Osaka train route guide. How much can we use JR Pass in Osaka? How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots in Osaka?

osaka shin imamiyaOsaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
Click to enlarge (C) JP Rail
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

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

Many places can be accessed by JR Pass and other JR deals. I explained JR train network in the post below. Please refer it:

Osaka subway Enjoy Eco Card and Osaka Unlimited Pass

Please see the map below:

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

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 below 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 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 below 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

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)

USJ at the entrance

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

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

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 the peak season, like fall foliage season, the 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.

Comments

  1. yvonne says:

    Dear Takeshi / JP Rail,

    Really need your help.

    Day 1: Reach Kansai Airport on afternoon, then to Namba Station.
    Hotel in Osaka Vista Grande (Shinsaibashi)

    Day 2: From Namba Station to USJ

    Day 3: Day Trip to Kyoto

    Day 4: Leave for Wakayama City, overnight stay in Manpa Resort, Wakayama

    Day 5: Wakayama – Kansai Airport (morning flight)

    May i know which pass is better for this itinerary ? Kansai Thru Pass or JR area Pass.
    or i buy each ticket on the spot will be cheaper ?

    Can you tell me d transfer station for each destination ?

    Thank you very much…..
    Yvonne

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Yvonne,

      Actually both Kansai Thru Pass and Kansai Area pass do not meet your itinerary. Kansai Thru Pass is good choice for visiting Kyoto. But it’s only one day you can use this pass. On arrival day, you can use Kanku Webtoku ticket or Kanku tokuwari rapi:t ticket.
      http://www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com/top/ticket/railway/

      For other days, single ticket is your choice basically. Only all day bus pass in Kyoto works for your visiting Kyoto.
      http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html

      I think you found to access to USJ at this post above.
      Access to Mampa Resort can be found at Manpa resort site.
      http://www.ryokan-manpa.com/access/

      Regarding Kyoto, there are several ways. It depends on which part of Kyoto you will visit. Please see the details at the following link:
      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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • yvoone says:

        Dear Takeshi / JP Rail,

        if i buy kansai wide area pass, is it good for the above itinerary
        and wakayama i will go to orchard like take kisei main line to Dojoji for fruit orchard.

        First day arrival, can i take haruka line to Namba station ?

        And last day from Wakayama to Kansai Airport is it no need to change train ? or have to change train in hineno ?

        Thank you for your help…

        RDGS.

    • Dear Takeshi/JP Rail,

      Good day!
      Thanks alot for the valuable support of finding time to answer my querries regarding
      Japan rails and tours. My son and I enjoyed going around japan for 7 days. I also found out
      that using the railway is far better than any other mode of transport and the railway system was not that complex. We navigated thru Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagoya in a breeze. We’ve seen the countryside when we went to Toyoma. So beautiful!
      May you never get tired of helping others with their questions.
      More power!

      Tooray

      • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
        Takeshi / JPRail says:

        Hi monseratt,

        I’m happy to hear that. 🙂
        Most of travellers worry about train trips before they go. But as you mentioned, it is not much complicated.
        I hope you will visit Japan again and see different places.

        Cheers,

        Takeshi / JP Rail

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Yvonne,

      If you are sure to visit Dojoji, Kansai Wide Area Pass work. Even round trip Dojoji from Namba by limited express train, pass is cheaper than common fare.
      If you use this pass for KIX-Namba, you can take Haruka to Tennoji and transfer to local train to Namba. But JR Namba station is a bit away from center of Namba. Nankai Railway Namba station is much better location. I still recommend you to use Nankai Railway’s deal to get Namba from KIX on arrival day.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. Dear Takeshi/JP Rail,

    Good day! I would like to ask if what time of the day does the Train station opens and start the trip? I am thinking of boarding from Shin Osaka station to Toyoma as early as 6am so I wil be early or just in time when the Kurobe Alpine Tour opens.
    Can I go back to Osaka using the same train?

    Thanks

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi monseratt,

      In Osaka, major stations, like Shin-Osaka open around 5:00 am. However if you go to Toyama, the first train, Limited Express Thuderbird #1, depart at 7:14 and arrive in Toyama at 10:22. Other ordinary trains depart from Shin-Osaka earlier. But these trains do not go to Toyama directly and very slow. As a result, Thunderbird #1 is the fastest and 10:22 is the earliest time to arrive in Toyama from Shin-Osaka.

