How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area

Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO
Dotonbori (道頓堀) is one of the popular spot around Osaka Namba area. ©JNTO

I wrote about the transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe in the previous post. There are lots of railways by Japan Railway and several private railways, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Kintetsu and Keihan. This means you have many many choices to choose the ticket or pass. All private railways have own pass. And also JR West has Kansai Area Pass. You may be overwhelmed to choose the right ticket.

In this post, I would like to share the information about the discount ticket and pass that cover Kansai area. But if you stay in Kyoto or Osaka and visit the places in the city, you may find the deals in the links below:

How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Kyoto
How to choose the best train pass for sightseeing in Osaka

Kansai Thru Pass (Surutto Kansai Pass)

  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,000 yen / Child:2,000 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,200 yen / Child:2,600 yen
  • Coverage – All Non JR railway lines, subway lines and city bus in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (not required using in consecutive days)

This is the most recommend one! This pass includes all major private lines and subway lines, such as Hankyu, Hanshin, Keihan, Kintetsu, Nankai, Osaka Subway and Kyoto Subway. You can access Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Mt. Koya, Kansai airport, Wakayama and many more place. This pass is sold at 5,200 yen for 3 days and 4,000 yen for 2 days. It gives you the greatest value in any railway pass of Kansai area. But if you think about only round trip between Kyoto and Osaka, the regular fare may be cheaper. Please see the details at the post, .How to use Kansai Thru Pass. Compare pass and single fare. I compare the price of pass and single fare in many cases. You will find which you should buy or not.

JR West Rail Pass – Kansai Area Pass

  • Price (one day) – Adult:2,200 yen / Child:1,100 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:4,300 yen / Child:2,150 yen
  • Price (three days) – Adult:5,300 yen / Child:2,650 yen
  • Price (four days) – Adult:6,300 yen / Child:3,150 yen
  • Coverage – All JR railway lines in whole part of Kansai area
  • Valid period – one to four days (midnight to midnight)
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by Kansai area pass.
Limited Express Haruka connects Kansai airport and Kyoto via Tennoji and Shin-Osaka. This is covered by Kansai area pass.

This pass includes most of JR lines in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji and Kansai airport. Shinkansen and all express trains are not included except Kansai airport express “Haruka”. Please see the details about this pass on the post, How to use JR West Kansai Area Pass. Compare pass and single fare..

As long as you travel within Kansai area, limited express train is not an issue. There are lots of Rapid train services. These urban commute train services give you fast and frequent movement. Please see the post, Rapid service network in Kansai area about Rapid trains in Kansai area.

If you think about using this pass for sightseeing in Kyoto or Osaka, it may not work. However JR train coverage is very limited especially in Kyoto. Please see these following links to make sure the coverage of JR trains in Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.

Guide to take trains in Kyoto. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?
Guide to take trains in Kobe. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Hankyu Tourist Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:800 yen / Child:Not available
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,400 yen / Child:not available
  • Coverage – All Hankyu railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Hankyu Railway operates trains among Umeda (Osaka), Takarazuka, Kawaramachi (Kyoto near Gion), Arashiyama (Kyoto) and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive to cover three cities, Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Umeda, single fare is 320 yen. If you access to Kawaramachi from Umeda, single fare is 400 yen. You can get the worth of one day pass by one round trip to Kawaramachi from Umeda. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, Arashiyama and Gion area, this is the one for your trip.

But if you want to visit all part of Kyoto and many places in Kobe, Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice.

Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:700 yen / Child:350 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:1,000 yen / Child:700 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

Keihan Railway connects Yodoyabashi (Osaka) and Demachiyanagi (Kyoto). It covers Kyoto and Osaka only but the price is cheaper than Hankyu Tourist Pass. And many places in Kyoto are located along Keihan Railway. Fushimi Inari shrine, Uji, Kiyomizu-dera temple and many places in Higashiyama area can be accessed from Keihan Railway stations.

This pass has same issue as Hankyu Tourist Pass. You may need to take subway to get Keihan Railway station in Osaka, such as Yodoyabashi, Nakanoshima, Kitahama, Temmabashi and Kyobashi. And when you visit western part of Kyoto, such as Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji temple, you need to pay extra to access this place. Kansai Thru Pass may be better choice.

Kintetsu Rail Pass one day and two days

  • Price (one day) – Adult:1,500 yen / Child:750 yen
  • Price (two days) – Adult:2,500 yen / Child:1,250 yen
  • Coverage – All Keihan railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight) and two days (must be used in consecutive days)

This deals covers Kintetsu Railway in Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.

In Nara, many of places can be accessed by walk from the station. But this deal can take you to Kyoto station only You cannot use this deal to access to most of places in Kyoto.

