-travel-by-train-tips-to-book-your-seat-in-even-during-the-busy-period.html

      If you can use the app in the link below, you can reserve the Shinkansen seat in advance:
      https://smart-ex.jp/en/index.html

      If you use JR pass, you have to travel more. You must have at least one big day trip from either Tokyo or Osaka, such as the day trip to Hiroshima, day trip to Kanazawa.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-osaka-or-kyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-tokyo.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kurobe-tateyama-alpine-route-from-tokyo.html

      If you can add one of these above travels, you can use JR pass 7-day. Even if you add this, you still can get the worth of 7-day pass only. 14-day pass is still too much. So you can use JR pass 7-day in the middle of your travel and it must cover Kyoto to Tokyo and one of these travels.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hihi
    I will be travelling to osaka in jun with a group of 4.we would like to do a 1 day tour in between to kyoto to visit places like nishiki markets and Kiyomizu-dera. I saw that special rapid service could bring me from osaka to kyoto but im little bit confused whether do i need to get the jr pass in order to take the special rapid or? And do you have any recommendation on any rail pass to travel within osaka?

    Thanks and warm regards
    Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica,

      I think you meant that JR pass is Kansai area pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      I don’t think that you need this because you cannot get the worth of this. If you travel to other places outside Osaka, like Nara, Himeji, you may consider to use this pass. If you want to take Special Rapid to get Kyoto and visit a few places in Kyoto, you can use a regular fare to take Special rapid and you can use one day city bus pass in Kyoto.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Or you may use other deal if you can take other trains to get Kyoto such as Keihan railway. Please see the links below to find more info:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html

      Please see the link below to find the deal for Osaka:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. hi
        thanks lot for getting back.
        can i check how much is the regular fare for special rapid and how do i go about purchasing it?

        Thanks!
        Jessica

        1. Hi Jessica,

          It’s just 560 yen for one way. You can find the fare at hyperdia:
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

          Just go to the station and purchase a ticket at the vending machine. You can use IC card, such as ICOCA, Kansai one pass instead of purchasing a ticket one by one.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/what-is-ic-card-suica-icoca-pasmo-how-to-use-these-cards.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi San,
    We will be a group of 9 Adults and 1 Kid aged 6, going to Kyoto-Kobe-Osaka-Nara for 8D7N Self Tour on 25/5-1/6/2019
    Arrival and Departure at Kansai International Airport.
    Our itinerary will be follow
    25/5 Arrival at KIX around 10am to Kyoto. Nearest station would be Karasuma Oinke Station 3N stay in Nishiki Market Area visiting Arashiyama, Sagano Scenic Railway, Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizudera, Higashiyama, Gion, Potoncho, Nishiki Market

    28/5 Depart from Kyoto to Kobe, Jr Sannomiya Station for 1N visiting Chinatown and all other nearby Attractions

    29/5 Depart from Kobe to Osaka, Shinsaibashi Station for 3N-exploring Osaka Castle, Shinsekai Market, Tsutenkaku Tower, Umeda Sky Building,Dotonbori, shinsaibashi, namba, kuromon Ichiba Market.
    Will have a side day visit to Nara from Shinsaibashi Station.
    1/6- Depart from Shinsaibashi Station to Kansai International Airport in the early morning by 7am flight is 10am.
    May we know is it much convenient to take airport limousine to Kyoto and from Osaka to Kansai Airport considering our 10 persons in the group and big luggage instead of HARUKA?
    Which pass is best suitable for us to travel with that itinerary with the nearest to all attractions and most cost savings.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Tricxie san,

      You may take the limousine bus to get Kyoto from KIX.

      In Kyoto, you may use subway and bus pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      But this pass does not cover other than subway and city bus. Please purchase Kansai one pass for riding other than subway and city bus.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Please use Kansai one pass for Kyoto to Kobe, Kobe to Osaka and trip to Nara.

      You can find some deals for Osaka in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi, I’ll be visiting Japan in few days. It’s my first time to travel there and I have planned my itinerary. It’ll be 3D/Osaka, 1D/Kyoto, the rest will be in Tokyo. I’m just a little confuse with the trains, which should I take going to Kyoto from Osaka and also which train to ride going back. Then what will be the first and last time of trip schedule. I’ll be glad for your response!

    1. Hi Arianna,

      There are a few routes between Osaka and Kyoto, such as JR (Special Rapid), Keihan railway and Hankyu railway. It depends on which part of Osaka you leave and which part of Kyoto you want to go. You may find some more info in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      The trains run from around 5:30 to midnight.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail

  7. Hello Takeshi San,

    I wanted to find out if it is worth getting the 14 day JR Pass?

    We will be flying in to Haneda and travelling to Tokyo(3nights), Hakone (2nights), Kyoto(4nights), Osaka (4nights), and back to Tokyo (3nights).

    I am going to get the Hakone 2days pass. But I am wanting to find out for Tokyo does the JR pass covers metro stations or is it advisable to get the local train ticket? Also, will I have to get an independent train ticket for local Metro stations for Osaka too?

    Thank you very much for all your help.

    Kind regards
    Charmian

    1. Hi Charmian san,

      14-days JR pass is too expensive for your trip. Because 7-day pass price is almost same as the round trip fare between Tokyo and Osaka. You cannot get the worth of 14-day pass at this point. If you add one long day trip, you can get the worth. Please see a few samples in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-tokyo.html

      If you don’t want to add this kind of a big day trip, you have to use a regular fare ticket for city to city and add a local deal, such as Hakone Free Pass, subway pass in each locations.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi San,

        Thank you very much for your reply and advice! I kinda forgot about the plan to do a day trip to Hiroshima/ Miyajima. Is it better to do the day trip out from Kyoto or Osaka?

        We have plans to do day trip to Kobe, Nara, Hiroshima.

        We have 4nights in both Kyoto and Osaka. If we do the big day trip as suggested, the14 day JR pass should be worth it?

        Thank you again Takeshi San!

        Kind regards
        Charmian

          1. Hi Takeshi san

            Thank you!

            By the way, travelling locally around Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, would the JR pass cover it or would I need to get a local train ticket in each area? I have been advised for Osaka I will need to get a local metro ticket?

            Thank you again for all your help!

            Kind regards
            Charmian

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