Monday, June 9, 2014

Maximise your 4 days JR Kansai Area Wide Railpass usage.

If you are only travelling to areas like Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe, then you don't really need the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area railpass since a 1 way journey on regular trains within those 3 places doesn't really cost too much.

For example, (fares quoted are for 1 way)
Osaka station to Kyoto station via JR Kyoto line costs 560yen.
Osaka station to Nara station via JR Osaka Loop line (transfer at Tennoji) and then JR Yamatoji line costs 800yen.
Osaka station to Kobe's JR Sannomiya station via JR Kobe line costs 410yen.

Therefore, as you can see, you don't really need the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area railpass to travel within those 4 areas (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe).

More info for 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area railpass 
(7200yen for adult, 3600yen for 6-11yrs old child):
http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/timetable/

**UPDATED (21/07/2016): 
The JR Kansai Wide railpass have changed, and it now costs 8500yen (if purchased outside Japan) or 9000yen (if purchased within Japan) and covers 5 consecutive days instead of 4 days.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_08.html
https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai_wide/


Here are some place where you can better utilize the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area railpass 
(assuming you are travelling from Osaka):
Map taken from JR-West website here

Kinosaki onsen
My blog entries for Kinosaki onsen: here
Kinosaki onsen guide on japan-guide.com: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3525.html
Booking a ryokan at Kinosaki onsen: http://www.kinosaki-web.com/en/
Although Kinosaki onsen is a pretty long way from Osaka (about 3hr train ride away), however it is 1 of my favourite onsen towns, so I tend to recommend this place when people need ideas on where to visit if they are planning to visit Kansai region.
What I liked is that this town has a nostalgic feel, and the guests who are staying overnight at the ryokans at Kinosaki onsen will wear yukata (provided by the ryokans) and wooden clogs in the evening and stroll along the streets going to the shops or headed for 1 of the public onsen (hotspring).

To go Kinosaki onsen from Osaka:
From Osaka station, take Ltd Exp Konotori train to Kinosaki onsen. (about 160mins)
There is only 1 Ltd Exp Konotori train departure every hourly or so.
Usually, there is a train departure at around 8am, 9am, 10am, 12noon, 2pm, and 3pm from Shin-Osaka station (as well as Osaka station).
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.

Kinosaki onsen


Okayama + Kurashiki
My blog entry for Okayama: here
My blog entry for Kurashiki: here
Okayama tourism website: http://www.okayama-japan.jp/en/
Okayama guide on japan-guide.com: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5700.html
Kurashiki tourism website: http://www.kurashiki-tabi.jp/for/en/
Kurashiki guide on japan-guide.com: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5750.html
A 1-way journey from Shin-Osaka station to Okayama station via Shinkansen costs 5500yen (unreserved seat), which is why if you plan on visiting Kurashiki and/or Okayama, it would be advisable for you to get the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass (assuming you are not planning to get the nationwide JR Pass) since a return journey (i.e. Shin-Osaka to Okayama, and then Okayama back to Shin-Osaka) would cost 11000yen whereas the JR Kansai Wide Area pass only costs 7200yen...which gives you a cost savings of 3800yen.

Okayama has a beautiful garden, Korakuen, which is also ranked as 1 of  the best 3 landscape garden in Japan (along with Kanazawa's Kenrokuen and Mito's Kairakuen). Just across from Korakuen, you could also visit Okayama castle.


Kurashiki is a town that is just a short 16mins train ride away from Okayama station via the JR Sanyo line or JR Hakubi line (this short journey is also included with the JR Kansai Wide Area Pass), and I enjoyed my visit to Kurashiki's canal area with museum, shops and cafes that is conveniently just a short 15mins walk from Kurashiki station.

Kurashiki's canal area
To go Okayama from Osaka:
From Shin-Osaka station (the only Shinkansen station within Osaka), take a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Okayama station (50-80mins journey). 
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.

To go Kurashiki from Okayama:
From Okayama station, take JR Sanyo line or JR Hakubi line to Kurashiki station (16mins journey)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.




