So you’ve made the decision to come to Osaka, opting for Japan’s Kansai region over Tokyo. It makes sense, Kansai is home to Japan’s food and shopping mecca. But now that you’ve landed at Kansai International Airport, should you just stay nearby in Osaka? Or will the call of the region’s other historical and visually stunning offerings be too strong to ignore? Whatever you decide, getting there should be the least of your concerns, and luckily it doesn’t have to be. Here are some of the quickest and easiest travel options to get you from the airport to your Kansai destination.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX) TO KYOTO
If you decide to head to Kyoto, you’re not alone. It’s Japan’s second hottest travel spot after Tokyo. And with attractions like the old Imperial Palace, impressive temples like Kiyomizudera, and summer’s massive Gion Festival it’s understandable. Getting there from Kansai International Airport can seem time-consuming and expensive. Don’t worry: here are some options that will make transportation a breeze.
FASTEST TRAVEL TIME: JR HARUKA LIMITED EXPRESS
The JR Haruka limited express train is the fastest trip at 70 minutes. But keep in mind: the best deal requires planning. Foreign tourists can score a non-reserved seat for ￥1630 with the Icoca and Haruka ticket but you must have an existing Icoca card. Purchasing both an Icoca card with a Haruka ticket will cost ￥3630. The Icoca card will have a remaining ￥2000 that can be used on all other JR trains. However, this deal is not available for children. Buying at the gate costs ￥2900 for a non-reserved and ￥3400 for a reserved seat. In this case, children are half-priced. The train takes you straight from the Kansai Airport Station, located on the second floor of terminal 1, to Kyoto station. Timing shouldn’t be an issue: a train leaves once every half hour from 6:30am to 10:16pm.
CHEAPEST OPTION: JR RAPID TRAINS
The JR Rapid trains are slower with trips around 100 minutes, but only cost around ￥1910 including transfer. First, take the JR Airport Express from Kansai Airport station to Osaka station. After exiting the Airport Express, walk north to Platform 8 to board the Rapid Service train on the JR Kyoto line. Trains depart from the airport an average of 3 times an hour from 5:54am to 10:24pm. JR Kyoto rapid trains leave Osaka station roughly twice an hour (with increased frequency at peak commuter times) from 6:00am until 10:00pm.
GOT A LOT GOING ON?: BUSES AND SHUTTLES
If you’re traveling with a larger family or smaller children, charter buses or direct shuttle services may be the best option. Keihan offers a direct bus line from the Airport to Kyoto Station for ￥2600 adults and ￥1300 children. The trip takes around 90 minutes and leaves twice an hour from 6:20am until 11:05pm. However, it is first come first serve seating, so there may not be room if it is busy.
Private taxi companies offer direct shuttles to any destination and operate on your schedule. However, these tend to be pricey at around ￥4300 per person. Plus they need to be booked two days in advance. Yasaka Kanku and MK Taxi both have stations on the Airport’s first floor of terminal 1 where you can check in for your booked shuttle.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX) TO WAKAYAMA
Wakayama is an excellent choice for nature lovers. The southern coast is packed with over 100 hot springs, and Mt. Koya offers impressive pilgrimage trails to hike. The gateway to this ethereal prefecture is the namesake capital city: Wakayama City. And it’s easily accessible from the Kansai Airport.
FASTEST TRAVEL TIME: NANKAI LIMITED EXPRESS LINE
The Nankai Limited Express Line will get you to Wakayama City the fastest with a trip time of 37 minutes. From the Kansai Airport Station, second floor of terminal 1, board the Limited Express Service train. At Izumisano Station, transfer to the Limited Express Southern train. With Nankai’s Wakayama Sightseeing discount, tickets including the Limited Express Southern train cost ￥1730 for adults and ￥880 for children. Save even more time buying before your trip and exchange the voucher at the counter.
CHEAPEST OPTION: JR TRAINS
Slightly longer than the Nankai line, the JR Train lines can take you to Wakayama City in roughly 45 minutes. That extra 15 minutes brings an impressive price drop: ￥890. First, board the JR Kansai Airport Express Line at Kansai Airport Station. Next, at Hineno Station transfer to the JR Kishu Express Line. A JR West Kansai Area pass would make all JR trains in the area free to board and would save some money for those planning on heading to southern beaches. But for those not venturing too far, individual JR tickets are the best deal.
MOST DIRECT: AIRPORT BUS
While all train options involve transfers, the Kansai Airport Bus offers a direct route to Wakayama Station. The trip takes 40 minutes and costs ￥1200 for adults; ￥600 for children. Seating is first come first served, so if possible try not to board at peak times. Luckily there are many boarding options: buses run twice an hour from 9:00am to 10:30pm.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX) TO NARA
Nara was once Japan’s first capital. Today, it remains a city with ancient charm, filled with some of the oldest temples in Japan. From the world famous Todai-ji temple to the perhaps more famous Nara park deer, there’s plenty to see. But most importantly, how do you get there? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.
FASTEST TRAVEL TIME: JR HARUKA LIMITED EXPRESS AND YAMATOJI LINE
JR trains will get you from the Airport to Nara in nearly 70 minutes. Board the Haruka Limited Express at the terminal 1 Kansai Airport Station and exit at Tennoji. After that, transfer to the Yamatoji Line and exit at Nara Station. The Haruka & Icoca deal, which requires the ticket buyer to already have an Icoca card, brings the trip total to ￥1430. This is technically the cheapest bargain. But if you don’t have an Icoca card beforehand, it will cost an additional ￥2000. Buying the tickets individually will cost around ¥2900. The Haruka Express Limited leaves Kansai Airport twice an hour from 6:30am until 10:16pm.
