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

Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
There are a big number of Torii at Fushimi Inari shrine. ©Kyoto Convention Bureau /©JNTO
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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.

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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.

Comments

  1. Eena says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    We will be travelling from Osaka to Kyoto (Arashiyama), Nara and Kinosaki.

    Which rail pass will be the best value for us please?

  2. Yatin says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Many thanks for posting a great read! I am planning my travel to Japan and I am finding it difficult to decide the best way to travel between Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka (including the local sightseeing). My itinerary is as follows:-
    1. Land at Narita Airport on 11th June
    2. Sightseeing in Tokyo till 13th June
    3. Travel from Tokyo to Osaka on 13th June
    4. Visit Universal Studios on 14th
    5. Leave for Kyoto on 14th night
    6. Sightseeing in Kyoto till 16th
    7. Leave for Tokyo Haneda airport on 16th night for an early morning flight on 17th

    I am considering two options:-
    1. Buying a JR pass for all the travel and buy additional local tickets in Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto for local sightseeing

    2. Buying local tickets in Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto and use cheap flights between Narita and Kansai

    Which option do you think I can go for considering cost and comfort? Also which local cards would you recommend me buying?

    Thanks
    Best Regards
    Yatin

  3. Fabio Dias says:

    Hello, thank you for this article.
    My name is Fabio and I am going to travel throughout Japan for 24 days, from 07/11 until 8/03. I am in a doubt about purchasing or not the JR Pass and which one to buy.
    I am going to arrive in Tokyo and stay there for about 5 days after that I’m going to Mt Fuji for a day. From Fuji to Kyoto, and in this moment I was thinking about activating the JR Pass. I thought about having the 7 days one. I’m going to stay in Kyoto for about 5 days as well, and I intend to visit places such as Arashiyjama for a day trip; KIbune/Kurama, and do some sightseeing. Then I’ll go to Hiroshima, Shimanami with a bike, and back to Hiroshima where I’ll have a flight to Okinawa. Then, Naha, see a few islands, Ishigaki and finally going back to Tokyo and after, fly back home.
    Is it a good idea to purchase the 7 days Jr Pass to use it in Kyoto? Should I get the 14 days one? If I get the 7 days JR Pass, I’ll get the most of it using somewhere else? Because my understanding is that in Tokyo I can easily move around with public transportation or by foot/bike. It seems that I will take the Shinkansen only 2 times, but If I get the 7 days pass and activate it after Fuji, most likely I will use it on the Shinkansen one time only.
    Could you please help me with some guidance on this matter?
    Best Regards.

  4. Cristal says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    Thank you for this article. I need some advice please. My family of 3 will be flying into Osaka next month. From there we will be heading straight to Kyoto for 5 days. All of our time will be spent in Kyoto, with the exception of a day trip back to Osaka for a concert, we will also be flying home from Osaka(which will require another trip back).
    My question is do we need to purchase rail passes? From my understanding the rail pass is not valid in Kyoto. Will day bus passes be good enought for travel within Kyoto?

    Thanks for any advice,
    Cristal

  5. Del says:

    Hello Takeshi!
    My family will visit japan from may 29- june 2
    Arriving at narita airport on may 29,2017…. Transfer to osaka by shinkansen
    May 30….visit USJ
    May 31… Kyoto
    June 01…Nara/Kobe
    We are staying in osaka for the whole trip
    June 02…transfer to tokyo…visit Meiji Shrine n Shibuya
    June 03…tsukiji market,tokyo tower,asakusa shrine,akihabara,odaiba
    June 04…Disneyland
    June 05…deparure for manila
    Can you help us what places to visit,anu suggestions?
    Is JR the pass we should purchase?
    Thanks!!

  6. Marika says:

    Hi Takeshi!

    I need your help. My trip to kyoto-osaka for 6 days. We just wanted a laid back itinerary. What type of bus/train pass should i get?

    Day 1 – from kansai airport to shijo-karasuma,kyoto/shops@kyoto station
    Day 2- North/ South higashimaya area
    Day 3- Arashiyama/ kyoto tower
    Day 4- from kyoto to namba,osaka (dotondori…)
    Day 5- ramen museum, around umeda sky bldg….
    Day 6- Do you have any recommendation where to sightseeing and shop?
    Day 7- namba to kansai airport.

  7. Gary says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I have made my transport plan for Japan and want to get your thought whether it make sense.

    I will be traveling to Tokyo-Hakone-Kyoto-Osaka (with side trip to Nara and Universal Studio).

    Day 1-Day 5: Tokyo
    Day 6: Hakone
    Day 7-9: Kyoto
    Day 10-14: Osaka (Day 12 to Nara and Day 13 to Universal Studio)

    I plan to purchase 7 days JR pass and will activate it in Day 7 when traveling from Hakone to Kyoto. This way, I will be able to utilize the JR pass when traveling from Kyoto to Osaka as well as day trip from Osaka to Nara and Universal studio separately. I will then buy separate ticket in Day 14 to go to Kansai airport. I find that I will hardly use the JR pass when I am within Kyoto itself but I guess I can’t help it. Does this make sense to you or is there a better option?

    Thanks

  8. Marivic Yap says:

    Hello Takeshi,
    We will be in Japan this June for 7 days. We are planning to purchase a JR pass. Our base will be in Osaka. Is it possible to travel one day Osaka – Kyoto – Osaka and one day Osaka-Nara-Osaka using JR pass. Please advice. Thank you and regards.

    Marivic

  9. Julia Lim says:

    Hi,
    Thank you for all the information. I am still not very sure about all the various rail and bus systems in Japan. Please help.
    My family of 3 from Singapore will be visiting Japan on 22 April to 5 May. My itinerary is as follows:
    Tokyo to Asakusa (3 days in Asakusa)
    How to get from Narita Airport to Asakusa plus visits to Tokyo tourist spots? Is the Keisei Skyliner & Tokyo Subway Ticket the best option?
    Tokyo to Osaka 4 days with day trips to Kyoto and Nara
    What is the best way to travel from Tokyo to Osaka and within Osaka and Kyoto please? We want to visit the tourist spots in these 2 cities. Do we need the JR pass please or the kansai pass? Or Kyoto and Osaka day pass?
    Your help is much appreciated as I have a headache from reading up too much about the different transport systems in Japan! I need the most economical way of enjoying Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto with its tourist attractions.
    Thank you!

  10. Cathy Ajas says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    We are visiting Japan for the first time. Below is our itinerary. Hope you can recommend the best train/bus pass. we are a group of 6 people.

    April 7 – Kansai Airport – Kyoto
    April 8 – Kyoto
    April 9 – Kyoto-Nara
    April 10 – Osaka-Kobe
    April 11 – Osaka
    April 12 – Osaka

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