Special Rapid Service operated by JR West 223 series.

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.

Find your hotels in 218 cities throughout Japan!!!

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.

Shin-Kobe station guide

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.
These above photos are empty but this photo is the real shot. This is not the peak time. It is a daytime scene. But this train is very busy even other than the peak hours

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

  1. Hello!

    I am really confused by the numerous passes that Japan has and hopefully, you can help me out here! I am planning to:

    7th – Osaka to Kyoto
    8th – Kyoto
    9th – Kyoto
    10th – Day trip from Kyoto to Nara
    11th – Day trip from Kyoto to Kobe and Himeji, and back to Osaka at night

    I am planning to buy the 4 consecutive days JR Kansai Area Pass but I do not know if that will be the best deal for me! Thank you!

    1. Hi eug,

      If you can visit Nara, Himeji and Kobe on 8th and 9th, you can use 3 days Kansai area pass for 7th to 8th. 4 days pass for 8th to 11th is not a good idea because you do not have many chances to use the pass for sightseeing in Kyoto. Kyoto city bus pass is okay for it:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      When you need to take train or subway in Kyoto, just pay as you go. You may get Kansai one pass instead of purchasing a regular ticket one by one:
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. i want to go to himeji & kobe

    Which train is more convinient. Shinkanzen or Special Rapid

    Prefer not big crowd in the morning

  3. Hi Takeshi San,

    I have a free day at Osaka and would like to travel to Kyoto for a return day trip. I am travelling without JR Pass. Can I buy ticket from ticket counter? What is your suggestion?

    As I am not sure where to stay at Osaka yet so please provide few options.

    The main places I would like to visit at Kyoto are Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Fushimi Inari.

    Thank you for your time.

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    Thank you so much for the above post. It is very helpful!
    I have bought the 7-day Whole Japan Rail Pass.

    Could you advise on the route to take to best utilise the JR pass for the below itinerary.

    Day 1- Tokyo (staying at Shinjuku)
    Day 2- Osaka (staying at Shinsaibashi subway station) -USJ
    Day 3- Osaka – Nara
    Day 4-Osaka – Kobe – Himeji (planning to take JR Special Rapid Services from Osaka – Sannomiya – Himeji since it is covered by JR pass)
    Day 5-Osaka – Kyoto (staying at Nakagyo, Maruta Machi)
    Day 6- Kyoto-Takayama
    Day 7-Takayama to Tokyo

    Thank you!

    Regards
    Ecine

    1. Hi Ecine,

      You can take Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka. You may take Shinkansen for even short distance trip if you like, such as Shin-Osaka to Kyoto.
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-tokai/nagoya-toyohashi/what-is-shinkansen-bullet-train.html

      You can take Special rapid for Osaka to Kobe and Kobe to Himeji. But when you go back to Osaka, you can take Shinkansen from Himeji to Shin-Osaka. It’s much faster and of course JR pass covers Shinkansen.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/how-to-access-to-himeji-and-kobe-from-osaka.html
      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

      For trip to Takayama, please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/how-to-access-to-takayama-by-trains-and-buses.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you for your quick response Takeshi!

        Could you recommend a route from
        1) Osaka (near Shinsaibashi subway) to USJ

        2) Osaka to Nara (for a JR pass holder, is the best way to travel using yamatoji rapid express? Or should I just ignore the cost savings and pay for kintesu railway cost?)

        3) Takayama to Shirakawago

        Also, can I make reservations for all the JR train tickets in advance at Tokyo Station? Including the Hida wide view express bus to Takayama?

        Thank you so much!

  5. Hi
    Am visiting Japan with the following itin:

    Day 1-3 Tokyo (Narita-Ueno Keisei Skyliner; Suica/pasmo)
    Day 4 Tokyo to Kyoto (Nozumi)
    Day 5-7 Kyoto sights
    Day 8 Kyoto to Shin-Osaka
    Day 9 shin-Osaka to Kobe (return trip)
    Day 10 Shin-Osaka to Nara (return trip)
    Day 11-13 Osaka sights
    Day 14 Shin-Osaka to KIX

    Am confused which pass to get with the above schedule, especially when we hit Kyoto, and will be staying at Shin-Osaka to visit Kobe and Nara, and return via kix. Pls advise.. thank u!

