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. We will be traveling from KIX to JR Kyoto on March 2 2015 and on March 5 2015 from JR Kyoto to JR Osaka with transfer to JR Loop Line getting off at Nichikujo or Bentencho for transfer to Tempozan Cruise ship terminal.

    Which is best for taxi to Tempozan – Nichikujo or Bentencho?

    What is the best way to buy tickets – in advance before leaving USA or at the station(s)?

    Can I buy all the tickets at KIX when arriving?

    I understand that the Special Rapid Express is the best train from Kyoto to Osaka. When in Kyoto can I buy ticket that will include the JR Loop line?

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

      Hi Ed,

      You can purchase ICOCA and Haruka at Kansai airport station upon arrival.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      You can use ICOCA e-money to get Bentencho (nearest to tenpozan) from Kyoto. As long as you have money in ICOCA, you don’t need to purchase ticket.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Hello again Takeshi

        Thank you for your helpful information last week. Here is what we plan to do.

        On March 2nd, we will take the JR Hakura from KIX to JR Kyoto. While we are in Kyoto we will take guided tours so we can focus on the temples and not be concerned about finding our way.

        On March 5th, we will take the JR Kyoto Station JR Special Rapid (Shinkaisoku) to JR Osaka station and then the JR Loop Line to Bentencho. We will take a taxi from there to Tampozan to board our cruise ship by noon. Ship is in port overnight.

        In the evening, we plan to visit the Minami entertainment district via Chuo subway to Bentencho, JR loop to Tennoji, transfer to JR Namba or Chuo Hommachi (C16) to the Midosuji line (M18) to Namba (M20).

        On March 6th, we plan to visit Osaka Castle in the morning before the ship departs in late afternoon. There appear to be two alternatives – Chuo Osakako (C11) to Bentencho (C13) then JR loop to Ōsakajō-kōen OR Chuo directly to Tanimachi-yon(4)-chome (C18).

        Questions

        Based on what we plan to do, would the ONE WAY ICOCA (3030 yen) less 500 yen deposit be enough to do what we plan? Would there still be enough to use the subway or bus on a limited basis in Kyoto if we chose to do so? Am I correct the Hakura/ICOCA combination is still the better deal than a JR Rail pass and paying the individual subway fares? Can I buy the ONE WAY ticket in advance of entering Japan?

        Which route to Minami would be faster – Chuo to Midosuji or Chuo to JR?

        Which station would be closest to the castle main gate – JR Loop or Chuo subway? What would the approximate travel time be in each direction on each of these? If we used the JR Loop from Bentencho, which is quicker – the inner or outer track or are they approximately the same?

        From JR Kyoto to JR Osaka on March 5th, when would the trains be less crowded after the morning rush hour?

        Are the JR trains and stations clearly marked in English so we would be unlikely to miss the station where the trip terminates – JR Kyoto and JR Osaka? Is the JR Loop Line also clearly marked or do we have to count the number of intermediate stations? What about the Chuo subway?

        Is the JR Loop Line mostly elevated? What is the approximate time to complete the loop? I was thinking that the Loop line may be a good way to get an overview of the city when we arrive and then get off at Bentencho the second time around on the way to the cruise ship. Is this possible to do? Since we would have suitcases, would the Loop be very crowded in mid to late morning? Are there any extra charges?

        What is the best way to buy the Chuo subway tickets if we do not use the ICOCA?

        If we chose not to do the side trips to Minami and the castle, would JR rail passes for those two days be the best deal?

        Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

        Thank you very much.
        Best Regards, Ed Jablonsky

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

          Hi Ed,

          1. ICOCA and Haruka is the best deal for you. But ICOCA 1500 yen is not enough to do all part of your trip. You will spend 800 yen to get Bentencho from Kyoto. You will spend 240 yen for one way to get Namba (Minami). You need to add more fund into ICOCA or purchase single fare. You can put more fund into ICOCA at vending machine of most of JR stations.

