[1. Kansai Area] Visit West Japan by Using JR-WEST RAIL PASS to Enjoy Fine Scenery and Experiences! Latest edition for 2022-2023

The West Japan region is known to have many unique and attractive spots everywhere. It is an additional appeal to visitors that they can access various places within the area by rail and/or ferry. Here are recommended spots as well as activities in West Japan, which can be accessed more conveniently and cheaply with a JR-WEST RAIL PASS! For details about ticket deals and passes, access: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/cp/west_japan/

Kansai Area 

Kansai is a central area of Western Japan, where you can enjoy history and traditional culture along with cutting-edge fashion and entertainment.

Kuchu Teien Observatory, Umeda Sky Building

With a height of 173 meters above ground, “Umeda Sky Building” is a landmark of Umeda. From Kuchu Teien Observatory on the top floor, you can have a panoramic view of the city of Osaka. Walk in the air while feeling a pleasant breeze that gives you a sense of complete openness! The building is lit up at night, creating a fantastical atmosphere.

1,500 yen for adults

Access 7-min walk from Osaka Sta. (JR), or 9 min walk from Umeda Sta. (Subway, Hankyu)
Business hours 9:30–22:30 (admission until 22:00)
Regular holiday Open 365 days (with some business days with a special schedule)
URL https://www.skybldg.co.jp/en/

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Being the tallest building in Japan, “Osaka Harukas” has an observatory on the top floor, from which you can enjoy the dynamic outlook at 300 meters above ground. This place offers opportunities to enjoy differently from other observatories, such as a heliport tour and seasonal events to enjoy a meal with a great view.

Adult 1,500 yen, 1-day ticket: 1,950 yen (re-entry allowed)
*Entrance may be limited due to various reasons, such as special business days.

Access A few-minute walk from Tennoji Sta. (JR, Subway) or Osaka-Abenobashi Sta. (Kintetsu)
Business hours 9:00–22:00 (admission until 21:30)
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL https://www.abenoharukas-300.jp/en/observatory/

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Kyoto Railway Museum

As one of the biggest railway museums in Japan, this museum has a collection of 54 precious train cars that led the modernization of Japan, from real steam locomotives to shinkansen trains. It offers a place where you can enjoy learning about the world of railways under the theme of “discover, touch and experience,” with various experiences such as riding on the SL steam train and operating the train driving simulator (tickets for experience should be purchased in advance).

Adult 1,200 yen

Access 2-min walk from Umekoji-Kyotonishi Sta. (JR)
Business hours 10:00–17:00 (admission until 16:30)
Regular holiday Wednesdays (open on holiday Wednesdays), Dec. 30–Jan. 1, other temporary closing
URL https://www.kyotorailwaymuseum.jp/en/

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Kyoto Aquarium

Kyoto Aquarium is a large-scale inland aquarium using only artificial seawater. People of all generations from adults to children can enjoy learning about undersea life, including rare creatures, such as Japanese giant salamanders, a special national treasure, that live in the rivers in Kyoto. Opened in 2020, the biggest jellyfish exhibition area in West Japan has become hugely popular. As it is located next to Kyoto Railway Museum, visiting both together is recommended.

Adult 2,200 yen

Access 7-min walk from Umekoji-Kyotonishi Sta. (JR)
Business hours 9:00–17:00 (admission until 16:00)
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL https://www.kyoto-aquarium.com/en/

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Horyuji Temple

Said to be built in 607, Horyuji temple has the world’s oldest existing wooden buildings, including the main hall, five-story pagoda, and cloister. It was the first site to be registered on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan. In the precincts, there are many existing buildings of Buddhist architecture representing each era of history. With 39 national treasures, it is a temple that has the largest number of national treasures as a single temple in Japan.

Adult 1,500 yen

Enjoy a temple tour with “Four-Temple Tour Ticket”

Nara Prefecture is home to historic temples. If you are planning a tour to visit temples around Horyuji Temple, you should get a Four-Temple Tour Ticket. This ticket is valid for admissions at Horyuji Temple, Chuguji Temple, Horinji Temple, and Hokkiji Temple, which are all related to Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku, an eminent figure in Japan from the late 6th century to the early 7th century). Furthermore, you can get some discounts for renting a bicycle as well as at restaurants and shops with this ticket!

For more information, access: https://horyuji-ikaruga-nara.or.jp/01.pdf

Price: 2,400yen

Access 20-min walk from Horyuji Sta. (JR), or take a Nara Kotsu Bus bound for “Horyuji Sando” -> “Horyuji Sando” stop
Business hours 8:00–17:00 (Feb. 22–Nov. 3), 8:00–16:30 (Nov. 4–Feb. 21)
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL http://www.horyuji.or.jp/en/

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Kobe Nunobiki Herb Gardens & Ropeway

One of the largest herb gardens in Japan is located on the high ground of the mountain and can be accessed from the main area of Kobe City by ropeway. Across 12 garden areas with different themes, about 75,000 flowers and herbs of about 200 kinds are blooming throughout the year. The facility offers various hands-on programs using herbs. Have a relaxing time in an elegant atmosphere while enjoying pleasant aromas and a great view.

