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

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)
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

68 thoughts on “Most economical transfer, No express surcharge! Rapid Service Network in Kansai area”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    My family (3 Adults & 2 Children under 12 years old) plan to visit Japan (surrounding: Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hakone).
    My itinerary:
    4 July 2017 arriving at Narita airport (in the evening), stay at Disney bay area and Tokyo until 8 Jul.
    9-13 July 2017: go around Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Kobe, but stay near Shin-Osaka/Osaka center
    14 July: go to Hakone the back to Tokyo and leave Narita airport on 17 July 2017

    Could you please advise which ticket should I buy? Initially, I was thinking about 7 days JR Pass but thought to see if you have any other suggestion that cheaper., ie. with JR Kansai pass? I am also thinking about buying Suica card to use from Narita airport and local subway in Tokyo/Kyoto/Osaka (I believe Suica could be used in for local train/subway in those 3 main cities at least (if not included Nara/hakone/Kobe, correct?)

    Appreciate your help.


  2. I plan to visit Osaka later this year and need to find
    a hotel/Airbnb either in the Namba area or the Hommachi
    area depending on which would offer me the best/fastest way to get to Nara, specifically the Nakatomigaoka area of Nara. So I need to find the best train connection to get to both Kintetsu Nara Station, or Gakken-Nara Tomigaoka Station from either Namba or Hommachi(Chuo line)

  3. Hi Takeshi,

    We are going to Osaka on Dec, at Kansai Airport. We planning to go Kaiyukan Aquarium in Day 1 and some places like Dotonbori & Kurumon Market. We will continue sightseeing at Osaka in Day 2.

    Day 3 will thinking to go Kobe and return back to Osaka in the same day.

    Day 4 will be at Osaka.

    Day 5 we are going to Kyoto.

    Day 6 will only at Osaka.

    In this case, we planned to buy JR west pass, Kaiyukan Pass, and Osaka Amazing Pass. Do we need to buy any pass for buses and subway at Kobe or kyoto?

    1. Hi Syl,

      First of all, please see the link below:

      Basically your primary choices are the following:
      Single ticket (if take ordinary train of Nankai railway) or Rapi:t Tokuwari Ticekt (for Nankai railway Rapi:t express train)
      And Osaka Kaiyu ticket for day 1

      Kansai thru pass 2 days for trip to Kobe and Kyoto

      And then amazing pass or other deals in Osaka

      If you visit many attractions, amazing pass is a good choice. But 2 days pass is available and you must use in consecutive days. You should switch day 4 (kyoto) and day 5 (Osaka).


      Takeshi /

  4. Hi I should come to Japan in November to land at Narita and Tokyo then go three days and three days in Nara I wanted to ask since the lighthouse JR Pass then from Tokyo which take JR to go to Nara and then from Nara to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha that I have to take the train Jr?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Tiziano,

      You can take Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and then take Miyakoji rapid from Kyoto to Nara. There are local train running on same line as Miyakoji rapid. You can take this local train from Nara to Fushimi because Miyakoji rapid train skips many stations and it does not stop at Fushimi. Those trains are covered by JR pass fully. Please see the links below to find more info:


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi, I’d like to know if I can use JR Pass for travel from Kansai Airport to Wakayama and then from Wakayama to Kyoto on Kuroshio/Thunderbird line? Thanks, Clara

  6. Hi, Takeshi-San, just make sure, from Kansai Airport to Shin imamiya station, which is the cheapest fare and what type of train should I ride, ?I have JR pass for 7 days, my visit to many places in Japan needs 10 days(osaka-tokyo-mount fuji-tateyama alpine-hiroshima-nagoya-osaka),may I active the JR pass next day after arriving osaka, ?thanks for your reply…

  7. hi Takeshi,

    My fam n I (3 Adults n 1Child) plan to visit Japan.
    My itin:
    12April arrive at Kansai Airport, stay near Shin-Osaka
    12-16 April go around Osaka-Kyoto-Nara, but stay near Shin-Osaka
    17 April go to Tokyo by Shinkansen stay at hotel, Tokyo Bay area
    18 April want to visit Mt. Fuji- Hakone-Gotemba
    19-20 April visit Disney with 2 day pass
    21 April back home via Narita Airport

    What do I need to buy? JR Kansai pass? JR Pass? or else?
    Please give me some advice…. thx for your help


    1. Hi Rina,

      For staying in Osaka for the first 5 days, please see the link below:

      Single ticket is only your choice from Osaka to Tokyo by Shinkansen. You can purchase and book your ticket at Shin-Osaka station in advance. You can find the fare and timetable at Hyperdia:

      Hakone Free Pass is recommended to the trip to Hakone.

