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Kansai Area Pass / Kansai Passport
The Kansai Area Pass is somewhat similar to the Kansai Thru Pass, just that this Pass is offered by JR. You take the JR-West lines (except the bullet trains) if you use this Pass and you cannot seperate the dates you travel. It must be consecutive days.
There are a few types :
1-Day Pass : 2000 Yen
2-Day Pass : 4000 Yen
3-Day Pass : 5000 Yen
4-Day Pass : 6000 Yen
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Kansai Thru Pass
We used the Kansai Thru Pass when we were in Kansai Area. This pass is very useful when travelling in the Kansai Area. It is inclusive of all intercity train networks in the Kansai Area (except the JR lines) and city subways and city buses (except for Nara for example). There are 2 types, 1 the 2-day pass (3800 Yen) and the other, 3-day pass (5000 Yen).
What is good about this Pass is that you do not need to travel on consecutive days. You will only validate your pass on the day which you are using.
The Pass is useful if you travel within the Kansai Area for further distances. For instance, from Kyoto to Osaka, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, etc. This Pass was definitely useful and it even comes with discount coupons. For instance, we saved quite a bit on our entrance fee to Himeji Castle and Kobe Tower.
Note : Study the map carefully and check out the gray portions as some cities do not allow for bus travel using the Kansai Pass, for instance, Nara City.
You can purchase it from the Kansai International Airport if you arrive there.
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Navigating Japan's efficient rail system
Getting to Kyoto from KIX International airport near Osaka is as easy as following well marked signs from the arrivals terminal to the JR station which is a short walk away. You can purchase either un-reserved tickets or reserved tickets for the trip to Kyoto via the JR Express train. We purchased un-reserved tickets and found a few available seats in the train cars which are designated for this type of seating (infants & toddlers ride for free). We paid about 750 yen for a one way ticket to Kyoto Station that took about an hour on the express train.
JR Rail train travel around Kyoto
Because I don't recall all of the details from our travels around Japan I'll include a brief explanation regarding train travel around Kyoto which I've referenced from the Lonely Planet Kyoto guidebook (an excellent source if you're planning a trip to Japan).
There are several options for getting around Kyoto by train. For South Western Kyoto take the JR Tokaido Line, the JR San-In line runs into Western Kyoto, and the JR Nara Line runs into southern Kyoto and then onward into the city of Nara.
KANSAI THRU PASS
The Surutto Kansai Two Day Ticket and Surutto Kansai Three Day Ticket are rail passes, providing unlimited usage of trains, subways and buses in the Kansai Region (around Osaka and Kyoto), with the prominent exception of JR trains.
Perfect for daytrips outside Kyoto: Nara, Osaka, Himeji, Mount Koya, Arashiyama, Kobe etc.
See map for locations included in the Pass.
Surutto Kansai 2 Day Ticket: 3,800 Yen
Surutto Kansai 3 Day Ticket: 5,000 Yen
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Take the Express!!
When making side trips from Kyoto, always take the express trains.
You will find yourself upon arriving at Kyoto Station faced with a departure board with many departures to Nara or Osaka within the hour. And that it will also state that the next train leaves in 5 mins and you better hurry to the platform if you are going to catch it.
Take a moment and actually see if that was a local, rapid or express train. No point rushing for the local train, the one that leaves in 5 mins, when it stops at every stop on the way and takes ages to get to where you want to go.
You may discover that though the rapid or express train leaves a good 20 mins or 1/2 hour later, they stop at far less places, the seats are more comfortable, and you may get to where you want to go alot faster.
The electronic boards for arrivals and departures rotates between English and Japanese, very convenient.
The Juhachi Kippu: Better than the Japan Rail Pass
On my most recent trip to Kyoto, I landed in Fukuoka and then travelled up to Kyoto by train using a Seishun Juhachi Kippu. The Juhachi Kippu is the funnest thing to happen to trains since the invention of the whistle.
For 11500 yen (around $110 CDN) it gets you five days of unlimited travel on any JR line. The best part is that, unlike the Japan Rail Pass, which must be used on consecutive days, the Juhachi Kippu can be used on any five days within the given 30 day period. And it can be used by any person, or multiple people can use the same ticket. It's a far better deal than the Japan Rail Pass, not only because it's cheaper, but it's much more flexible.
The draw back is that the ticket is only available three times of the year: during the winter, spring and summer school holidays. Check online at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2362.html for the specific dates as they change each year. You can't use the ticket for reservable trains but generally you can pay a small extra fee to get on.
Check www.hyperdia.com for train schedules. This site is also useful for arranging a long train trip with the least number of train changes possible.
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From the airport to Osaka or kyoto
From the airport, you can take the haruka limited express to the cities of osaka and kyoto. From outside the airport, there is a JR shop/counter whichever you want to call it. Exchange for your JR pass there (we had a 2-day JR west pass). For non reserved seats, it's cars no 4,5,6. They also divide it into smoking and non-smoking. It take about 1hr to reach kyoto.
I recommend you take the haruka if you have the pass, if not, it's not cheap at 2000+yen for a ticket to kyoto. The JR west rail pass we bought costs 4000yen for unlimited travel for 2 days. You have to buy the pass outside of Japan.
If you are travelling anywhere in Eastern Kyoto, you may save some money by using the Keihan Railway. If travelling from Osaka, the easiest way to access Keihan Railways may be from Kyobashi (located in the Osaka Loop), although there are many stops in other areas, such as Naniwabashi, Nakanoshima, and Temmabashi.
