Wednesday, December 21, 2016

[Japan 2016] From Kansai International Airport (KIX) To Kyoto Station

Photo: Elin Chow

After months of anticipation, we finally landed in Kansai International Airport, Osaka at 7 am in the morning. After alighting from the plane, we took a short train ride to the main terminal building where we have go through the immigration process.

Foreign visitors are required to fill out an embarkation card and present it along with their passports during immigration clearance. Usually you will be handed an embarkation card before arrival on your airplane, so remember to bring a pen with you so that you can fill it out while on board. Filling out the card can be a hassle, especially for those who are staying in an Airbnb apartment. You are required write down the full and exact address of the Airbnb apartment that you will be staying in and the phone number of the owner. I actually recommend writing the address in Japanese if possible.

After clearing immigration, we collected our checked luggage before proceeding to the Arrival Hall located at the ground floor of the main terminal building. Arriving in Osaka, we plan to head straight to Kyoto for 2 nights.

The fastest and most convenient way to travel from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station is by the JR Haruka Limited Express train, which leave from the Kansai Airport Train Station across the road from the Arrival Hall. To get to the Kansai Airport Train Station, you will need to take the escalator up to the second floor.

Once you are on the second floor, take the first glass door on the right to exit the terminal building. Walk across the connecting bridge and you will arrive at Kansai Airport Train Station.

Kansai Airport Station is a railway Station shared by West Japan Railway Company (JR West) and Nankai Electric Railway. JR and Nankai Ticket Offices are both located side by side to each other.

ICOCA + Haruka

The JR Haruka train is covered by the Japan Rail (JR) Pass. However, for those who do not have a JR Pass,  I recommend getting the ICOCA + Haruka discount set. The ICOCA + Haruka discount set is available only to short-term visitors entering Japan as a "Temporary Visitor" and with foreign passports.

The ICOCA + Haruka discount set consist of an ICOCA IC card and a discounted ticket for the JR Haruka Limited Express train (non-reserved). The ICOCA card is pre-charged with 2,000 Yen (include a deposit of 500 Yen), which can be used on JR trains, subway, private railway and bus transportation throughout Japan. Other than transportation, it can be also be used for shopping.

The ICOCA card can be recharged for repeated use and the deposit is refundable and can be claim at any JR-West Ticket Offices. However, a 220 Yen handling fee will be charged for any balance left in the card.

Ticket Price

There are two types of ticket - one way or round trip. You can purchase either a one way or round trip ticket.

Service Area
HARUKA Service Section
One Way
Kansai Airport - Tennoji
1,100 Yen
3,100 Yen
2,200 Yen
4,200 Yen
Kansai Airport – Shin-Osaka
1,300 Yen
3,300 Yen
2,600 Yen
4,600 Yen
Kansai Airport – Kyoto
1,600 Yen
3,600 Yen
3,200 Yen
5,200 Yen
Kansai Airport – Shin-Osaka
1,500 Yen
3,500 Yen
3,000 Yen
5,000 Yen
Kansai Airport - Tennoji
1,400 Yen
3,400 Yen
2,800 Yen
4,800 Yen

It is possible to purchase the JR Haruka discounted ticket without buying an ICOCA card, but I really recommend getting one. For us, we have opted for a one way ICOCA + Haruka from Kansai Airport Station to Kyoto Station because we will be flying home from Osaka Itami Airport instead of Kansai International Airport. Since the JR Haruka train does not go to Osaka Itami Airport, there is really no point buying the round trip ticket. 

A one way ticket to Kyoto Station costs 2,980 Yen for non-reserved seating and 3,500 Yen for reserved seating. By purchasing the Haruka discounted ticket, we have saved 2,760 Yen in total for 2 persons.

You can either purchase the ICOCA + Haruka discount set directly from the JR Ticket Office at Kansai Airport Station or reserve it online before your arrival. Reservation can be made using the online booking form between 27 days to 2 days in advance. However, please note that online booking is not available from other stations to Kansai-Airport Station.

I really recommend reserving your ticket online before you leave home. This will save you the trouble of filling out a form with your details at the JR Ticket Office.

There are two originally designed ICOCA cards, only available at Kansai Airport Station - Wind and Thunder Gods and Hello Kitty and Osaka Castle. It is good to reserve earlier online to ensure its availability.