          2. Don’t use JR. Subway is faster.

          3. The closet station to main gate of Osaka castle is Tanimachi-Yonchome. Just take Chuo line to get there.

          4. After 9:00 am, it will be better.

          5. There are English signage in all stations.

          6. It takes 40 minutes to go around by Loop line. Between 7:00 and 9:00 is a peak hour. After 9:00, it’s better. In Osaka, you can purchase a ticket for the shortest route. Even if you take a train from Bentencho to Nishikujo, you can take a train via Tennoji and Osaka by a big detour route at Bentencho-Nishikujo ticket.

          7. As long as you go to Kyoto and come back to Osaka by JR train, ICOCA and Haruka is the best deal. Other passes are not suitable for your trip.

          8. Just purchase it at vending machine.

          You can find how busy Special Rapid train is in daytime at the movie link below. This movie shows you Special Rapid arriving Kyoto station and move to Kyoto subway line:
          http://youtu.be/zVDyue-qe68

          Most of trains in Osaka/Kyoto are busy all day. If you take a train in peak hour, it’s packed. But if you take a train even daytime, you maybe standee.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. maxlie says:

    Hi! I will be be needing train tickets for the following:

    KIX to Namba (round trip Nov 9-Nov 13 return)
    Shinsaibashi to Kobe (round trip on the same day)
    Sightseeing for 2 days within Osaka area

    I still have a SUICA card from my trip to Tokyo last year, can I use it for the mentioned trips above? If not, what is the best pass or do I just buy individual tickets? Please advise =)

    Best regards,

    Max

  3. Darren says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    Good day!

    My friends and I will be visiting Japan for a week. We’ll be coming from Kansai International Airport and will be spending 3 days to Tokyo. From there we will travel back to Osaka where we will spend a day for sightseeing and another day in Kyoto and back to Osaka again.

    It will be our first time there and I would be glad if you can help us on what passes best suit our travel? Also, is there any night bus from kansai airport going to tokyo?

    Looking forward for your reply. :)))))

    Thank you very much.

    Regards,

    Darren

  4. I am from India and am planning a trip to Japan in June. I wish to take the Special Rapid service from Kyoto to Osaka. I need to know from which station in Kyoto do I board the train and from where do I buy the tickets. Thank you.

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

      Hi Rohit,

      Special Rapid make a stop at Kyoto station only. And you can go to Kyoto station and purchase a ticket on the spot. This train is a sort of commute train. You don’t need to do anything in advance.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. WeiYen says:

    Hi, would like to have your opinion on which rail pass to use

    My route would be
    KIX airport-kyoto (2nights) – osaka (2nights) including Nara -KIX airport

    I will be staying near douboutsuenma station which is 1station away from tennoji (haruka express stop)
    Should I use icoca haruka 1way or 2ways? KIX to kyoto and can i use haruka express from kyoto to tennoji? Worth 4k yen? How long does it takes kyoto to tennoji? I will use kyoto-tennoji than using from tennoji to KIX since the journey from kyoto longer. Or any train direct from douboutsuenma station to airport? Thanks

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

      Hi WeiYen,

      ICOCA and Haruka roudn trip ticket is the best deal for you. Especially when you go to Kyoto from KIX, Haruka is only direct train from KIX. 4000 yen is a huge deal.
      You can take Haruka from Tennoji to KIX on your departure day. Usually Haruka ticket can be used for to/from KIX. But if you take Haruka from Kyoto, you can use it to Tennoji. Because you can use it for Kyoto to KIX trip. You can give up your trip on the way to KIX. Anyway you can do it.

      You can’t take Haruka to KIX anymore.
      When you go back to KIX, you can use ICOCA if you still have fund. And also you can catch Nanaki train from Shin-Imamiya. Shin-Imamiya is within walking distance from Doubutsuenmae station. If you want to take Nankai’s Limited Express train “Rapi:t”, Nankai has a deal.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/tokuwari.html
      Otherwise single ticket is cheaper.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Azilah says:

    Dear Sir/madam,

    I’m from malaysia. I need to know the fare ticket for fast train service from Osaka to Kobe. If I want to go for one day tour at Kobe with fast train, how much is the fee for round ticket. I also want to know how to purchase the train ticket/pass.
    So sorry for the trouble, but I need to consider my budget before going to Japan. If not, I will think of other alternative to visit places at Kobe. Hope fast train will help me to save transportation cost.

