Train travel is pretty pricy for residents, much to our chagrin when overseas friends come to visit and want to travel around together. If you have a tourist visa, you have the option to use the Japan Rail Pass or other region-specific passes, which can save some serious yen. But all is not lost if you live in Japan: railway companies across the country offer numerous discounts for Japan residents, including deals for the shinkansen, albeit the information is usually only available in Japanese.
While you can find discounts anywhere in Japan, you can definitely save a few hundred to several thousand yen on your travels around Kansai. Here’s how.
From Kansai Airport
If you plan to travel to a city in Kansai from the airport, you have several inexpensive options. Here are a few:
Kyoto Access Ticket: This ticket allows you to take local trains to Kawaramachi station. The route requires three transfers to different train lines. One-way fare is ¥1,200 and express trains are excluded. Get the “Kyoto akusesu kippu”.
Kobe Access Ticket: ¥1,100 gets you from the airport to Sannomiya station via local trains with one transfer at Namba. Purchase at the Nankai Train station at Kansai airport. Ask for the “Kobe akusesu kippu”.
Nara Access Ticket: Either oneway or round-trip tickets via local trains to Kintetsu Nara Station are available. The return ticket, if purchasing a round trip ticket, must be used within a month from the date of purchase. The one-way fare is ¥1,200 and round trip tickets cost ¥2,400. Get the “Nara akusesu kippu”.
All of the above tickets can only be purchased at either Nankai station at Kansai Airport and one-way tickets are valid only on the day of purchase.
To Kansai Airport
If you’re traveling to Kansai Airport from Osaka and don’t need roundtrip tickets, buy a one-way ticket for ¥1,100 to ride the express Rapi:t train on the Nankai line. The train departs from Namba station and stops at major stations along the line. Tickets can be purchased at any of these train stations starting a month before you leave. Ask for the “kankuu tokuwari rapiito kippu”.
If you’re looking for a round-trip option to the airport, the Haruka Airport Express offers tickets to and from Tennoji Station for ¥3,000 (adult fare), ¥3,600 for Shin Osaka and ¥4,700 for Kyoto, to list a few. They are valid for 14 days from the day of departure and if you don’t have a return date, pick up your return ticket at the station on your way back. Tickets can be bought a month ahead and are available year-round. Ask for a “haruka oufuku waribiki kippu.”
Universal Studios Japan JR Pass
This pass includes round-trip tickets to and from stations within the Kansai area on JR local, rapid and super rapid trains; a JR Osaka free pass; and a ticket to Universal Studios Japan. The pass and park ticket must be used within the same day. Prices range from ¥7,200 to ¥10,000 for adults (depending on where you are departing from) and ¥4,700 to ¥6,100 for children. Tickets can be purchased at major JR stations.
Osaka Kaiyu Ticket
This one-day travel pass, gives you unlimited use of the Municipal subways and buses and includes the admission fee to the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan). Good value, particularly if you are travelling on multiple trains during the day. ¥2,400 adults or ¥1,100 children. Entry to the Aquarium alone is ¥2,000/¥900. Available at all subway station kiosks throughout Osaka.
Nara and Ikaruga Day Pass
For ¥2,000, this pass allows you to ride in designated areas on the Nankai line (except from Kansai airport and Koyasan stations), the Semboku line, the Kintetsu line, and the Nara transit buses. Must purchase before Mar 31 and use by Apr 30. Ask for a “Nara Ikaruga 1 day chiketto” at Nankai and Semboku stations.
Osaka Unlimited Pass
This one-day ‘ride free’ pass for ¥2,000 gives you access to the private city train lines, the subway, buses and the New Tram within Osaka. What’s more, it also gets you in to 28 local attractions for free! On sale twice a year in Spring/ Summer and Autumn/Winter. Currently available until Mar 31 and must be used by Apr 30. Find it at tourist information centers and major stations within Osaka. Comes with a coupon and guide book. Note: Anyone can get the one day pass, but the two day variety requires a passport with a tourist visa to buy. There is also a special Nankai Railway version available for ¥2,300 that includes the Nankai network too. See: www.osakainfo.jp/osp/en/
Enjoy Eco card
A one-day travel card that costs ¥800 (¥600 on weekends or holidays) and is valid for travel on all of Osaka’s subways, New Tram and buses. It’s also good for discounts to major sightseeing attractions around the city.
Kyoto Miyakobito Day Pass
Head to Kyoto for the day with the “Kyoto miyakobito 1 day chiketto”, courtesy of Nankai, Semboku and Keihan Railways and the Osaka subway. The free ride pass is good for one day and costs anywhere from ¥1,400 to ¥2,300, depending on your departure station. The free ride area differs for each pass. The pass can be purchased at train stations along those lines and includes coupons for the Kyoto area.
Kuroshio Round Trip Ticket
The Kuroshio Express offers discounted tickets for trips between Kyoto and Shingu, Wakayama. Costs vary depending on where and how far you travel. For example, a roundtrip ticket from Shin-Osaka to Shirahama costs ¥8,000, which saves you ¥2,900. Child fare is ¥1,500 between Tennoji and Wakayama or ¥2,000 outside of that area. Tickets must be purchased by Mar 31 and used by Apr 7 and at least two tickets must be bought. They can be purchased 21 days in advance of the departure date. Seating is limited and you can’t make changes to the tickets after purchase. Tickets must be bought for the same departure and arrival stations. Ask for the “Kuroshio shiteiseki oufuku kippu”.
Many of the above passes will expire in March next year (as is typical every year) to make way for new passes, which are often similar. The list isn’t comprehensive, as most railways in Kansai offer their own discounted passes, coupons and other deals. To find them, visit any railway site and search for お得な (otokuna, meaning a deal or special) or 回数券 (kaisuuken, coupons). You’ll usually see お得な as お 得なきっぷ (otokuna kippu) or お得な乗車 券 (otokuna joushaken), both meaning ticket deals. To save even more on transportation or admission, search for お得な on any destination website (in Japanese).
• Osaka Municipal Transportation Bureau: www.kotsu.city.osaka.lg.jp
• Nankai Railway: www.howto-osaka.com.e.iv.hp.transer.com
• JR West: www.westjr.co.jp/global/en
• Hankyu Railway: rail.hankyu.co.jp/en
• Keihan Railway: www.keihan.co.jp/en
• Kintetsu Railway: www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english