      Single ticket is okay for trip to Disneyland. Only single fare is available for the trip to Narita too.


      Takeshi /

  8. This is my Itinerary~~
    14-15 Osaka
    16 Nara
    17-18 Kyoto
    19 Shirakawago
    20-22 Tokyo

    I wanna know~~ Do i Need JR pass to travel around these cities???

    From Kyoto to Shirakawago~~ How do I get there?? By bus?? or is there any train service???

    From Shirakawago to Tokyo~~~How do I get there?? By bus?? or is there any train service???

    1. Hi Wendy,

      You may use Tokyo-Osaka Hokuriku Arch Pass.

      You may start using it when you go to Nara. And it will covers until you leave Tokyo.
      You can add other deal in Osaka.

      You can visit Shirakawago from Kanazawa or Toyama by Nohi bus. It’s not covered by the pass. You have to add bus fare.

      You need to go back to Kanazawa or Toyama to get Tokyo by Shinkansen.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hello~~ Takeshi~~
        I am wendy~ thank you for your advice and all the useful and clear information provided including this website~~

        I have one more question~~
        I arrive on 14 at Osaka airport~ Kansai airport (KIX) on 22:25
        so consider late already right??
        How do i get to Shin Osaka?? not by Haruka right??

        so where can i buy the ICOCA card??? can i buy it without Haruka deals (since i cant use it) ???

        Best Regards,

        1. Hi Wendy,

          You may not be able to take any trains. Please see the following link:

          ICOCA is sold at Kansai airport station but you don’t have a time to purchase it on arrival day. You can purchase only ICOCA at Shin-Osaka station next day.

          Your choice will be only midnight bus to Osaka and take a taxi to Shin-Osaka. I don’t have taxi fare but I expect it will be 2000 – 3000 yen.


          Takeshi /

          1. Hi~Takeshi~~
            Wendy here~~
            on 14 arrived late night 22:25 @KIX~~

            If I take bus, can the bus take me to Osaka Nankanoya (Osaka Yodokawa-ku Higashimikuni 1-15-17)???

            my original plan is ~~ Bus to shin osaka, then take train to Higashi-Yodogawa station~~
            But the train service stop at midnight, is it???
            Is my original plan possible???

            Best regards,

            1. Hi Wendy,

              Bus goes only Umeda (JR Osaka). That’s why I showed estimated taxi fare. Please read the link that I gave you at previous reply again. You will find the link of the bus to Umeda. I also explain train schedule and other info.


              Takeshi /

  9. Hi! May I also ask what train passes I should get. I’m staying for 7 days in Osaka in Umeda area but will visit Kyoto, Kobe and Nara.
    I based my itinerary from the sakura forecast.

    Day0 we will arrive at Umeda through limousine bus.
    Day 1 Eastern Kyoto
    Day2 Western Kyoto
    Day3 Osaka (Namba area)
    Day4 Central Kyoto
    Day5 Nara&Osaka
    Day6 Kobe
    Day7 USJ

    Thank you for your help!!

  10. Hi Takeshi,
    Can I seek your advice about the passes I should get?
    I’m planning a 2-week trip, starting from Nagoya, planning to cover Nagoya, Takayama, Kanazawa in the first 7 days, then travel to Kyoto (2 days sightseeing in kyoto, 2days in Hieizan, back to Kyoto for another 2 days before heading to Osaka). For Kyoto, I plan to stay in Shijo/Karasuma area and for Osaka, in the Namba station vicinity. In Osaka, I plan to spend 3 days, on the first day of travelling from Kyoto to Osaka, I plan to do a day-trip to Himeiji and the remaining 2 days sight-seeing in Osaka, flying back via Osaka on the 4th day.

      1. Thanks, Takeshi for your advice. For the 5-day takayama pass, Can I activate it in gifu?
        If I’m planning to travel from gifu to takayama, then to okuhida, back to takayama and taking a day guided tour to shiragawa and using the pass to travel to kanazawa, then kyoto, is it still worthwhile to get this 5-day pass?
        In addition, can i check whether there are any day pass in kyoto and Osaka that covers both subway and hankyu rails?


        1. Hi Kt,

          As long as you travel from Gifu-Takayama-Kanazawa-Kyoto in 5 days, this pass will work. But this pass does not cover bus to Okuhida and guided tour to Shirakawago. You can take bus to Shirakawago by this pass. But it covers scheduled bus only.

          You can add city pass in Kyoto and Osaka.

          Single fare is okay to take Hankyu. Kansai thru pass covers all but I think city pass and single fare for Hankyu is cheaper.


          Takeshi /

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