How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Wakayama. Compare Japan Railway and private railways.

Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO
Kobe Harborland © Kobe Convention & Visitors Association/© JNTO

As you probably have already known, train system in Japan is very complicated. Especially in urban area, there are lots of railways. You might not understand the difference between Japan Railways (JR), subways and private railways.

Especially in Kansai area, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji and Wakayama, many trains runs among these cities. You may be overwhelmed. But it is very important to understand the train system. You will make a trip much smoothly and save your trip time.

I would like to explain about JR lines and private railway companies in Kansai area in this post. You may find which train line is the best for your trip.

Overview of train system in Kansai area

Please find the map below. It looks very complicated, but please do not upset. I will explain you one by one.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I tried to make this map as simple as possible. But it still shows you many train lines. This map actually does not show all stations and all train lines. It shows you only major stations, major lines, transfer points and the station where is near popular sightseeing spot.

You have to pick one of those lines. It is complicated but I would like to explain you these train lines one by one.

JR trains

JR used to be Japanese National Railway. It has lines throughout Japan. In Kansai area, JR network has the biggest train network. I would like to show you only JR lines in Kansai area at the map below:

Click to enlarge.
JR conventional line shown in bold blue line and Shinkansen line shown in navy and white dotted line (click to view large)

You can catch JR train right after you arrive in Kansai airport. You can go almost anywhere in Kansai area, like Osaka (both Umeda and Namba), Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Wakayama and Himeji.

If you use JR Pass, Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass or other JR deal, try to use JR train as much as you can. JR has two kinds of railways, Shinkansen and conventional lines.

Conventional line’s trains in Kansai area

Special Rapid Service operated by JR West 223 series.
Special Rapid Service dominates Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe-Himeji transfer.

There are many train services on the conventional line network.

  • Limited Express, such as Haruka (Kansai airport – Shin Osaka – Kyoto)
  • Rapid
  • Local

Most of you take a rapid train service. This is a sort of commute train but it stops at major stations only. This train service offers you a high speed transfer among cities.

Especially if you want to move among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and Himeji, Special Rapid Service is the fastest and most convenient train service on the conventional line. The trip time for major segments are the following:

  • Osaka / Sannomiya (Kobe) — 22 minutes
  • Osaka / Kyoto — 28 minutes
  • Sannomiya / Kyoto — 50 minutes
  • Osaka / Himeji– 1 hour 10 minutes

Please see the link below to find more information about Special Rapid Service train:

JR Special Rapid Service train between Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe and HImeji

There are many more rapid train services in Kansai area, such as Nara, Kansai airport and Wakayama. Please see the link below to get more information about rapid train services in Kansai area:

Kansai area JR rapid train network

Shinkansen (a.k.a. Bullet Train)

Shinkansen is the high speed train service in Japan. Shinkansen stops at Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Nishiakashi and Himeji in Kansai area.
Shinkansen stops at Maibara, Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, Shin-Kobe, Nishiakashi and Himeji in Kansai area.

Shinkansen is a high speed train service as you probably know. It is much faster than any trains on conventional lines. Shinkansen usually used for long distance transfer, such as Tokyo to Osaka.

What is Shinkansen?

But it can be used for short distance, like Shin-Osaka to Kyoto. It connects Shin-Osaka and Kyoto in 13 minutes, and Shin-Osaka to Shin-Kobe in 15 minutes. This is so fast. But if you leave from Umeda or other stations in Osaka, you may have to add some extra time to transfer at Shin-Osaka. Because Shin-Osaka is one station away from Osaka (Umeda). Let’s compare trip time for Osaka (Umeda) to Kyoto between Shinkansen and Special Rapid Service.

By Special Rapid Service
Osaka – 28 minutes – Kyoto
By Shinkansen
Osaka – 4 minutes – Shin Osaka (5 to 10 minutes for transfer) – 13 minutes – Kyoto

It may take 25 minutes even if you take high speed train, Shinkansen.
Shinkansen is not much faster than Special Rapid Service.

How about trip to Kobe by Shinkansen? In my opinion, it is not a good idea if you think about using Shinkansen from Osaka. It is same situation as trip to Kyoto. You have to move to Shin-Osaka to catch Shinkansen. And also Shin-Kobe station is one station away from Sannomiya by subway.

