We arrived in Kansai airport in Osaka and to much of our luck and surprise we literally flew thru ... we spent 3 minutes in immigrations and 30 seconds in customs .. we landed at 2:45 pm and we were able to catch the 3:05 pm train to Kyoto.
We bought non-reserve seats and it cost 2850 yens each ... 3 cars are available for non-reserve seating and there was plenty of seats .... the train even though it says express ... it does 2 stops ... one on the out skirts of Osaka and then in central Osaka before reaching Kyoto station ....
The train even though is traveling at a high rate of speed still takes 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Kyoto.
The trains are spotless (just like the rest of Japan) bathrooms are clean, and some soda's and water are offered on the way over to Kyoto.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 !!!!
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.
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!
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)
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)
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!
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 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.
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.
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.