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)
The easiest way for travellers to get to Kyoto is by train. Japan Railways is the fastest. JR Kyoto Station was rebuilt in 1997 by Japanese architect Hiroshi Hara. It is a huge complex boasting a department store, restaurants, a theater, & more on its levels. JR Kyoto Station is not just a station but a monument; definitely a must-see for all visitors to Kyoto.
The Kansai Thru Pass is an excellent way to get around Kansai region on the cheap. This pass, available at the travel counter in the arrivals halls of KIX and at th emain bus information center in front of Kyoto Station, allows unlimited travel on all bus and train lines in Kansai except the JR. It also entitles you to some discounts in some attractions within Kansai. Two-Day passes cost 3800 yen and a 3-Day one costs 5000 yen. These passes are only offered to visitors and you have to show your passport upon purchase. Note: it doesn't cover some lines, like buses in Nara. We used it when we did city hopping --- Kyoto-Nara-Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto in one day!
The Keihan line runs from Yodoyabashi to Kyoto regularly during the day for around Yen 400. The service includes express or local and there is no difference in price.
A limited express takes about 40 mins and is very comfortable
from kobe it only takes about 1 hour by train to kyoto, and costs 1100yen, very economical :) also the kyoto train/bus station is a very cool architectural complex! just try to run up the stairs and you'll see a great view of the city!!! to go to tokyo cheaply, you can catch the night bus in osaka, you can get there under ichiman!!! pic...last night, waiting for the bus in osaka station.
Nara is served by both the JR trains and the Kintetsu company's trains. We chose the Kintetsu Line for our travels from Osaka to Nara and from Nara to Kyoto, primarily because the Kintetsu Station in Nara is much closer to the tourist sites than the JR Nara Station, saving us a good amount of walking. The Kintetsu Nara Station is small, but clean, with many gift shops, tourist information areas, coin lockers, clean restrooms. The Kintetsu Station in Central Osaka, called Osaka-Namba, was also very close and convenient to our hotel.
We took the local train from Osaka to Nara for around 500 Yen. The local train took about an hour to cover 27 kilometers, but we could have chosen the Kintetsu Limited Express for about 550 Yen more per seat to cut the trip length in half. Much of the ride was scenic, along the mountains east of Osaka, overlooking the city. Approaching Nara, we also got a good look at Nara's Heijo Palace site to the north of the train.
Going from Nara to Kyoto, we chose the Limited Express train and sat in the upper level of car three. This also offered us a good view of the former palace, but the rest of the 30 minute journey offered few sites other than small towns and rice fields. This ticket,for reserved seats cost us 1110 Yen (I think a local train would normally be about 600 Yen). Since the Kintetsu trains arrive at the main Kyoto Station, connections to JR trains, Shinkansen, and local subway lines are pretty easy, though it seemed the signs to the subway were a bit lacking, causing us to search for 15-20 minutes before finally getting directions.
Flying into Kansai Int’l and using the trains is an easy and reasonable way to get around.
Buses are very convenient and most routes are 220\ but there’s serious traffic to contend with. Trains and the subway. The transportation system is excellent and the trains really do run on time! If you do decide to ride in a cab for the experience - use MK taxi there base rate is cheaper.
Hankyu Railway has its terminus at Kawaramachi Station in Eastern Kyoto but is best for travel in Southwestern Kyoto. Most visitors won't use this line in Kyoto, but it does connect Kyoto to Umeda in Osaka and Sannomiya in Kobe and will be useful for those going to Katsura Imperial Villa.