By Special Rapid Service
Osaka – 22 minutes – Sannomiya
By Shinkansen
Osaka – 4 minutes – Shin Osaka (5 to 10 minutes for transfer) – 15 minutes – Shin Kobe (5 to 10 minutes transfer) – 2 minutes – Sannomiya


View Downtown Kobe in a larger map

In this case, Shinkansen is slower than Special Rapid Service.

If you use JR pass, you can take Shinkansen for this short transfer because it is fully covered by JR pass. It is not worth taking Shinkansen for these short transfers by single fare.

Private Railways in Kansai area

There are many private company’s railways (=NON JR) in Kansai area. Actually these train companies offers more convenient train service than JR trains on many segments. I would like to show you all major company’s lines in Kansai area.

This map shows you only NON JR railways (private railway and subway). Click to enlarge.
This map shows you only NON JR railways (private railway and subway). Click to enlarge.

Kansai Thru Pass is very popular deal to travel in Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Koyasan and Wakayama. This pass covers these Non JR train services. If you make lots of trips by these private train services, you may use Kansai Thru Pass. Please see the link below to find more information about Kansai Thru Pass:

Kansai Thru Pass user guide

Hankyu Railway

9300 series is mainly used for limited express on Kyoto line.
9300 series is mainly used for limited express on Kyoto line.

Hankyu Railway runs Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Takarazuka.

In Osaka, Umeda is the terminal station. Umeda is same location as JR Osaka station. All trains depart from Umeda to all destinations. In Kyoto, you can reach Kawaramachi (near Gion) and Arashiyama. This train service takes you to Sannomiya in Kobe.

This map shows you Hankyu Railway and Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line. Click to enlarge.
Hankyu Railway and Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line shown in bold brown line (Click to view large)

There is no direct scheduled trains between Kyoto and Kobe. You have to change the trains at either Juso or Umeda. Juso is the junction of Kobe line, Kyoto line, and Takarazuka line. This station is only two stations away from Umeda. In the peak period, like spring cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons, the direct train service to Arashiyama from Umeda and/or sometimes from Kobe-Sannomiya are available. But you have to change the trains at Katsura usually when you go to Arashiyama by Hankyu Railway.

Hankyu Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. But an express supplement is not required for taking any trains, even limited express. It is same category as JR’s Special Rapid Service.

The trip times for major segments are the following:

  • Umeda / Sannomiya — 27 minutes
  • Umeda / Kawaramachi — 43 minutes
  • Umeda / Arashiyama — 45 minutes

I show you Osaka Subway Sakaisuji line in the map above. Because this subway train go through Hankyu Railway line. You may get Kyoto by direct service from many places in downtown Osaka.

Keihan Railway

Keihan Railway limited express has a by-level car in the train set.

Keihan Railway is another way to get Kyoto from Osaka.

At Osaka, Yodoyabashi and Nakanoshima are the terminal stations. But the primary station is Yodoyabashi. Most of express trains depart from Yodoyabashi. And this station is connected with Umeda and Namba by Osaka Subway Midousuji line.You can also take this railway at Kyobashi. You can transfer from JR Osaka Kanjo line at Kyobashi. In Kyoto, Gion-Shijo, Sanjo and Demachiyanagi are the terminal stations. Keihan Railway is most accessible way to visit Higashiyama area directly.

Keihan Railway also runs to Uji. You can transfer the trains at Chushojima.

The map shows only Keihan Railway. Click to enlarge.
Keihan Railway shown in bold green line (Click to view large)
Keihan 8000 series have nice accommodation too. (C) Sonic Rail Garden
Keihan 8000 series have nice accommodation at no extra charge. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Keihan Railway operates many category of trains, such as limited express, express, semi-express, local. Limited express train has one by-level car in each train set. It also has “Premium car” in each train set. It has much bigger and more comfortable seat.

Seat layout is 2+1. It is 2+2 in other regular car.

Additional fare is 400 or 500 yen required to take a seat in Premium car. The fare is varied by the distance.

You can take all trains without any surcharge other than Premium car seat. This limited express train is same type of service as JR’s Special Rapid Service as well.

