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

Kobe, Himeji
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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.

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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.

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.

Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    Hi am planning to go to Kyoto and Osaka this September with my family.
    We will be staying overnight at Arashiyama area before going to Osaka for 3 day stay. And from Osaka to Kansai airport.
    Since we have big luggages with us, what area in Osaka is more convenient for us to stay? Accessible from Arashiyama and also going to Kansai Airport.
    Thank you for your advise

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

      Hi Jonathan,

      I think Umeda is the best because you can get there from Arashiyama by Hankyu railway.
      When you go to KIX, you can take JR local train to Shin-Osaka and then take Haruka directly to KIX.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Jas says:

    Hi,

    I am planning to stay in Osaka and travel to Kyoto for day trips and I have some questions regarding this special rapid service:

    1) Do I need to book the seats in advance, or do i just board the train?

    2) Can i use the SUICA/ICOCA card for this train? I have a Suica card with me

    3) Is there a timetable for this special rapid service? I tried searching at the JR website but all I found was the Thunderbird one..

    Thanks!

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

      Hi Jas,

      It’s commute train. In daytime, it’s coming in every 15 minutes. So you cannot book it and just take a train. You may not be able to get a seat because it is commute train.
      You can use both Suica or ICOCA to take this train. If you use Hyperdia, you can find it. But it’s coming every 15 mintues. So don’t worry about timetable. If you take it from Osaka, it departs usually at :00, :15, :30 and :45.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Tay says:

    Hi, really appreciate your help as this would be my first tIme to Osaka.

    1. My flight touches down at kansai international airport on 1May at 9.30pm. With immigration clearance, I would probably be out after 10pm. What train can I take to JR Fukushima area? I am worried that some train services end at 10pm.

    2. I intend to spend 9 days touring osaka, kyoto and Nara. I plan to move to stay in Kyoto for a few days. Would you suggest that I get rail pass? If so, what kind of rail pass? I am really confused by the various types of passes.

    Thank you so much!

  4. Livia says:

    Hi, I’m planning to visit Kyoto in August for my pre-wedding photo shooting. From the info that provided from your website is absolutely very helpful, thank you. Would like to confirm with you regards:

    1. From OSAKA AIRPORT take [25 Min]* to OSAKA [ Departure track No.8 ] via Bus in Airport, then following to KYOTO via JR Special Rapid Service [ Arrival track No.2 ] in [29 Min]. Am i understand your post correctly?

    2. I’m will be stay at Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto in Kyoto Central, which i see the nearest transport is Gojo Subway Station (0.1 Km) away from Hotel. So, When i arrived KYOTO track No.2, i have to board on rail/train down to GOJO Subway Station?

    3. I checked online which i can hire a private driver and daily charges for the tour is 4500Yen, do you recommend i should hire the driver as convenient transportation or purchase the Japan Rail Pass for 2 days would be better?

    4. Is there any prohibited to take wedding photos in public tourist area such as Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Golden (& Silver) Pavilion, Ryoan-ji rock gaeden, Sanjyusangen-do, Nijo castle, Imperial palace, Heian Shrine, Nanzen-ji, Tenryu-ji ?

    Looking forward to your soonest reply. Thank you very much! Arigato!

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

      Hi Livia,

      1. Check information board and sign before take train. Special Rapid runs every 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes it depart from different platform. There are a big information board at the ticket gate. You cannot miss it.

      2. That’s right. Gojo station is one station away from JR Kyoto station by subway Karasuma line.

      3. It depends on your plan. As long as you travel in Kyoto, you don’t need to purchase JR Pass. Subway and city bus day pass is enough.
      http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html

      4. I don’t exactly know about it. Some temples and shrine do not allow photo shooting inside of the building. But usually it is no problem at the outside of the building. But please make sure and ask to each temples and shrine. And since there are lots of tourists, it may be hard to take a photo. If you need to secure some space, you should contact temples and shrines before you go.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Jess says:

    If I purchase a JR rail pass for travel to other cities like nagoya, takayama, when back to osaka, do I still need to purchase the JR west thru pass for the last few days travel within kyoto and osaka? What type of pass I can purchase to cover the train & subway for travel in osaka and kyoto?

  6. kristine says:

    does the jr special rapid service have luggage space?
    i will be travelling from kyoto to osaka with a medium size luggage and hyperdia suggests the route kyoto station to shin-osaka stn. using the jr special rapid service.

  7. cheryl says:

    hi, i’m traveling to osaka, kobe & kyoto.. and thinking about buying the 3 day pass.. but does this pass cover travelling within osaka area? for example chuo subway line?

  8. CR says:

    Many thanks for your rail information. I understand that if I am travelling to Kyoto from Hakata
    using a JRWest Sanyo pass, I transfer at Osaka-shin station by going to the ground floor using my pass and go to line 13 or 14…..is this correct?

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

      Hi CR,

      Yes. You can transfer the way that you think.
      As you know, JR West Sanyo Pass do not cover even basic fare from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto. So you can purchase the ticket at Shin-Osaka or pay later when you exit from Kyoto station.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Tuan says:

    What’s is the fastest way to get from Kyoto to Kobe. I have a 13:05 flight out of Kobe to Sapporo, approximately at what time would I need to leave Kyoto and which trainline would I need?

    Do I catch the Rapid Express from Kyoto to Sannomiya then Sannomiya to Kobe airport via airport transfer. Total travelling time is approximately 80 – 90 minutes?

    How often do the trains run and link to timetable for the Rapid Express

    Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    Regards,

    Tuan

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

      Hi Tuan,

      It takes 48 minutes to get Sannomiya from Kyoto by Special Rapid train. Transfer to Port Liner (other train) from Sannomiya to Kobe airport. It takes 18 minutes.
      Special Rapid is operated every 15 minutes. Port Liner is operated every 8 to 10 minutes. You should expect to spend 10 minutes to transfer at Sannomiya. So 90 minutes is enough.
      We do not have any online timetable of Special Rapid train because there are so many trains between Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Please try to find it at Hyperdia.
      http://www.hyperdia.com/en/
      Takeshi / JP Rail

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