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. Nelly says:

    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. Syl says:

    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?

  4. Tiziano says:

    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

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    Clara says:

    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


  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???

  9. Lucy says:

    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. KT says:

    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.

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