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.
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