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

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Dotonbori is "Must-See" place in Osaka.  	©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Dotonbori is “Must-See” place in Osaka. ©Osaka Convention & Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

I wrote about train system in Kyoto before. But I have received many inquiries about Osaka too. I think it is very complicated for travellers from overseas. There are three types of railway, JR, Osaka Municipal Subway and Private company’s railways. Once you understand train system, you can find the best location to stay, the best deal for trains ride and the fastest way to visit that you want to see.

As probably you know, there are many types of deals, such as ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Osaka Subway Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass. Each pass has different conditions. You must understand the coverage of your pass.

In this post, I tell you about using these deals and explain all train systems in Osaka.

Which train services that are covered by ICOCA, Kansai Thru Pass, subway deals and other JR deals

Many deals are available in Kansai area. But each pass have different coverage. I tell you about major passes and deals.

For the travellers who use ICOCA, Kansai one pass, Suica, Pasmo or other IC cards

You can take all trains on the map above except Shinkansen. When you travel in Kansai area, don’t try to take Shinkansen for such a short transfer, like going to Kyoto or Kobe. Please see the post, How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Compare Japan Railway and private lines.

ICOCA does not cover Osaka city bus service too. But I don’t think you have many chances to take city bus in Osaka. You can go anywhere by train services. Train is much faster than bus.

For the travellers who use Kansai Thru Pass and Rainbow Card

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Kansai Thru Pass is unlimited ride pass and Rainbow Card is pre-paid card for most of NON JR trains in Osaka.

The only place where you can’t go by these deals is USJ. But if you don’t care about riding city bus, you can catch the bus at Nishikujo station. Nishikujo can be accessed by Hanshin Railway that is covered by Kansai Thru Pass. Even if you pay for JR train, the fare is 160 yen foe one way. It is not a big deal. I will explain about access to Universal Studion Japan later.

JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai WIDE Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass, Sanyo Sanin Area Pass, Kansai Hokuriku Aea Pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass, Hokuriku Arch Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

When you go to Kaiyukan and Tenpozan waterfront area, you can’t use these JR train’s pass because there is no JR line there. If you take subway train, the fare from Bentencho to Osakako is 230 yen for one way.

Next, in case that you go to Namba, it’s not very convenient. JR has a station in Namba, JR Namba station. But this station is not located in the center of Namba. Nankai Railway’s Namba station, Subway Midousuji line Namba station and Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin and Kintetsu) are very closed each other. But JR Namba station is 1km away from Nankai Railway’s Namba station. If you walk, it takes at least 15 minutes. And also when you go to Namba from Umeda area, You have to take Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka to Imamiya and need to transfer to the train to JR Namba. It’s a big detour and much longer trip than Osaka subway Midousuji line. I cannot find any reason to avoid paying only 230 yen fare to take subway from Umeda to Namba.

Osaka subway Enjoy Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass

Please see the map below:

Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail

Enjoy Eco Card covers Osaka subway and city bus. Osaka Unlimited Pass includes unlimited ride of subway and bus, and free admission for major attractions in Osaka. There are one day and two day available. But coverage is a bit different. One day covers subway, bus and major private railways, like Hanshin, Nankai, Keihan and Kintetsu. It is very similar to Kansai Thru Pass. But two day pass covers subway and bus only. When you choose this deal, please make sure your itinerary and which train you need to get on.

As long as you can take subway, most of places can be reached by subway.

How to access to major spots in Osaka by train

Most of places in Osaka can be accessed by train. I would like to share the information of access to major spots with you.

Namba, Dotonbori, Houzenji and Shinsaibashi area

There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO
There are so many restaurants in Dotonbori area. ©JNTO

You can reach Namba by many ways.