      It’s not impossible but it will be very tight to visit Alpine route in one day.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  3. Helen says:

    Please give suggestions on which pass to get for our trip. We are 7 adults and 3 seniors staying near Gion Kyoto.

    Day 1 – Late arrival in Kansai International Airport. We reserved Yasaka Shuttle to take us to our hotel in Gion. I think this is better option for us with 10 luggages.
    Day 2 – Nara Park, Gekkeikan Sake Musseum and Fushimi Inari. Walking around Gion District in late afternoon.
    Day 3 – Walking tour of Higashiyama district in the morning and transfer in the afternoon from Gion to Shinsaibashi Osaka. Dotonbori in the evening.
    Day 4 – Umeda Sky Building, Instant Ramen Museum and Universal Studios
    Day 5 – Shinsaibashi Shopping Arcade and transfer to KIX airport in the afternoon.

    Thank you.

  4. Char says:

    hi takeshi!
    i was wondering what pass should i get if im going to areas like osaka castle, tokyo hands, kyoto, nara, universal studio, gion-shijo? our hotel is situated near shinsaibashi.

    regards,
    char

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Char,

      Kansai Thru Pass seems to be the best chocie. But it’s hard to say at this point. You have to make the detailed itinerary, like below.

      day 1 KIX-Shinsaibashi
      day 2 trip to Kyoto. visit Kinkakuji temple, Kiyomizudera….
      day 3 sightseeing Osaka, visit Osaka castle, Namba…

      When we compare deal, pass and single fare, we have to find how many trips we have per day. Otherwise we can’t compare. Single fare is cheaper than pass/deal very often.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • char says:

        hi takeshi,
        here’s our itinerary:
        day 1: osaka castle, umeda, hankyu, tokyo hands, spotaka
        day 2: kyota, nara and gion-shijo
        day 3: universal studio
        day 4: ?
        day 5: ?

        hotel near shinsaibashi btw

        what would you suggest for the pass?
        and what would you reccomend for day 4 and 5? 🙂

        thank you for the help takeshi! 🙂

        sincerely,
        char

        • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
          Takeshi / JPRail says:

          Hi Char,

          You can use Kansai Thru Pass 2 days if you arrive in KIX on day 1. And you can continue to use the pass on day 2. Single ticket is okay for day 3.
          But it will be tight to visit both Kyoto and Nara in one day. I recommend you to split, Kyoto on day 2 and Nara on day 4. You can visit Nara for half day, but there are so many places to see in Kyoto. Do you want to visit Gion-Shijo only? How about Fushimi Inara and Arashiyama?
          If you split it, your itinerary is the following:

          day 1: osaka castle, umeda, hankyu, tokyo hands, spotaka
          day 2: kyoto, gion-shijo
          day 3: Nara, Fushimi Inari
          day 4: universal studio
          day 5: ?

          In this case, you can use Kansai thru pass 3 days for day 1, 2 and 4.
          https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

          On day 5, Kobe or Mt. Koya is recommended. If you leave Japan on day 5, Mt. Koya is a bit tight. Kobe is better choice.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Agnes says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    Need your help in finding best travel mode/pass for my itinerary below:

    Arrive 8pm, travel Kansai airport to Temmabashi Station Osaka
    Next day, Day 1 – Osaka Castle, Umeda, Namba/Dotonbori/Shinsaibashi
    Travel to Kyoto (hotel near Kyoto station), stay in Kyoto overnight
    Day 2 – Kiyomizu, Gion area, stay in Kyoto overnight
    Day 3 – Arashimaya area, stay in Kyoto overnight
    Day 4 – Fushimi Inari and Nara
    Return to Kyoto Station area for luggage
    Leave for Kansai airport from Kyoto station area at 4pm latest

    Thanks so much for your help!

  6. Hi Takeshi san,

    I will be going to tokyo with my friend next month for 7days and after that will be travelling to osaka for 4days and kyoto for 1day.Im really confuse about e route for taking subway n jr line.Could you advise me on this?

    For my itineary,we will arrive at haneda airport in e afternoon and planning of going to disneyland/sea,odaiba,yokohama,harajuku,asakusa,skytree,tsukiji market,tokyo station and mt fuji if there is enough time.From tokyo we are thinking of buying 1 way jr pass to osaka or do u suggest us getting the 7 days jr pass instead?And in osaka we will be going to osaka castle,usj and namba area and kyoto for 1day from osaka too.On our last day we will depart from kansai airport and back to taiwan.