Hanshin Tourist Pass

  • Price – Adult:700 yen / Child:Not available
  • Coverage – All Hanshin railway lines
  • Valid period – one day (midnight to midnight)

Hanshin Railway operate trains among Umeda (Osaka), Osaka-Namba, Kousoku-Kobe and Kobe (Sannomiya). The price of this deal is very attractive. If you access to Kobe-Sannomiya from Osaka-Nmaba, single fare is 410 yen. It is paid off by just one round trip. If you look for deal to access to just Kobe, this is the one for your trip.

However if you access to Arima-Onsen and/or Himeji, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass may be better choice.

Kansai Wide Area Pass

Kyushu Shinkansen Sakura and Mizuho give you direct trainsfer to Shin-Osaka from Kyusyu.
All Shinkansen trains non reserved seat on Sanyo Shinkansen are covered by this deal.

If you may travel both inside and outside of Kansai area, Kansai Wide Area Pass is the best choice. You can get same coverage as Kansai area pass in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji and Wakayama. And also this pass covers Kinosaki Onsen, Shirahama, Kii-Katsuura, Shingu, Okayama, Kurashiki and even Takamatsu in Shikoku. You can take non reserved seat on limited express trains and Sanyo Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Okayama.

ICOCA, Pitata and other IC cards

ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
ICOCA is most popular IC card in Kansai area. (C) タンジェント (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

You may use these cards to take any trains and buses in all Kansai area. You can use even other area’s card, such as Suica, Pasmo too. These cards give you convenience. You can avoid to purchase a ticket whenever you make a train trip. You can take any kinds of trains, such as JR, subway and Non JR trains. However these cards do not give you any discount and unlimited ride.

If you meet these following things, IC card is your choice.

1. You intend to visit a few places in a day.
2. You need to take several kinds of trains and buses, like subway, Hankyu, Keihan, JR.
3. You cannot fix your plan and want to have some flexibility.

However if you have day trip to other cities, such as day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, Kansai Thru Pass or Kansai Area Pass is better choice in most of cases.

Kansai One Pass

This is same type of card as ICOCA. You can use this pass by same way as ICOCA. But this card is designed for overseas tourist. Preload amount is 2,500 yen (plus 500 yen deposit and sold at 3,000 yen) and you can get discount at many attractions. ICOCA is sold at any JR stations throughout Kansai area. But Kansai One Pass is sold in the designated stations only. Please see the link below to find the detailed information at official site.

Kansai One Pass official site

For traveler who use national or regional pass

If you use JR pass (national pass) or other regional deal, such as Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, JR train network in Kansai area is covered. You may have same or better coverage than Kansai Wide Area Pass. If you use these passes, please try to use this pass as much as you can. I think you may add only city deal, such as bus pass in Kyoto.

I hope you get the best deal in this post and enjoy your trip in Kansai area.

850 thoughts on “How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    i will be arriving on japan on 11th-15th January 2018
    i will be stayed at Kansai First World Hotel during the duration. I dont know which pass is good for me. My itinerary as follow

    Day 1- Rinku Town-osaka premium
    Day 2- Dotombori, Namba, Tonbori
    Day 3 -Universal Studio, Aquarium
    Day 4 -Day trip to Kyoto. Planning to take ride as early as 7a.m
    Day 5- Rinku Town

    I will be travelled with my wife and 2years old kid. Need your help in choosing the pass. Tq Mr Takeshi.^_^

  2. Hi Takeshi-san

    I will be travelling to Japan and would appreciate that if you could recommend which travel pass is worth to use for transportation.

    Day1 – Kansai Airport to Kobe
    Day 2- Kobe (Mt Rokiko and Arima Onsen)
    Day 3 – Kobe (sightseeing)
    Day4 -Kobe to Kyoto
    Day 5- Kyoto (sightseeing)
    Day 6 – Kyoto to Osaka
    Day 7 – Osaka ( Universal Studio)
    Day 8- Osaka (Biwako Valley-optional)
    Day 9- Osaka
    Day 10- Osaka
    Day 11 – Osaka to Kansai Airport

    If we want to go Nagoya- Shirakawa Village from Osaka is it possible for one day trip or any good recommendation.

    Thanks in advance

      1. Hi Takeshi San,
        Thanks for your prompt response and useful information.
        Just to confirm the travel pass we used on following day is it more economical way :

        on day 2- Kobe (stay near Sannomiya station) travel to Mt Rokiko and Arima Onsen)-Rokkosan Tourist Pass

        Day4 -Kobe (Sannomiya station)to Kyoto (Karusama Station) – Hankyu Tourist pass or Kansai Thru pass

        Day 7 – Osaka (Hanazonocho Sation) to Universal Studio)- Osaka one day pass (ie Eco card) or per trip ticket

        Thanks in advance and wishing you Happy New Year 2018.