Himeji
My blog entry for Himeji: here
Himeji Tourism website: here
Himeji castle is Japan's best preserved castle since it was not affected by the war, earthquake nor fire.
The castle is also considered a national treasure as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Currently, the castle is undergoing renovation and will be expected to be done by March 2015.
If you visit the castle during this renovation period, you will be able to view the renovation progress,
Currently, Himeji castle is undergoing renovation works, scheduled to be ready in 2015.
How to go to Himeji from Osaka:
There are 2 methods of going to Himeji from Osaka by train.
(method 1: Shinkansen) *use this method if you are using 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area pass.
From Shin-Osaka station, take a Shinkansen to Himeji station (about 30mins journey)

(method 2: Regular Rapid trains) *use this method if you are not using any railpass
From Osaka station (or Shin-Osaka station), take the JR Kobe line (towards Himeji direction) to Himeji.
The journey takes around 100mins (for Rapid trains) and regular fares costs 1490yen (1 way).




Hikone + Nagahama
My blog entry for Nagahama: here
Hikone and Nagahama are located within Shiga prefecture, along the shores of Lake Biwa.
For Hikone, you could probably visit Hikone castle as well as the "castle road" which is a shopping street just outside Hikone with shops in buildings redesigned to look like buildings from Edo period.

Nagahama is another small town just a few stations away from Hikone, also with its own castle.
There is an old shopping street area (Kurobe Square) just 5mins walk away from Nagahama station where there is now a glasswork shop in an old bank building. Also found in Nagahama is the preserved building of the old railway station of Nagahama, which is also Japan's oldest preserved railway station.

Nagahama
How to go to Hikone from Osaka:
From Osaka station, take JR Kyoto line/Biwako line Rapid Service train to Hikone station 
(1940yen, 80-100mins journey) *this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.

How to go to Nagahama from Hikone:
From Hikone station, take JR Hokuriku line train to Nagahama station. (22mins, 240yen)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.



Hakodateyama ski area and Biwako Valley ski area
*during winter, usually around end Dec to early March
My blog entry for Hakodateyama ski area: here
Hakodateyama ski area website: here
Biwako valley ski area website: here

While trying to research on where to bring my family to try and see snow during our Feb winter trip in Kansai region, I came across websites of these 2 ski areas in Shiga prefecture (somewhat near Kyoto).
Both ski areas do not have resort accommodations, so it's going to be a day trip visit and not an overnight trip.
Hakodateyama ski area (this pic was taken in mid Feb 2014)
How to go to Hakodateyama ski area from Osaka:
From Osaka station, take JR Kosei line Rapid Service train to Omiimazu station (about 80mins, 1940yen)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.
From Omiimazu station, take a bus ride to Hakodateyama's gondola station (35mins, 220yen, you can find bus schedule from Hakodateyama's website)
Then take a gondola (cable car) ride up to Hakodateyama ski area (about 7mins, 1800yen for return trip)
*The railpass will not cover the bus ride nor the gondola ride

How to go to Biwako Valley ski area:
From Osaka station, take JR Kyoto line to Kyoto station (about 30mins)
From Kyoto station, take JR Kosei line Local train to Shiga station (about 45mins, 1320yen for 1 way between Osaka station to Shiga station)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.
From Shiga station, take a bus ride to Biwako Valley's gondola station (about 15mins)
Then take a gondola (cable car) ride up to Biwako Valley ski area
*The railpass will not cover the bus ride nor the gondola ride




Other than those places I've mentioned above, here are some other places where you can consider visiting with just a little top-up with your 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area pass:


Tottori
My blog entry for Tottori: here
Tottori tourism website: here
Tottori guide on japan-guide website: here
Tottori Sand museum website: here
Tottori is best known for its sand dunes which are created over thousands of years and are the largest in Japan. If the weather is good, you can even have a ride on a camel.
Near the sand dunes is the Sand Museum where you can see exhibits of sand sculptures.