  • Namba station (Nankai Railways) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Mt. Koya (Koyasan) and Wakayama
  • Namba station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line, Yotsubashi line and Sennichimae line) to/from Umeda, Nishi-Umeda, Tennoji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Osaka-Namba station (Kintetsu Railways) to/from Nara, Ise and Nagoya
  • JR Namba station (JR) to/from Tennoji, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Kansai Airport (KIX

As I mentioned above, JR Namba station is not located in the core of Namba. JR Namba is closed to Subway Yotsubashi line Namba station and Sennichimae line’s Sakuragawa station is actually closer than Namba station.


View Namba in a larger map

Nankai Railways is the best way to get Namba from Kansai Airport. And also train runs to Mt. Koya.

Hanshin Railways and Kintetsu Railways trains go through each other. And their station is “Osaka-Namba” station. When you search on Hyperdia, you can find Osaka-Namba. It’s not Namba for these train companies but Osaka-Namba. If you stay in Namba and want to go to Nara or Kobe, you can use these train companies. You can go there directly from Namba.

If you go to Nara, you can catch Kintetsu Railway’s train at Osaka-Namba station. Please see the post, How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient. to learn more about access to Nara.

Shinsaibashi is one station away from Namba by subway. But Namba and Shinsaibashi are connected by shopping arcade. Dotonbori is located between Namba and Shinsaibashi. And also Shinsaibashi is connected with Yotsubashi and Nihonbashi by underground. So most of places in Namba can be accessed by walk.

Umeda

Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO
Umeda Sky Building is one of popular spots in Umeda area. ©JNTO

Umeda and Namba are two biggest downtown core in Osaka. There are many department stores and shopping complex in Umeda area. In Umeda area, only JR station is called “Osaka”. JR Osaka station and other railway’s Umeda station are located in same area.

There are many stations in Umeda.

  • Osaka station (JR Kobe line, Kyoto line, Osaka Kanjo line) to/from Kansai Airport (KIX), Shin-Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, USJ, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Osaka Subway Midousuji line) to/from Namba, Shin-Osaka, Tennoji
  • Umeda station (Hanshin Railways) to/from Sannomiya, Kobe and Himeji
  • Umeda station (Hankyu Railways) to/from Kawaramachi, Arashiyama, Shijo, Sannomiya, Takarazuka
  • Higashi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Tanimachi line) to/from Uehonmachi/Tanimachi Kyuchome, Tennoji
  • Nishi-Umeda station (Osaka Subway Yotsubashi line) to/from Namba
  • Kitashinchi station (JR Tozai line) to/from Namba

Please see the post, Osaka station guide. How to change JR trains, subway trains and other private railways – See more at: https://jprail.com/destinations/kansai-area/osaka-station-guide-how-to-change-jr-trains-subway-trains-and-other-private-railways.html to get more detail about Osaka and Umeda station area.

Tenpozan, Kaiyukan

Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Kaiyukan is located in this Tenpozan waterfront area. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Osaka Subway Chuo line’s Osakako station is the nearest station. You can catch Chuo line’s train at Honmachi, Bentencho and many other places. If you stay in Umeda or Namba, simple take Midousuji line or Yotsubashi line train and transfer to Chuo line’s train at Honmachi. If you are JR Pass user, you can get Bentencho by Osaka Kanjo line from Osaka or Tennoji. You have to pay extra on top of your pass for taking subway from Bentencho.

USJ is located just across the river. But there is no direct train or bus. Please see next chapter to get USJ from Tenpozan.

Universal Studion Japan (USJ)

Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001Universal Studios Japan 2010.12.18_001 / TAKA@P.P.R.S

JR Yumesaki line’s Universal City station is the nearest station. There is no subway or private railway’s service available. If you are not JR train user, you can catch the pass to USJ at Nishikujo station.

If you want to access to Tenpozan/Kaiyukan from USJ, shuttle cruise service is the fastest and only direct way to connect both places.

Shuttle Cruise Capt. Line

Otherwise you have to take Universal City station – Nishikujo station – Bentencho station – Osakako station route. It is a big detour.

