The JR Kyoto Line is the name given to that part of the Tokaido Main Line that runs between Osaka Station and Kyoto Station. This line is served by Local, Rapid and Special Rapid Services which are all covered by the same standard fare.
There are 16 stations along this line but only Local trains stop at all the stations. The Special Rapid is the swiftest and most convenient service because it stops at only Osaka, Shin-Osaka, Takatsuki and Kyoto.
At Osaka Station, Local trains on the Kyoto Line depart from Platform 7, and Rapid and Special Rapid trains depart from Platform 8. During peak periods Rapid and Special Rapid trains depart from Platforms 9 and 10.
Shin-Osaka Station is an important transportation hub in the Osaka metropolitan area. Here you can connect with the Subway Midosuji Line, which is the main line running north to south of the Osaka city subway network. It is also the terminus of two high-speed shinkansen lines, the Tokaido Shinkansen line from Tokyo, and the Sanyo Shinkansen line from Fukuoka in Kyushu.
Train fare: 160 yen
Train time: 4 minutes
Kyoto was Japan’s imperial capital for over a millennium and is still one of its best preserved cities, with thousands of shrines, temples, palaces and gardens. Among these the Golden Pavilion of Kinkakuji Temple, Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, and the bamboo forest of Arashiyama are major tourist attractions. Kyoto is also famous for its fine food and riverside dining, as well as its more modern architecture such as Kyoto Tower, and the Kyoto Station building. As the cultural and spiritual center of country, it is safe to say that no trip to Japan is complete without a visit to Kyoto.
Train fare: 560 yen
Train time: 29 minutes
Traveling to Kyoto
When traveling between Osaka Station and Kyoto Station the Special Rapid Service is the best available service as it will cover the distance in 29 minutes for just 560 yen. It is also covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, if you wish to travel to central Kyoto, you might consider taking the private Hankyu Line from Umeda Station (right beside Osaka Station). This will get you to Kyoto city’s Kawaramachi or Karasuma Stations in around 40 minutes, but cost you only 400 yen. The Hankyu Railway is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Beyond Kyoto & Osaka
Beyond Kyoto Station the Tokaido Main Line continues, but is renamed the JR Biwako Line. This line connects Osaka and Kyoto with destinations in eastern Shiga.
The Special Rapid Service from Osaka also continues on the JR Biwako Line, and stops at popular sightseeing destinations like Otsu, Omi Hachiman, Hikone and Maibara. At Maibara passengers can transfer to the JR Hokuriku Main Line for destinations in Fukui, Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures. For more information on the destinations along this route check our article on the JR Biwako Line.
Traveling in the opposite direction west of Osaka Station, the line continues, but is renamed the JR Kobe line. The JR Kobe Line connects Osaka with key destinations like Kobe and Himeji. Check our article on the JR Kobe Line for further details.
All of these lines are covered by the Japan Rail Pass. You can download a bilingual PDF of the JR guide to stops which includes the JR Kobe Line, the JR Kyoto Line and the JR Biwako Line sections of the Tokaido Main Line. The entire Tokaido Main Line is colored blue. The JR West Timetable and Fare Finder is very helpful when planning your journey.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.