How to use JR Pass in downtown Kyoto. Find how much you can use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto.

Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO
Kyoto Imperial Palace ©Akira Okada/©JNTO

Kyoto is most popular destination in Japan. You may visit Kyoto by JR Pass and other JR West Rail Passes. You may be wondering how much you can use your pass to explore Kyoto?

In this post, I explain you about the coverage of JR Pass and other rail passes in Kyoto.

Explaination by movie

You may watch same content as this post in the movie below as well.

Overview

First of all, please see the map below. I put train routes, a bus route and the name of the tourist spots in the map.

Click to view large.

These are covered by JR Pass. And also these following other regional JR deal have same coverage:

Kansai Area Pass does not cover West Japan JR Bus line but it covers Kyoto subway and some part of Keihan railway. Please find more information in the post below:

Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass can take you to Kyoto. But it does not cover any modes of transportation after arrival in Kyoto.

How to get Kyoto by JR Pass and JR regional passes

There are many ways to get Kyoto.

The Tokaido Shinkansen

You can get Kyoto by the Shinkansen from Tokyo, Yokohama, Odawara (near Hakone), Nagoya, Shin-Osaka, Okayama, Hiroshima, Hakata and many more stations. Please find more information of the Shinkansen in the link below:

The limited express Haruka

If you arrive in Kansai airport and move to Kyoto right after, you may take Haruka. It takes you to Kyoto directly.

Limited Express Haruka from KIX is covered.

You may use this train for Tennoji to Kyoto or Shin-Osaka to Kyoto instead of taking a local train.

Special Rapid train

Special Rapid Service operated by JR West 223 series.
Special Rapid Service is the fastest commute train between Himeji, Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto

Special Rapid train runs every 15 minutes day time. It offers very frequent and very fast service. It takes just 30 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto. The trip time is same as other limited express train. The Shinkansen is fast but you have to change trains at Shin-Osaka. If you travel from Osaka (Umeda) to Kyoto. This train is the best choice.

From Kanazawa, Amanohashidate, Kinosaki, Nara

Kyoto is connected with these cities as well. You can get Kyoto from Kanazawa by the limited express Thunderbird. From Amanohashidate, you can take the limited express Hashidate. The limited express Kinosaki connects Kyoto and Kinosaki Onsen. And Nara and Kyoto are connected by JR Nara line. You can get Kyoto from Nara by a local train or a rapid train.

The coverage of JR Pass and JR regional passes

There are tree routes are covered.

JR Sagano line

Sagano line is shown in a pink line. You can get these following places by this line:

  • Kyoto Railway Museum (from Umekoji -Kyotonishi station)
  • Kyoto Aquarium (from Umekoji-Kyotonishi station)
  • Nijo castle (from Nijo station)
  • Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (from Uzumasa station)
  • Arashiyama (from Saga-Arashiyama station)
  • Sagano Scenic Railway, a.k.a. Torokko train (from Saga-Arashiyama station)

A local train and a rapid train runs every 15 minutes in daytime.

Sagano Scenic Railway departs from JR Saga-Arashiyama station but this train is not covered by JR Pass and JR regional deals.

Nara line

This line is shown in a brown line. This line connects Kyoto and Nara. These following places can be accessed by Nara line:

  • Tofuku-ji temple (from Tofukuji station)
  • Fushimi Inari shrine (from Inari station)
  • Uji (from Uji station)

I did not put any stations on the map between Uji and Inari. But there are many stations. It take 5 to 10 minutes to get Tofukuji and Inari from Kyoto. But it takes 30 minutes from Kyoto station to Uji. Uji is located in the middle of Kyoto and Nara.

A local train and a rapid train runs every 10 to 15 minutes in daytime.

West Japan JR bus

There are huge number of bus routes in Kyoto. You can get almost anywhere in Kyoto by a bus. Most bus routes are operated by Kyoto city bus which is not covered by JR Pass and JR regional deals. But there is only one route which is operated by West Japan JR Bus. This is covered by JR Pass and JR regional deals.

This route connects Kyoto station and Takao. There are some tourist spots on the route of this bus service:

  • Kitano Tenmangu shrine (from Kitano bus stop)
  • Kinkaku-ji temple, a.k.a. Golden Pavillion (from Wara Tenjin bus stop)
  • Ryoan-ji temple (from Ryoanji bus stop)

This bus runs every 15 minutes between 8:00 and 18:00.