The cost is relatively that same as travelling from Osaka Station to Kyoto Station via JR Lines however, if you go to Kyoto Station, it is likely that you will then take a bus. By using Keihan Railways, you can access many of Kyoto's sights right from the station. It's particularly useful for anyone wishing to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Along the Keihan Line, these are the stops with nearby locations (from South to North):
Fushimi Momoyama: Momoyama Castle, Gekkeikan Musem, Sake Breweries, Gokonomiya Shrine, Teradaya
Fushimi Inari: Fushimi Inari Shrine
Tofukuji: Tofukuji Temple and subtemples
Shichijo: Sanjuusangen-do, Kyoto National Museum, Myohoin Temple
(Kiyomizu) Gojo: Kiyomizu Temple
Gion Shijo: Gion District, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Chion-in Temple, Kodaiji Temple, Ryozen Kannon Statue
Jingu Marutamachi: Heian Shrine, Kyoto City Zoo, South Gate of Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park (closer to Sento/Sendo Palace)
Demachiyanagi: Shimogamo Shrine, Chionji Temple, North Side of Kyoto Imperial Palace and Park (closer to Kyoto Imperial Palace)
Convenient Transfer Locations:
From Demachiyanagi, you can transfer to Demachiyanagi (Eizan Railway) to visit Shugakuin Imperial Villa and the Kurama area.
From Sanjo, you can transfer to the Tozai Line to access Otsu City (Ishiyama Temple, Hiyoshi Shrine, Miidera Temple, Lake Biwa, Mount Hiei)
From Chushojima, you can transfer to the Uji Line to see the Byodoin Temple, Ujigami Shrine, Mampukuji Temple, and Tale of Genji Museum. You can also use the Uji Line to access Daigoji Temple by getting off at Rokujizo Station and taking Rokujizo Subway or the bus.
From Tambabashi, you can transfer to the Kintetsu Line to go to Toji (for Toji Temple) or Kyoto Station.
For travel in Eastern Kyoto and nearby cities, Keihan Railways is quite convenient, as well as affordable!
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Fastest way (economical way too!) from KIX
There are a couple of ways to go to Kyoto from KIX. There's the Limousine Bus, the taxi and our recommended choice --- Haruka airport express which is 75 mins and costs normally at 2980 for unreserved seats. Limousine Bus is cheaper at 2300 yen but time is longer, around 2 hours. However, you can actually purchase a one-day Kansai Area Pass by JR-West and you can use this for the Haruka airport express and guess how much it costs? 2000! So overall speaking, this is the best deal because it's not only cheaper, it's also the fastest! You can get the ticket from the station itself which is right outside the arrival section of domestic flights. Earliest departure from KIX is 6:29 am and latest is at 10:18 pm.
Take the Kintetsu Train
The Kintetsu train is the way to go in Kyoto. You can travel to distances in a very quick time. It is the most convenient way to travel. The passengers (Japanese) are very polite, not rawdy, and very pleasant.
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KIX to Kyoto by Kansai Area Pass
The pass costs only 2000 yen and valid for 1 day. Though I only used it to travel from KIX to Kyoto, it is really worth a price. Normally you could have paid more for a single trip to Kyoto.
Since the pass is valid for unlimited trips in Kansai area for a day, you can go everywhere by using Kansai-airport Express HARUKA and Special Rapid Services, Rapid Services, and Local Services on JR-WEST Conventional Lines.
For more update please visit the official page of JR West: http://www.jr-odekake.net/en/jwrp/index.html
PS. You can only buy the ticket one time!
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Getting around: the Randen Railway
To travel between the sights of the Arashiyama area and those in the north west of the city, the Randen Railway can be useful. We took it from Arashiyama to Ryoanji, allowing us to split a day's exploration between two focus points in the city. The little trains (really more like trams) run on two lines, A and B, and we had to change from the A line to the B at Katabiranotsuji. The one way fare was 200¥. You buy your ticket from machines in the station before travelling. The next station is announced and clearly displayed on a screen at the front of the carriage so it’s easy to find your way.
By the way, the station for this line at Arashiyama is not in the same place as the one that serves the JR line, Saga Arashiyama, but is actually located in a slightly more convenient place for the main sights, just south east of Tenryu-ji Temple. It has a number of snack bars (we had some delicious ice cream here, including an unusual sesame seed one – see my second photo) and very clean public toilets, as well as a hot springs foot-bath where you can refresh your weary feet for 150¥.
Once we alighted from the train at Ryoanji-michi we had a walk through some residential back streets which was rather interesting.
The easiest way to get to and from Kyoto is by train. The train station is just by the city center and it is fast connection to Tokyo, Osaka and Osaka Kansai international airport. By no means, if your main destination in Japan is Kyoto, fly to Osaka, not to Tokyo as it is much closer.
JR Railways is the most convenient way to get into Kyoto, as Kyoto Station is on the JR Line and a Shinkansen stop.
But depending on where you want to go, it may also be a convenient way to get around!
From Kyoto Station, JR trains travel through Kyoto southward and through the west. Some of the stops and sites they are near are as follows:
- Kyoto Station (Kyoto Tower, Toji Temple, Higashi Honganji Temple, Nishi Honganji Temple, Shosei-en Garden)
- Nijo Station (Nijo Castle)
- Hanazono Station (Toei Movie Village, Myoshinji Temple)
- JR Saga Arashiyama Station (takes you to the Arashiyama area, where you can walk to many of the sites, like Tenryuji Temple and the bamboo grove)
- Tofukuji Station (Tofukuji Temple and all of its subtemples)
- Inari Station (Fushimi Inari Shrine)
- Momoyama Station (Fushimi Momoyama Castle, Gokonomiya Shrine, Gekkeikan Sake Museum, Sake Breweries, Teradaya)
- Mukomachi Station (will take you as close to Oharano Shrine, Shoboji, Shojiji, Konzonji, Yoshimine-dera, Sankoji, and Jurinji as it can get, but they are still far enough that it is best to take a bus from here)
- Nagaoka-kyo Station (Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine)
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