Monday, March 3, 2014

Transportation and Railpasses within Kansai region.

*Note: prices listed on this article are before the tax increase in Japan in April 2014. Therefore prices/fares quoted here will probably be slightly different if your trip to Japan is from April 2014 onwards.  
Occasionally, the train operators might amend or discontinue the railpasses listed here, so please double-check the details with the railpass's websites for the details for the most current information. 

Kansai region is probably 1 of my favourite areas to visit in Japan (that, and Hokkaido during winter that is).

Basically, the Kansai region is located somewhere in the middle of Japan, and it consists of 7 prefectures:
- Osaka (City area, also where Universal Studios is located at)
- Kyoto (Temples, shrines, and geisha. Kyoto also used to be Japan's capital until 1868)
- Nara (Where there are deers roaming about freely in some parts of the town)
- Mie (Where 1 of my fav old towns Oharaimachi is located at)
- Wakayama (Where I took the Cat train to visit the Cat Stationmaster)
- Hyogo (Where Kobe, Himeji and Kinosaki onsen is located at)
- Shiga (Where you can find a few ski slopes that are near Kyoto, as well as where Lake Biwa is located at)

Kansai region is highlighted in red.

Kansai region
Getting to Kansai region
To get to Kansai region, taking a flight to Osaka's Kansai Airport is usually the best option.

Or if you are getting to Kansai region from Tokyo, you could either:
- Take a domestic flight from Tokyo's Narita or Haneda Airport to Osaka's Kansai Airport.
- Take a 3hr journey onboard the Shinkansen (bullet train) (Costs 13,240yen for a 1way from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka station)
- Take a bus.

Public Transport from Kansai Airport
From Kansai Airport, you could take either 1 of these methods to reach Osaka downtown.
- JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service train (costs 1160yen, takes 70mins to reach Osaka station).
This train also stops at other popular stations like Rinkutown, Tennoji, ShinImamiya, Bentencho. Since there is no reserved seat carriage for this train, so seats are on a first-come-first-served basis and you might have to stand throughout the journey. Not too sure whether there's toilet onboard this train since I've never taken this train before.

- JR Haruka Express train (takes about 50mins and costs 2260yen for unreserved seat or 2770yen for reserved seat to Shin-Osaka, or takes 75mins and costs 2770yen for unreserved seat or 3280yen for reserved seat to Kyoto).
This Ltd Exp train stops at only Tennoji, Shin-Osaka (not Osaka station), and Kyoto station. It is also the only train which goes direct from Kansai airport all the way to Kyoto.
There are areas in each cabin for you to place your luggage and there are toilets onboard this train. For those with reserved seat tickets, you will have your seat number printed on your ticket and you will have a confirmed seat throughout your journey.
Special package: 1 way or 2 way Haruka Express + ICOCA card package

- Nankai Ltd Exp Rapi:t (takes about 37mins and costs 1390yen to reach Nankai's Namba station in Osaka for a reserved seat)
This is a Ltd Exp train stops at a few stations like Rinkutown, Izumisano, Kishiwada, Sakai, Tengachaya, ShinImamiya, and Nankai's Namba station in Osaka. It doesn't go further up north to Osaka station nor Shin-Osaka station area though. Like the Haruka Express, this train has an area in each cabin for you to place your luggage as well as toilets onboard the train. There are no unreserved seats on this train so you will have to purchase a reserved seat ticket.
Nankai company's discount tickets: See here
More info: See here.

- Nankai Airport Express (takes about 48mins and costs 890yen to reach Nankai's Namba station in Osaka)
This is a regular express train and runs on the same route as the Nankai Ltd Exp Rapi:t train, just that this train stops at more stations along the way as well as the same stops as the Nankai Ltd Exp Rapi:t train. There are no reserved seats on this train and seats are on a first-come-first-serve basis...kinda like taking subway. Not too sure if there's a toilet on this train or not though.
Nankai company's discount tickets: See here
More info: See here.

- Bus. More info: See this website

Railpasses (for use in Kansai region):
Well, there are a few railpass options for this region. It really depends on where you will be going and then decide for yourself which is more suitable for you.

I strongly recommend using Hyperdia website to calculate your train fares/schedule to compare and see whether it's worth getting a railpass for your trip. Note that there are many railway companies in Japan, so if you are getting a railpass offered by a certain company (for example, JR company), then that railpass is only valid on that company's train lines.

Meaning, even though you have a JR Kansai Area Wide pass, you can only use it to take JR train lines.
If you were to take subways in Osaka, then the JR railpass will not cover for the subway since the subway lines are not operated by the JR company.

4 days JR Kansai Area Wide Pass (7000yen)
Additional info:
This is 1 of my favourite railpass which I've already used on a few trips.
If you plan on visiting places like Kinosaki onsen (which is about 3hrs train ride from Kyoto/Osaka), or planning to take a Shinkansen to Okayama or Himeji from Shin-Osaka, then this railpass is really worth getting. Bear in mind that this railpass doesn't cover the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, although you could use this pass to take regular JR trains between Osaka and Kyoto areas.