    Please do advise us the places to go beside all those that i have mention above and the type of pass we should get for travelling to all these places and lastly how to get to them.

    Regards Peifen

  7. Guru Medz
    Arbee says:

    Hello! We will be going to Namba station from Izumisano and I was wondering which is the best, cheapest route for round trip, since we will only go to Central Namba for one day?

    We are thinking via Nankai Railway or Airport Express, though I wonder if we should buy the ticket straight from the Airport Arrival and travel the next day, or just go to Izumisano and but the tickets from there?

    Thank you

  8. Justin L says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I wish to ask what is the best IC card for Both Osaka and Kyoto.
    In Osaka, I will be using Osaka municipal subway.
    In Kyoto, I will be using Kyoto city buses and Kyoto city subway.
    (But there will be one day that I’ll be using JR train to get to Jr Saga Arashiyama)

    I think its between Icoca and Pasmo? Please advise thank you.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Justin,

      Actually it doesn’t matter. The coverage is exactly same. But any IC card cannot be used for Kyoto city bus so far. I’ve heard it will be accepted, but I don’t know when at this moment.

      Pasmo is issued by private train companies in Tokyo area. Pitata is issued by Kansai private train companies.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  9. Tooray says:

    Dear Takeshi/JP Rail,

    Hello there!
    My son and I will arrive in KIX @1955H on May 18,2014. I already booked a Ryokan in Izumisano just for the night. Can I use a JR pass right away?
    Coming from Izumisano on May 19, how can I reach Shinsibaishi/Namba with my JR pass as we are booked in a hotel in that area?
    Then from Namba, we wish to go to Hiroshima using JR pass, very possible, right?!
    How about Alpine Route coming from Osaka using JR pass?

    Thanks.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      JPRail says:

      Hi Tooray,

      It’s not a smart way to activate JR Pass right after you arrive. Because you need to take Nankai Railway to get Izumisano. JR Pass does not cover Nankai Railway because it’s not JR. And also you cannot use JR Pass to get Namba because Nankai Railway takes you there directly from Izumisano.

      You can get Hiroshima by JR pass. You need to get Shin-Osaka from Namba. Subway that is not covered by JR pass is the best way to get Shin-Osaka from Namba as you see above. But you have other way to get Shin-Osaka from Namba by JR. You can find info above too.

      If you want to go to Alpine route, you can use JR pass to get Toyama or Shinano-Omachi. But you can use JR Pass on alpine route itself. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/tateyama-kurobe-alpine-route-one-of-most-spectacular-sightseeing-route-in-northern-japan-alps.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Hi Takeshi/JP rail.
        Thanks alot for the info. I have browsed the Alpine Route post you suggested and found that the one way journey from Osaka to Omachi is cheaper than returning to Osaka. I plan to visit Tokyo from there. So what pass is best suited for our trip?

        May 18 – arrive KIx, overnight in Izumisano thru Nankai Railway
        May 19 – early am bound for Namba thru Nankai Railway
        midday bound for Hiroshima (what subway line?)
        May 20 – Alpine Route from Osaka, then to Tokyo
        May 21-22 – Tokyo sight seeing
        May 23 – Tokyo to Osaka/Namba
        May 24 – Namba to KIx

        Thanks,
        Tooray

        • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
          Takeshi / JPRail says:

          Hi monseratt,

          Japan Rail Pass is the best and only choice for your trip.
          After you stay in Izumisano, don’t go to Namba but going back to KIX. JR Pass does not cover Nankai railway, any subway and any other non JR railway trains. After you go back to KIX, then start to use JR Pass. Limited Express Haruka takes you Shin-Osaka directly.
          https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/kansai-airport-limited-express-haruka.html

          After you arrive in Shin-Osaka, you can take Shinkansen to get Hiroshima.

          You can exchange the pass on arrival day and book your trains on arrival day as well.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. ching et says:

    Dear Takeshi / JP Rail,

    Really need your help.

    Day 1: Reach Kansai Airport on 2225 (night), am i able to catch any train to hotel at osaka?
    My last choice is to stay at Nikko Hotel which is expensive. (me, husband & 2yrs kid)

    Day 2: Osaka aquarium

    Day 3: Osaka to kobe (day trip)

    Day 4: Osaka (morning go to central market) the cheak out & stay at kyoto

    Day 5-9: Kyoto (itinerary yet confirm)

    Day 10: go to KIX at 4.30pm.

    which package of pass recommended for me? is it subway always is better choice?

    thanks.

    regards
    ching et

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