Around Kyoto station

JR Kyoto station is the biggest shopping area in Kyoto. There are some shopping buildings around the station. And Kyoto tower is located in front of the station.

The places which are not covered

JR Pass Kyoto uncovered places

Eastern and northern Kyoto are not covered by JR Pass and JR regional deals. These following popular places cannot be accessed by JR Pass and JR regional deals:

  • Kiyomizu-dera temple
  • Yasaka shrine
  • Gion
  • Nishiki Market
  • Imperial Palace
  • Ginkaku-ji temple
  • Kurama
  • Kifune shrine
  • Hieizan

You have to take Keihan Railway, Hankyu Railway, Kyoto city subway, Kyoto city bus and/or Eizan Railway to get these places. Please refer the post below to find all trains information:

I hope you have foud how to maximize using JR Pass in Kyoto. Enjoy your trip to Kyoto.

310 thoughts on “How to use JR Pass in downtown Kyoto. Find how much you can use Japan Rail Pass in Kyoto.”

  1. Hi takeshi! Seeking for your help please. We are planning to visit this Nov. 13-21, our arrival/departure is in tokyo. Do you have a sample itenirary that is cost effective & we’ll witness the best of fall please? And wat pass suitable for us. We’re planning to visit tokyo, kyoto and Osaka. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lezlie,

      Unfortunately I don’t have any sample itineraries. But I’m sure that you require JR Pass 7-day. You will stay in Japan more than 7 days but you can use 7-day pass for the first or the last 7 days of your trip. And please include the trip to Kyoto and Osaka from Tokyo in this 7 days period. You may use other deal for the staying in Tokyo before/after using JR pass. Please refer the link below:
      https://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/airport_bus/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hello, Takeshi-san!
    My name is Liz and will be going to Kyoto with my colleagues to attend a convention and some leisure travel this coming April 27 – May 2.
    April 27 – arrive at KIX airport, stay at hotel in Kyoto near Shijoomiya station
    Apr 28 – Universal Studios
    Apr 29 – attend convention in hotel near Keage station in the morning, then visit Fushimi Inari Shrine and Nara in the afternoon
    Apr 30 – go to Hiroshima and maybe Miyajima
    May 1 – attend convention in the morning, then visit Arashiyama, Kiyomizu-dera and Gion in the afternoon
    May 2 – go to Dotonbori, Osaka to shop before our flight back home in the evening via KIX

    We already bought a 5-day JR Kansai Hiroshima Pass and was wondering if we need to buy other passes. Desperately need your input on this! And do you still suggest any other spots that we can squeeze into our itinerary? Thank you so much in advance!

    1. Hi Meliza san,

      First of all, Keage station is subway station. Kansai Hiroshima area pass covers only JR trains. It does not cover subway, city bus and other non JR trains, such as Hankyu railway, Keihan railway. So you must pay the fare to get Kyoto station by subway or city bus when you use this pass.

      You have to add some fares to take subway or city bus to visit a few places in Osaka and Kyoto. Please see the links below:
      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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi, Takeshi-san!
        Thank you so much for the quick reply! Anyway, do you suggest we get the kansai thru pass? I’ve tried doing the math if we get more savings with a 3-day kansai thru pass but i get so confused with all the railway services in japan!

        Best regards,
        Meliza

        1. Hi Meliza san,

          As long as you will travel to Hiroshima and Miyajima, Kansai Hiroshima area pass is required. Kansai thru pass does not cover Hiroshima and Miyajima. It covers more in Kyoto and Osaka than Kansai Hiroshima area pass but it is not required. Try to use Kansai Hiroshima area pass as much as you can and you may add the fare as you need when you need to take subway, bus and/or other non JR trains. You may use Kansai One Pass instead purchasing a regular ticket one by one:
          https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi, Takeshi-san!
            Thank you so much for this invaluable information! We are all excited for this trip! More power! Arigato gozaimasu!✌️

            Best regards,
            Meliza

  3. Hi Takeshi san
    I’m Shailesh. Travelling to Japan for the first time.
    I will be staying in Kyoto for 4 days.
    Later Plan to visit Hiroshima 1 day trip and then Mount Fuji 1 day trip.
    Would a JR pass be useful? If so, which one?
    Would the JR pass Be useful for travel inside Kyoto? Is there another local transportation pass I can purchase for Kyoto?
    Regards
    Shailesh