CHEAPEST OPTION: NANKAI AND KINTETSU LINES
If money is a greater concern, private train lines may be a better option. The Nankai Airport Express costs an impressive ￥930 from the Airport to Namba. But it does take a much longer 45 minutes. First, from the Airport, head to the Kintetsu Railway lines and take the outbound train for Kintetsu-Nara Station. This leg of the trip will take an additional 40 minutes but costs only ￥570, bringing the total to ￥1500. Since you are switching railway lines, be aware of where you are headed and check timetables accordingly.
TIME IT RIGHT: BUSES
There is a direct bus line operated through the Kansai Airport to both Kintetsu-Nara and Nara Stations. However, this bus is extremely limited, running only twice a day: at 10:30am and 6:40pm. For excellent planners who would rather cut the hassle of transfers, the bus service is the easiest route. In addition, at ￥2100 for adults and ￥1050 for children, the prices are comparable to train options as well.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX) TO OSAKA STATION (NORTHERN OSAKA)
Well as long as you’re flying into Osaka, what’s the harm in staying in Osaka? As the commercial center of Japan, Osaka is a shopper’s paradise. If you’re interested in slightly more upscale shopping, luxury hotels, and trendy cafes, Osaka’s Northern or “Kita” area is for you! Conveniently, Osaka Station lies in the heart of the Kita area, serving as the transportation hub of the area. And most importantly: it couldn’t be easier.
FASTEST TRAVEL OPTION: AIRPORT BUS
You normally wouldn’t think of a bus as the fastest option. But with a travel time of one hour, the Kansai Airport Bus Service gets you to Osaka Station is slightly faster than other options. Buses leave the airport twice an hour starting at 7am and continue until midnight. Keep in mind the drop-off point isn’t properly at the station. Instead it’s at the nearby Hotel New Hankyu. Rates are ￥1600 for adults and ￥800 for children.
CHEAPEST OPTION: JR AIRPORT RAPID SERVICE
Often the cheapest option, the JR Airport Rapid Service can get you from the Airport to Osaka Station in 70 minutes. The rate: only ￥1090. The trains run frequently, an average of 3 times an hour from 5:54am until 10:24pm. More trains depart during peak hours. For travelers needing more flexibility or a tight budget, the Rapid Service is your best bet.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX) TO NAMBA (SOUTHERN OSAKA)
Osaka’s southern district lights up the city skyline, literally. Most photos of Osaka feature the famously bright, bustling Dotonbori signs and shops. So, if you’re into nightlife, street food, and all things hustle and bustle, head to the “Minami” district. The most well-known station in the area is Namba and it’s close to Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi.
FASTEST TRAVEL TIME: NANKAI LIMITED EXPRESS RAPI:T TRAIN
At 35 minutes, nothing will get you to downtown Osaka faster than the Nankai Limited Express Rapi:t Train. Both the alpha (α) and beta (β) trains go to Namba, but the alpha is what you want to board. Buying your ticket online gets you a deal of ￥1450 for adults and only￥580 for children. Just exchange your voucher at the Namba counter for your ticket. Then, head to the Airport Station and ride until Namba.
CHEAPEST OPTION: NANKAI AIRPORT EXPRESS
Nankai proves to be the best choice for southern Osaka. Opting for the slower, Airport Express train saves you serious money. Above all, at ￥920 (and ￥460 for children) it’s one of the cheapest travel options on this list. In exchange, the ride takes 45 minutes. It leaves the airport an average of 2-3 times an hour, so you’ll have plenty of chances to make the train.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT…
Just because you’re finally in Kansai doesn’t mean you should dash out of the airport just yet. Before you go, make sure to visit these spots. They’ll be helpful in ensuring a trouble-free, easy-going vacation.
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTER
The helpful guides here will answer any question about how to get to some of the places mentioned in this article. They’ll also have information on current deals or events in the area, so be sure to check it out!
Japan may have a high-tech reputation, but many places are still cash-only. Cash is also more convenient if you find yourself lost and need quick transportation. 7/11 ATMs can withdraw directly from overseas accounts (for a fee) if you want to do both at once.
More than likely, you have a lot of luggage with you. Especially if you have small children, it might be easier to have your luggage shipped to your destination instead of dragging it with you. The airport offers a service you can call 3-4 days before your arrival to ensure a hassle-free trip.
No matter where you decide to go, you’ll have an amazing time in Kansai. As Japan’s famous powerhouse in history, food, and shopping, how could you not? With Kansai International Airport as your starting point, your options are limitless. Of course there’s more than what’s listed in this article, but these are some of the easiest options to get you started on your vacation. Go on, eat the vegetarian cuisine of Mt. Koya. Visit every temple and shrine you can find in Kyoto. Party until dawn in Dotonbori. One thing is for sure: Kansai International Airport will get you there. And we can help.
Of course, be sure to check exchange rates before you arrive as well as any events that may impact transportation. No one wants any scary surprises when they’re starting a trip. Now go, get traveling!