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. I arrive at Narita on 14 September 2019 at 7.35 AM. I have a JR Pass. Please guide me how best and fast I can reach Kyoto with my JR Pass after arrival.

    1. Hi Rajendra,

      You can take the following route:
      Narita (Narita Express) Shinagawa (Shinkansen Hikari) Kyoto

      You will spend at least 2 hours to complete immigration, custom, baggage pick up, exchange JR pass and booking. And then take about 4.5 to 5 hours to get Kyoto. Please see the link below to find the timetable of Narita Express:
      http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_nex_u/index.html

      You can find the timetable of the Shinkansen in the link below:
      https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound_0620.pdf
      *You cannot take Nozomi by JR pass.

      You may also change trains at Tokyo but Shinagawa is easier.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thank you Takeshi.

        Could you also provide me a link for Kyoto to Tokyo by Shinkansen Hikari to travel with JR Pass on 20 Sept 2019?

        Also please guide me about a possible trains with JR Pass to visit
        i) From Kyoto Station to Hiroshima
        ii) From Hiroshima to Himeji Castle
        iii) From Himeji to Kyoto
        on 18 or 19 September.

        Thanks in advance.

        Rajendra

        1. Hi Rajendra,

          You can visit all places by the Shinkansen. I gave you the first link previously but I put it again. And also I add other link for the other direction of the Shinkansen:
          https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/westbound_0620.pdf
          https://global.jr-central.co.jp/en/info/timetable/_pdf/eastbound_0620.pdf

          I also put the link of the day trip to Hiroshima from Kyoto.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/day-trip-to-hiroshima-and-miyajima-from-osakakyoto.html

          I don’t recommend you to visit Hiroshima and Himeji on same day. It’s too much. If you go to Hiroshima, you should visit Miyajima as well. You cannot have any extra time to visit Himeji on the way or on the way back if you visit both Hiroshima and Miyajima. You should visit Himeji on other day.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/world-heritage-destinations/how-to-access-to-himeji-and-kobe-from-osaka.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

    2. Please guide me how can I travel from Narita International Airport to Kyoto via Tokyo or Shingawa on JR Pass after arriving at Narita around 7.35 AM. I find no Hikari train connections in the morning. What do I do?

      Further, I return to Tokyo from Kyoto on 20 September, why Shinkansen train I can take in the morning hours?

      In Tokyo during my stay from 20 to 26 September 2019, I plan to go to Nikko on one day and to Disneyland on another day, all other days I see local attractions in Tokyo. Do you recommend that I purchase JR pass for the second week in Tokyo or manage with IC Cards? Please advise. Also, Please guide how to book for Nikko and Disneyland.

      1. Hi Abraham,

        I have already replied you about the train route, timetable and other info for Narita to Kyoto on arrival day.

        You may use 7-day JR Pass for the first 7 days. You can use IC card or Tokyo subway ticket in Tokyo.
        https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/compare-many-discount-tickets-and-passes-for-sightseeing-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-right-tickets.html

        You can use other deal for the trip to Nikko:
        http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/en/pass/

        Cheers,

        Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. hi we are going to osaka/kyoto/nara this december

    and i’m getting confused as to what pass would be fitted for us.
    we are arriving in kansai airport and we will be staying from dec. 6-13

    we are planning to visit most of the tourist spots in kyoto, and we will just be a day in nara and just go to USJ in osaka.

    do you have a recommended pass for us? how can we do it in the most economical way?

    i’ve checked some of the passes it is only good for 4 days? plus i am not sure of what the difference is between the kansai pass and the west pass?

    hopefully you can advice it would be really helpful. thanks

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Are you going to stay in Osaka only and make day trips to Nara, Kyoto? If so, please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7to9-days/how-to-build-the-itinerary-and-choose-the-deals-for-osaka-stay-5-to-7-days.html

      If you stay in both Kyoto and Osaka, please see the link below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7to9-days/visit-kyoto-osaka-nara-and-kobe-for-5-to-7-days-sample-itinerary.html