Here are Hankyu Stations in Kyoto with sites that are nearby:
- Kawaramachi Station (Gion, Pontocho)
- Omiya Station (Nijo Castle)
- Katsura Station (Katsura Imperial Villa)
- Matsuo Station (Matsuo Shrine, Umenomiya Shrine, Suzumushi-dera, Koke-dera)
- Arashiyama Station (Horinji Temple, Monkey Park, Togetsukyo Bridge)
- Higashi-Muko Station (will take you as close to Oharano Shrine, Shoboji, Shojiji, and Konzonji as any station can get, but they are still far enough that it is best to take a bus from here)
- Nishi-Muko Station (will take you as close to Yoshimine-dera, Sankoji, and Jurinji as a train can get, but they are still far enough that it is best to take a bus from here)
- Nagaoka Tenjin Station (Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine)
We'll getting to Kyoto from Osaka is suppose to be a breeze according to all the tour books .... but in reality it's not as easy as it comes out to be !!!! It's not difficult but not easy !!!!! First of all there is something like 10 different ways of getting there .... We decided to take the train .... our hotel was near the JR Osaka station so we took the JR train .... Well once at the train station you GOT TO READ THE SIGNS !!!! Japan has an excellent transportation system but you must READ ALL THE SIGNS !!!!!!!! and all the signs are in English !!!!!! also you must read the instructions on the ticket machines .... the machines also have an English button ..... Once you buy the tickets you got to find the track your train is on ... again read the English signs .... we were told to take the express train that doesn't stop, but after about 15 minutes of trying to figure it out we ended up just taking a local train and made it to Kyoto .... it took about 45 minutes .... And cost 540 Yens about $7.00 US
The trains themselves have English signs on them also !!!!
KYOTO STATION: If you arrive by the JR (JAPAN RAIL) this is your first contact with Kyoto. Kyoto City TIC is located on the 2nd floor main concourse (Tel: 075-343 6655). Also, check out the station's shopping area called THE CUBE which has shops specialising in local food products & Kyoto crafts.
As mentioned in other VT pages, you could avail of the Japan Rail (JR) pass that's valid for the entire country up to 7, 14 or 21 days. However, if you intend to go around the Kansai area only (which includes Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji and Kansai airport) then just purchase the JR West pass. The available tickets are valid for 1, 2, 3 or 4 days.
To get one, one should buy an exchange order from a sales outlet in your country as listed in the JR website below. Upon arrival in Japan, go to the JR office in the main city station and present the exchange order (see photo), your passport with the airport stamp in it (see photo) and a filled-up application form available for download (PDF file) in the JR website.
You will then be given the actual JR pass which you show to a JR person guarding the turnstiles for you to get to your track or platform number.
The easiest way to get from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama is to take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama. This is a direct train taking only about 15 minutes, so it is easy, but the station is not centrally located in Arashiyama. It is on the northern side of Arashiyama, close to the bamboo forest and many temples, but a 10 minute walk to the bridge, or a 15-20 minute walk to the monkey park.
If you want to get to central Arashiyama and avoid too much walking, take the Randen Streetcar (or Tram) Line on the Keifuku Electric Railroad (sometimes called the Keifuku Arashiyama Line). This is a nice streetcar that puts you right in the middle of the shops and restaurants of Arashiyama.
The third option is to take the Hankyu Line Train to Arashiyama Hankyu station. This station is at the southern end of Arashiyama, closest to the Monkey Park.
The Sagano Scenic Railway does not go to Kyoto Station. Instead it is a tourist train that heads into the mountains to the west of Arashiyama. Its station is to the north, next to the JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, and is called Torokko Saga Station.
If you are not hauling luggage and want to see a lot of Arashiyama, you might consider taking the Hankyu train to the southern end of Arashiyama, and exploring the town as you walk to the JR Line Saga-Arashiyama Station to return to Kyoto. The three stations are not terribly far apart.
At first, the train station may be bewildering. But, take a deep breath and calm down. Usually all the signs are written in English and Japanese, and point you in the direction of which train you need to catch. If you are still confused, approach the man in the box office next to the ticket gates. Say to him ( place ) densha wa nan ban toraku desu ka? Translation: What track number is the Kyoto train?
BUYING TICKETS: above the ticket machines is a huge map of all the train's destinations.
EIther ask someone how much it costs to go to wherever you need to go, or study the map for a couple of minutes and find the name of the station you need to go to. Above the name are 2 fares. The higher fare is for adults and the lower fare is for children. Put in your money, a couple of buttons with amounts will flash, or a couple of choices of amounts will apprear on the screen. Either press the button with the appropriate fare, or press the screen with the appropriate fare. Your ticket will come out of a slot. Remember to keep hold of your ticket as you need it exit at the next station.
trains are really convienient! They are very regular and fast. Fares vary depending on how far you are going. Usually if you're travelling within KYoto, it'll be between 170-300 yen.
The Kyoto train station is a spectacular exemple of modern architecture. It's a pretty strange huge building, a feast of steal and glass, with a huge hall, about 8 stories high. SO, if you come to Kyoto by JR train, take some time to walk around this wonderful structure, altough quite different of the classical temple for which Kyoto is known.