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. shmopa
    EMILY says:

    Hello! Your blog is very helpful.

    Can you help advise if the JR West Hiroshima Pass is ideal for my itinerary?

    26 December – Osaka Airport to Kyoto
    29 December – Kyoto to Hiroshima (+overnight in Miyajima)
    30 December – Hiroshima to Osaka
    1 January – Osaka to Kobe return day trip
    3 January – Osaka to KIX Airport

    I’ve been told to get the Haruka+ICOCA pass but why can’t I just use the JR West Hiroshima pass?

  2. Silvia S. says:

    Hi Takeshi San, hope you’re doing well.

    Wanna ask your opinion about my trip this end of Oct. I already bought JR Hokuriku Arch Pass for 7days in hoping I’m not buying the wrong pass (I mean coz I’m not buying general JR Pass).

    Here’s my itinerary (28/10/2019 – 09/11/2019)
    Day 1 : arrived at KIX, go to hotel (near Nippombashi station), go to Kaiyukan Aquarium, back to hotel
    Day 2 : Osaka – Nara – Osaka
    Day 3 : USJ
    Day 4 : Osaka to Kyoto (hotel near Omiya Station)
    Day 5 : Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera & around)
    Day 6 : Kyoto to Kanazawa (hotel near Kanazawa Station) see around Higashi Cahaya District & Omicho Market
    Day 7 : to Kurobe Gorge & Toyama, then back to Kanazawa
    Day 8 : to Shirakawago, back to Kanazawa, then go to Tokyo (hotel near Asakusa)
    Day 9-10 : around Tokyo
    Day 11 : Fuji
    Day 12-13 : around Tokyo, flight back from Haneda

    I’m thinking of start using JR Hokuriku Arch Pass from the day Kyoto to Kanazawa trip. Is it a right decision?

    And I have some other questions (sorry if I have too many questions).
    – The 7 consecutive days JR pass should be used everyday? What if I use it at day 1&2, not in day 3? I still can use on day 4 right? It’s just I lost a day to use it?
    – Can I get reserved seats with JR Hokuriku Arch Pass?
    – Base on your opinion, is there any other pass I should buy?
    – Any advice about exciting place or city to visit which is maybe just about 1 hour away from Tokyo?

    Many thank’s to you for your help 🙂

  3. Hello Takeshi san,

    I figured I would try my luck and try to get your recommendation. I will be going to Japan and was wondering if the JR pass would be worth it. Based on ticket fares that I get from HyperDia, the answer is that it is not worth it, but I’ve read many comments saying it is worth it if you have one long trip. Here is my schedule.
    Day 1 – Narita airport to Tokyo (days 1-5 I will just be in Tokyo and visit Disneyland 2 days)
    Day 6 – Tokyo to Kyoto
    Day 8 – Day trip to Osaka
    Day 11 – Kyoto to Tokyo
    Day 13 – Tokyo to Narita airport

    Thank you in advance for you input.

  4. Gonzalo says:

    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.

  5. Sylvia says:

    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?

  6. Julie says:

    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,


  7. 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

  8. trickytrix13
    Tricxie says:

    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.

  9. Arianna says:

    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!

  10. Charmian says:

    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

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