Most economical transfer, No express surcharge! Rapid Service Network in Kansai area

Kansai Airport, Wakayama, Mt. Koya
Special rapid trains route map (Click to enlarge)
Special rapid trains route map (Click to enlarge)

Special rapid trains route map (Click to enlarge)

JR West operates many commute trains, rapid and local between 5:30 am and midnight. But when you travel in Kansai area by JR trains, special rapid service trains are the best way to travel among cities, like Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Wakayama and Kansai airport. These “Special” rapid service skips many stations and much faster than rapid and local trains. If you use JR pass, you may take limited express trains. But these rapid service trains are sometimes faster than express trains and run much more frequently. That means you do not check the timetable. These are commute trains and mostly very busy in even daytime and late night, but it is convenient. It is a key to understand this rapid train system to travel among cities in Kansai area.

In this post, I would like to show you the route of Rapid service trains network and how to use these trains.

*If you won’t use Japan Rail Pass or are thinking to buy JR West Kansai Pass, these following posts may help you:
How to choose discount railway ticket and pass in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara) area
How to transfer among Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. Compare Japan Railway and private lines


View Rapid Service Network in Kansai in a larger map

JR West compete with major private lines, such as Hankyu Railway (Kyoto-Umeda-Kobe), Hanshin Railway (Umeda/Namba-Kobe-Himeji), Kintetsu Railway (Kyoto-Nara-Namba), Nankai Railway (Namba-Kansai airport/Wakayama) and Keihan Railway (Osaka-Kyoto). This competition makes JR West keep good quality of service and faster transfer. If you use Japan Rail Pass, you can take Shinkansen between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto, Shin-Kobe, Himeji. But special rapid is sometimes faster than even Shinkansen for Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe segment. Because rapid train runs more frequently and direct transfer among cities. You have to spend time to transfer at Shin-Osaka. Shin-Kobe is not located in downtown Kobe.

Let’s see major Rapid Service lines.

Special Rapid Service (=新快速=Shinkaisoku)

This Rapid Service train connects Osaka with Tsuruga (=敦賀), Maibara (=米原), Kyoto, Shin-Osaka (=新大阪), Sannomiya (=三ノ宮), Kobe, Akashi (=明石), Kakogawa (=加古川), Himeji (=姫路), Aioi (=相生), Banshu-Ako (=播州赤穂) and Kamigori (=上郡). Basically you can use this train between Kyoto and Osaka or Osaka and Kobe. Taking the transfer time into consideration, this train is faster than Shinkansen. Please refer the post, “Special Rapid Service” to get more informations.

Kansai Airport Rapid Service (=関空快速=Kanku kaisoku) and Kishuji Rapid Service (=紀州路快速=Kishuji Kaisoku)

This Rapid Service train connects Osaka and Tennoji (=天王寺) with Kansai Airport and Wakayama. Basically these two trains are combined between Tennoji and Hineno (=日根野). Only this train gives you 2+1 seat configuration for enough luggage space. Please refer the post, “Kansai Airport Rapid Service and Kishuji Rapid Service” to get more informations.

Yamatoji Rapid Service (=大和路快速=Yamatoji Kaisoku)

This Rapid Service train connects Osaka and Tennoji with Nara. Nara is only prefectural capital city where any limited express train do not stop at. So if you go to Nara from Osaka by Japan Railway, this train is only choice for you. Please refer the post, “Yamatoji Rapid Service and Kishuji Rapid Service” to get more informations.

It is very typical interior of Rapid Service trains. (JR West 221 series)

Miyakoji Rapid Service (=みやこ路快速=Miyakoji Kaisoku)

This Rapid Service train connects Kyoto with Nara. This train is the fastest way to transfer to Nara from Kyoto by Japan Railway. Please refer the post, “Miyakoji Rapid Service” to get more informations.

Tanbaji Rapid Service (=丹波路快速=Tanbashji Kaisoku)

It runs between Osaka and Sasayamaguchi via Amagasaki, Takarazuka and Sanda.


These Rapid Service trains are commute trains. They do not have any Green car and any luxury atmosphere. But they have nice and cozy interior. It is no problem for inter-city transfer within 1 hour.