      If you have a different trip plan, please let me know the detailed itinerary.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. DEC. 6
        -Arrive in Kansai Airport around 8PM
        -We plan to take a train to Kyoto
        -We are also planning to stay near Kyoto Station for convenience
        DEC. 7 (KYOTO DAY 1)
        -ARASHIYAMA AREA IN THE MORNING
        -KINKAKUJI GOING BACK
        -GO TO DOWNTOWN KYOTO TO EAT AND SHOP
        DEC. 8 (KYOTO DAY 2)
        -KIYOMIZU DERA
        -NINENZAKA
        -SANNEIZAKA
        -GINKAKUJI
        -GION
        we actually plan on renting some kimono on kiyomizu dera,
        and walking from kiyomizu dera to gion, just
        for fun, though if we get tired we would love to take a ride back to kiyomizu dera
        DEC. 9 (KYOTO DAY 3)
        -HIKE IN KURAMA TO KIBUNE IN THE MORNING
        -TRY GOING TO KYOTO SAMURAI MUSEUM
        -TRY OUT SOME FOOD IN NISHIKI MARKET
        -REST AND GO OUT IN THE NIGHT FOR FOOD AGAIN, MAYBE TRY IPPUDO
        DEC. 10 (KYOTO DAY 4)
        -FUSHIMI INARI EARLY IN THE MORNING
        -TRY SOME FLUFFY PANCAKES , SOMEWHERE IN DOWNTOWN KYOTO OR ANYWHERE NEAR FUSHIMI INARI
        -TRY GOING TO RYOANJI
        -TRY SOME OMURICE IN KICHI KICHI
        DEC. 11 ( LAST DAY KYOTO)
        -TAKE BREAKFAST NEAR DOWNTOWN KYOTO
        -TAKE TRAIN TO NARA FOR AN AFTERNOON SHORT TRIP
        -TAKE TRAIN FROM NARA TO OSAKA, NOT SURE YET WHERE TO STAY BUT DEFINITELY NEAR A STATION
        DEC. 12 ( First Day Osaka)
        -Universal Studios JAPAN
        DEC. 13 (OSAKA DAY 2)
        -OSAKA CASTLE IN THE MORNING
        -MAID CAFE FOR LUNCH
        -PACK BAGS AND HEAD FOR AIRPORT AROUND 5PM, OUR FLIGHT IS AROUND 8PM IN THE EVENING

        hope you can suggest something for us. thanks 🙂

  3. Arriving by cruise ship in Kobe for one day only – Port Liner to Sannimoya – want to spend the day in Kyoto exploring and walking as much as possible, especially the tori in Inari , Nijo, Gion and the Phllosophers Path .

    We expect to return Kobe around 20:30 on that same day. We will pay full fare for the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Kobe. Any tips? Does the one day Kansei Pass cover the Kobe Port liner?

    We expect to take the JR Special Rapid Service from Sannimoya Kobe to Kyoto, but do not want to change trains in Osaka – how do we make sure we do not need to change trains – I see on Hyperdia there are some trains that come in to Osaka on Track 8 and leave on Track 8 to Kyoto – should I assume this means no change of train?

    Same way for our full fare Shinkansen from Kyoto to Kobe – it looks like some Shinkansen trains from Kyoto do not require changing trains in Osaka – is this correct?

    This will be the first week in August – will the trains be very crowded – should we expect to stand up?

    1. Hi J. Livingston,

      You don’t need any passes. Because Kansai area pass does not cover Portliner and Shinkansen. You cannot get the worth of it. Just use a regular fare to take the trains.

      In Hyperdia, it shows you that you have to change trains. But actually you don’t need to. Most Special Rapid Service take you to Kyoto directly. Just stay on the train and proceed your trip. This train is always busy because this is a primary commute train between Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. You may not be able to have a seat when you get on Sannomiya. But many passengers get off at Osaka and other many passengers get on at Osaka. So if you stay in the train at Osaka, you can get the seat there.

