Osaka has an extensive train and subway system that provides access to most parts of the city. The subway is easy to use and is the recommended way to get around Osaka. The JR Osaka Loop Line is the main train line and runs a loop around the city center. Osaka does have a bus system, but it only has information available in Japanese and can be difficult to navigate.
Osaka Subway System
The most convenient way to get around Osaka is by subway. Seven lines service the area within the JR Osaka Loop Line, and an eighth line runs to the city outskirts. The most useful one for tourists is the the Midosuji Line, which runs from north to south and stops at many of the city’s major areas, including Shin-Osaka, Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Namba, and Tennoji.
Transfers between subway lines can be made on the same ticket, but changing to a railway line will require a separate charge. Most subway rides around the city cost between 200-300 yen.
Six train companies provide service to and within Osaka. Train types include local trains that stop at every station, limited express and express trains, and special express trains (tokkyu) that make the fewest stops.
JR West has service throughout Osaka and the surrounding area, including Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe. Similar to Tokyo’s Yamanote Line, the JR Osaka Loop Line is Osaka most prominent line and does a circle around the city center. Other JR lines offer service to places such as Kansai Airport, Universal Studios, Kobe, Kyoto, and Nara.
JR shinkansen bullet trains stop at Shin-Osaka Station on the subway’s Midosuji Line.
Hanshin Railways can be used to travel between Osaka and Kobe. It stops at Nishikujo Station and Umeda Station.
Hankyu Railways can be used to travel between Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. It stops at Umeda Station and several places in northern Osaka.
Keihan Railways can be used to travel between Osaka and central Kyoto. It stops at Yodoyabashi Station.
Kintetsu Railways can be used to travel between Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Nagoya, Ise, and Yoshino. It stops at Namba Station, Nagata Station, and Tennoji Station.
Nankai Railways can be used to travel between southern Osaka, Kansai Airport, Mount Koya (Koyasan), and Wakayama. It stops at Namba Station.
Although Osaka has a network of city buses, there is not much information available in English. The subways and trains are much easier to use and can take you just about anywhere you want to go in and around the city.
Unlimited Travel Cards
There are several passes in Osaka that are good for unlimited travel on the subway, the New Tram, various train lines, and buses. Some cards also provide free or discounted admission into city attractions.
These passes can be good for people planning on traveling a lot in one day, though many people may find it cheaper to simply pay the regular individual fares.
Osaka Unlimited Pass
The Osaka Unlimited Pass is good for unlimited travel on the subway, city buses, and travel within Osaka City on the following train lines:
- Hankyu Railways
- Hanshin Railways
- Keihan Railways
- Kintetsu Railways
- Nankai Railways
The Osaka Unlimited Pass costs 2,000 yen and includes free or discounted admission to various city attractions. It is available at travel agencies and information centers throughout Osaka.
Osaka One-Day Pass
The Osaka One-Day Pass is good for unlimited travel on the subway, city buses, and the New Tram, but does not include travel on the OTS Line. The card is not activated until it is inserted into a machine and can be purchased in advance for later usage.
Available at subway stations and kiosks, the Osaka One-Day Pass costs 850 yen for adults and 430 yen for children. Osaka Castle and other attractions offer discounted admission to people with valid One-Day passes.
In order to promote subway use instead of personal cars in Osaka, Fridays and the 20th of every month are called No-My-Car-Day. ‘My Car’ (マイカー) is a Japanese word taken from English that means one’s own car. On these days, the Osaka One-Day Pass is discounted to 600 yen and is called the No-My-Car-Day Pass. This pass is a good deal for travelers who plan on taking 4 or more subway rides in a day.
If the 20th is a Sunday or national holiday, the No-My-Car-Discount-Pass is available on the following day.
Kansai Thru Pass
The Kansai Thru Pass is good for travel on most of the transport lines in Osaka including:
Additionally, many temples, shrines, museums, onsen, and other tourist attractions throughout the Kansai region offer discounted admission to pass holders. A full list of discounts can be found here.
The Kansai Thru Pass is only available to people residing outside of Japan and a passport must be shown when purchasing a ticket. Prices are 3,800 yen for a two day pass and 5,000 yen for a three day pass. Children’s tickets are discounted by 50%.