Using the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass to get to Tottori:
The railpass covers the journey all the way until Hamasaka, so all you need to do is to top up for the journey between Hamasaka and Tottori. The extra fare which you'd have to pay is 580yen (1way) for the journey between Hamasaka and Tottori, since this portion of the journey is not covered by the JR Kansai Wide Area railpass.

Although there is a faster and direct train (Ltd Exp Super Hakuto) from Osaka to Tottori without having to go through train transfers at Kinosaki onsen/Hamasaka, however this train runs on a different route and it goes through more area of the railpass non-coverage areas, therefore you'd have to top up much more  if you choose to take this train.
The top up amount would be 3050yen if you take the Super Hakuto train, which is much more than the 580yen if you use the Osaka-Kinosaki Onsen-Hamasaka-Tottori method instead.

Tottori Sand dunes
Therefore, what I recommend is you go Tottori via the Kinosaki onsen and Hamasaka route,
0814-1058 Osaka to Kinosaki onsen via Ltd Exp Konotori train 
(about 160mins journey, fare covered by railpass. There is only 1 train departure every hourly or so for this direct train from Osaka to Kinosaki Onsen.)

1154-1357 Kinosaki onsen to Tottori via JR San-in line's local train 
(about 2hrs journey, fare only covered between Kinosaki onsen to Hamasaka. From Hamasaka onwards, you'd have to pay 580yen for the journey between Hamasaka to Tottori since that portion of the journey is outside the JR Kansai Wide Area pass's coverage. The train departure timings for this particular train line is irregular, since there is only 1 train departure every hourly to 2hrs. Not all trains goes direct to Tottori from Kinosaki onsen though, some trains along this line might end at Hamasaka, so you might have to do a train transfer at Hamasaka. If you have time at Hamasaka, you could use the free hotspring foot bath just outside the station while waiting for your train transfer. Remember to bring a small towel for you to wipe your feet with if you plan on doing so. Yes, there's toilet facilities onboard this train.)

Tottori Sand Museum.
Instead of just going to Tottori, I'd recommend spending a night at Kinosaki onsen along the way as well, since Kinosaki onsen is along the way.

Something like this:
Day 1: Osaka to Kinosaki onsen via Ltd Exp Konotori train. Visit Kinosaki onsen. Stay at Kinosaki onsen.
The train journey takes about 160mins, usual fare of 5080yen for non-reserved seat is covered by the railpass. There is only about 1 train departure every hourly for this train line.

Day 2: Kinosaki onsen to Tottori via JR San-in line. Visit Tottori. Stay at Tottori.
Kinosaki onsen to Hamasaka is covered by the railpass, and from Hamasaka to Tottori, you'd have to pay 580yen (1way). There is only about 1 train departure every hourly to 2 hours. Not all train goes direct to Tottori, for some trains along this line, you would have to alight at Hamasaka station to do a train transfer.
The train journey from Kinosaki onsen to Tottori takes about 2hrs.

Day 3: Tottori to Osaka. Stay at Osaka.
Tottori to Kinosaki onsen via JR San-in line (top up 580yen for Tottori to Hamasaka), then Kinosaki onsen back to Osaka via Ltd Exp train. This entire journey from Tottori back to Osaka will take about 5 to 6 hours, depending on the amount of time you will spend for the train transfers.

Day 4: Daytrip to somewhere within JR Kansai Wide Area Pass's coverage. Stay at Osaka.
Okayama or Himeji perhaps? Since you would be able to experience taking Shinkansen (bullet train) from Shin-Osaka station to Himeji or Okayama. For Osaka, the only station with Shinkansen access is Shin-Osaka station which is just a few minutes train away from Osaka station.



Amanohashidate
Amanohashidate tourism website: here 
Amanohashidate guide on japan-guide.com: here
The view of the beautiful 3km sandbar is consider 1 of Japan's 3 most scenic views (along Miyajima and Matsushima). Amanohashidate is actually about 1hr by train away from Kinosaki onsen, so you might want to consider staying overnight at Kinosaki onsen if you happen to visit Amanohashidate.

That said, the reason why you'd have to top up (even if you have either JR Kansai Wide Area Pass or JR Pass) to go to Amanohashidate is because the train lines that goes to Amanohashidate runs on non-JR tracks.