      Some Shinkansen trains go through to Shin-Kobe from Kyoto. But Shin-Kobe is one station away from Sannomiya by subway.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/shin-kobe-station-guide-how-to-change-shinkansen-and-kobe-city-subway.html
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/station-information/kobe-sannomiya-stations-guide-check-the-location-and-connections-between-many-sannomiya-stations.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takeshi-san,

    We are going to Japan for 11 days and we’re planning to visit, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto.

    Whats the best kind of JR pass should we get that would be usable in those four regions/city?

    Arigato gozaimasu!

      1. We’re arriving at Narita Airport. Then initially, we’re planning to spend 2 days in Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka.

        Thanks!

        1. Hi Roy san,

          If you go back to Narita, you may use 7-day JR pass. You will spend 6 days other than Tokyo. So you may use 7-day pass for Tokyo-Nagoya-Kyoto-Osaka-Tokyo. As long as you will use 7-day JR pass for this 6 days, you can start using 7-day pass anytime. If you include one way from Narita to Tokyo (or versa), that is perfect. Otherwise you can use other deal. Please see the link below:
          https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JRPail.com

  5. Hi Takeshi-san,

    My family of 4 (2A & 2C) will be travelling to Osaka in mid Oct 2019 for 10D9N. I have shortlisted 2 accommodations – 1 near Tennoji station, another near Imamiya station. R u able to advise which location is more ideal? We plan to stay in Osaka for 9N and make day trips to Kyoto, Kobe and Nara. Most of the days will be spent in Osaka and places we will visit include USJ, The Aquarium, Osaka Castle, Umeda, Dotonburi and the Namba shopping districts. Should we buy a 4D JR West Kansai Pass and use it for our transfer from KIX, and start our holiday itinerary with day trips Kyoto, Kobe and Nara first? Then for the remaining days in Osaka, we just buy single passes? Or instead of JR West Kansai Pass, ICOCA Pass is sufficient? Trying to manage my budget and appreciate some suggestions from you. Thanks!

    Regards
    Michi

    1. Hi Michi san,

      Tennoji is more convenient. Tennoji is one of the hub stations in Osaka. You can take JR and two lines of subway. And also Tennoji can be accessed by JR limited express Haruka directly. You don’t need to change trains. If you stay in Imamiya, you have to change trains at Tennoji.

      Kansai area pass is a good choice. But Kansai thru pass may be better choice.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      Kansai area pass
      pros
      You can get Kyoto directly by limited express Haruka from Tennoji. It’s fast, convenient and comfortable.
      You can get Nara directly by rapid train from Tennoji.
      cons
      It covers only JR trains. You can get Arashiyama, Nijo and Fushimi only by this pass. You have to pay extra to take subway, city bus and other railways.
      Nara station is about 1 km more far away from Kintetsu Nara station.
      You must use it in the consecutive days.

      Kansai thru pass
      Pros
      It covers city bus, subway and any non JR trains are covered. It is much more convenient in Kyoto.
      You can take Kintetsu railway to get Nara. Kintetsu Nara station is much better location than JR Nara station.
      You can pick any 3 days in your trip to use this pass. You don’t need to use it in the consecutive days.
      Cons
      You cannot get Kyoto directly. You have to take Hankyu railway from Umeda or Keihan railway from Yodoyabashi. You can get these two stations by subway from Tennoji.
      You have to take subway to get Namba and then take Kintetsu railway to get Nara

      For the trip to Kobe, it doesn’t matter. You can use either pass.

      So if you go for Kansai area pass, you can use 4-day pass and start using it from KIX. If you go for Kansai thru pass, you can use ICOCA and Haruka on arrival day and use Kansai thru pass later when you start the trip to Kyoto, Nara and Kobe. You don’t need to use Kansai

      In Osaka, you may find the deal in 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

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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