        1. Hi Karen san,

          Rokkosan tourist pass is okay for day 2.

          You cannot get the worth of either Hankyu tourist pass or Kansai thru pass. Single fare from Kobe-Sannomiya to Karasuma is only 620 yen. Single fare is better choice. You may use Kansai one pass.

          On day 7, you need to take both subway and JR to get Univesal city station from Hanazonocho. You cannot get the worth of subway pass, such as Eco card. Just pay single fare or Kansai one pass. Kansai one pass does not give you unlimited travel but you can use this card to take any trains.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi!

    Thanks for writing this post! The website’s been super helpful.

    We’re going to Osaka April 2017. We’re a group of 13 and I’m wondering what the best pass to get is:

    Day 1:
    Arrival in Kansai Airport
    AirBnb located near Dohtonburi
    Nara Park + Todaiji Temple
    Back to Dohtonburi

    Day 2: Kyoto / near Kyoto
    Fushimi Inari Shrine
    Kiyomuzi-dera
    Gion District
    Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
    Back to Dohtonburi

    Day 3:
    Universal Studios
    Back to Dohtonburi

    Day 4:
    Going around Osaka sightseeing spots
    Fly out

    I hope you can help us out. Thank you!

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    My boyfriend and I will be travelling to Japan this weekend. It would be very helpful if you could recommend us which train pass / ticket to use for transportation:

    Day 1: Kansai Airport to Osaka
    Day 2: Osaka to Nara to Osaka
    Day 3: Osaka to Kobe to Osaka
    Day 4: Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 5: Kyoto
    Day 6: Kyoto to Tokyo
    Day 7-9: Tokyo
    Day 10: Tokyo to Haneda Airport

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    Thanks for sharing information on this website! We’re heading to Japan in a week and would like to find out what is the best and most cost effective type of tickets / passes we should get.
    Our itinerary is as follows:
    – Day 1: Arrive at KIX and travel to Kyoto directly
    – Day 2-3: Travel around Kyoto
    – Day 4: Travel from Kyoto to Nara, and stay the night in Nara
    – Day 5: Travel from Nara to Osaka and stay in Osaka
    – Day 6-7: Travel around Osaka
    – Day 8: Travel from Osaka to KIX.

    Would really appreciate your help.

    Cheers,
    Joanne

  6. Hi, I would be travelling to kyoto (5 nights) then kobe (2 nights) then osaka (3 nights). May I get your advice on which ticket I should purchase?
    Thank you:)

    1. Hi Rachel,

      If you access to Kyoto from KIX, ICOCA and Haruka is recommended but add Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA.
      http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      You can use Kansai one pass to move among cities and sightseeing in Kobe. For sightseeing in Osaka and Kyoto, please see 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-kyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi!

    Thanks for the informative post! I’m travelling to Osaka tomorrow, and also Kyoto and Kobe within a week. I have a JR pass, but I heard that it doesn’t have that much coverage, so I’m also planning to get the Kansai One Pass. Is this alright, or do you have any other suggestions? Thank you!!

    1. Hi Angela,

      It depends on where you visit. Please see the link below to find the coverage of JR Pass in these cities:
      jprail.com/destinations/how-to-transfer-among-kyoto-osaka-and-kobe-compare-japan-railway-and-private-lines.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kyoto-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-kobe-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      If you need to take non JR trains, city bus or subways, you may have Kansai one pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi Takeshi,
    We will be travelling to KIX from 16-23 Dec 2017, and will be staying around 7 days in Kyoto (near Kyoto Station). I will be travelling with my 9 yo daughter.

    Our Itenary would be
    Day 1 – KIX – Kyoto
    Day 2 – Kyoto – Nishiki Market – Gion – Ginkakuji
    Day 3 – Kyoto – Nijo – Arashiyama – Kinkakuji – Riyoanji
    Day 4 – Kyoto – Nara – Kyoto
    Day 5 – Kyoto – Osaka-Kyoto
    Day 6 – Kyoto – Fushimi Inari -Kyoto Flea Market (near Kyoto Station)
    Day 7 – Kyoto – (to cover other places that we missed)
    Day 8 – Kyoto – KIX

    I planned to take the ICOCA HARUKA for Day 1 from KIX to Kyoto, and use the KANSAI THRU PASS for the rest of my trip. And to go back on Day 8 I will top up my ICOCA HARUKA card to go from Kyoto to KIX.

    Do you have any other suggestion? Its a bit overwhelming and confusing, I am afraid that I will get lost haha…

    Thank you!
    Maziah

    1. Hi Maziah,

      You can use round trip ICOCA and Haruka between KIX and Kyoto for day 1 and 8. You can add Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA. It’s same type of card as ICOCA but it offers discount at many attraction. When you purchase ICOCA and Haruka, you can ask Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Unfortunately ICOCA and Haruka, and Kansai one pass are not available for child. You can purchase Kansai area pass for your daughter. It covers Haruka and cheaper than regular fare:
      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

      Child ICOCA is also available. You can purchase Child ICOCA itself when you purchase Kansai area pass.

