Category Archives: Getting Around

The Japan Rail Pass

The Japan Rail Pass is a highly cost effective rail pass for foreign visitors to Japan, providing unlimited travel on the nationwide network of Japan Railways (JR) for 7, 14 or 21 days. Thanks to JR’s 20,000 km network, you can get practically anywhere thanks to this precious door-opener. It is recommended to anybody, who is planning to visit more than one region of Japan.

jr pass

The Japan Rail Pass is valid on almost all trains on the nationwide network of JR (Japan Railways), including urban train lines and the shinkansen (bullet trains), as well as on many JR bus lines, the JR Miyajima ferry and the Tokyo Monorail. Pass holders are also eligible for free seat reservations.

Not covered by the Japan Rail Pass is the nozomi, the fastest of several train categories on the Tokaido Shinkansen and the mizuho, the fastest of several train categories on the Sanyo/Kyushu Shinkansen. Furthermore, the Japan Rail Pass is not valid for couchettes and private rooms on night trains and other special compartments.

There are also a few JR trains, which partially run on the tracks of different railway companies. When riding on such a non-JR owned section, pass holders will have to pay the fare for it on board of the train or at the station. View a list of affected JR lines.

Naturally, the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on any train operated by companies other than the Japan Railways (JR).

Below is a map showing major train lines (many minor and metropolitan lines are not shown) which can be used by the Japan Rail Pass:

Japan Rail Passes are currently available for periods of one, two or three weeks and for either ordinary cars or first-class “Green Cars”.


Only foreigners, who stay in Japan on a temporary visitor visa (and Japanese nationals with permanent residence outside of Japan), are eligible to use a Japan Rail Pass.

The Japan Rail Pass has to be purchased outside of Japan. When purchasing the pass, you will receive an exchange order which has to be exchanged into an actual rail pass after your arrival in Japan and within three months of the purchase.

The exchange can be done at various major railway stations, including Narita Airport and Kansai Airport. It is not until the time of exchange, when you determine the starting date of validity of your Japan Rail Pass.

Purchase the Japan Rail Pass

Other Rail Passes

There exist many other rail passes and discount rail tickets in Japan. Some of them can be more cost effective than the nationwide Japan Rail Pass, depending on your itinerary. Click through for a list of rail passes and find out more details here.


Getting Around Town


Kyoto is laid out in a grid system (streets running east–west or north–south) and this makes it (atypically for Japan) fairly easy to find your way around. If you are planning to meet someone, the easiest places to agree on are the intersections between streets (Sanjo/Kawaramachi for example, or Shijo/Karasuma). Kyoto station sits to the south of the city and beyond that further south is a nasty urban sprawl you don’t want to go to. The town centre with all its enticements of shopping, dining and nightlife lies between the streets Shijo and Oike (to the south and north) and Gion and Karasuma (to the east and west). Around here the main sightseeing areas are easily reached by bus and train and consist of Arashiyama to the west, the Kinkakuji area to the north-west, the Ginkakuji area to the north-east, Okazaki to the east, and Higashiyama to the south-east. You can get a free tourist-map at KPIC in the Kyoto station building.

The scenic Kamo river runs through the length of the city, and is a wonderful route for cycling. The way north being uphill will provide a good work-out for your calf muscles but you will be well rewarded, for the further you head north in Kyoto, the greener and prettier it gets. Surrounded by low-lying forested mountains, ancient Kyoto must have been quite a sight with its panorama of tiled roof-tops, temples, shrines, pagodas and gardens well-watered with springs, rivers, and streams. For a view over the modern city a hike up Daimonji mountain in the north-east of the city is recommended.

Buses and Trains

A free Kyoto City Bus Sightseeing Map in English from the bus ticket centre outside Kyoto Station is recommended. This includes all the major sightseeing routes, bus-numbers, a transfer chart and rail-lines are clearly marked out too.

Within the central city confines all single-trip bus fares are ¥220 (¥110 for children).

A Kyoto City Bus One Day Card is good value at 500 (250 for children) and can be used on all Kyoto City bus lines within the central city for one day. Be warned this does not include outlying areas such as Arashiyama.

A Kyoto Sightseeing Card is available for 1,200 (one day) or 2,000 (two days) and can be used on all Kyoto City buses, subways and the main lines of Kyoto-Bus (a private company). Again a child’s fare is half-price.

The Karasuma subway line runs north-south and will take you from Kyoto station into the city centre. Also running north-south is the Keihan line which runs between Demachiyanagi in the north-east and down alongside the Kamo river, ultimately ending in Osaka. Frustratingly however, it manages to bypass Kyoto station. The Hankyu line is a faster route into Osaka running east-west along Shijo street and connecting Kawaramachi, Karasuma, and further west Omiya, Saiin and Katsura. Change at Omiya to take the trolley-car to Arashiyama. Further north, again running east-west is the Tozai line from Yamashina and that will take you as far west as Nijo castle.

Related articles: MK-Taxis
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project

MK Taxis

Picture taken from the MK taxi website.

I just got back from a trip to Ireland yesterday and was as always impressed by the cheap and extremely courteous service I received from MK Taxis. Just for getting around town, MK taxis provide the best and cheapest service available. When hailing a taxi, just look out for the heart shaped logo atop the car. Or call them on 075-778-4141.

Picture taken from the MK taxi website.

When travelling to and from Kansai airport, booking a seat on the Skygate shuttle service, is the best and most convenient way to go. Certainly arriving all jet-lagged and bedraggled after a 15 hour journey, it’s a welcome relief to see the MK taxi driver waiting for you at the arrivals gate and knowing that you will be safely delivered to your door. Outward journeys pick you up from your home along with other passengers and take around two hours. And the charge for one person travelling from Kyoto (with one large bag) is a mere ¥3,500. You will be charged ¥1,000 for extra baggage but hand luggage is free. Call here: 075-778-5489 (8:00a.m. to 9:00p.m.) or make a reservation at this link: Skygate reservations. And don’t forget to book it at least two days prior to your departure.

MK Taxis also provide sightseeing tours with an English speaking driver which I don’t know a great deal about (too pricey for me) but you can read all about it at the last link. As they say on the website:

Be enjoyed beautiful and traditional Kyoto!