Kyoto station

Kyoto station guide. How to transfer among Shinkansen, Kintetsu, Subway and JR local trains.

Karasuma central exit is the main entrance of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail
Karasuma central exit is the main entrance of Kyoto station. (C) JP Rail

Kyoto is the biggest name in Japan. Most of you will visit Kyoto. JR Kyoto station is probably the first step to Kyoto for you. There are so many trains, such as Shinkansen, Limited Express Haruka from Kansai airport, Limited Express Thuderbird to Kanazawa, commute trains to Osaka, Kobe and Nara, Kintetsu train, Kyoto city subway and many many more to depart and arrive in this station.

Now I would like to explain about Kyoto station. I will show you how to transfer among many trains there.

Station structure, tracks and platforms

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Kyoto station Karasuma side (north side) has a huge station building. There are Hotel Granvia and Isetan Department Store.

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Before I talk about station, please see the map at JR West official website.

Four railway companies, JR Central (Tokaido Shinkansen to Tokyo, Nagoya, Shin-Osaka), JR West (Kyoto line, Biwako line, Nara line, Sagano line, Haruka and many more), Kintetsu Railway (to Nara, Ise, Nagoya) and Kyoto Subway Karasuma line trains depart / arrive in Kyoto station. JR Central and JR West are technically different companies. But both companies are same JR group and those are covered by JR Pass as you probably know. (But Nozomi of the Tokaido Shinkansen is not covered by JR Pass.)

Overview of Kyoto station's platforms. Left side is platform #0 and station building at Karasuma central exit. (C) JP Rail
Overview of Kyoto station’s platforms. Left side is platform #0 and station building at Karasuma central exit. (C) JP Rail


Kyoto station is three levels structure. On the ground floor, all JR West line’s platforms are located. You can take the train to Nara (Nara line), Kyoto line (Osaka, Kobe), Sagano line (Arashiyama), Limited Express Haruka (Kansai airport), Limited Express Thunderbird (Kanazawa), Limited Express Kinosaki (Kinosaki Onsen) and many more trains.

Shinkansen’s platforms are located at third floors and Kintetsu Railway’s platforms are located at second floors and is just under Shinkansen tracks.

All platforms are connected overpass walkway at second level, west side. You can find it at the right side of JR West map and it says “South-north pedestrian walkway”. You can use this walkway without ticket too.

Overpass near West Gate. You can find the signage that is written by English too. All signage of JR stations are written in English too.
Overpass near West Gate. You can find the signage that is written by English too. All signage of JR stations are written in English too.

On the other hand, there is underground walkway too. It connects all JR West lines, Shinkansen and Kyoto Subway Karasuma line. If you transfer to subway, you will use this walkway. You can find this walkway at left side of JR West map. It says “Underground pedestrian walkway”.

All platforms and tracks of Kyoto station are the following:

JR West lines (Conventional lines, other than Shinkansen)

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Track#Lines/TrainsDestination
0Limited Express Thunderbird
Limited Express Shinano
Limited Express Hida
Kanazawa, Toyama
Nagano via Nagoya
Takayama via Gifu
2,3Biwako line Local, Special Rapid
Kosei line Local, Special Rapid
Kusatsu, Hikone, Maibara
Katada, Oumi-Imazu
4,5Kyoto line Local
Kyoto line Special Rapid, Rapid
Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Sannomiya, Kobe, Himeji
6, 7Limited Express Super Hakuto
Limited Express Kuroshio
Tottori via Shin-Osaka, Osaka, Himeji
Shirahama, Kii-Katsuura, Shingu via Shin-Osaka and Tennoji
8,9,10Nara line Local
Miyakoji Rapid
Inari, Uji, Nara
30Limited Express HarukaKansai Airport via Shin-Osaka, Tennoji
31Limited Express Maizuru, Hashidate, KinosakiFukuchiyama, Kinosaki-Onsen, Amanohashidate, Higashi-Maizuru
32,33,34Sagano line Local RapidSaga-Arashiyama, Kameoka, Sonobe

As you saw, Kyoto station has so many tracks and platforms. You may be overwhelmed. There are some tricky part, like track #0 instead of #1, track #30 – 34 for Haruka and Sagano line trains.

Sagano line (to Arashiyama, Kinosaki) platforms. "Kyoto Station Sagano-Line Platform" by Shrr - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wkimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Station_Sagano-Line_Platform.jpg#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Kyoto_Station_Sagano-Line_Platform.jpg
Sagano line (to Arashiyama, Kinosaki) platforms. “Kyoto Station Sagano-Line Platform” by Shrr – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wkimedia Commons

But there are so many signage in English. Kyoto is the international destination. So don’t worry. Things will be much easier than you think.

