You’ll be able to look down and see Osaka when flying into Kansai International Airport. Japan’s second largest city is a great place to kick off your trip, with its excellent food and nightlife. Plus, it has great transport connections to other cities like Kyoto and Tokyo.
Kansai International Airport (also referred to by its airport code, KIX) is the main airport in the Kansai region. It’s located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, approximately 40 km as the crow flies from Osaka City. There are a range of ways to travel between them, so let’s break them down.
Traveling with lots of luggage? Consider porting it from the airport to your accommodation to save time and arm strength.
What are the options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Osaka?
Due to its convenience and reasonable price, we recommend taking a Limousine Bus from Kansai International Airport to Osaka. It has the flexibility to take you to a wide variety of destinations, and can easily be booked online. Otherwise, if you are staying in central Osaka, rail is another viable option. The main drawback of trains is that you may not have space to store your luggage, unlike on the Limousine Buses.
|Mode||Approx Cost||Travel Time||Frequency||Booking Method||Notes|
|Best for Shin-Osaka Station: Haruka Express||¥2,380*||50 mins||1 to 2 per hour||In person/Online|
|Best for Osaka Station: Airport Rapid Service||¥1,210||65 mins||~4 per hour||In person|
|Fastest for Namba Station: Nankai Airport Rapi:t||¥1,450*||34-37 mins||1 to 2 per hour||In person/Online|
|Cheaper for Namba Station: Nankai Airport Express||¥930||45 mins||3 to 5 per hour||In person|
|Taxi — Regular||¥16,000||Varies||On demand||In person||Can transport up to 4 passengers|
|Taxi — Private prebooked||¥18,972 to ¥29,237||45 min (to Osaka Station)||On demand||Online||Can transport up to 9 passengers|
*Discounts are available, read on for more details.
Best option overall: Limousine Bus¥1,600
Varies according to destination
For pure convenience the Limousine Bus gets our top recommendation. There are various routes that will get you to locations all over Osaka, and in some cases right to the doorstep of your hotel. They aren’t flashy, but you won’t have to worry about your luggage because it’s stowed safely away in the undercarriage.
The bus does cost more than discounted rail options, but in our opinion it’s worth it just for the luggage storage. And anyway, if you need to make extra rail transfers to get to your accommodation the cost could end up being similar to — or even more than — Limousine Bus tickets. Tickets can be easily purchased online.
Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some Limousine Bus services were suspended or reduced, and it’s taking a while to return to pre-pandemic levels. Make sure to check the routes and timetable carefully ahead of time.
Rail options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Osaka
As Kansai International Airport is on an island, there are only two train lines that make the trip over the water to the city center. These are the JR and Nankai lines. Both lines have speedy express services along with cheaper non-express services, but when you take discounts into consideration the difference in prices isn’t that big. Instead, because some locations in Osaka are more convenient to access on one line or the other, we recommend choosing based on which Osaka neighborhood you’re staying in.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here are the most notable train stations that these lines stop at and why you might want to go there.
- Shin-Osaka Station is north of the main part of Osaka, to get there from the airport you will pass through the city. This station mainly services Shinkansen lines, with local train connections for transit. It’s only worth going this far if you are staying in the area or plan to immediately get on a Shinkansen.
- Osaka and Umeda Stations (also sometimes refered to as Osaka-Umeda Station) are the main train stations for central Osaka. Technically, there are four different train stations serving different train lines, but they are all connected. For this reason, it’s good for both transit and accommodation.
- Namba, JR Namba and Osaka-Namba Stations are also in central Osaka, but further south (and closer to the airport) compared to Osaka Station. Like Osaka and Umeda Stations, there are actually four different train stations in this area, sharing confusingly similar names. The neighborhood the stations are in is fairly popular and lively, so it’s a good area to stay. It’s also good for transit, but may be a bit confusing with all the different station names.
Best for getting to Shin-Osaka Station: Haruka Express¥2,380 (discounts available)
The Haruka Express is another name for the Kansai Airport Express train. This train is a speedy option that will get you directly to Shin-Osaka Station. It also stops at Hineno and Tennōji Stations in the southern part of Osaka. Generally though, you’ll only want to take the Haruka Express if your final destination is Shin-Osaka Station. The Airport Rapid Service (discussed below) gets you to Hineno and Tennōji Stations for much less.
You can expect a few creature comforts including free Wi-Fi and designated luggage storage on the Haruka Express, but nothing overly flashy. It’s also possible to reserve and upgrade your seats. The main downsides to the Haruka Express are that there are only one to two departures per hour, and the price. Luckily, there are a few ways to get discounts though.
Haruka Express discounts
The best and easiest way to get a discount, is to buy your ticket online. It will cost you just ¥1,600 one-way to Shin-Osaka, and you can buy it ahead of time to save yourself some hassle. You can also opt for a combo ticket that includes the Haruka Express ticket and a ticket to Umeda Sky Building and Kuchuteien Obeservatory for ¥1,750 total. At full price these tickets would cost you ¥3,880 altogether, so that’s a significant saving.