The trip time on major sections are the following:

  • Yodoyabashi / Gion-Shijo or Sanjo — 50 minutes
  • Kyobashi / Gion-Shijo or Sanjo — 45 minutes

Hanshin Railway

This 9000 series and most of Hanshin Railway's train equip a bench seat only.
This 9000 series and most of Hanshin Railway’s train equip a bench seat only.

Hanshin Railway connect Osaka and Kobe.

Hanshin has two terminals at two biggest downtown cores in Osaka, Umeda and Namba. At Kobe side, Kobe-Sannomiya and Motomachi are the primary stations.

Hanshin Railway and Sanyo Railway are shown in the map. Click to enlarge.
Hanshin Railway and Sanyo Railway shown in bold red line (Click to view large)

Hanshin Railway lines are very short but this railway connects with other railways at both end. In Kobe, Hanshin is connected with Sanyo Railway. Many express trains go through Himeji via Sanyo Railway. At the other side, Hanshin is connected with Kintetsu Railway at Osaka-Namba station. Many of trains go through Nara from Motomachi or Kobe-Sannomiya via Kintetsu Railway. This is only way to get Nara from Kobe directly. Major direct train services and trip time are the following:

  • Umeda / Sannomiya — 30 minutes
  • Osaka-Namba / Sannomiya — 45-50 minutes
  • Umeda – (Hanshin) – Motomachi – (Sanyo) – Himeji — 95 to 100 minutes
  • Nara – (Kintetsu) – Osaka-Namba – (Hanshin) – Motomachi — 80 minutes

Hanshin Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. But no extra charge is required to take any trains.

Nankai Railway

Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya
Nankai Railway Limited Express Koya

Nankai Railway is one of major ways to get Osaka from Kansai airport. It also takes you to Wakayama and Gokurakubashi that is the gateway to Koyasan (Mt. Koya).

Koyasan (Mt. Koya) access guide

Nankai Railway has a huge terminal station in Namba, Osaka. Most of trains depart and arrive at this station.

Nankai Railway shown in navy bold line (Click to view large)
Nankai Railway shown in bold navy line. (Click to view large)

Nankai Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, express, local. Express train surcharge is required to take limited express trains. The name of limited express train and the trip time for major segments are the following:

  • Limited Express “Southern” (Osaka-Namba / Wakayamashi) — 1 hour
  • Limited Express “Rapi:t” (Osaka-Namba / Kansai Airport) — 45 to 55 minutes
  • Limited Express “Koya” (Osaka-Namba / Gokurakubashi) — 80 minutes
  • Limited Express “Rinkan” (Osaka-Namba / Hashimoto) — 45 minutes

There are express trains and local trains if you want to avoid paying extra. Actually trip time is not so much different. It depends on the distance. In most of cases, you will spend 10 to 15 minutes extra. But interior is very different. Your seat is reserved if you take limited express and very comfortable. If you take express without surcharge, it is a commute train. You may not be able to get a seat.

*Only limited express “Southern” has two types of seats, limited express seat and commuter car seat. Commute car seat is same as other commute train. This is non reserved seat and express surcharge is not required to take this.

Kintetsu Railway

Kintetsu Railway has the biggest limited express train network in all private railway companies.

Kintetsu Railway operates a train service in the biggest private railway network in Japan. It connects Osaka, Nara, Yoshino, Kyoto, Nagoya and Ise.

In this post, I would like to tell you about Kintetsu Railway network in Kansai area only. If you want the information about trip to Ise / Shima area, please refer the post below:

Ise access guide

Kintetsu Railway only is shown in the map above. Click to enlarge.
Kintetsu Railway shown in bold orange line (Click to view large)

In Osaka, Kintetsu Railway has two terminal stations, such as Osaka-Namba and Osaka-Abenobashi. As I mentioned at the chapter of Hanshin Railway, Kintetsu Railway is connected with Hanshin Railway at Osaka-Namba. You can take direct train service between Kobe and Nara by Hanshin and Kintetsu. You may take Kintetsu Railway train at Tsuruhashi. You can change to JR Osaka Kanjo line at this station.

Kintetsu is also major way to get Nara from Kyoto. Kintetsu Kyoto station is same location as JR Kyoto station. You can transfer from JR and Kyoto subway at Kyoto station very easily. But Kintetsu Railway is connected to Kyoto subway at Takeda station. Some trains go through Kyoto subway Karasuma line.

