Take the scenic route through Osaka and Kyoto with this new rail service

Kansai region welcomes the six-carriage Hankyu Railway Kyotrain Garaku

New train service alert for those traveling to Japan!

The Kansai region welcomed a new six-carriage rail service in the form of the Hankyu Railway Kyotrain Garaku earlier this year. The train, which runs only on weekends and holidays on the route between Umeda Station in Osaka and Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto, takes passengers on an atmospheric and cultural journey through Kyoto.

Zen on wheels

The luxurious interiors are inspired by Kyoto machiya — the traditional wooden buildings that once served as residential and commercial spaces for prewar merchants. In the Kyotrain, there are design elements that pay tribute to Japanese culture, including shoji screen doors made of paper and wood as well as panels that resemble tatami straw mats. Each of the six cars also features motifs themed after a season — the first reveals autumnal maple foliage; the second depicts a wintry bamboo landscape; the third brims with cherry blossom blooms in spring; the fourth features the spectacular geraniums of summer; and the fifth and sixth showcase susuki grass growths typical of early autumn, along with the plum blossoms that appear in early spring.

No JR Pass, no problem

The Kyotrain operates several times a day and makes four stops between Osaka and Kyoto: at Juso, Awaji, Katsura and Karasuma. A full journey, from beginning to end, takes about 45 minutes. The Kyotrain route isn’t yet covered by the JR Pass, but each ticket costs as much as you would pay for a standard train ride between the two cities — just ¥400 (about P185). And passengers aren’t required to call ahead to make reservations.

Kyoto in a day

Many travelers book a night or a few nights’ stay in Kyoto — as an add-on to their Osaka trip — but it’s also possible to have a fulfilling day trip to the city. The short, convenient train journey gives visitors ample time to explore Gion district to see the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine and the Arashiyama bamboo grove, before getting on the train back to the famed Japanese foodie capital.

Photo courtesy of Hankyu Corporation. hankyu.co.jp/global/en

This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

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