Adult (ropeway fare + admission to the herb gardens): 1,800 yen for a round trip; 1,130 yen for a one-way trip.

Access 5-min walk from Shin-Kobe Sta. (JR) -> 10 min by ropeway
Business hours Varies depending on the season (*refer to the official website for details)
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL https://www.kobeherb.com/en/

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“CITY LOOP” and “Port Loop” are convenient for sightseeing in Kobe!

The “CITY LOOP” bus routes stop at all the major sightseeing spots in Kobe, including Shin-Kobe Sta., Sannomiya Sta., Meriken Park, Nankinmachi (Chinatown), Kitano, etc. “Port Loop” is an articulated bus going around the Kobe Waterfront Area. Using the 1-day ticket (700 yen for adults) or 2-day ticket (1,000 yen for adults), you can get some discounts for traveling by bus and admissions to various facilities.

URL https://kobeloop.bus-japan.net/

Greater Kansai Area

If you want to experience Kansai more deeply, it is recommended to go out to the suburban areas from Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. You can enjoy various aspects which are not available in urban areas, such as rich nature and relaxing onsen.

Michigan Cruise in Lake Biwa

The Michigan is a cruise boat that starts from Otsu Port and travels in the southern part of Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan. The Skydeck of the boat offers a panoramic view, allowing you to fully enjoy the great view of nature. As crew members also entertain passengers with sightseeing guidance and live music, boosting the mood for the cruise, it is recommended for your first tour of Lake Biwa. Night tours are available for a limited period of time. It is a gorgeous experience to see a night view of lakeside towns from the quiet lake.

60-min course: Adult 2,400 yen, 90-min course: Adult 3,000 yen, 90-min night course: Adult 3,200 yen

Access Access to Otsu Port: 5 min by bus from Otsu Sta. (JR)
URL https://www.biwakokisen.co.jp/en/michigan_en_1.html

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Lunch buffet at “Lake View Dining Biona” in Lake Biwa Otsu Prince Hotel

Located on the 37th floor of the 38-story hotel by Lake Biwa, this buffet dining restaurant offers a fine panoramic view. It serves various types of dishes, including Japanese, Western and Chinese, made with local ingredients, in a buffet style. When you eat while enjoying the view of Lake Biwa, everything should be tastier!

3,500 yen and up for lunch

Access 10 min. by car from Otsu Sta. (JR) (courtesy shuttle bus service is available)
Business hours Lunch time Part 1: 11:30–13:00, Part 2: 13:30–15:00
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL https://www.princehotels.com/otsu/restaurants/lake-view-dining-biona/

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Nagahama once prospered as a post station in the Edo period (1603-1868). Featuring traditional black stucco walls of well-preserved traditional buildings, “Kurokabe Square” is a popular tourist spot with a mixture of nostalgic and modern atmosphere, where many glass-art shops and restaurants serving local dishes are located. You can join one of the hands-on glass-art classes. There are many places to see in the city, including Japan’s oldest existing train station building and Nagahama Castle, which has a panoramic view of Lake Biwa and the city of Nagahama!

Nagahama Odekake Passport

This passport allows you to enter 14 major tourist facilities in Nagahama City for two days. It also offers various benefits, including discounts on admission and free gifts, at 43 shops and facilities in the city.

Price: 1,500 yen (Only one-time entrance is allowed per facility)
>For more information, access: https://kitabiwako.jp/en/travel_guide/spot/detail?id=8966

Access Nagahama Sta. (JR)

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Akashi Municipal Planetarium

With the Japan Standard Time Meridian of 135 degrees east longitude passing through, Akashi City of Hyogo Prefecture is known as a “Town of Time.” Located right on the meridian, Akashi Municipal Planetarium serves as a “Museum of Time and the Universe,” which attracts many people with the oldest working planetarium with live commentary.

Adult: 700 yen, High school students and younger: free

Access 15-min walk from Akashi Sta. (JR)
Business hours 9:30–17:00 (admission until 16:30)
Regular holiday Mondays, the second Tuesdays (or the following weekday if it falls on a national holiday), year-end holidays
URL https://www.am12.jp/

Uonotana Shotengai Street

Serving as an epicurean center of Akashi, Uonotana Shotengai offers various kinds of food, including fresh seafood products from the ocean right there, processed products and sweets and snacks perfect for souvenirs, and also offers a chance to enjoy eating while walking. At the end of each year, tairyo-bata fisherman’s flags, which are usually used on fishing boats, are raised to fill the arcade, creating a seasonal tradition for the end-of-year holiday in Akashi.