You can use Kintetsu Railway for Osaka-Kyoto transfer. But it is a detour and there is no direct train services provided between Osaka and Kyoto by Kintetsu Railway. You have to change the trains at Yamato-Saidaiji. If you really want to use Kintetsu Railway, you can take this route. Otherwise it is wasting time and money.

Kintetsu Railway is only way to get Yoshino which is very popular to see cherry blossom. There is a direct train service from Osaka-Abenobashi. If you access to Yoshino from Kyoto, Nara, you have to transfer the trains at least once at Kashihara-Jingumae station.

Kintetsu Railway operates several kinds of trains, like limited express, rapid express, express, local. Express train surcharge is required to take limited express trains. Kintetsu Railway has a big limited express train network. But if you take Kintetsu Railway to get Nara from Osaka or Kyoto, you may not use limited express train because it is such a short ride. If you visit Yoshino, limited express may be your choice. The trip time for major segments are the following:

  • Osaka-Namba / Kintetsu Nara — 40 minutes
  • Kyoto / Kintetsu Nara — 45 minutes
  • Osaka-Abenobashi / Yoshino — 85 minutes (75 minutes by limited express)

How to choose the lines and trains to Kyoto from Osaka

Departure station in Osaka

Where are you going to stay in Osaka? If you will stay in Umeda area, Hankyu and Japan Railway may be your choice. If you stay near Yodoyabashi, Tenmabashi or Kyobashi, Keihan is more accessible. If you stay in Namba or other location in Osaka, you need to take subway line or JR Osaka loop line anyway. Think about arrival station in Kyoto.


View Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe in a larger map

You can find the train network map at the post, Guide to take trains in Osaka. How to choose the best route by train to get the major spots?

Arrival station in Kyoto

Which part of Kyoto do you want to go? JR Special Rapid Service train is the fastest way to get Kyoto.

JR Special Rapid / Osaka – Kyoto 28 minutes
Hankyu Railway Limited Express / Umeda – Kawaramachi 45 minutes
Keihan Railway Limited Express / Yodoyabashi – Gion-Shijo 50 minutes

But most tourist spots in Kyoto are away from JR Kyoto station. You have to take a bus or subway to get there, such as Kinkakuji temple, Kiyomizudera temple, Yasaka Jinja shrine. Only Arashiyama and Nijo castle is accessible by JR trains.

If you want to go to Higashiyama or Gion, such as Kiyomizudera temple, Yasaka Jinja shrine, Philosopher’s Walk, Hankyu Railway and Keihan Railway are more convenient than Japan Railway.

If you are looking for information about all trains in Kyoto, please refer the post below:

Kyoto train guide

How to choose the lines and trains to Kobe from Osaka

Departure station in Osaka

You have two options, Umeda (JR Osaka) or Namba. If you stay around Umeda area, you can choose from Japan Railway, Hankyu or Hanshin. Hankyu and Hanshin are cheaper than JR but JR is faster.

If you will stay in Namba area, Hanshin Railway is the best choice.

You can find the train network map of Osaka in the post below:

Osaka train guide

Arrival station in Kobe

Which part of Kobe do you want to go? You can go anywhere in Kobe by Japan Railway and Hanshin Electric Railway. Most of trains of Hankyu Railway go to Sannomiya only. If you are looking for the transfer to other area in Kobe, think about JR or Hanshin.
But Kobe is smaller than Kyoto. So it is not much different among JR, Hanshin and Hankyu.

You can find the train network map of Kobe in the post below:

Kobe train guide

How to choose a train service between Kobe and Kyoto

Only JR Special Rapid Service offers you a direct train service. It is the fastest and maybe faster than even Shinkansen. But as I mentioned to you above, JR Kyoto station is away from most tourist spots. On the other hand, Hankyu Railway can take you to Kyoto from Kobe. Hankyu do not offer any scheduled train on this section. But Kawaramachi station is located near Gion and Higashiyama. JR and Hankyu’s trip time are the following.

Sannomiya / JR Kyoto — 50 minutes
Sannomiya / Hankyu Kawaramachi — 65 minutes (change the trains at Juso)

Hankyu is slower. And you have to think about the location in Kyoto. If you stay around JR Kyoto station, JR is the best way. But if you stay in other area, such as Gion, you may spend another 15-20 minutes get JR Kyoto station. Hankyu may be better choice. If you go to Arashiyama in Kyoto, it is same story. Hankyu is better as well.