To put things into perspective (normal train fares if not using railpass):
1 way journey onboard the Ltd Exp train from Osaka to Kinosaki onsen would normally cost 4940yen (unreserved seat).
1 way journey onboard Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Okayama would normally cost 5350yen (unreserved seat).

But, if you are just visiting within Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe areas, then this railpass might not be worth getting. A regular JR train (not Shinkansen) from Osaka station to Kyoto station would only cost 540yen for 1 way journey if you are not using railpass.

1/2/3/4 days JR Kansai Area Pass (2000 to 6000yen)
Additional info:
This railpass has flexibility since you can choose whether you need 1/2/3/4 days of coverage. It doesn't cover as large an area as compared to the Kansai Area Wide pass though, but it's a cheaper alternative.
You can use this pass to go up to Himeji via local and rapid trains from Osaka/Kyoto. But you cannot use this to take Shinkansen nor Ltd Exp trains. 1 exception is that you can use this railpass to take the Haruka Exp train.

To put things into perspective (normal train fares if not using railpass):
1 way journey onboard a regular JR rapid train from Osaka station to Himeji station will normally cost 1450yen.

4 or 8 days JR Sanyo Area Pass (20,000yen or 30,000yen)
Additional info:
This is a more expensive railpass with a wider coverage. You can use this railpass take the Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to not only Himeji and Okayama, but also to Hiroshima and up to Hakata station in Fukuoka on Kyushu.

To put things into perspective (normal train fares if not using railpass):
1 way journey onboard Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station to Hakata station in Fukuoka will cost 14,080yen (unreserved seat).
1 way journey onboard Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka station to Hiroshima will cost 9440yen (unreserved seat)

7/14/21 days Nationwide Japan Rail Pass (28,300yen to 57,700yen)
This is my absolute favourite pass, although it is the most expensive railpass.
This is because you can use this pass to travel all across Japan on JR train lines. This includes Shinkansen and Ltd Exp trains too. You could use this railpass to travel from Hokkaido in the north, all the way to Kyushu in the south.
This particular railpass can only be purchased from OUTSIDE of Japan. You will have to bring the voucher which you bought to 1 of the JR offices in Japan to exchange for the actual railpass.

If you are planning to make a return journey between Osaka/Kyoto and Tokyo within 7 days, then the 7days version of this railpass is recommended. Because a 1 way Shinkansen ride from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo would cost 14,050yen (reserved seat). Therefore a 2 way journey (eg. Shin-Osaka to Tokyo, then a few days later, Tokyo back to Shin-Osaka) would cost 28,100yen if you are not using any railpass. On top of that, you could also use this pass for the airport express trains like Haruka Express (for access to Osaka's Kansai Airport) and Narita Express (for access to Tokyo's Narita Airport) and the regular JR train lines.

But if you are only visiting Kansai region and not venturing beyond Osaka/Kyoto/Nara/Mie/Wakayama/Kobe/Himeji....then this pass is not really worth getting.

5 days Kintetsu Railpass (3700yen for regular version, 5700yen for Wide version).
Additional info:
This railpass is recommended for those who are planning to visit the Mie prefecture, or going to Nagoya.
Since this railpass is offered by the Kintetsu company, so you cannot use this for trains on the JR lines.
1 limitation for this railpass is that you can only take 3 times Ltd Exp trains within those 5 days. But you can take unlimited trips using their local, rapid and express trains.

To put things into perspective (normal train fares if not using railpass):
1 way journey from Osaka-Namba station in Osaka to KintetsuNagoya station in Nagoya would cost 4150yen (reserved seat) onboard the Ltd Exp Kintetsu train.

2 or 3 days Kansai Thru Pass (3800yen or 5000yen)
Additional info:
This railpass covers the non-JR train lines within parts of Kansai region (Osaka/Kyoto/Nara/Kobe/Himeji/Wakayama/Koyasan)

2 or 3 days Kansai Wakayama Pass (3500yen or 5500yen) 
*To be discontinued from Apr 2014 onwards
Additional info:
This railpass is for those who are planning to visit Wakayama, Koyasan and Kumano regions.

2 days Koyasan World Heritage Ticket (2780yen for regular version, 3310yen for Ltd Exp version)
Additional info:
This is for those who are visiting just Koyasan within 2 days.

More info on some other various passes for use within Osaka:

More info on various bus and subway passes for use within Kyoto:

More info on the Wakayama Dentetsu Railway (Cat train and Cat stationmaster):

More info on various discount tickets for travel within Kobe and Arima Onsen:

(Note that taxes in Japan will increase from April 2014 onwards, so there will be an adjustments to the prices listed here from April onwards)

-posted on 3/3/14


  1. I have limited time to plan my open-jaw Tokyo-Osaka trip. Your blog has been really informative! thanks for all the information :)