GUIDE JR West Rail Travel in the Kansai Region by JNTO Travel on 14 August 2018

Japan’s Kansai region – home to tourist gems like Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Kobe – is served by a dense network of railways, operated by half a dozen railway companies. This translates into a large selection of discount train tickets and passes exclusively available for non-Japanese passport holders and most give you discounts on attractions. Each pass is designed with a limited range of use by the operating companies, so you need to plan your sightseeing spots to visit before buying your passes.

 

While the many railway lines can be confusing, you can simply divide them into two: JR West and private railways. In general, JR passes are ideal for long-distance travel between multiple cities in the Kansai region (e.g. Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, etc) including Kansai International Airport (KIX). It also allows you to travel faster with the use of special rapid services available that skip many local stations. It also runs more frequently, which can save you a lot of time.

 

JR West Rail Passes

Rail Pass Area Validity Adult
(Child is half price)
Save
Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama Hyogo (Kinosaki Onsen) Okayama (Kurashiki) Tottori
Kansai Area Pass Yes No No No 1-day 2,200 yen 170 yen
2-day 4,300 yen 440 yen
3-day 5,300 yen 1,810 yen
4-day 6,300 yen 3,180 yen
Kansai WIDE Area Pass Yes Yes Yes Yes 5-day 9,000 yen 2,850 yen

DISCLAIMER: All prices are based on passes purchased at selected travel agencies in Singapore. You can save up to 20% when you purchase the JR Pass in advance. You may exchange the voucher upon arrival in Japan.

 

There are different passes offered by JR West but the most popular in terms of price and coverage are Kansai Area Pass and Kansai WIDE Area Pass. If you're planning to cover two cities or more, their Kansai Area Pass available in 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, and 4-day offering savings and convenience. For instance, the 1-day Kansai Area Pass (2,200 yen) is cheaper than return tickets from Osaka to Kyoto (2,840 yen), or a one-way ride on Kansai Airport Express Haruka from Kansai International Airport (KIX) to Kyoto (3,300 yen).

 

Meanwhile, the 5-day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass covers a wider area, allowing you to travel further to places like Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo, Kurashiki, Okayama, and is also valid on several the shinkansen lines – including the new Hello Kitty shinkansen – to Okayama. You can save more because of the vast distances covered – the 5-day pass costs 9,000 yen and can easily cover your ride from Osaka to Kurashiki, Okayama (5,830 yen) and Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo (5,080 yen).

 


Sample itinerary with 1-day JR Kansai Area Pass:

 

 

Course 1.

 

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

1,550 yen

 

Osaka Station

160 yen

 

Osaka Castle

Renowned for its rich history of 450 years, Osaka Castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi – Japan’s second “great unifier.” The best time to visit is during spring as it is Osaka’s most famous hanami spot.

970 yen

 

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Shrine – With seemingly endless rows of torii gates that line up to a forest, Fushimi Inari Shrine is the head of all shrines in Japan dedicated to Shinto religion. Early morning or late evenings are the best time to visit to avoid massive crowds.

1,270 yen

 

 

Todai-ji, Nara

Todai-ji has the largest wooden structure in the world – Daibutsuden or Big Buddha Hall. The best season to visit for that perfect Instragram photo is during autumn when shades of crimson and yellow complement the traditional atmosphere. One famous attraction is a pillar with a hole the same size as Big Buddha’s nostrils, if you can pass through it, it will grant you enlightment in your next life.

670 yen

 

 

Osaka Station

= 4,620 yen in total

 

1-day Kansai Area Pass
= 2,200 yen

Save 2,420 yen


Sample itinerary with 5-day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass:

 

 

Course 1.

 

Day 1

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

1,430 yen

 

Gyoza hot dog in Dotonbori, Osaka

Gyoza Hot Dog is Osaka’s newest local street food at Osaka OhshoDotonbori branch. It’s gyoza in a baguette, available in six varieties that you can enjoy all year round.

560 yen

 

Todai-ji, Nara

920 yen

 

Osaka Station


Day 2

Osaka

790 yen

 

Ninenzaka Starbucks, Kyoto

The Starbucks branch at Ninenzaka Kyoto stands out from many Starbucks around the world as it’s housed within a traditional Japanese building called machiya. Built more than 100 years ago, you can enjoy a unique experience of enjoying your coffee while looking out onto the garden courtyard from the tatami room.

470 yen

 

 

 

Arashiyama, Kyoto

A place filled with scenic beauty and most famous for its Bamboo Grove. It is a nationally designated historical site. May is the best time to visit as the tempurature’s moderate, and the mountain is filled with greenery and flowers.

970 yen

 

Osaka


Day 3

Osaka

5,800 yen

 

Kinosaki Onsen, Hyogo

One of the most famous hot springs that runs along the scenic landscape of Otanigawa River The fireworks festivals in summer is a beautiful sight to enjoy while soaking in the outdoor hot springs.

5,800 yen

 

 

Osaka


Day 4

Osaka

6,530 yen

 

Fruit-picking in Okayama > via Hello Kitty shinkansen to Osaka

Okayama is rich with delectable fruits due to its mild climate. Hence it became known as the Fruit Kingdom. Their white peaches are considered to have the best flavor in Japan, with its juicy and rich sweetness flavor.

Hello Kitty shinkansen is a bullet train along the Sanyo line, decorated with everything Hello Kitty, and it even has a photo booth. It’s the cutest way to travel in style.

6,530 yen

 

 

Osaka

 


Day 5

Osaka Station

1,440 yen

 

Mt. Koya, Wakayama

Mount Koya is the birthplace of Shingon Buddhism, a highly regarded Buddhist sect that dates to 805 and founded by Kobo Daishi. It’s famous for pilgrimage trails, a World Heritage temple and shukubo (temple loading) where you can experience a monk’s lifestyle.

3,000 yen

 

 

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

= 32,240 yen in total

 

5-days Kansai WIDE Area Pass
= 9,000 yen

Save 25,240 yen


 

Course 2.

 

Day 1

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

3,570 yen

 

Kyoto Station

140 yen

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto

240 yen

 

 

Saga-Arashiyama, Kyoto

970 yen

 

 

Osaka


Day 2

Osaka

160 yen

 

Shin-Osaka

6,430 yen

 

Okayama

320 yen

 

Kurashiki, Okayama

Kurashiki is known for its streets lined with willow trees and white-washed traditional wooden warehouses. It was awarded two stars in the Michelin Green Guide of Japan.

6,760 yen

 

 

Osaka


Day 3

 

Osaka

7,090 yen

 

Kii-Katsuura, Wakayama

Nachi-Water Fall is considered Japan’s tallest waterfall at a height of 133 meters. you can experience the waterfall’s grandeur and power up close from the wooden platform.

 


Day 4

Kii-Katsuura, Wakayama

7,090 yen

 

Osaka


Day 5

Osaka

800 yen

 

Nara

Yoshiki-en Garden, Nara has three unique gardens: a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden. A visit here gives you the opportunity to see a variety of Japanese gardens.

 

Kasuga Shrine, Nara is a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Kasuga Primeval Forest that covers the area behind it. It was built at the same time that Nara was founded and it is dedicated to the deity Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto that protects the city.

1,710 yen

 

 

 

Kansai International Airport (KIX)

= 35,280 yen in total

 

5-day JR Kansai WIDE Area Pass
= 9,000 yen

Save 26,280 yen