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

Kobe, 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.

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.


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


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.


  1. solitudeofwords – Singapore – Perfectionist. Workaholic. Stressor. Creator. Dreamer. Explorer.
    Ash says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I will be travelling to Japan in these areas:
    Nagoya – Takayama – Matsumoto – Nagano – Kanazawa – Osaka – Kobe – Himeji

    May I know which JR pass will be the most suitable to cover these areas?

    Thanks for your help.


  2. MARINA says:


    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

      Hi Marina,

      I would like to make sure where Kawaguchi is before I answer your inquiry. Do you mean Lake Kawaguchi or another Kawaguchi. Because there are several places which are called Kawaguchi in Japan.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Joyce Yu says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    I will be going to Kyoto 5 days in May. Originally I plan to buy Kansai Area Pass because I want to go to Himeji, Kobe and the pass covers that as well as Haruka express to the airport. But now I want to visit Amanohashidate as well. Kansas Area Pass doesn’t cover that, but Kansai Wide Pass covers that. However, it is quite expensive and doesn’t cover the whole train ticket from Kyoto to Himeji? And it doesn’t make sense to buy 2 passes. Please advise. Thanks!

  4. Rin says:

    Hi Takeshi-san! I will be going to Japan in April 2019 for 10 days (1 day Osaka, 1 day Kyoto and the rest in Tokyo). I’m going to Kyoto from Shin-Osaka station for 1 day only. I don’t purchase JR Pass but can I use PASMO card to travel via the Special Rapid service? Or do I need to purchase individual tickets? Please advice

  5. Sonny says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    We’re traveling from Tokyo to Mikawa-Toyota on Dec 25. Would there be changes on the train schedules during a holiday? Does Shinkansen stops at Toyohashi station?
    Can we use our JR Pass on JR Tokaido Line Special Rapid Service? What platform is the JR Tokaido Line Special Rapid line at Toyohashi station?

  6. SK says:

    Hi, we are visiting Hiroshima from Kyoto, however some are holding JP Rail Pass while others are Kansai Hiroshima Pass and we would like to travel together, please advise the following route from Hyperdia workable for us and any addition cost incur. Thank you.

    Route 1 & 2
    KYOTO to SHIN-OSAKA via JR Special Rapid Service for HIMEJI, transfer to SHINKANSEN SAKURA 547/SHINKANSEN HIKARI 493 (different timing) to HIROSHIMA

  7. Eugene says:

    Hello! In October, after visiting Universal and Dotonbori, we will be very late to return to Kyoto, what time does the last train depart?

  8. chua eileen
    Eileen.C says:

    Hello, I am travelling to Japan in October alone , will be arriving in Kansai airport at 26/10 and leaving on 2/11. Planning to travel around Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and Hiroshima/Miyojima. Is JR pass cover all the journey or any suggestion from you? Thank you for your advice.

  9. Hello, I am travelling to Japan in October with my adult daughter. We intend to travel from Kyoto to Osaka then Osaka to Tokyo. We are thinking the JR special train to Osaka is probably best as it stops at Osaka Station and our hotel is near Namba. Am I right in thinking we cannot reserve seats as this is a regular train? Going to Tokyo we are staying in Ikebukuro and think a shinkansen is the best choice. Is there a service which stops at Ikebukuro or do we need to go to shin Tokyo. We assume a JR pass is not a good choice given we are doing only two journeys. Thank you for your advice.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail.com says:

      Hi Lynne,

      Special rapid is a good choice for traveling from Kyoto to Osaka. It’s a sort of commute trains and reservation is not required. Even if you want, you can’t.

      Shinkansen does not stop at Ikebukuro. But do not go to Tokyo. You can get off Shinkansen at Shinagawa and change to Yamanote line to Ikebukuro. You can take Yamanote line from Tokyo. But if you change these trains at Shinagawa, travel time is a bit shorter.


      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Mary says:

    Hi Takeshi. I’ll be in japan for a week. Will be arriving at Kansai Airport then going directly to Kyoto and will stay there for 3 days. From Kyoto, I’m planning to go to Namba and will stay for 4 days with a side trip to nara. Lastly, from namba going back to kix. Please advise on what ticket should I purchase and for the best routes (subway lines) to consider. Is icoca+haruka (one way) a great deal? Thanks! Much appreciated

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