Interior image by w0746203-1 (Own work (本人撮影)) [GFDL or CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Hi Takeshi,

    Greetings from the Philippines. I’m going to Kansai together with 4 companions on May 13-17. I will appreciate your advice on the best /most economical train pass to purchase for our itinerary below:

    13/5- Arrival at KIX 0530 AM; transfer to Namba station for our accommodation / sight seeing in Osaka
    14/5- Go to Kyoto then come back to Osaka
    15/5- Go to Kobe then back to Osaka
    16/5 – Universal Studio Day
    17/5- Osaka shopping: Go to KIX ETD 820PM

    Looking forward to your response.

    Thank you very much.


  2. businesshog
    Sri says:

    I will be staying in Kobe portobia hotel from 4th March till 7 March 2016.
    Planning to do sightseeing : (day trip)
    4/3 -Kobe
    5/3- Osaka
    6/3- Nara
    7/3- Kyoto

    I need your advice as following:

    1) what is the best rail pass for my plans ?
    2) I would like to experience the bullet train journey . So looking at my plans the only opportunity is to take the Shinkansen train from shin-Kobe to Kyoto , is it right ?
    3) planning to visit MT Rokko . Is the any rail pass ?
    4 ) on 3/3 planning to take the limo bus from KIX to Kobe. Your opinion?
    5) on 8/3 planning to take the speed boat from Kobe airport to KIX. Your opinion ?

    Thank you

  3. Hi,

    Does the Kansai Wide area pass covers all the special rapid train service in Kansai region?

    thank you.

  4. Tan says:


    I would like to purchase Kansai Wide Area Pass to access Okayama from Osaka to watch Japan GT. Does the pass cover any transportation to the racing circuit from Okayama Station?

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Tan,

      No. All transportation is outside coverage of this pass.
      I’m not very familiar with Okayama International circuit. But I guess it’s not very accessible by public transportation.


      Takeshi /

  5. Cindie says:

    Hi There,

    I will be travelling to Osaka with my family in next March. Can you please advise if I should go for the 7 days JR pass based on the below itinerary? Thanks for your reply in advance.

    Day 1: Kansai Airport to Kyoto
    Day 2: Sightseeing at Kyoto
    Day 3: Travel from Kyoto to Nara and Uji (day trip)
    Day 4 : From Kyoto to Kobe (day trip)
    Day 5: Travel from Kyototo Takayama
    Day 6: Sightseeing around Takayama
    Day 7: Travel from Takayama to Osaka
    Day 8: Sightseeing at Osaka
    Day 9: From Osaka to Kansai Airport

  6. daphne says:

    Hi, i will be visiting Osaka for 8days and the first 5 days will be mainly day trips to Kyoto, Kobe, Hiroshima. Would it be a good idea to stay near to Shin-Osaka station?
    Thank you 🙂

  7. Eve says:

    Does JR Kansai Pass (4 days pass – 6300 yen) cover the following train without surcharge:

    -JR Special Rapid Service
    -JR Sagano Line
    -Ltd Express Haruka
    -JR Nara Line Rapid Service
    -JR Biwako Line

  8. JJ Lee says:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    I will be arriving at Kansai International Airport on 22nd Nov 2014, around 10 to 11 PM Japan local time.
    I need to go to J-Hoppers Osaka guesthouse.
    According to guesthouse’s website, it recommends the guest to take “Kanku Kaisoku” and drop off at Fukushima station.
    However, according to your Google map,”Kanku Kaisoku” is not stopping at Fukushima station.
    Can you kindly advise what is the best way to go there?

    JJ Lee

  9. Asri says:

    Takeshi san,

    Your site is very informative but for one who is not too familiar with Japan, choosing the right travel mode is still challenging. This year end I am planning to to travel to Hokkaido (5 days), Kyoto (4 days) and Osaka (2 days). I am flying direct from Kansai to Sapporo, then fly back to Kansai before touring Kyoto and Osaka. What is your advice for travelling in Hokkaido? Using Hokkaido pass would allow a lot of coverage? Then from Kansai to Kyoto and Osaka and back to Kansai, both JR West Pass and JR West Kansai Pass should be adequate?

    Thank you.


  10. Sim KM says:

    Hi, I will be visiting Kansai area for 7 days, and staying in Kyoto throughout. I intend to visit Nara, Himeji and Osaka. For Osaka, I foresee that I will be going there for at least 2 days. Which pass would you recommend me to buy- a 3-day Kansai Thru Pass or the new 4-day Kansai WIDE Area Pass ( I hope to start the pass on the first day, from KIX airport to Kyoto. I also intend to buy a 1-day Kansai Area Pass on the last day, for Haruka EXP (Kyoto to KIX). Would appreciate comments and suggestions. Thanks.

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