For those who have reserved your ICOCA + Haruka discounted set online, you can collect it from the JR Ticket Office at Kansai Airport Station. Please print out the Booking Confirmation email and bring along all the passports for collection. Each passport can only purchase one set of card and payment has to be made only in cash during collection.

Both of us chose the Hello Kitty and Osaka Castle ICOCA card. We did not claim a refund for the deposit because we want to bring the ICOCA card home as souvenir. 

During peak hours, the JR Haruka train operates every 30 minutes, stopping at Tennoji Station and Shin-Osaka Station before arriving at Kyoto Station Platform 30. The entire journey takes about 75 minutes to reach Kyoto. However, please note that the JR Haruka train does not stop at Osaka (Umeda) Station. To go to Osaka Station, you have to drop off at Shin-Osaka Station and transfer to a local train.

Please note that the JR Haruka ticket does not allow unlimited rides and will be collected once you exit the ticket gates. However, additional fees will apply when using trains outside of area of usage.

At Kansai Airport Station, the JR Haruka train departs from Platform 4. The earliest Haruka service from Kansai Airport Station is at 6.30 am and the latest is at 22.16 pm. The JR Haruka train runs about 30 round trip services every day between Kansai Airport Station and Kyoto Station.

There are both reserved and non-reserved cars. Non-reserved cars are less expensive, but you are not guarantee a seat. The JR Haruka train is operated in either 6 or 9 cars and cars no 5 & 6 are for non-reserved seats regardless of total number of cars. You may take any seat available in a non-reserved car. However, from Kansai Airport Station, seats are usually available, so there is really no need for you to pay extra to upgrade to a reserved seat unless you do not mind the extra cost.

Arriving at Kansai Airport Station, the JR Haruka train undergo a quick and extensive cleaning process before passengers are allowed to board. Amazingly, it took probably less than 10 minutes to clean the entire interior of the train and we are allowed to board!

The inside of the train is comfortable and clean, offering very spacious seatings with plenty of leg room. Each car has a dedicated luggage area for passengers to store their luggage but spaces are a little limited.

The JR Haruka train finally pulled out from Kansai Airport Station at 9.15 am. Soon after departure, a conductor came by to check our ticket and gave us a small bow before continuing down the cabin.

It takes about 75 minutes to arrive at Kyoto Station, which is the second largest station building in Japan after Nagoya. As expected, the station was bustling with people and everyone around us seems to be in a hurry.

Exiting from the ticket gates, we were excited to see the Kyoto Tower stands majestically next to the station, welcoming our arrival. Walking out from the station, we headed straight to check in our Airbnb apartment located near Kyoto Station.

We prefer to stay somewhere near Kyoto Station because it is the main transportation hub and shopping district in Kyoto. The station is served by all JR trains (including the Shinkansen and Haruka), Kintetsu Railways and Karasuma Subway line. Right in front of the Station, you will find a main bus terminal for city buses and overnight highway buses, providing convenient access to downtown Kyoto.

Besides being a great starting point for sightseeing in Kyoto, the station building is also packed with shops and restaurants. Surrounding the station are more shops, theaters and hotels. All in all, Kyoto Station offers all amenities you will need, not just rail services, but also food, shopping and entertainment.

It was 10.30 am when we arrived at Kyoto. The check in time was supposed to be 3 pm, but the owner, Mhichiko was actually gracious enough to let us check in early at 10.30 am. Our Airbnb apartment is located in a very convenient location, within a 10 minutes walk away from Kyoto Station, providing immediate access to the public transport.

Before departure, Mhichiko has sent us detailed instructions on how to get from Kyoto Station to her apartment with map and picture of landmarks. We did not have any problems finding our way to her apartment.

We did not have a chance to meet Mhichiko in person. But Mhichiko's husband was kind enough to wait for us below the apartment to hand us the key and show us around the place. He even helped me to carry my luggage up the stairs to the apartment located on the second floor.

Even though Mhichiko's husband does not speak any English, he still tried his best to communicate with us through sign language. He showed us around the apartment and make sure we know how everything works in the house before leaving.

The apartment is decently sized by Japanese standard even though it was really small.  When I said small, I mean it was really tiny because there was minimum walking space if we were to open our luggage.

