Osaka train guide. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots in downtown Osaka?

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 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: 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.

678 thoughts on “Osaka train guide. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots in downtown Osaka?”

  1. Greetings Takeshi-san,
    My wife and I are travelling to Japan from Australia during May. We have a guided tour of northern Japan until May 21, but wish to explore Kansai and surrounds for the remaining days until we fly home in the evening of May 29. We are seeking advice on the best ticketing and travel solutions for the following tentative itinerary, staying in Osaka, as my wife has severe arthritis and wishes to be based somewhere rather than changing cities every day.
    May 21 – Tokyo to Osaka
    May 22 – Osaka
    May 23 – Nara
    May 24 – Ise
    May 25 – Himeji
    May 26 – Hiroshima
    May 27 – Kyoto
    May 28 – Kyoto
    May 29 – Osaka – Tokyo – depart from Narita

    We look forward to your advice.
    Graham and Sharon

  2. Hello Takeshi-san!

    We are going to Tokyo and Osaka for 7 days. Kindly advise if it will be economical for us to secure a JRPass to go around Tokyo and Osaka including Shinkansen bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka.

    Thank you!


  3. Hi,
    Need y our help, we will be arriving from Nagoya to Osaka on Feb 10, is it okay to ride on a kintetsu train? what pass will i buy?
    Feb 10, upon arrival in Osaka nipponbashi area, we will explore the place, what pass do i need to make it cheaper and easier to explore around dotonbori area adn shinsaibashi?
    Feb 11 we will go to universal studio? what train pass do i need to have saving for 3 day tour to osaka area?
    feb 12 no problem because we have a package tour to kobe, kyoto and nara.
    feb 13 free time, what place would you recommend that we should explore, our flight is at night? do we need to buy a train pass? from osaka to kansai airport?
    Please help me, we ill travel next week.thank you so much

  4. Hi Takeshi-san,

    Will I be able to go to Dotonbori, Kyoto, Nara, Biwako Valley, and USJ using only the Kansai Thru Pass?

    Also, would you know how to get to Biwako by commute if i’m coming from Tenmabashi Station?

    Thanks and all the best!


  5. Hi!
    We are travelling to Osaka on Jan.12 to 16. We will be staying in Dotombori area the whole time and will be going to Kyoto as day trip on our 2nd and 3rd day. We will ariive early morning and the check in at the apartment we got is at 3pm.
    So we plan to leave our luggages at lockers first then head to Nara for a half day tour. Then back to Osaka to rest and just go out again for dinner at night.
    2nd and 3rd day kyoto. 4th day osaka. 5th day we still have half day to go around since our flight is still at 7pm.
    Im contemplating whether to get the Kansai through pass or just buy ICOCA prepaid?

  6. Hello Takeshi-San,
    we are going to be using a JR 14 Day pass travelling from Tokyo-Kyoto-Osaka etc. We will be staying in Osaka for 4 days. Could you please tell us if these attractions are covered by the JR Pass and which are not? Also, any other places you recommend? Thank you so much
    Osaka Castle
    Sumiyoshi Taisha
    Umeda sky building
    Hozenji Yokocho
    Shinsekai market
    Namba Yasaka
    Tenryu ji temple
    Osaka Aquarium and Ferris Wheel
    Universal Studios Osaka

      1. Hello Takeshi San,

        Thank you for your help. So does that mean we can use the Osaka Kaiyu ticket to go to both the Osaka Aquarium and Sumiyoshi Taisha in one day? Or separate passes? Thank you

  7. Hi,
    Would appreciate you review my itinerary and let me know if I have utilized the correct passes. I will be staying in Osaka for all days.
    Day 1 – Arrive, Explore downtown Osaka Dotonbori area

    Day 2 – Nara, Osaka castle, Umeda Sky Building

    Day 3 – Osaka Aquarium, Bay area 

    Day 4 – Kyoto

    Day 5 – Kyoto

    Day 6 – Kobe

    Will purchase the Osaka Amazing Pass for days 2 and 3. Other days thinking of using the ICOCA card to travel around the Kansai region so as not to be limited to subway lines. I will be travelling from JR Osaka station and seems like the most direct and efficient routes are via JR special rapid trains.

    Would appreciate your advice on more efficient routes or passes to use. Thanks!

    1. Hi Lynn,

      I recommend you to use Kansai thru pass for day 4 to 6.

      As you think, JR special rapid is the best way to get Kyoto from Osaka. However most tourist spots are not located around Kyoto station.

      Hankyu and Keihan railways are covered by Kansai thru pass and these trains take you to Arashiyama, Gion, Fushimi. And also Kansai thru pass covers city bus and subway in Kyoto. You can use it for Kobe too.

      Osaka amazing pass is a good choice. But Nara is not covered. You need to add single fare or use ICOCA to get Nara.

      You may find some more info in the link below too:


      Takeshi /

  8. Thank you. I will follow your advice by staying at Shin Osaka and will be leaving to Hemeji in the next morning. So I have adjusted my itinerary a bit. I hope you can advice me again what passes should I use for each day. Thanks

    Day 1: KIX – Shin Osaka

    Day 2: Shin Osaka – Hemeji – Nijo Castle – Gion

    Day 3 – 5: Kyoto
    ( City deal)

    Day 6: Kyoto – Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – Osaka Castle – Dotonburi
    (Kansai Thru Pass – 2 Days)

    Day 7: Osaka – Mount Yoshinoyama – KIX

    Thanks again and so sorry for so many questions. I hope this would be my last.