Osakajo (Osaka castle)

Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
Osaka castle is one of popular spot to see cherry blossom in Osaka. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

There are several stations around Osaka castle. You can access there from Tenmabashi station (Keihan Railway), Tanimachi-Yonchome station (Subway Tanimachi line), Osakajo-Koen station (JR), Osaka Business Park station (Subway Nagahori-Tsurumi Ryokuchi line), and Morinomiya station (JR). The nearest stations to access to the castle are Tenmabashi and Tanimachi-Yonchome. Other stations are okay, but these stations are closed to Osaka Castle Park.

Shinsekai, Tennoji zoo

You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai.   	©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO
You can feel real tradition of Osaka in Shinsekai. ©Osaka Government Tourism Bureau/©JNTO

Shinsekai is old town of Osaka. There is very traditional shopping arcade. Tsutenkaku tower is located in Shinsekai area. This area can be accessed from JR and Nankai Railway’s Shin-Imamiya station.

Tennoji Zoo is located between Tennoji station and Dobutsuenmae station. (Dobutsuenma means “in front of zoo”.)

Minoo falls

Minoo is located outside downtown Osaka. Most of city deals, such as Osaka subway pass does not cover Minoo falls. Only Kansai Thru Pass covers this falls.

You need to take Hankyu Railway Takarazuka line train from Umeda to Ishibashi. And then take another Hankyu Railway Minoo line train to Minoo. You can change trains at Ishibashi very easily. Trip time is around 35 minutes from Umeda to Minoo

In peak season, like fall foliage season, direct train service runs between Umeda and Minoo.

Instant Ramen Museum

This museum is located outside downtown Osaka either. Most of city deals, such as Osaka subway pass does not cover this attraction. Only Kansai Thru Pass covers the trip to Instant Ramen Museum.

You need to take Hankyu Railway Takarazuka line train from Umeda to Ikeda. Trip time is around 20 minutes from Umeda to Ikeda.

658 thoughts on “Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?”

  1. Hi Takeshi
    My family of 4 will be traveling as follows in July and I would like to know what is the best way to get around.
    Day 1 Jul 20 Arrived Narita airport
    Day 2 Jul 21 Head to Tokyo
    Day 5 Jul 24 Head to Osaka (during Tenjin Matsuri festival)
    Day 8 Jul 27 Head to Kyoto
    Day 10 Jul 29 Head to Kansai airport

    Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Takeshi,
    I’m planning my first trip to Japan next month (9-19 June 2018) and because this is a very “impulsive” holiday trip, I need a lot of information I can get especially about the transportation/train system.

    Here is my itinerary:
    Day 1: Arrived at Narita on 08.10 PM then heading to my hotel near Asakusa Station
    Day 2: Trip around Asakusa & Shibuya
    Day 3: Heading to Osaka early morning with Shinkansen (is it the Tokaido?) and will be staying at the hotel near Shin-Osaka Station for the next 4 nights. Planning to go for Osaka Castle & Universal Studios today.
    Day 4: Half day trip to Kobe to grab some brunch then going back to Osaka to visit Dotonburi & Shinsaibashi Shopping Mall (I’m not really sure which train should I jump into for this Osaka-Kobe return trip, need your advice, thank you!)
    Day 5: A day trip to Kyoto with JR Tokaido Shinkansen (Hikari/Kodama) visiting Gion, Kiyomisu-dera & Higashiyama District. Back to Osaka.
    Day 6: Another day trip to Kyoto visiting Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji and Arashiyama. Back to Osaka.
    Day 7: Leaving Osaka to Kanazawa (which transportion would you recommend? since I’m planning on buying JR Pass, maybe I can take the Thunderbird Limited Express?). Enjoy the rest of the day in Kanazawa. Planning on staying here 1 night.
    Day 8: Leaving Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go (by Nohi Bus) and after lunch and city tour I’m heading back to Tokyo. Would you suggest what kind of transportation should I get from Shirakawa-go to Tokyo (preferably the one that covered by JR Pass)? I’m planning on staying at the hotel near Shinjuku Station.
    Day 9: Planning to spend 1 night at Kawaguchiko and visiting the old village Iyashi no Sato & Oshino Hakkai then maybe try some onset there 🙂
    Day 10: Heading back to Tokyo and enjoy the city (still looking for accurate information about the best flea market in town and do some shopping for souvenirs back home)
    Day 11: Going back home and waiting for another holiday

    I know it’s really a very “optimistic” schedule I have, but I’m intend to get to see a lot of Japan 🙂

    Please considering to check my itinerary above and waiting for your advice/suggestion/information/(anything) about the best transportation for me including which pass should I get for the trip beside the JR Pass.