JR West Kansai Area Rail Pass
The Kansai Area Pass is good for unlimited travel on JR West rapid service and local trains in the Kansai (Keihanshin) area, and non-reserved seats on the Haruka Kansai Airport Express train. These passes are for overseas tourists and you must show your passport at the time of purchase.
Kansai Area Passes are available in one day (2,000 yen), two day (4,000 yen), three day (5,000 yen), and four day (6,000 yen) varieties. As a one-way trip to Osaka from Kansai Airport on a Haruka train costs 1,800 yen, these passes can be a great value for to tourists planning using JR trains.
The JR West Kansai Area Pass also offers discounts on admission to some amusement parks, museums, and other cultural and tourist attractions located along the JR lines.
JR West Sanyo Area Rail Pass
The Sanyo Area Pass is good for unlimited travel on some JR lines running between Kansai Airport, Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji. Advantages of this ticket are that you can get reserved seats on limited express Haruka trains and it includes travel on the Sanyo Shinkansen. These passes are for overseas tourists to Japan and you must show your passport at the time of purchase.
A four-day pass costs 20,000 yen and an eight-day pass costs 30,000 yen. Children’s tickets are half price.
Kansai Odekake Pass
The Kansai Odekake Pass is good for one day of unlimited travel on JR West rapid service and local trains. The pass costs 2,000 yen and can be good for travel between Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, and other surrounding cities.
The Kansai Odekake Pass is good for people going on one day siteseeing trips to cities in the area.
Osaka Prepaid Subway and Train Cards
In addition to unlimited cards, Osaka also has several prepaid cards that can be used for riding the Osaka subway and various train lines. Prepaid cards are rechargeable and easy to use – simply wave the card over a touch pad as you enter and exit the gate.
While most prepaid cards don’t save you any money on travel, these cards can make getting around the city more convenient by saving you from having to buy a new ticket every time you get on a train or subway. Some cards also make transferring lines easier as they can be used on different railway lines that would normally require purchasing a new ticket upon transfer.
Prepaid train and subway cards are available at vending machines throughout the city.
Multiple Ride Card
The Multiple Ride Card can be used on the Osaka Subway, New Tram, and city buses. This prepaid card is one of the few ones that actually offers a discount on travel. The regular card costs 3,000 yen and is good for 3,300 yen worth of travel, and the children’s card costs 1,500 yen and can be used for 1,650 yen worth of travel.
ICOCA Prepaid Card
ICOCA stands for IC Operating Card, but is also a play on the Japanese phrase ‘Iko ka?’ (Shall we go?). These prepaid cards are good for travel on all JR trains around the Kansai region, excluding the shinkansen bullet train, and can also be used on the Surutto Kansai network and JR trains in metropolitan Tokyo, Sendai, and Niigata.
ICOCA cards cost 2,000 yen, which includes a refundable 500 yen deposit that is returned when you return the card. The fee for travel is deducted from the card balance when you swipe it over the ICOCA sensor at ticket gates. Cards are rechargeable and can be purchased at vending machines at area train stations.
Surutto Kansai Card
Surutto means ‘throughout Kansai without cash’ and this card is good for travel on the Osaka Subway, the New Tram, and almost all trains buses in the Kansai Region other than those operated by JR.
The card comes in denominations of 1,000-5,000 yen and is available at station vending machines.
The Rainbow Card is issued by the Osaka Subway and works in the same way as Surruto Kansai and Lagare cards. Cards come in various values between 500-5,000 yen and are available at subway vending machines.
The Lagare Card is issued by Hankyu Railways and works in the same way as the Surutto Kansai and Rainbow cards.
The Lagare Card comes in denominations of 1,000-5,000 yen and is available at station vending machines.
PiTaPa Card Postpaid Card
The PiTaPa card is a smart card issued by the Surutto Kansai network It can be used on the Osaka Subway, New Tram, and some 20 train systems, including the JR, Keihan Railways, and Hankyu Railways.
Card holders can also add prepaid charges to the card and use it on the JR West ICOCA system. Although the ICOCA card is interchangeable with JR East’s Suica system, PiTaPa cannot be used on the Suica system yet.
When cards are swiped over the PiTaPa Card sensor at ticket gates, money is automatically deducted from a registered bank account. Setting up an account takes more time than buying a regular prepaid card, making the PiTaPa Card more suitable for Osaka residents and long-term visitors.