    Tq and I look forward to your kind respond.

  7. Hi,

    I need your suggestion for which train pass I should buy. I have 5 days schedule as below.

    First day, 7AM arrival at Kansai airport then go by train to Kyoto. Sightseeing all in Kyoto such Fushimi shrine, Kiyomitsu temple etc. stay Kyoto.

    Second day, Kyoto to Nara and back to stay in Kyoto

    Third day, Kyoto to Osaka. Sightseeing around Osaka. Stay Osaka.

    Fourth day, Osaka to Kobe and back to stay in Osaka.

    Fifth day, Sightseeing in Osaka then 8 PM have to go to Kansai airport.

    Should I buy Kansai thru pass for 4 days plus 1 day? If I have Kansai thru pass I can use bus in Kyoto for all tourist attraction?

    Thanks
    Nicolas

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

      Hi Nicolas,

      I recommend you to use ICOCA and Haruka.
      jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      You can get Kyoto by Kansai Thru Pass from KIX to Kyoto, but it is very complicated. And also if you use Kansai Thru Pass, total single fares will be cheaper than pass. You can learn more about it at the following link:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      You can use ICOCA for most of trains and buses services in Kansai area. 1500 yen e-money that is included in ICOCA and Haruka deal will not be enough. But this is the best deal for your trip.

      You can add Kyoto city pass for taking bus and subway for sightseeing in Kyoto if you take those services more than 5 times a day. But it does not cover Fushimi Inari.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Cindy says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’ve done some research on which pass to get when I’m in Osaka and Kyoto for 5 days and am still a bit confused. Your help will be very much appreciated. The following is my schedule:

    1) Kansai Airport via Nankai railway Airport Express to Tenkachaya Station, then via Sakaisuji subway line to Nipponbashi station. This Info is provided by my ryokan. And because my ryokan is in dotonburi, I’ll be traveling within the area like to shinsaibashi via subway.

    2) From Nipponbashi station to Kyoto Station and catch the no 100 bus to go around Kiyomizu-michi,Gion and Ginkakuji-mae. Then back to Osaka. I wonder what’s the best way to get to Kyoto station from Dotonburi?

    3) From Nipponbashi station to Kyoto Station again. I’m planning to hike at Fushimi-inari Shrine then spend the afternoon at Nishiki Market and shopping around Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae station. Then, back to Osaka.

    4) I’ll go to Osaka Castle, Ramen museum and Umeda station.

    5) I’ll check out today and back to Kansai Airport.

    Looking at the above schedule, I think I’m traveling mostly via JR, then subway and bus.

    Which pass is most suitable to this trip?ICOCA, Kansai Thru ?

    Thank you for your time.

    Kind Regards,
    Cindy

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

      Hi Cindy,

      1) The route that is suggested by ryokan is good. But if you can change the train at Namba, you can use better deal.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com/top/ticket/pdf/chikatoku.pdf
      Nihonbashi is one station away from Namba by subway Sennichimae line.

      2) Don’t use JR train. Use subway and Keihan train as follows:
      Nihonbashi (Sakaisuji line) Kitahama (Keihan) Kiyomizu-Gojo
      You have to walk for 25 minutes. But it is within walking distance. And also there are lots of shops too.
      It takes about 4km from Kiyomizudera to Ginkakuji. You can walk if you have lots of energy. And scenery is very nice.

      3) Same route as above, but you have to get off Keihan train at Fushimi-Inari. It is very close to Fushimi-Inari. After that, you can take Keihan again to Gion-Shijo. Nishiki Market and Kawaramachi area is just step away.

      4) Just hop on/off subway.

      5) You can use same deal as arrival day.