  4. Hello takeshi san,
    Im travelling to kansai from 19th to 26th nov
    I will go kyoto from kansai airport
    Spend 19th to 21st in kyoto
    Stays near shijo omiya
    And go to Universal studio on 22nd and continue my trip in osaka
    Travel to Nara on 23rd
    I hv bought osaka amazing pass for my 2 days tour in osaka 24th and 25th
    My prob now is i hvnt bought any paas for my trip kansai airport-kyoto and travel around kyoto
    Do u hv any suggestion for that? I need ur opinion badly
    Thanks

  5. Hi Takeshi-san,

    I’ll be traveling to Osaka from Tokyo for 5 days and planned to use Kansai Wide Pass to travel around.
    My concern is that I’ll be arriving at Shin-Osaka via shinkansen and my hotel is somewhere around Shin-Imamiya and Doubutsuenmae station.

    Can i use my Kansai Wide pass from Shin Osaka to Shin Imamiya instead of buying a subway ticket?

    Thank you in advance.

  6. Hi,

    i will be travelling with my sister to Japan for the first time from Sept 18-25.

    We will be arriving in Kansai and will go straight to Kyoto. Will be staying in kyoto from Sept 19-22 then go to Okamaya from Sept 22- 24 then Osaka from Sept 24-25.

    May i know what’s the best card to buy?

    Thank you in advance;.

    1. Hi Abi,

      You may use Kansai Wide Area Pass for Kyoto-Okayama-Osaka.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/the-newest-jr-west-rail-pass-for-kansai-and-okayama-kurashiki-kinosakai-and-shingu-area-kansai-wide-area-pass.html

      This ticket is valid for 5 days. As long as it covers trip to Okayama, you can start using it anytime. But do not include Osaka to Kansai airport. As you probably know, all international flights are canceled due to the damage by tropical cyclone. Train bridge to the airport is damaged and all trains to/from Kansai airport are suspended. It will take one month to fix. So you cannot use the pass to get airport.

      Kansai airport is opened partially now. According to the airport authority said, all terminal building will be open a week later. I think you can land Kansai airport on 18th. But only bus is the way to/from airport. You should have an extra time for trip to Kyoto and go back to the airport. Please contact your airline and find how much you should have.

      Please see the links below to find the deal for Kyoto and Osaka sightseeing when you don’t use Kansai wide area pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.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

        1. Hi Abi,

          Kansai area pass does not work because you will not be able to take a train from Kansai airport as I mentioned in the previous reply. Only limousine bus is your choice. And you cannot get the worth of it by sightseeing in Kyoto only. I think city bus pass is okay for sightseeing in Kyoto. When you need to take train or subway, just pay a regular fare or using IC card, such as Kansai one pass.
          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
          https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. hi,

            Can i use my JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass for the following:

            *to kansai airport from osaka
            * to kyoto from kansai airport
            *to Okayama from Kyoto

            1. Hi Abi,

              *to kansai airport from osaka
              Yes. You can take Haruka from Tennoji or Shin-Osaka. Or you can use Kansai airport rapid from most of major stations in Osaka.
              https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/kansai-airport-limited-express-haruka.html
              https://jprail.com/travel-informations/how-to-get-kansai-airport-and-wakayama-kansai-airport-rapid-service-and-kishuji-rapid-service.html

              * to kyoto from kansai airport
              Yes. You can take Haruka.

              *to Okayama from Kyoto
              You can take Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Kyoto. This pass does not cover Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka. You have to take Haruka or Special rapid service.
              https://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/rapid-service/special-rapid-service.html

              Cheers,

              Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hello Takeshi san,

    Planning to visit Japan from Sep 20 -30. My itinerary starts arriving in Narita and staying in Kyoto or Osaka. From there I am planning day visits to Kyoto or Osaka (depending where I stay),Nara and Kobe and to Hiroshima. On Sep 25th I will travel to Tokyo for the remaining time of my trip. Should I get the 14 day JR pass?