      You can use Kansai thru pass 3 days pass for day 3, 4 and 5. But I don’t think you need one more pass. Kansai one pass and Child ICOCA are okay. You may add all day bus pass at 500 yen for one day if you intend to take a bus more than 3 times a day:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Dear Takeshi,
        Thank you very much for your prompt reply! Am so grateful!

        By what you are suggesting:

        Our Itenary would be
        Day 1 – KIX – Kyoto (Adult – ICOCA & Kansai One Pass, Child – ICOCA & Kansai Area Pass)

        Day 2 – Kyoto – Nishiki Market – Gion – Ginkakuji (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1)

        Day 3 – Kyoto – Nijo – Arashiyama – Kinkakuji – Riyoanji (Adult – 3D Kansai Thru Pass, Child – ICOCA & Kansai Area Pass) or maintain (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1) + Bus fees

        Day 4 – Kyoto – Nara – Kyoto (Adult – 3D Kansai Thru Pass, Child – ICOCA & Kansai Area Pass) or maintain (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1) + Bus fees

        Day 5 – Kyoto – Osaka-Kyoto (Adult – 3D Kansai Thru Pass, Child – ICOCA & Kansai Area Pass) or maintain (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1) + Bus fees

        Day 6 – Kyoto – Fushimi Inari -Kyoto Flea Market (near Kyoto Station) (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1) + Bus fees

        Day 7 – Kyoto – (to cover other places that we missed) (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1) + Bus fees

        Day 8 – Kyoto – KIX (Tickets Passes = same as Day 1)

        In short, we can just use ICOCA + Kansai One Pass for adult and ICOCA-Child + Kansai Area Pass for my daughter.

        We just top up the value through the top up machines.

        Am I right?

        Thanks!

  9. Dear Takeshi-san

    My wife and I am visiting Japan on the 1st February for 13 days. We are arriving at Kansai KIX on at 16.00 and are staying in the centre of Kyoto. We are planning to explore Kyoto for a few days and also visiting Hiroshima, Nara, Osaka, Tokyo, Kanazawa, the snow monkeys and Yudanaka Onsen near Takayama. We need to get to Kansai by around 07.00 on the 13th.

    I was considering a national JR pass for 7 days and either individual tickets or getting a regional pass for a shorter period. I thought I would not get full use from a 14 day JR pass which is quite expensive. We are flexible on which order to do things.

    I would be vey grateful for help with the best and most economical method.

    May I say I am very impressed with your posts and links. We have nothing link this in the UK!

    Best wishes

    Mark

    1. Hi Mark san,

      You may stay in Osaka and visit Nara at the end of your trip. Your flight is early and need to stay in Osaka day before anyway.

      I recommend you to use 7 days pass after staying in Kyoto. You can visit Hiroshima first. You can stay overnight there or you can visit there as day trip.
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html

      And then visit the places other than Osaka and Nara. Try to complete all places including Hiroshima in 7 days.

      Once you get Osaka, you don’t need JR pass.

      For arrival day, I recommend you take Haruka. ICOCA and Haruka is the best deal.
      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

      Kansai one pass is available. This is same type of card as ICOCA but this card offers discount at many attractions. You can add this on ICOCA and Haruka instead of ICOCA.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      You can use local deals in Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. You can use one of these when you don’t use JR pass. And also ICOCA is included in the first deal. You can also use 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
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      I don’t think you can use any deal for Osaka to KIX because of early departure. Take early morning bus.
      https://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/access/bus/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Hello Takeshi,

    I will be travelling to Japan this December and we are planning to used Kansai thru pass for our trip to Kyoto and Kobe. We will be staying 3 days/2 nights in Kyoto and go to Kobe for day trip. How would you suggest I use my 3 day Kansai thru pass ? I think there will be a day I cannot use it so what other options do I have.. Thank you.

    1. Hi Chelsea,

      If you use 3 days Kansai thru pass for Kyoto and Kobe, you may not get the worth of it. You should have one more trip to outside Kyoto, such as Osaka, Nara.

      Otherwise you should use Kansai area pass one day for Kobe and use the deal in the link below for sightseeing in Kyoto.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        My actual route would be:
        Day 1 : Osaka to Kobe (day trip)
        Day 2: Osaka to Nara (1/2 day)
        Nara to Kyoto (staying for 3 days/nights)
        Day 4: Kyoto to Osaka

        What type of tickets would you recommend during our stay in Kyoto on the second day as we cannot use our Kansai thru pass.

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