Assessment

There are many train services and it makes you confused. But as long as you

694 thoughts on “How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Wakayama. Compare Japan Railway and private railways.”

  1. Konnichiwa Takeshi-san,

    Below is my current travel itinerary for 15th February to 28th February.
    Could you kindly recommend me the cheapest options or passes that i need to purchase?

    15 FEB (FRI) Osaka
    16 FEB (SAT) Osaka
    17 FEB (SUN) Osaka
    18 FEB (MON) Osaka -> Kyoto
    19 FEB (TUES) Kyoto
    20 FEB (WED) Kyoto -> Nara
    21 FEB (THURS) Nara -> Kobe
    22 FEB (FRI) Kobe
    23 FEB (SAT) Kobe -> Himeji
    24 FEB (SUN) Himeji -> Okayama
    25 FEB (MON) Okayama -> Hiroshima
    26 FEB (TUES) Hiroshima -> Yamaguchi
    27 FEB (WED) Yamaguchi -> Kitakyushu
    28 FEB (THURS) Kitakyushu -> Fukuoka

    Thank you so much! Looking forward to your reply 🙂

    Best Regards,
    Shawn

      1. Hi Takeshi-san,

        Thank you for your prompt response!

        I have read through the 3 links which you have provided me but still confused.
        Can you advise which cheapest pass to buy for the first 7 days?

        1) 15th Feb to 22nd Feb – Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe -> ??? Pass

        Should i get the 7 Day JR Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass? Is this the cheapest for this?

        2) 23rd Feb to 28th Feb – Himeji, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka

        Sanyo Sanin area pass – Does this cover Kitakyushu?

        1. Hi Shawn san,

          For Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe, you have to pay individually for city to city. There is no deals to cover this part of your trip. Kansai Hokuriku area pass and other deals are too much and you cannot get the worth.

          And you may add a local deal at each city. You can find such as city bus pass, subway pass in the links which I gave you.

          You can take Shinkansen to get Kokura by Sanyo Sanin area pass. But this pass does not cover any local trains in Kyushu. Only Shinkansen is covered, so you have to pay for the ride of local trains after you get off Shinkansen at Kokura.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi! Takeshi san
    Im going to osaka with 3 kids and 2 senior ( 65 yrs ).
    This is our planned itinerary:
    Day1: kansai to Tsuruhashi ; I notice theres a direct train frm kansai to tsuruhashi JR.
    (I have suica card, can I use it?; is there an IC card for senior (65yrs old and kids? Where can I buy for kids and senior?)
    Day2: osaka city ( shinsaibashi/ dotonbori )
    Day 3: osaka castle/ osaka museum housing : mitsui outlet
    ( is it advisable if I use 2 day osaka metro pass for day 2&3? Or eco card?
    Day 4: USJ &( tsuruhashi to USJ) use suica
    Day 5: going to kyoto
    Arashiyama and fushimi inari; kyoto tower and kiyomizu dera
    ( can i use suica to travel from tsurhashi to arashiyama? Do i have to exit at kyoto station then enter again to go to arashiyama?)
    Or which pass is better?
    Day 6: tsuruhashi to nara
    ( suica card)
    Day 7: tsuruhashi to kansai ( suica card)

    Pls advise if my itinerary is ok. Or is there a better option?
    Or kansai pass is better?
    Is Jr west pass same with kansai area pass?

    Thankyou very much! Your reply will be highly appreciated.

    1. Hi Michelle san,

      You can use Suica in Kansai area too.
      Senior IC card is not available. There is no discount and same adult card is the choice. Kansai one pass is recommended. And child card can be purchased at the window in any JR stations, such as Kansai airport station, Tsuruhashi station. Please see the link below to find more info about IC card.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/what-is-ic-card-suica-icoca-pasmo-how-to-use-these-cards.html

      Suica or IC card is okay for day 2 and 4.