JR Central lines (Shinkansen)

"Kyoto Station 11" by Terence Ong - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyoto_Station_11.JPG#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Kyoto_Station_11.JPG
“Kyoto Station 11” by Terence Ong – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons
Track#Lines/TrainsDestination
1,2Tokaido ShinkansenNagoya, Tokyo, Shin-Yokohama, Odawara, Atami
3,4Tokaido-Sanyo ShinkansenShin-Osaka, Himeji, Hiroshima, Hakata

There are only two platforms and four tracks. It is quite simple and easy to understand to get direction.

Kintetsu Railway

By calflier001 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By calflier001 [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Track#Lines/TrainsDestination
1,2Limited ExpressNara, Kashiwara-Jingumae, Ise
3,4Nara line Express, Semi Express, LocalTambabashi, Yamato-Saidaiji, Nara, Kashiwara-Jingumae

Kintetsu Kyoto station has four tracks only. Two tracks are for limited express and other two are for local trains. There is only one ticket gate and very simple.

You can watch this Youtube movie to see Kintetsu Kyoto station.

Kyoto Subway

"Subway Platform of Kyoto Station" by もんじゃ - own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Subway_Platform_of_Kyoto_Station.JPG#mediaviewer/%E3%83%95%E3%82%A1%E3%82%A4%E3%83%AB:Subway_Platform_of_Kyoto_Station.JPG
“Subway Platform of Kyoto Station” by もんじゃ – own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Track#Lines/TrainsDestination
1Karasuma lineTakeda, Nara
2Karasuma lineShijo, Kitaoji, Kokusai-Kaikan

There is only one platform. Once you get there, you cannot lose your way.

*All above train icons are produced by Train Front View.

Ticket gate/Exit

Kyoto station has two sides, Karasuma (north) and Hachijo (south). Both sides are connected by walkway underground and overpass. Both sides have several ticket gates. Before I explain about gates, Please refer JR West Kyoto station map again.

Central Gate and Underground Central Gate

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This is the main gate of Kyoto station. Most of bus services depart and arrive at this side.

In the map, Underground Central Gate is not shown. But it is located just under Central Gate. It connects to underground shopping complex.

West Gate

By そらみみ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By そらみみ (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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This gate is located in the middle of overpass. It is connected with South-North pedestrian walkway and can be accessed to both Hachijo and Karasuma side.

Shinkansen Central Gate

"Kyotosta shinkansen-ceet". Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kyotosta_shinkansen-ceet.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Kyotosta_shinkansen-ceet.jpg
“Kyotosta shinkansen-ceet”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

You can find is at upper middle of the map.

If you transfer from Shinkansen to Kintetsu Railway, this is the best way. You may exit from this gate to Karasuma side after getting off Shinkansen. After you exit this gate, you can take South-north pedestrian walkway to get Karasuma side.

Shinkansen Hachijo Gate

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This is one of Shinkansen ticket gates and it is located at the center of Hachijo side on ground floor. You can find it at the middle of the map.

If you want to exit to Hachijo side, this gate is the closest.

Hachijo East Gate

There are both Shinkansen and Conventional trains gates. Especially if you transfer to subway from Shinkansen, this gate is the easiest way.

Underground East Gate

It is located in the underground at Karasuma side. You can find it at lower middle in the map. If you want to transfer from JR train to subway, this gate is the best way.

Nishinotoin Gate

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This gate can be accessed from Sagano line platform only. It is small and connect to mega retail store “Big Camera”. I think you will not use this gate. But the map shows it and I would line to mention it just for your information.

Shinkansen Transfer Gate

By Terence Ong (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Terence Ong (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

When you transfer between Shinkansen and conventional trains (JR trains other than Shinkansen), you have to go through Shinkansen Transfer Gate because fare system is different. If you use JR pass or other passes, you cannot go through automatic ticket gate. You can go through manned wicket and show your pass and Shinkansen ticket.

Kintetsu Ticket Gate

By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

It is located in front of Shinkansen Central Gate. There is only one gate of Kintetsu railway.

Kyoto Subway Karasuma Line Ticket Gate

By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Shrr (Own work (投稿者撮影)) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are four gates for subway. You can find Subway Ticket Gate near Underground East Gate and Hachijo East Gate. Especially Underground East Gate is located just in front of Subway Ticket Gate.

How to transfer among JR trains, Kintesu trains and Kyoto subway trains

There are many ticket gates. Let’s see all transfers in Kyoto station. I also show you minimum connecting time.

Shinkansen – Conventional lines (10 minutes)
Do not exit and go through Shinkansen transfer gate.