    1. Hi Issac,

      You may use single ticket for arrival day to take a train to Shin-Osaka. And then you can use Kansai area pass one day for day 2.

      For day 3 to 7, you have picked the right deals.

      If you want to save your cost and are okay with spending a bit extra time, you can use Kansai thru pass 3 days for day 2, 6 and 7. You can take subway from Shin-Osaka to Umeda and then take Hanshin Railway and Sanyo Railway. This route is fully covered by Kansai thru pass but trip time is much longer than JR Special Rapid which is covered by Kansai area pass.

      In Kyoto, you need to take a bus to get Gion. Kansai area pass does not cover city bus in Kyoto but Kansai thru pass does.

      You may choose whichever you like. If you use Kansai thru pass for day 2, you don’t need to stay in Shin-Osaka. You can stay in Umeda or Namba.

      And also you supposed to take a bus to Sannomiya and then take a train to Himeji. You can get Sannomiya easily because the last bus departs from KIX at 0:05.

      If you go to Sannomiya, you can take either Hanshi/Sanyo or JR Special rapid. Please do not forget to purchase Kansai thru pass or Kansai area pass before you leave KIX. I think you will start your trip in early morning on day 2. You cannot purchase these passes in early morning. You can purchase it at JR Kansai airport station (Kansai area pass) or Nankai Railway Kansai airport station (Kansai thru pass). Both windows open until 23:00.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hontoni arigatogozaimasu, Takeshi-san!

        You are such a kind person. I hope I can buy you a meal. Thanks again and God bless you.

  9. Konnichiwa Takeshi-san,

    This is my first time to Japan and I would be truly grateful if you can help me out here with the confusing passes which I have tried to read and understand but I failed to identify which passes would be best suited for my itinerary. Below is my itinerary:

    Day 1: I will be landed in KIX at 21:25. I planned to travel to Himeji at the night itself. I know it is very late and that’s why I need your help to assist me on which route should I take to get to Himeji. I am trying to save this one day so I can visit Himeji castle in the next morning.

    Day 2: Himeji Castle – Nijo Castle – Stay at Gion

    Day 3: Kiyomizu-dera – Kodaiji – Heian Jingu – Stay at the same place at Gion

    Day 4: Kinkakuji – Ninnaji – Saihoji/Kokodera – Stay at Arashiyama

    Day 5: Tenryuji Temple – Bamboo Groves – Togetsukyo – Sagano Scenic Railway – Stay at the same place at Arashiyama

    Day 6: Nara, Todaiji Temple (Day Trip) – Osaka Castle – Stay at Dotonburi

    Day 7: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan – KIX

    Please kindly advice which passes should I take to minimize my transportation cost. Your assistance is truly grateful and please do help me out because I have been struggling with this issue for months. Onegaishimasu

    Hontoni arigatogozaimasu

    Note: I will be travelling with my pregnant wife and a kid. I need to make sure they enjoy the trip despite certain inconveniences may caused.

    1. Hi Isaac san,

      Actually I don’t think you can reach Himeji on arrival day. Because you have to catch the train at 22:16 from Kansai airport. There is no trains or buses to go to Himeji after that. It’s almost impossible to complete everything in less than 1 hour. You should say near airport or Osaka on arrival day. If you go to Osaka, you may use one of the deal in the link below:

      You can go to Himeji castle and Nijo castle on day 2. You can use Kansai area pass one day.

      City deal is okay for staying in Kyoto.

      You can use Kansai thru pass 2 days for day 6 and 7.


      Takeshi /

      1. OMG! That’s a bad news!

        I was told that I can take a bus at 22:50 to Sannomiya and from Sannomiya, I can take a train to Himeji. Is this method reliable?

        1. Hi Isaac san,

          Maybe you can. The bus arrive in Sannomiya at 23:55. The last train depart from Sannomiya at 00:23. But this is the last one and only one. If your flight is late or the bus is late, there is no options other than taxi. But taxi is super expensive. I cannot find the rate. But I expect you will spend more than 10,000 yen.

          If you are okay with it, just go for it. But in my opinion, it’s too risky.


          Takeshi /

          1. Hi Takeshi-san,

            So I should stay near Shin-Osaka station on my arrival day? It is the nearest station to take a JR Rapid to Hemeji in the next morning right?

            By the way, I saw from your first reply which you recommend me to take a City deal when I am in Kyoto. Can I know what is a city deal? From your link, I only can see:

            1 Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass
            2 Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card
            3 Kyoto City Subway One-day Pass
            4 ICOCA, Pitata and other IC cards

            Which one is the city deal?

            1. Hi Issac san,

              You can stay in Shin-Osaka or Osaka (Umeda). You can catch Special rapid from these stations.

              I just call these deals “City deal”. You can choose whichever you like for your trip.


              Takeshi /

  10. Hi Mr Takeshi,

    I will be spending 7 nights in Osaka hotel and using Osaka as my base to visit Kyoto and Nara.

    This is my itinerary;

    Day 1 Arrival in Osaka . Will be staying in Brighton hotel in kitahama

    Day 2 Exploring Osaka

    Da 3, 4and 5 Day trip to Kyoto

    Day 6 day trip to Nara

    Day 7 and 8 Osaka

    My hotel is in kitahama in Osaka. According to the instructions given by the hotel is to take the Nankai train from the airport and use the subway to get to kitahama which is more convenient.

    1. I am thinking of using the ICOCA card to travel around in the Kansai Region but can I purchase this card without buying the haruka train ticket from the airport online?

    2. Do you have any suggestions of what kind of passes that I can purchase so as to make my traveling plans easier and to minimize the cost of the transport.

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