      Osaka amazing pass is considerable for day 3.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      Kintetsu rail pass 2 days for day 5 and 6.
      https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/ticket/krp_1day2day.html

      But this pass takes you just Kyoto station. You have to take a city bus or other railway to go around Kyoto. You may use IC card for these trips in Kyoto.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi! Takeshi-san.
        Thank you for your prompt reply.
        Would like to clarify: The Kintetsu Rail Pass will be use from Tsuruhashi station to kyoto station and kyoto station to Tsuruhashi on Day5;
        Then while in kyoto, I will use the suica card to travel to arashiyama, fushimi inari and Nishiki market, Yakasa Shrine; Kiyomizu dera?
        Then on Day 6: I will use the kintetsu rail pass from Tsuruhashi to Nara station. And nara park; then Nara station to Tsuruhashi also.
        Is this correct?

        is there any rail pass unlimited that i can use while in kyoto? Or i should just use the suica?

          1. HI TAKESHI-SHAN,

            I will note all the informations you posted. I would like to verify about the kintetsu rail pass. From Tsuruhashi station to Yamato-Saidaiji Station via Kintetsu Nara Line. Then Yamato-Saidaiji Station to Kyoto Station on board the kintetsu limited express. Is the kintetsu Limited express also covered by Kintetsu rail 2 days pass?
            How about the buses in kyoto, is it also covered by the kintetsu rail 2 days pass?
            Thanks.

    2. Hi Takeshi,
      I will be visiting Tokyo and Kyoto this April 2019 Will be in Tokyo and Kyoto for 10 days.
      Tokyo- April 5- April 10. Arrival in Tokyo is April 5.
      Kyoto- April 10-14. April 14 is departure day back to California. will take Shinkansen and Narita Express back to Tokyo from Kyoto.
      Will be arriving and departing from Tokyo. I am planning to buy 7 day JR pass to use between Tokyo-Kyoto and back to Tokyo. Arriving Friday Apri l5 and plan to start using JR pass Monday April 8 to April 14.
      I would like to ask what would be the best card to purchase for the first 3 days that I will be in Tokyo and what card or pass to buy to use while in Kyoto for 4 days ?
      Thank you.

      1. Hi Eileen,

        There are some deals which includes Narita to Tokyo and Tokyo Subway Ticket. Please see the link below:
        https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/airport_bus/index.html

        JR Pass covers JR local train in Kyoto. You can access to Arashiyama, Nijo, Fushimi Inari and Nijo by JR pass. You may add city bus pass for one day at 500 yen and you can access most of places in Kyoto.
        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/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

  3. Hi Takeshi

    Please find below the detailed itenierary
    Day 1 – Arrival at night Kansai Airport (stay at Osaka) ( hotel near station for easier departure to Kyoto – not decided yet though)
    Day 2 – early morning departure to Kyoto (Kyoto Hotel in Gion ( nearest station Gion Shijo and Kawaramachi) after reaching hotel normal nearby sightseeing
    Day 3,4,5 – Stay in Kyoto (Aarishyama, Fushimi Inari, Sagano Train ride, Temples etc on the list)
    Day 6 – departure to Osaka in the eve ( hotel near JR Namba)
    Day 7 – USJ Osaka
    Day 8 – Day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima
    Day 9 – shopping etc and transfer to Airport from Hotel.

    Now I do have couple of ques

    Option 1 – Should I opt for JR pass for 7 days (activate on morning Day 2 and Expire on Day 8, which completes Hiroshima trip)

    This do not cover to and fro airport transfer though and I believe will be a bit tough to travel within Kyoto

    Option 2 – Should I buy Kansai thru pass for Kyoto ( which I believe will be easy for Gion Hotel) and Kansai Hiroshima Pass – activate on Day 6 ( will cover airport transfer, and kyoto to osaka and Hiroshima trip)

    If choose option 2 will that allow me to go to Universal Studio ?
    What is the validity of Kansai thru pass as I want to spend time at the above locations not just cover and come back so mostly will do only 1 or 2 sights in one day.

    Thank you so much

    1. Hi Nishi,

      You should use Kansai Hiroshima area pass for day 5 to 9. But I don’t recommend you to use Kansai thru pass because you cannot get the worth of it. It’s okay for using on day 1 but you should use this for the trip to outside Kyoto. It’s too much for using it in Kyoto. Especially you don’t make a lots of trips a day.