Conventional lines – Kintetsu Railway (10 minutes)
Exit at West Gate and go to Kintetsu ticket gate

Conventional lines – Kyoto Subway (10 minutes)
Exit at Underground East Gage and go to subway ticket gate

Shinkansen – Kintetsu Railway (10 minutes)
Exit at Shinkansen Central Gate and go to Kintetsu ticket gate

Shinkansen – Kyoto Subway (10 minutes)
Exit at Shinkansen Hachijo East Gate and go to subway ticket gate

Kintetsu – Kyoto Subway (15 minutes)
Exit at Kintetsu ticket gate and go through Hachijo side and then go to underground to subway ticket gate.
But Kyoto Subway Karasuma line and Kintetsu line go through each other. Some of subway trains run on Kintetsu line. You may not need to transfer at Kyoto station when you go to Nara / come back from Nara.

The movie below shows you transfer from Shinkansen to Kyoto subway. You may think it is complicated. But there are lots of signage in English. As long as you follow the sign, it will be okay.

Next movie shows you how to transfer from Shinkansen to Kintetsu.

The last movie shows you how to transfer from JR conventional line (such as Special Rapid) to Kyoto subway Karasuma line at the movie below.

Go down to underground path, and proceed to Underground East exit and you will find subway ticket gate.

JR Pass and JR West Passes (Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass and etc) sales and exchange place

Please see JR West Kyoto station map again. You can find “star marked” beside Central Gate. That is the place to exchange and purchase. This ticket window is open 5:30 to 23:00. You can also exchange JR Pass at Shinkansen Hachijo Gate too. Since this is JR Central ticket office, you cannot purchase JR West Passes there.

54 thoughts on “Kyoto station guide. How to transfer among Shinkansen, Kintetsu, Subway and JR local trains.”

  1. Hello Takeshi,
    I will be traveling to Kusatsu, Shiga to visit family in July. But I have never done alone and always with my father, will be Narita–Shinagawa—->Kyoto via shinkansen. Can you explain best route and locations for buying ticket and transfer to biwako line to Kusatsu after arrive Kyoto station?
    Thank you for your time

    1. Hi Kaz,

      You can purchase a ticket for Narita-Shinagawa-Kyoto-Kusatsu in Narita. Don’t purchase it separately and you can transfer the train without exiting Kyoto station to purchase a ticket.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you for your informative reply, while also I wondered what route is best for transfer between shinkansen track–>Biwako line train to Kusatsu?
        Thank you for all your kind help

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m travelling to Japan in August and your site provides great information, the photos are particularly helpful !

    I’ll be in Kyoto from August 8th to 14th and understand this is peak Obon time, we intend on taking Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima on August 14th (we will have a JR Pass). How difficult do you think it will be travelling on this date ? I’m flexible and can travel at any time during this day, we intend on booking the train when we arrive in Tokyo on August 4th. but some information online suggests that the reserved cars for all trains might be booked by this time.

    Any thoughts or tips on this ?

  3. Hi,
    I’ll be travelling to Kyoto end of June and stay nearby to Hanazono Station. My question is:
    1. as we will take JR Limited Express Haruka from KIX; do we need to exchange train at Kyoto station to Haruka? If yes do we need to exit any gate as understand will be different platform?
    2. The Haruka will also reach to Uzumasa station (correct?) If yes will it be easy to get off at Uzumasa and take subway back to Hanazono Station?
    Your help and advise is very much appreciated.

    1. Hi Steve,

      1. You need to change the trains but you don’t need to exit. Just change the trains.
      2. Haruka does not go to Uzumasa. Uzumasa is one station away from Hanazono by JR local train. Subway does not go to either Hanazono or Uzumasa.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        Many thanks for the info.
        By the way, as we will spend 2 day in Kyoto and 3rd day morning plan to go Nara, so is it better for us to buy the ICOCA+Haruka pass?
        My full plan:
        1st day – KIX to Kyoto
        2nd day -Kyoto sight seeing
        3rd day – Kyoto to Nara (half day) then Nara to Osaka
        4th – 7 day – Osaka
        8th day – Osaka to KIX
        Your suggestion and advise is very much appreciated.

        Thanks
        Steve

        1. Hi Steve,

          ICOCA and Haruka is the best deal to get Kyoto. But you may use Kyoto city deal for day 2 and use ICOCA for day 3.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-choose-discount-railway-ticket-and-pass-in-kansai-area.html#Kyoto_area

          In Osaka, some deals are available. You may find those at the same link above.
          At last, some deals are also available to get KIX.
          https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi Takeshi san,
            Your input and suggestion is very informative.
            By the way as I saw there is promotion of Kansai One Pass of 3000 yen. Is this combined with the discounted Haruka ticket or still need to buy Haruka ticket separately?
            Your help is much appreciated.
            Thanks,
            Steve

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    I am arriving in Kyoto at 11:00pm via Shinkansen on the Tokkaido-Sanyo line from Tokyo (using JR Pass) and need to transfer to the subway as quickly as possible to make it to my accommodation.