    Thank You very much Takeshi…
    (mind the very long request from me)

    1. Hi Vinca,

      You may use the following deals:

      Regular fare for Keisei railway and subway on arrival day.
      http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/index.php

      Tokyo subway ticket on day 2 and 10
      https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/travel/index.html

      JR pass 7 days for day 3 to 9
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      You may need to add regular fare to take Fujikyu railway to Kawaguchiko from Otsuki, bus fare as you need at Kawaguchiko, express bus fare for Kawaguchiko to Shinjuku, and get back to Narita. Please see the link below to find more info about Fuji.
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/how-to-build-the-trip-plan-to-fuji-area-various-sample-itineraries-of-fuji-five-lakes-and-5th-station.html

      Now I answer your inquiries.

      1. You may use Tokaido Shinkansen “Hikari” from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka.
      2. You can take Special rapid train from Shin-Osaka to Kobe.
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/rapid-service/special-rapid-service.html
      3. Limited Express Thunderbird to Kanazawa is covered by JR pass.
      4. You may catch Hokuriku Shinkansen from Kanazawa to Tokyo after trip to Shirakawago. Hokuriku Shinkansen is covered by JR pass fully.
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-departure-arrival-stations/stations-in-kanto/tokyo/ueno/hokuriku-shinkansen-direct-access-to-kanazawa-nagano-and-toyama-from-tokyo.html

      It is not recommended to visit both USJ and Osaka castle in one day. You also have to spend 2.5 hours for Tokyo to Shin-Osaka Shinkansen ride. You will not have one full day. USJ is always crowded. You may squeeze Osaka castle on day 4 to 6.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi, we are planning to go to steak aoyoma in kobe from osaka. Our hotel is located near ebisucho station. May I know if I need to purchase the Amazing Osaka Pass and Hankyu Rail pass?

    Or do you have any idea on how can I arrive to the destination.

    1. Hi Larry,

      If you want one way from Osaka to Kobe, normal ticket is the best choice. Osaka amazing pass is a good choice for sightseeing in Osaka but it does not help for trip to Kobe. Hankyu rail pass is too much.
      The best route from Ebisucho to Kobe is the following:
      Ebisucho (subway) Nippombashi (Kintetsu/Hanshin railway) Kobe-Sannomiya

      Normal ticket is the best choice for this trip.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    If i want to take subway tanimachi line for tennoji, can i go via keihan railway temmabashi station entrance at keihan city mall ?

    Could you tell me where the entrance for subway tanimachi line at temmabashi station ?

    Thank you in advance.

  5. Hi, I am planning on visiting Osaka – Nara – Kyoto – Kobe – Osaka (maybe).

    Which pass should I get or are single fare tickets alright?

    Thanks!

  6. Hello Takeshi San,

    I would like to ask for your help with what pas would be he best for us to buy.

    April 1-5, we will be staying in an apartment close to Ebisucho Station.
    April 2- Osaka
    April 3-Mt Yoshiniyama
    April 4Kyoto
    April 5Nara

    Then from April 5 we travel to Tokyo
    April6-Tokyo
    April 7-Disney
    April 8-Mt Fuji
    April 9-tokyo
    April 10 departure to Narita airport

    Is JR pass the most ideal for us? Please note that I am travelling with my mother-in-law who is doing peritoneal dialysis so we would need to go home at lunch time everyday for the dialysis.

    Thank you so much,
    Wayne

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