The apartment is furnished with a small double bed, a small table, a small TV and a very old wardrobe. Inside the wardrobe, you will find plenty of bath towels and two toothbrushes. The apartment also comes with wall-mounted air-conditioning and heater. I suggest leaving the window slightly open when you switch on the heater just to let some fresh air in. I find the room gets a little too hot if you have the heater switched on for the entire night.

However, the apartment faces a busy road, which gets considerable amount of traffic. The noise of the traffic tends to wake us up very early (6 am) in the morning. This can be a big issue for light sleepers. But other than that, the apartment is located in a very safe neighbourhood with several 24 hours convenience stores within walking distance.

As expected, the bathroom was tiny with a deep soaking tub. But sadly, it is not equipped with a Washlet, which is one thing I really look forward to when I travel to Japan. Basic toiletries like body soap and hair shampoo were provided.

Just like most Airbnb apartments in Japan, our apartment also provides a pocket Wifi for free. Even so, I would still recommend you to bring your own pocket Wifi instead of relying on the one provided by the apartment. Most of the time, we find the pocket Wifi provided by the apartments pretty unreliable. We actually prefer using the one we rented from Travel Recommends to the one provided by the apartment simply because it offers better connection, speed and battery life.

The apartment also comes with a fully-equipped kitchen. The tiny kitchen is equipped with a fridge, stove and hood, pans and utensils.

In the fridge, there are 5 bottles of complimentary water provided. Other than that, there are also plenty of snacks and cup noodles, all provided for free too!

A hot and cold water dispenser was also provided for us to refill our empty bottles. How thoughtful of them! As a result. we managed to save some money on buying water during our stay in Kyoto.

As we arrived exhausted and hungry, we decided to grab some cup noodles for lunch before we went out again to explore the city of Kyoto.

Overall, we have an wonderful experience staying Mhichiko's apartment. The main reason why we decided to book this apartment is due to its convenient location and fairly affordable price. We love to stay somewhere where we have easy access to public transportation. But most importantly, it was cheap, and really cheap. I would definitely recommend this apartment to anyone looking for a conveniently located place to stay in Kyoto without breaking the bank!

If you are interested to know more about our trip, you may want to check out our 7D6N Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Kobe Trip Itinerary + Overview for the list of attractions that we had visited during our 7 days in Japan. For anyone planning your first trip to Japan but have no idea where to start, you should read my "How To Plan A Trip To Japan" post.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates on my 7 days adventures in Japan! You might also want to check My Wanderlust page for some of my other travel adventures.


  1. I wonder did toilet paper can flush directly in Japan?

    1. Yes, I flushed all the toilet papers directly down the toilets while I was in Japan. There are usually sign boards in the toilets to tell tourists about this.

  2. Hi Elin,

    I'm a bit confused. Does that mean that the ICOCA card can also be used on the red Midosuji line in Osaka? Thank in advance.

  3. Hi Carolyn,

    Yes, the ICOCA card can be used on the Midosuji line in Osaka.

  4. Hi Elin,

    I'm a bit confused. How is the saving of 2760 Yen by purchasing the Haruka discounted ticket calculated? The ticket price table above is for reserved seating?

    1. Hi,

      The ticket price table above is for non-reserved seating. Original price for non-reserved seat is 2,980 per person. The discounted ticket for non-reserved seat costs 1,600 per person. By purchasing a discounted ticket, you will save 1,380 per person (1,380 x 2 = 2,760)

  5. Hi Elin,

    Thanks for prompt reply. I'm planning to travel to Kyoto - Osaka - Kobe - Osaka. Flight land KIX and Osaka will be last city before flying home, do I buy ICOCA & Haruka one way or round trip? What does round trip mean? Thanks in advance

    1. Hi,

      If you are landing and flying home from KIX, I believe you have to buy one way ticket from Kansai - Kyoto and Osaka-Kansai. Round trip means Kansai - Kyoto - Kansai. If you want to save some money, you can buy one way ticket from Kansai - Kyoto and take the airport limousine bus from Osaka - Kansai.

  6. Hi Elin,

    Thanks so much for the explanation & advice, your blog is indeed helpful. I hope I'm able to do a well planning...

  7. Hi,

    Hopefully my blog will help you in planning your trip. Enjoy your visit to Japan!

