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The Kansai region of Japan includes the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. The region is served by two airports – Itami Airport (ITM), also know as Osaka International Airport; and Kansai International Airport (KIX). Depending on your arrival time, there are different ways of getting from Osaka airports to Kyoto.
Despite its “international” designation, Itami is mainly a domestic airport serving flights mostly by JAL and ANA. Whether you are flying directly from west coast of U.S into Osaka, or through another city in Asia, chances are you will land in Kansai International airport, which has been serving the region’s international traffic since 1994.
JR Limited Express Haruka from Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The easiest and fastest option between Kansai International Airport and Kyoto is the train. JR West runs the Limited Express Haruka, the only rail service between KIX airport and Kyoto Station. The whole journey takes about 75 minutes, with a quick stop at Osaka City’s Shin-Osaka Station and Tennoji Station.
The Limited Express Haruka runs about 30 round trips every day. The schedule to Kyoto Station can be found here and are highlighted in blue for Haruka Express. The earliest Haruka service from Kansai Airport leaves at 6:30 am and the last one leaves at 10:16pm. (The schedule from Kyoto station to Kansai Airport Station can be found here. The earliest train leaves Kyoto station at 5:45 am and the last train leaves at 10:30pm.)
This train is covered by the Japan Rail Pass. If you do not have a Japan Rail Pass, it is worth getting the “ICOCA & HARUKA” pass. It includes a discounted ticket for the Limited Express Haruka and a set of ICOCA prepaid IC card (500 yen deposit, and 1,500 yen pre-loaded fare). Similar to the SUICA prepaid IC card in Tokyo area, The ICOCA would be super convenient for subway rides in Kyoto and Osaka area. I intend to get one during my first trip to Kyoto.
Airport Limousine Bus from Osaka Airports to Kyoto Station
When I visited in Tokyo a few years ago, I was very impressed by the Airport Limousine Bus service from Narita airport to my hotel in Shinjuku. Here in Kansai region, regular services by Airport Limousine Bus make it easy for you to get from Osaka airports to Kyoto Station. Reservation is not needed, and boarding is first come first served. The advantage of taking bus instead of train is that you don’t have to haul your luggage and go through the JR platform which sometimes could be busy and hectic. The disadvantage is that buses might run into traffic on the road!
From Osaka Itami Airport
Service runs constantly between the hours of 8am and 9:10pm. You can find the timetable here. Bus departs every 20 minutes, stopping first at south terminal (near door 15), then north terminal (near door 5) before heading straight to Kyoto station. The entire trip takes about 55 minutes. Fare is 1,310 yen for adults and 660 yen for children. The last bus departs at 9:10pm from south terminal and 9:15pm from north terminal, It reaches Kyoto Station at 10:05pm.
From Kansai Airport
Service runs every 20 minutes between the hours of 5:55am and 11:40pm. You can find the timetables here. You can buy tickets from ticket windows by bus stop 8 on the first floor of Terminal 1 or bus stop 1 at Terminal 2. The fare to Kyoto Station is 2550 yen for adults and 1280 yen for children. The ride takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
The bus drops off at Kyoto Station’s Hachijo-guchi southern exit, plus a few other stops in Kyoto after Kyoto Station. The last bus departs from Kansai Airport at 11:40pm from Terminal 2, and 11:55pm from Terminal 1. It reaches Kyoto Station at 1.20 am.
Shared Shuttle directly to Kyoto hotel
There are two taxi companies offer affordable and convenient shared shuttle services between the airports and Kyoto. The advantage of these shuttle services is that it will drop you off or pick you up directly at your hotel, so you do not have travel between your hotel and Kyoto Station. If you are traveling with lots of luggage, or with kids and carrying strollers etc., definitely consider the share shuttle services.The journey can take a bit longer than the Airport Limousine Bus, but usually no more than 2 hours and 30 minutes. Both companies require a reservation at least two days in advance, but early bookings are recommended in case seats become unavailable.
Yasaka Taxi offers shuttle services from Kansai airport between the hours of 7am and 9am. Fare is 3,500 yen for adult and 1,750 yen for children. You can book Yasaka Taxi here.
MK Taxi seems to have a bigger operation than Yasaka Taxi. They offer services from both ITM and KIX airports. At ITM airport, MK Taxi doesn’t have a counter, but the driver will wait for you in the arrival hall. Their service hours cover all the flights arriving and departing ITM airport. From Kansai airport, MK Taxi runs shuttle service between 7am and until the arrival of last flight of the day (10:45pm for international and 10:55pm for domestic). MK Shuttle counter is located near gate H after clearing custom in Terminal 1. You can book MK Taxi here. Their fares are shown in the table below.
For my Kyoto trip, we are staying at Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which is located about 10 minutes from Kyoto Station. Even though Hyatt provides a free one-way taxi ride to the hotel from Kyoto Station, for ease of travel we decided to go with MK Taxi. I booked a reservation online for my group of 3 adults and 2 children just three days prior to our arrival. Within a few hours they emailed me back with a confirmation. Just as expected, we were quoted 3,400 yen per adult and 1,800 yen per child.
Which route should you pick to get from Osaka airports to Kyoto? It all depends how you are traveling, with or without kids, with lots or a small amount of luggage, and when you are arriving. Rest assured, no matter which route you choose, you will get to Kyoto safe and sound.