    Do I take the ‘Shinkansen Hachijo East Gate’ or the ‘Hachijo East Gate’? Once I have passed through the gate do I then take the underground pedestrian walkway? And at which point would I need to purchase my tickets?

    Many thanks! I am on a tight budget so want to avoid Taxi’s if possible!

    Olly

    1. Hi Olly,

      You can exit at Shinkansen Hachijo East Gate and you will go down underground. You will find subway ticket gate and vending machine when you get underground.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. HELP!

    I am leaving for Tokyo Narita in 12 hours.
    I will be taking the Narita Express to Tokyo Station.
    I want to buy two return Nozomi tickets from Tokyo to Kyota. I know the green sign for the JR Ticket Office and I think I know where it is at Tokyo.
    I then want to get on the right train!!!
    Please, please, please can someone give me instructions an very simple person like me can follow. Please start at: Get off the N’ex and do a+b+c+d+e+f.

    1. Hi Matrix40,

      You can purchase Shinkansen tickets at Narita airport station before taking Narita express.
      http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/customer_support/service_center.html

      Shinagawa station is easier to change the trains from Nex to Shinkansen than Tokyo.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shinagawa-station-guide-transfer-among-shinkansen-keihin-kyuko-to-haneda-narita-express.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Unfortunately, from Narita, the last N’ex to stop at Shinagawa leaves Narita at 15:43. Our flight arrives at 16:50. Otherwise a great idea! Thank you for your quick response.

          1. Takeshi
            You are the best. My wife (who provided the information from not a primary source website apologises!!). I too much apologise for not checking.

            Thank you for that. We feel a lot more comfortable with taking this plan of action. Really appreciate your help and assistance.

            Matt

  6. Hi,

    Good Day. We will be coming from Osaka-Namba via Kintetsu Ordinary line to Kyoto station.

    Is the McDonald’s at Hachijo Exit a good meet up place on this busy station?

    Thanks.

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        I would like to thank you for your advised as our journey in Japan riding a train via Kintetsu pass 5 days for Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kuwana went smoothly as planned.

        Hyperdia (just checked Local, Express and Limited Express and Private Railway) really helps.

        Japan is amazing country and very discipline people.

        God Bless

          1. Just returned from our 8 day flying visit to Japan. For those going to Kyoto direct from Narita and wish to take the Nozomi, I have to say that Takeshi’s advice to take the N’ex to Shinagawa and avoid the Tokyo confusion was brilliant.

  7. Hi,

    Need some advise here, I’m collecting the JR PASS (Kansai Hiroshima Pass) from Kyoto Station and I need to go Shin-Osaka / Osaka for my first stop.

    So, what train that I can take from Kyoto heading to Osaka?

    Regards,
    Victor

  8. Dear

    I booked the overnight bus from Tokyo to Kyoto and was informed that the destination in Kyoto as below:

    Destination
    Arrives Kyoto station Hachijo exit No.1(ibis Styles Kyoto Station hotel) at 07:30.
    http://willerexpress.com/dy/3/bus/pc/common/teiryujoChizu?bmTeiryujoId=691&gengoKb=02

    As I am not pretty sure, is it the Hachijo East Gate in the below provided map?

    http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/routemap/pdf/station_kyoto.pdf?

    Thanks for your advice.
    Phuong

  9. Hi Takeshi san,

    If we are taking the Karasuma subway line from Gojo station to Kyoto station, thereafter needs to transfer to shinkansen station, which exit should we use? Do we still need to walk through the underground pedestrian walkway or just transfer at the shinkansen gate?

      1. Hi, Takeshi san,

        Thank you very much for your reply and information.

        As for the ticket, I will need to purchase two seperate tickets seperately, one for the subway and one for the shinkansen at seperate vending machine right?

        1. Hi Jefferene san,

          Both ticket can be purchased on the spot at the vending machine.
          But you can purchase Shinkansen ticket in advance if you want. Most of JR stations have the reservation window. You may purchase it at any JR stations.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. I have a JR 7 day pass
    When I take Shinkansen Nozomi or Shinkansen Hikari to Kyoto Station, which one is not covered by JR pass? This is from Tokyo Station.
    Is this the only way? Also what train do I take to Nara from Kyoto?
    Is it cover by JR pass? There is no other shorter way to go to Nara from Tokyo by train, I have to go to Kyoto first?

    Thank you.
    Margaret Moro

    1. Hi Margaret,

      Only Hikari is covered by JR Pass. You CANNOT take Nozomi. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-tokai/nagoya-toyohashi/what-is-shinkansen-bullet-train.html

      Nara cannot be accessed directly from Tokyo. You have to transfer at Kyoto. Nara line train is covered by JR Pass.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/how-to-access-to-nara-by-japan-rail-pass-if-you-dont-use-jr-pass-kintetsu-railway-is-more-convenient.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

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