Another option is to pick up a ICOCA and Haruka set for ¥3,600 one-way or ¥5,200 roundtrip. This set includes a Haruka Express ticket, and an ICOCA card (a type of IC card or prepaid transport card). The ICOCA will have ¥1,500 loaded on it and a refundable deposit of ¥500 if you return the card at the end of your trip. A nice bonus with this set is that the ICOCA cards have limited edition designs that you can only get at Kansai International Airport.
Alternatively, if you already have an ICOCA card you can just get the discounted Haruka Express ticket. It’s ¥1,600 one-way and you will need to show your ICOCA when collecting the ticket.
The ICOCA and Haruka set or the discount Haruka Express ticket can be purchased at the airport, or online in advance.
NOTE: All three discounts are only available to foreign passport holders with a valid temporary visitor stamp.
Best for getting to Osaka Station: Airport Rapid Service¥1,210
Like the Haruka, the Airport Rapid Service it operated by JR. However, it loops around central Osaka and stops at different stations. Stops include Rinkū-Town, Hineno, Tennōji, JR Namba, Nishi-Kujō, Osaka, Kyobashi, Osakajōkoen and Tsuruhashi Stations. Of particular note is Nishi-Kujō Station which has a direct connection to Universal Studios, and Osakajōkoen Station which is right next to Osaka Castle. Osaka Station on the other hand is good for transit, with connections to a number of public and private lines. Of course, all these stops make for a slower journey, but it’s cheaper and there are more departures per hour than the Haruka Express.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the Airport Rapid Service has no dedicated luggage space, Wi-Fi or a toilet.
Best for getting to Namba Station: Nankai Airport Rapi:t¥1,450
34 – 37 minutes
The Nankai Airport Rapi:t (nope, not a typo — it’s pronounced ‘rapido’) is a super speedy way to get to Namba Station in southern-central Osaka. This train actually has two services, the Rapi:t α (alpha) and the Rapi:t β (beta). The Rapi:t α only stops at four stations between Kansai International Airport and Namba Station — Rinkū-Town, Izumisano, Tengachaya and Shin-Imamiya. Rapi:t β stops at these stations, plus two more — Kishiwada and Sakai — and so is a few minutes slower. Besides Namba Station, these stops won’t be of too much interest to tourists but are convenient for locals. Namba Station itself is a great location for accommodation and has good transport connections to other parts of Osaka.
Both of the Nankai Airport Rapi:t services have dedicated luggage storage and free Wi-Fi. All seats are reserved and there is an option to upgrade. However, there are only one to two departures per hour.
Nankai Airport Rapi:t discounts
If you book online you can get discounted Nankai Airport Rapi:t for ¥1,100 one-way to Namba Station or ¥2,150 round-trip. This discount is available to foreign passport holders — including foreign residents — but not for Japanese passport holders.
Cheaper option for getting to Namba Station: Nankai Airport Express¥930
If you’re feeling especially cheap, the Nankai Airport Express will get you to Namba Station for ¥930. It stops at 10 stations between Kansai International Airport and Namba Stations — Rinkū-Town, Izumisano, Kaizuka, Kishiwada, Haruki, Izumiotsu, Hagoromo, Sakai, Tengachaya and Shin-Imamiya. The Nankai Airport Express is a commuter train, so it doesn’t have any fancy bells or whistles. While it’s usually easy enough to get a seat, it will get crowded during rush hour. However, there are quite frequent departures — usually around three to four per hour, but up to five at peak times.
Taxi options for getting from Kansai International Airport to Osaka¥16,000 to ¥29,237
45 minutes (to Osaka Station)
If you are traveling in a large group you may want to consider taking a taxi. While certainly not the cheapest option, it can be convenient as it’s guaranteed to take you exactly where you want to go. For a regular taxi that can fit up to four passengers, expect to pay around ¥16,000 (or ¥4,000 each) for a trip to Osaka Station. An alternative option for even larger groups, is to prebook a taxi online. A seven passenger vehicle will set you back ¥18,972, while a nine passenger vehicle will cost ¥29,237.
Frequently asked questions
Can I use my JR Pass to get from Kansai International Airport to Osaka?
Yes, the JR Pass can be used on the Haruka Express and the Airport Rapid Service. However, we don’t recommend activating your JR Pass for such a short trip. To get the most value out of your JR Pass it’s best to use it for longer trips on the Shinkansen.
What’s the difference between Kansai International Airport and Itami Airport?
Itami Airport is the older of the two, located north of Osaka city center. It was opened in 1939 and went through a series of name changes — including ‘Osaka Airport’ — and today is still officially named ‘Osaka International Airport’. But this is a misnomer — Itami Airport only services domestic flights. Kansai International Airport is the newer airport, located south of Osaka city center and was opened in 1994. It was built specifially to divert internationl flights from Itami Airport. Today it services all international flights into the region, as well as some domestic flights.