      I recommend you to use Kansai one pass and Haruka for day 1 to 4.
      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

      You can take Haruka from KIX to Kyoto. You have to take subway and Hankyu railway to get Gion-Shijo from Kyoto station. But even if you use Kansai thru pass, you have to change trains twice, at Tengachaya and Awaji. And all trains are commute train. But if you take Haruka, it offers much better accommodation.

      You can use Kansai one pass to take any trains, subways and city buses in Kyoto. from day 5, you can use Kansai one pass and you can get USJ by this pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi,
    We are travelling to Japan in Tokyo. Our aim is arrival @ Tokyo on 4th morning, take train to Kyoto and stay for 3 nights then train to Osaka and stay for 4 nights there after take train back to Tokyo and stay for 4 nights. We are thinking of purchasing the Japan Rail pass which should include all the trains to these places? how about travelling within the places, is there any other pass that we should consider?

    1. Hi Linda,

      You may use JR pass but only 7 days is your choice. You will spend 7 nights 8 days in Osaka and Kyoto. 7 days pass is too short to cover it but 14 days pass is too expensive to get the worth of it by your trip plan. You have several options:

      1. Shrink 6 nights 7 days in Osaka and Kyoto.
      You may use 7 days JR pass.

      2. Add one big trip to get the worth of 14 days pass.
      Tokyo-Osaka/Kyoto round trip fare is about 7 days pass. That is a reason why you cannot use 14 days pass. Even if you use the pass in Osaka and Kyoto, it does not help to get the worth of 14 days pass because those are short train ride only. But if you add a big day trip from Osaka or Tokyo, you can get the worth of 14 days pass. I show you several big day trip itinerary in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-osaka-or-kyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1to3-days/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-tokyo.html

      3. Use a regular fare ticket for Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Osaka and Osaka to Tokyo.
      Simply keep your trip plan and give up using JR pass.

      If you use JR pass, you can use it in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.
      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-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Please think which option the best is for you.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Dear Takeshi-san,

    I am staying in airbnb near OCAT. Im looking at purchasing JR west rail pass (2/3 days) to get to Kyoto/Nara/Kobe. The nearest station seems to be Namba station. Are you able to advise on the route to take? I am still unsure which rail are covered by the JR west rail pass. I researched but most stations to take JR trains is at Shin Osaka station, which means I need to travel to Shin Osaka by Namba station. Does that means I have to buy another pass?

    1. Hi Sam san,

      JR-Namba is the nearest JR station which is same located as OCAT. Please see the chapter of “JR trains” in the post above. It shows you the lines which are covered by JR West Kansai area pass.
      However Kansai thru pass is better choice for travel to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. You cannot take JR trains but you can take Kintetsu railway, Keihan railway, Hankyu railway, Osaka subway, Kyoto subway and Kyoto city bus. Kyoto city bus is a big advantage to see the places in Kyoto.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      http://www.surutto.com/tickets/kansai_thru_english.html
      http://www.surutto.com/images/ticket/kansai_thru_pass/english/en_map.pdf

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hello Takeshi-san,

    This would be my first time coming to Japan for holiday with the family but i am having difficulty finding routes around certain areas. Any help/advise would be greatly appreciated!

    1) Travelling from Kyoto (Hotel Kintetsu) to Odawara (Hakone)

    2) Travel Between Odawara Station to Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo (Shinjuku Station)

    Thanks and Regards
    Mark G

  7. Hi Takeshi-san, Thank you for your previous reply on ICOCA-HARUKA. Can I take Limited Express “Southern” (Osaka-Namba / Wakayamashi) — 1 hour using KANSAI THRU PASS? Arigatou

  8. Dear Takeshi-san,

    I will be travelling to Osaka in coming end Apr, with the following itinerary (total 4 adults):

    Day 1 late night:
    – KIX -> Shin-Osaka [JR Kansai Airport Rapid & Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line]
    + Accommodation near Shin-Osaka

    Day 2:
    – Sight-seeing in Osaka
    + Accommodation near Shin-Osaka

    Day 3:
    – Shin-Osaka -> Kyoto [JR Special Rapid]
    – Kiyomizu-dera Temple
    – Nishiki Market
    – Fushimi Inari-taisha
    – Gion
    – Ponto-cho
    + Accommodation near Kyoto Station