    1. Hi Ariel,

      Day1 to 3 is okay. Single ticket is only choice for you on day 4. For day 5 to 7, please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      For day 8 to 10, you have two choices, Kansai area pass or Kansai thru 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

      If you use Kansai area pass, you can get Shin-Osaka from Kyoto by Special rapid or Haruka directly. You can get Kobe by Special rapid directly. You can take Yamatoji rapid train from Osaka. Osaka is one station away from Osaka. But this pass covers only JR trains. You cannot take any other trains.

      If you use Kansai thru pass, you need to change trains to get Shin-Osaka several times.
      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

      When you go to Kobe, you need to change subway and Hanshin or Hankyu railway at Umeda. But this pass covers subway and other trains in Kobe.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-kyoto-kobe-and-nara/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      You can get Nara by Kintetsu railway and subway. Kintetsu Nara station is located closer to tourist spots than JR Nara station. And this pass covers subway and city bus in Kyoto and Osaka. If you intend to visit somewhere in Osaka and/or Kyoto, this pass gives you convenience.

      You may choose whichever you like.

      In Osaka, you can choose one of deals 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
      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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi,
    I am visiting from 8-15 Dec and am confused about what pass gives me the best value of visiting Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Arima Onsen. Below is my itinerary, please kindly advise. I am staying near Shin-Osaka, therefore I make my from-to at Shin-Osaka.
    Day 1: Kansai Airport to Shin-Osaka
    Day 2: Shin-Osaka to/from Himeji (day trip)
    Day 3: Shin-Osaka to Arima Onsen
    Day 4: Arima Onsen to Shin-Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 5: Kyoto to Nara
    Day 6: Arashiyama
    Day 8: Kyoto to Kansai Airport

    Thanks for your kind advice in advance.

    1. Hi Alma,

      You may use ICOCA and Haruka for day 1 and Haruka discount ticket for day 8.
      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

      And you can use Kansai area pass 4 days for day 2 to 5.
      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
      But you need to add the bus fare for between Sannomiya and Arima onsen

      You can use ICOCA for day 6.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi
    we intend to buy 5days JR west Kansai Hiroshima PAss. Starting point & ending point are from Hiroshima. Will be staying in Osaka and Kyoto 2nights each. Does this JR pass cover Osaka and Kyoto city? Which station is covered by this JR pass in these city? How can I get the information?
    thank you.
    Regards
    TEE

  8. Hi! We’re excited about our Osaka trip but just so confused whether to get JR WEST Pass or Kansai Thru Pass. We will be arriving in Osaka, and will stay there for 3 days w a day trip to Nara before going to Kyoto and stay there again for 3 days. After Kyoto we will be going straight to Kobe and stay there for 2 days and go back to Kansai via the bay shuttle. Please advise which pass is best to get. By the way we will be staying in Namba area in Osaka, near Kyoto Station in Kyoto and near Sannomiya station in Kobe. We also plan to have a day trip to Himeji when in Kobe.

    1. Hi Gina,

      You may use Kansai thru pass 3 days for Osaka-Nara-Kyoto, Kyoto-Kobe and trip to Himeji from Kobe. This is most cost effective choice. But as you read the post above. special rapid train is most convenient way from Kyoto to Kobe. But Kansai thru pass does not cover it. If you use Kansai thru pass, you need to take subway and Hankyu railway. You need to change trains at least twice. If you don’t want, use Kansai thru pass 2 days and don’t use it for Kyoto to Kobe. Just pay single fare for this section. It costs around 1000 yen. However if you intend to visit some places in Kobe after moving from Kyoto, Kansai thru pass covers local train and subway. It helps you to visit the places quicker. Just keep this benefit in your mind.

      You can use a local deal in each cities 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
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-kyoto-kobe-and-nara/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Hello,
    I plan to take the miyakoji rapid train from Nara to Kyoto. I wonder whether it is convenient as I have 2 medium size luggages with me. Thks for advise.

    1. Hi N Lee,

      This is a sort of commute trains. There is no luggage space. You can ride this train with luggage. There is no restrictions. But you may have to keep your luggage around you and you may need to stand up because it’s a commute train.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Hello Takeshi-san,
    Do you have any idea whether the Special Rapid service from Kyoto to Kobe/Sannomiya is usually crowded in the morning?

    Thank you.

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