  8. Hi. May I know if I need to purchase train ticket for a 3-year-old child?

    1. Hi, I think children below 5 years old can travel for free if you are sharing a seat with your child.

  9. Hi Elin, thanks so much for sharing your trip! Would like to check with you for my upcoming trip in Sep! I will be touching down at Kansai Airport - Osaka(Namba) - Kyoto - Osaka(Namba) - Kansai Airport.
    Should I get the round trip ticket? Also what's the different between the one-way, round trip and +ICOCA price list on the table you posted?


    1. I suggest that you buy a round trip ticket because it is more cost saving. You will need to transfer to the Midosuji line to get to Namba. I suggest alighting at Tennoji Station.

      One way means ticket from Kansai to Osaka, without the return trip. Round trip means tickets for Kansai - Osaka - Kansai. You will need an ICOCA card to travel on trains in the Kansai region. If you already have one, then you do not need to buy one again.

  10. Hi thanks for the informative post! Would like to check if I am travelling from Kansai to Namba and back to Kansai, is it advisable to get both the return train ticket (second link) plus the icoca card (first link)? Or i can just get the Icoca card?

    1. Hi,

      Yes, you might want to consider getting both the Nankai return ticket and ICOCA card. But you do not need to book through Klook. You can buy the ticket at Kansai airport too. You can book through Klook too if you want.

  11. Hi Elin, my plan is that I'm landed at KIX and then I'm staying in Kyoto, but when return, I'm return form Osaka to KIX. what package should I buy?? bcs I really don't hv any idea about the package. Last but not least, where to purchase ??

    hope you can reply me, your reply is important to me~
    thank you.

    1. Hi Liting,

      You can consider getting the one way Haruka + ICOCA ticket from KIX to Kyoto and from Osaka to KIX. Or you can also consider taking the airport limousine bus from Osaka to KIX. This will help you to save some money.

      For Haruka ticket, you can book online and collect them at Kansai airport. For bus, can I know where you are staying in Osaka?

    2. Hi Elin, Thank you for your reply. I just bought a ICOCA online so now I just need the HARUKA ticket, do u know where to purchase online for the HARUKA ticket (just a HARUKA ticket bcs I already hv ICOCA).

    3. Hi Liting,
      You can book the Haruka ticket from JR west website.

  12. Hi Elin

    Enjoy your blog and the details provided. So I will need one way Haruka + ICOCA ticket from KIX to Kyoto and purchase another one way Haruka + ICOCA from Osaka to KIX? How about from Kyoto to Osaka? Any idea if it is near to go day trip in Nara from Kyoto or Osaka?

    1. Hi,

      You can take the JR special Rapid service train to get from Kyoto to Osaka. Nara is close to both Osaka and Kyoto. I believe there will not be a much difference in travelling time. You might want to read all my individual posts on my trip to Japan.

  13. Hi,
    I'm planning to travel from KIX - Kyoto - Nara - Osaka, what will you recommend? Also, the ICOCA card you mentioned in the blog post is usable for all the methods of travelling you've written in the post?

    1. Hi,

      You can take the Haruka train from KIX to Kyoto. From Kyoto to Nara, you can take either the JR train (JR Nara Line) or Kintetsu train (Kintetsu Kyoto Line), depending on where you stay in Kyoto. From Nara to Osaka, you can take JR train (JR Yamatoji Line) or Kintetsu train (Kintetsu Kyoto Line).

      Yes, the ICOCA card can be used for all the trains (if not most) in Japan, except Shinkansen and Haruka train.

  14. Thank you for your expplanation :) I've seen that there are many different passes like kansai thru pass and osaka amazing pass, do we need that many different passes to travel ard or the ICOCA card is more than enough? The ICOCA card can also be used for all buses rides?

    1. Personally, I feel that the passes are a waste of money because most of the time, it does not pay off. ICOCA card is sufficient to travel around the Kansai region. If I am not wrong, it can be used on buses as well. But I used cash.

  15. Alright, thanks a lot :) Can i ask for another opinion from you? Since i'm travelling from KIX to Kyoto and from Nara to Osaka, should i buy one way HARUKA ticket or round trip? Thank you :)

    1. You have buy one way. A round trip means KIX to Kyoto and Kyoto to KIX.

  16. Just want to say thank you for taking time to draft this blog post! It is very informative and helpful as im planning to go Kyoto straight from airport. (:

  17. you blog is the most well - guided and comprehensive blog to travel to Osaka. Thank you