    Day 4:
    – Tenryu-ji Temple
    – Arashiyama
    – Kinkaku-ji
    – Nijo Castle
    – Kyoto -> Shin-Osaka [JR Special Rapid]
    + Accommodation near Shin-Osaka

    Day 5:
    – Shin-Osaka -> Nara [Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line & Kintetsu Nara Line Rapid Exp.]
    – Kofuku-ji Temple
    – Nara-koen Park
    – Isui-en Garden
    – Todai-ji Temple
    – Nigatsu-do Hall
    – Kasuga-Taisha Shrine
    – Naramachi
    – Nara -> Shin-Osaka [Kintetsu Nara Line Rapid Exp & Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line]
    + Accommodation near Shin-Osaka

    Day 6 & 7:
    – Sight-seeing in Osaka
    + Accommodation near Shin-Osaka

    Day 8:
    – Shin-Osaka -> KIX [ICOCA & Haruka]

    Questions:
    1) Is the itinerary practical?
    2) Which travel pass is recommended?
    3) Osaka: recommended sight-seeing pass?
    4) Kyoto: What is the most convenient and efficient way to travel around (i.e. bus or train) and recommended travel/sight-seeing pass? Quite confused because the attraction spots in Kyoto are scattered around.
    5) Nara: the attraction spots are possible to be visited by walking?

    Thank you for advice.

    1. Hi Zoelle san,

      1. Yes. But if you want to save the cost, you can take Nankai railway to Namba and subway from Namba to Shin-Osaka on day 1 because you can use the deal in the link below:
      http://www.howto-osaka.com/en/ticket/ticket/chikatoku.html

      2. If you take Haruka instead of Special rapid and take JR train to Nara, you can use Kansai area pass 3 days for day 3 to 5.
      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

      Special rapid is a commute train and it’s always busy. If you take Haruka, it’s limited express train and much more comfortable. But single fare for Special rapid is cheaper than using Kansai area pass. If you take Special rapid, you can use single fare or using Kansai one pass instead. Kansai one pass is same type card as ICOCA. But you can get the discount at many attractions.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Kansai one pass does not offer unlimited travel. It offers convenience and discount.

      3. Please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      4. Bus pass is okay.
      https://www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp/kotsu/webguide/en/ticket/regular_1day_card_bus.html

      You should have Kansai one pass anyway. You can use bus pass and use Kansai one pass when you need to take subway or trains in Kyoto. And also you must have this card to get Haruka Discount ticket for the last day. Kansai one pass is sort of ICOCA. So it will be ICOCA and Haruka.

      5. Yes. But if you take JR train, JR Nara station is away from Kintetsu Nara station:
      https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/subway/how-to-access-to-nara-by-japan-rail-pass-if-you-dont-use-jr-pass-kintetsu-railway-is-more-convenient.html

      It’s still walkable.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Dear Takeshi-san,

    First of all, Thank you for a so useful web site, extremely rich on information.

    Here is our Japan Trip :

    Sun 04/15 :
    Kansai Airport => Kyoto (Haruka)
    We stay in Kyoto, close to Emmachi station, for a week until 04/22 (visit to Nara, …)
    I thought of using Kyoto Sightseeing One and Two-day Pass Card and/or Pasmo card for Kyoto.

    Sun 04/22
    Kyoto => Hiroshima (visit Miyajima)
    Fri 04/27
    Hiroshima => Kobe

    Would you recommend the Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass for the Kyoto => Hiroshima train trip and use in/around Hiroshima and Hiroshima => Kobe train trip ?
    for the Kyoto => Hiroshima, using the pass, do we have to change of train In Shin-Osaka ?

    Or is the the Sanyo Sanin Area Pass better ?

    Thanks for any advice; and again for your site.
    Eric

    1. Hi Eric san,

      If you want take Haruka at discount price, you must purchase ICOCA and Haruka. You can purchase Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA. It’s same as ICOCA but offers discount at many attractions:
      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
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      You cannot use Kansai Hiroshima area pass because you will spend 6 days. This pass is valid for 5 days only. Sanyo Sanin area pass is only choice for your. Even if you use Sanyo Sanin area pass, you need to change trains at Shin-Osaka because this does not cover Shinkansen between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka. You can take Haruka from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka by this pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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