Amanohashidate's sandbar. Photo taken from Amanohashidate website
To go to Amanohashidate from Osaka:
From Osaka station, take Ltd Exp Konotori train to Fukuchiyama station (94mins, 3340yen, 1 train departure every hourly)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.
From Fukuchiyama, transfer to Kitakinki Tango Railways Local train to Amanohashidate (60-90mins, 770yen, about 1 train departure every hourly, some trains might require you to transfer at Miyazu station instead of direct from Fukuchiyama to Amanohashidate)
*this journey is not covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass nor JR Pass.

To go to Kinosaki onsen from Amanohashidate:
From Amanohashidate, take Kitakinki Tango Miyazu line to Toyooka station (about 70mins, 1190yen, about 1 train departure every hour or 2 hourly)
*this journey is not covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass nor JR Pass.
From Toyooka station, take Ltd Exp Kinosaki/Konotori train or JR San-in line local train to Kinosaki onsen station (8-12mins, about 2 train departures every hourly)
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.



Onomichi
Onomichi Tourism website: here
Cycling route (Shimanami Kaido) website: here
Onomichi guide on japan-guide website: here
Onomichi is a little town along the Inland Seto Sea in Eastern Hiroshima prefecture.
There are some small islands nearby which are connected by bridges all the way to Shikoku, and it is a popular cycling route (Shimanami Kaido route) which spans 60km.
There is also a Temple walk within Onomichi which will lead you to 25 temples.
The 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area railpass only covers the journey up to Kurashiki. 
Therefore, you'd have to top up for the journey between Kurashiki and Onomichi (1140yen).

To go Okayama from Osaka:
From Shin-Osaka station (the only Shinkansen station within Osaka), take a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Okayama station (50-80mins journey).
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.

To go Onomichi from Okayama:
From Okayama station, take JR Sanyo line local train to Onomichi station (about 85mins, 1 train departure every 20mins)
*the JR Kansai Wide Area pass only covers up to Kurashiki station from Okayama station, therefore you'd have to pay 1140yen (1 way) for the journey between Kurashiki and Onomichi.




Takamatsu
Takamatsu website: here
Takamatsu guide on japan-guide website: here
Shikoku is Japan's 4th largest island, located somewhere between Osaka and Kyushu.
Takamatsu is a town in Shikoku located just across the bridge from Okayama, with a beautiful japanese landscape garden, castle, and open-air museum.
Ritsurin koen at Takamatsu. Photo take from Takamatsu website
To go Okayama from Osaka:
From Shin-Osaka station (the only Shinkansen station within Osaka), take a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Okayama station (50-80mins journey).
*this journey is covered by the 4 days JR Kansai Wide Area Pass.

To go Takamatsu from Okayama:
From Okayama station, take JR Marine Liner to Takamatsu (about 50mins journey, 1 departure every 30mins).
*the JR Kansai Wide Area pass only covers up to Kojima station from Okayama station, therefore you'd have to pay 950yen (1 way, Non-Reserved seat) for the journey between Kojima and Takamatsu station.





5 comments:

  1. Hi, have you been to the Kumano region? Will the pass be useful? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, I've never been to Kumano region before, so I'm not really familiar with that area.
      I guess it depends on which part of Kumano region are you going.
      If you are going to Shirahama, then yes, you can use this railpass to go Shirahama from Osaka.

      Delete
  2. Hi Sam, thanks for the informative post. Can I check with you, for Shinkansen Hikari rides from Kyoto to Himeji, is it covered under the Kansai wide area pass (5 days)? TIA

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Kansai Wide Area Pass only covers the Shinkansen (except Nozomi) from Shin-Osaka onwards to Himeji. The tracks between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto belongs to a different JR subsidary, therefore this particular railpass doesn't cover the shinkansen between Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.

      However, u can use the Kansai Wide Area pass to take JR trains (Ltd Exp) and regular Rapid trains from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, where u can then transfer to the Shinkansen at Shin-Osaka to Himeji.

      Delete
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