      Kanku Chikatoku Ticket and single fares combination is your choice. Total single fares are much cheaper than Kansai Thru 3 days. You can purchase ICOCA for Keihan and subway. But don’t forget to purchase it at KIX. You cannot purchase it at subway station.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Mei says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I am confused which is the cheapest traveling options for my duration at these dates:

    29 May/ 6am: Reach Kansai Airport to go Kyoto Almont Hotel
    29 May: Sight-seeing within Kyoto (Golden Pavilion & nearby areas)
    30 May: Sight-seeing within Kyoto (morning pick-up Yukata rental at Gojo Street; Walk around at Higashiyama District).
    31 May: From Kyoto to go Shin-Osaka REMM Hotel
    1 & 2 June: Shopping within Osaka (will take a few subway trips to get to places like Shinsaibashi, Horie neighbourhood, Osaka Tenmangu Shrine etc)
    3 June morning: From Shin-Osaka REMM Hotel to go Kansai Airport

    Questions:
    1) Which is the most cost-savings option for transport? Is it the ICOCA & HARUKA package?
    2) If yes, should I be getting the one-way or round trip ticket?

    I do not have time urgency. Most importantly it is to have the most cost-savings option.

    Thank you very much in advance for your kind advice.

    Regards,
    Mei

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

      Hi Mei,

      ICOCA and Haruka round trip ticket is the best choice for your trip. Save your ICOCA when you stay in Kyoto. You can use it for Kyoto-Shinosaka transfer and sightseeing in Osaka. When you stay in Kyoto, you can use city pass of single ticket for bus and subway.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. FREDDIE says:

    Hi Takeshi

    I’m planning to travel to Kyoto and Osaka at end of November this year. Staying two nights in Kyoto and 4 nights in Osaka. Planned to travel to Kyoto first from KIX direct and than to Osaka. I’m travelling with two medium size luggages and my daughter is disabled ( require wheelchair). Other than Haruka Express, is there any other trains to Kyoto direct from KIX.

    We are stay at Shimogyo ward nearer to Tambaguchi Station as compare to Goyo station. Please advice whether we should get a One day pass or purchase single journey ticket at KIX. Is disabled children free to travel on all trains in Japan or we still have to purchase ticket or pass for disabled? Is all trains and train/metro station in Kyoto and Osaka disabled friendly?

    At Osaka, we are staying at Shinsaibashi/Namba area, please advice the suitable type of train for my family from Kyoto from the three railway: Keihan railways, Hankyu railways or JR Shinkaisoku( Special Rapid train).

    I have noticed from map that to travel from Nagahoribashi Metro( Osaka Sakaissuji Line) via Tengachaya station and change to Nankai Railways to Kansai Airport. Can we switch at Tengachaya station (Sakaisuji line) to Nankai railway at Tengachaya station? How far is the walking distance? Can we purchase the Nankai ticket to Airport at Tengachaya station.

    Regards

    Freddie

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

      Hi Freddie,

      I have received two comments from you. I combined these questions here and answer you.

      1. KIX to Kyoto.
      Only Haruka is the direct service from KIX to Kyoto. It’s the best and the fastest choice.
      I recommend you to purchase ICOCA and Haruka one way ticket.
      http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/pass/icoca-haruka/
      You can use 1500 e-money that is included in this deals for transfer to Osaka from Kyoto, Kyoto subway, Osaka subway or other railways. But child rate for this deal is not available.

      2. Discount for disabled / child
      JR and most of railway companies have discount rate for disabled. However identification document for disabled issued by municipal government is required to get this discount. I could not find any information for overseas travellers. I think only Japanese embassy or consulate can answer your question.

      3. Station for disabled
      Most of stations are very accessible for disabled. The stations have elevators and slopes.

      4. Kyoto to Osaka
      JR Special Rapid – Osaka subway Midousuji line
      This is the fastest and most convenient for you. Because you will take a train from JR Tanbaguchi. You don’t need to exit a station to transfer in Kyoto. In Osaka, you have to exit and transfer to subway. But if you take Hankyu or Keihan, you have to transfer in Umeda or Yodoyabashi anyway. Transfer at Yodoyabashi is a bit easier and closer and Umeda/Osaka. But Keihan stations are not very accessible form you hotel in Kyoto.

      5. Tengachaya
      You can transfer there and very easy. Nankai station ticket gate is just in front of subway ticket gate. You can’t miss it. Of course you can purchase your ticket there.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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