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Navigate Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass

They found out about all the interesting attractions in Kyoto - from the famous temples to the transcendent botanical gardens. After all, Kyoto is Japan's number one travel destination. But once you arrive in Kyoto as an international traveler, you are also interested in how to get from place to place. Are you confused? Does Japan's maze of rail and bus routes make no sense? It doesn't have to be.

Kyoto is a well organized city. Although the railway network is not as extensive as in other large cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto is unique in its road network. This network makes it very easy for pedestrians and commuters to get around by bus and taxi. Once you understand the Kyoto transportation system, getting around is not only easy but also enjoyable. The following tips should help you with this.

Numerous trains in and around Kyoto can be reached with your Japan Rail Pass. Kyoto Station is the central transportation hub Japan Railways and other private services, including shopping malls. From here, you can take the Shinkansen express train to Osaka, Tokyo, and many other destinations.

Local JR connections in Kyoto include the Sagano Line and the Nara Line.

JR Nara Line

The Nara-Line heading south to:

  • Tofukuji Railway Station, near the Tofukuji Buddhist Temple, famous for its gardens.
  • Inari train station, near Fushimi Inari, an important Shinto temple known for its thousands of torii gates.
  • Uji train station, a small town known for its tea shops and world heritage temples (Byodoin and Ujigami-Jinja). The matcha (green tea) is also world famous.
  • JR Nara Station in downtown Nara. Make sure to take the Miyakoji Rapid Train, as it does not stop at all stops and is the fastest connection (from Kyoto Station to Nara in 45 minutes).

JR Sagano-line

The Sagano Line is actually a nickname for the urban part of the JR San’in Main Line. This connection travels to popular travel destinations such as:

  • Nijo train station (near Nijo Castle)
  • Emmachi train station (Bus connection to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion)
  • Uzumasa Railway Station (Toei Kyoto Studio Park)
  • Saga-Arashiyama Railway Station, near Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Arashiyama Monkey Park, and Sagano Scenic Railway Station.

Kyoto subway

The Kyoto subway system operates two lines that Karasuma Line (north to south) and the Tozai-Line (east to west). Both can be found at Karasuma Oike Station. It is best to use the subway system to reach sights in the city center.

The Subway ticket prices are between ¥ 210 and 350 for adults and ¥ 110 to 180 for children. The trains on the Kyoto subway system are not included in your Japan Rail Pass.

Other rail connections

There are also several in Kyoto Privately owned railway lines, including the Keifuku, Kintetsu and Eizan lines. The Hankyu Line can be reached from the city center. This connection allows you to reach Osaka from Kyoto. She also serves Arashiyama. With the Keihan line you can reach Fushimi Inari from the east side of Kyoto. However, the JR Pass is not valid for private rail connections.

That is also interesting Sagano Scenic Railway, which departs from Saga-Arashiyama Station, and offers an enchanting scenic backdrop. Although not included in the JR Pass, the fall leaves or spring cherry blossoms seen from this train make for a once-in-a-lifetime journey.

After all, he connects Haruka Airport Express Kyoto Station with Kansai International Airport near Osaka. You can ride this train for free with the Japan Rail Pass.

Kyoto train and subway map

For more information, including a map of the entire Kansai area, please visit our map page.

Buy your JR Pass now

Buses in Kyoto

Kyoto's extensive bus network runs daily from 6 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. You enter the local buses through the back door and exit through the front. Payment for these city buses is made when boarding.

The all-inclusive price for the bus is ¥ 230 for adults and ¥ 120 for children. Alternatively, you can purchase a City Bus full-day pass for ¥ 500 or ¥ 250 for children. You can travel on JR buses for free by scanning your JR Pass when boarding the bus.

JR buses

The Japan Rail Pass is valid for the West JR Bus Company operating the Takao Keihoku Line operates. This connection runs between Kyoto Station and Shuzan. You can visit the Ninnaji and Ryoanji temples.
The bus covers five different routes. Please check the maps at the bus stops or Google Maps before boarding:

  1. About the Ritsumeikan University
  2. Across Ichijou Street
  3. About Karasuma
  4. Counter clockwise
  5. Clockwise

In addition, the route between Kyoto Station and Shuzan via Shijo-Omiya Station is scenic and has many temples. Especially in the autumn season the colored leaves are splendid!

City buses

You can also take city buses to some of the city's most popular attractions. The two main companies are the Kyoto City Bus (central city area) and the Kyoto Bus (for the surrounding areas).

If you have the Kyoto City Bus 205 from Kyoto Station and get off at Kinkakuji-mae Station, you can walk to Kinkakuji, Ryoanji and Myoshinji Temples.

To visit Ginkakuji Temple and Honenin Temple in northeast Kyoto, you can visit the Kyoto City Bus 5 or 17 from Kyoto Station and get off at the Ginkakuji-michi stop. If you walk another 20 minutes, you can also visit Eikando Temple and Nanzenji Temple.

Buses in raku

Alternatively, there are a number of tourist buses known as raku buses that operate on various routes between Kyoto's attractions.

The raku bus 100 departs from Kyoto Station every 10 minutes between 7:40 am and 5:00 pm and stops at National Museum & Sanjusangendo Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, Gion, Heian-jingu Shrine and Ginkakuji Temple.

The raku bus 101 departs every 15 minutes between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm from Kyoto Station and stops at Kyoto, Nijo-jo Castle, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkakuji Temple, Daitokuji Temple and Kitaoji Bus Station.

The raku bus 102 departs every 30 minutes from Ginkakuji-michi between 8:04 am and 4:34 pm and stops at Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kinkakuji Temple, Daitokuji Temple and Kitaoji Bus Station.

Driving a taxi in Kyoto

In downtown Kyoto's city center, you can find a taxi on almost every street corner at any time of the day or night. When calling a taxi, watch out for the light next to the driver. A red light means the taxi is available. A green or blue light indicates that the taxi is already occupied by another customer. In Japan, the roller doors open and close automatically. So don't bother closing the door when you get out.

When choosing a taxi, keep in mind that the MK or Yasaka companies - marked with a clover symbol - are generally cheaper. Regardless of which service you choose, the first two kilometers will cost around ¥ 640.

tip: When telling your driver where you want to go, it is often more efficient to name an intersection, restaurant or attraction instead of giving a specific address.

Walking and cycling

Kyoto's road network makes it easy for pedestrians and cyclists to orientate themselves. In Kyoto, main roads run either north to south or east to west. North-south streets have names, while east-west streets are marked with numbers. Taking this into account makes it easier to orientate yourself. The flat terrain makes this city ideal for walking excursions.

Since you probably don't have your own bike with you, there are many bike rentals in Kyoto, especially in the Arashiyama area. You can rent a bike for a few hours or up to two weeks. Prices range from ¥ 500 per day to ¥ 2,000 per week. Please note that bicycles must be parked in marked areas in the city center and near train stations. Bicycle parking usually costs ¥ 150 for up to eight hours. Illegally parked bicycles are towed away.

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