    1. Hi Arturo san,

      I think 7 days JR pass is okay. You can use it for the first 7 days of your trip. After it expires, you can use subway pass for sightseeing in Tokyo. Even if you need to take JR trains in downtown Tokyo, regular fare is around 200 yen. It’s not worth using JR pass in Tokyo. Please see the link below to find the train system in Tokyo.
      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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hello Takeshi,
    I am very impressed with your rich information and helpfulness and would like to seek your help as well.

    My husband and I will be visiting Japan between 12.-22.04 aiming at catching the cherry blossoms. I have checked the sakura forecast and done some research and drafted this plan. Could you please let me know if you may do it otherwise from a time, cost and cherry blossom perspective?

    13. 04 pm arrive Tokyo, staying in Shinjuku
    14.04 Shinjuku Gyoen, Imperial Palance, Senso-ji, Skytree
    15.04 Shinjuku to Hakone.
    Closewise loop or anitclosewise?
    Should I stay in Yumoto or Gora?
    16.04 Hakone-Ueda-Nagano-Matsumoto-Takada castle-Kanazawa??? Is it too aggressive? Aim is to catch cherry blossom and night viewing. Plan is to reach Kanazawa late at night and visit the city only the next day.
    17.04 Kanazawa and travel to Kyoto in the evening
    18.04 Kyoto
    19.04 Kyoto and Osaka
    20.04 Nara city and Mt. Yoshino (again for cherry blossoms)
    21.04 Himeji
    22.04 Kyoto to Kansai airport very early in the morning.

    I plan to get and activate a 7-day JR pass when I leave Hakone and for taking the Kansai express to the airport (16.-22.4) . What do you think?

    I would appreciate any comments and suggestions, especially where to catch the cherry blossom in late April as they seem to blossom earlier than average this year

    1. Hi Wai,

      JR pass is okay as you think. For the first few days in Tokyo, you can pick the deal in the link below:
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

      You can add single fare for taking Odakyu line to get Odawara and use Hakone Free Pass from Odawara. You don’t need round trip to/from Shinjuku. So you can use Hakone Free Pass Odawara version. You can purchase it at Shinjuku station.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/

      Hakone-Yumoto is better place to stay because you have to leave early on 16th. If you visit counterclockwise, it’s less crowded. But if you visit clockwise, Mt. Fuji will appear when you are in Hakone Ropeway. It’s more dramatic. Either way has cons and pros.

      On 16th, it’s not impossible. You will spend 2.5 hours to get the first place, Ueda. Nagano is very closed to Ueda. But you will spend one hour for one way to get Matsumoto. You will spend at least 4 hours for Nagano-Matsumoto (2 hours stop)-Nagano. 2 hours is minimum. It allows you to walk to Matsumoto castle and see there and come back to Matsumoto station. Takada is one way to Kanazawa. So it’s possible. Please use hyperdia to find the timetable and build the detailed plan for this day.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      You may not be able to see cherry blossom at Yoshino. According to the forecast in the link below, 20th is too late to see it in this year.
      https://www.japan-guide.com/sakura/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. hello takeshi-san,

    i will be staying in osaka only fr 16/2 to 23/2. Plan to make day trip to kyoto but looking at things to do there, i think i might need to make 2-3 daily trips to kyoto. Which pass is suitable for us?

  10. Hello Takeshi-san
    I’m Francis, and I’ll be travelling to Japan for the 1st time with my wife sometime April next year. Please suggest which rail/bus pass should we get. Below are our itinery:

    Day 1-3 (Osaka)
    Reach Kansai, will be staying Namba area for 2 nights.
    Places to visit: Nakanoshima park, Dotonburi, Osaka Castle, House and living Museum, Umeda building and Kaiyukan aquarium.

    Day 3-6 (Kyoto)
    Travel to Kyoto, staying around Yamashina area
    Places we plan to go: Ginkakuji, Nijo Castle, Gion, Kyoto national garden and Arashiyama
    Also a day trip to Nara,

    Day 7-10
    Will leave for Tokyo early day 7
    Places to visit: Tsukiji fish market, Akihabara, Rikugien, National Tokyo Museum, Shinjuku and Shibuya area

    Day 11-12
    Travel to Kawaguchi-ko, stay for 2 nights

    Day 13
    Travel back to Kansai airport for flight back to Malaysia

    We are considering getting a JR pass for 14 days, then maybe local passes in Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. What do you think?
    Thanks so much for doing this, really appreciate your help.

    Regards,
    Francis

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