Access 5-min walk from Akashi Sta. (JR)
URL https://www.uonotana.or.jp/

Go to Awaji Island from Akashi by Awaji Jenova Line

Awaji Jenova Line is a high-speed boat that connects Akashi Port and Iwaya Port in Awaji Island in about 13 minutes. On the boat, you can enjoy a dynamic experience of going right under the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.

Adult 550 yen

Access Access to Akashi Port: 10-min walk from Akashi Sta. (JR)
URL http://www.jenova-line.co.jp/

Awaji Island

As the biggest island in the Seto Inland Sea, Awaji Island is rich in natural beauty, with seasonal flowers blossoming throughout the year. The island is also known for delicious local food ingredients and products, such as onions and Awaji Beef.

Nijigen no Mori

“Nijigen no Mori” is a large-scale theme park, aiming to recreate the worldviews of Japanese anime, special effects films, and games. Located in Hyogo Prefectural Awaji Island Park, this facility offers fun attractions under the themes of various anime series, films, manga, etc., such as “Naruto,” “Crayon Shin-chan,” “Dragon Quest,” and “Godzilla.”

Entrance fee: free (each attraction requires a specific ticket)

©2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN All Rights Reserved.

Access 10-min walk from Akashi Sta. (JR) -> Akashi Port -> 13 min by high-speed boat -> Iwaya Port -> 10 min by courtesy shuttle bus
Business hours 10:00–22:00 (varies depending on attractions)
Regular holiday Open 365 days
URL https://nijigennomori.com/

Kinosaki Onsen

With a history of 1,300 years, this onsen town has long attracted many literary figures. Kinosaki Onsen has a unique concept that the whole town serves as one accommodation; therefore, bathrooms in hotels are called uchi-yu (inside bath) and public bathhouses in the town are called soto-yu (outside bath). Within walking distance of about 20 minutes, there are seven soto-yu bathhouses with unique features. Put on a yukata cotton kimono, stroll along the river, and enjoy a relaxing tour of soto-yu. Kinosaki Onsen also has a unique temple, Onsen-ji Temple, which is a sort of guardian temple of the town. From the ropeway to the temple, you can look down at the town.

Kinosaki Onsen is also blessed with a variety of fresh seafood and delicacies of the mountains. Among others, Matsuba crabs and Tajima beef, the origin of the premium wagyu brands including Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, and Omi beef, are especially famous and have a lot of fans. After relaxing in a bath, it is time to fully enjoy the local cuisine!



With this pass, riding Kinosaki Onsen Ropeway, admission of Onsenji Temple and a museum, and a workshop at a craft shop are available. Enjoy sightseeing around Kinosaki Onsen smoothly and comfortably!

Valid for 3 days
Price: 2,500 yen
For more information, access: https://visitkinosaki.com/tour-packages/kinosaki-must-visits-pass-2/

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Amanohashidate in the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture is a sandbar with an overall length of about 3.6 km covered with about 6,700 pine trees, creating a unique landscape. As one of the “three major scenic spots of Japan,” it has been famous since ancient times. Enjoy the magnificent view from the observatory!
>For more information, go to the feature article,“Kyoto by the Sea,” 

Access Amanohashidate Sta. (Kyoto Tango Railway)

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Funaya (Ine Boathouses)

“Funaya” is a boathouse with a unique architecture with a garage for a boat on the bottom story and a living space on the second story. There are about 230 of them in Ine Bay facing the Sea of Japan Sea. From the ocean, it looks like as if they are floating on the ocean, creating a unique view.
>For more information, go to the feature article,“Kyoto by the Sea,”

Tango Amanohashidate Ine Free boarding ticket

This pass allows unlimited rides on various vehicles, including fixed route buses (with an exception of some routes), Amanohashidate sightseeing boat, Amanohashidate cable car and lift, and Ine Bay tour boat. Get this pass and enjoy a tour of Kyoto by the Sea!

Fee: Adult 2,600 yen (valid for 2 days)
For more information, access:https://www.tankai.jp/en/

Access 1 hour by bus from Amanohashidate (Kyoto Tango Railway)

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The information herein is as of December 2022
Born in Aichi Prefecture, my name is Minami and watching theater is my passion. Having studied abroad in France and the UK, I worked at a travel agency after graduation, which sparked my love of travel both in Japan and abroad! In particular, I enjoy travel related to art galleries, seasonal flowers, or the settings of stories. Whether manga, anime, or 2.5D musicals, please leave it to me!

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