This article introduces the closest and most convenient airports for people traveling to Kyoto. The best transportation options from each airport to Kyoto are also listed below, together with information on alternative options for people traveling via Tokyo.
Which Airport is Closest to Kyoto?
The city of Kyoto itself doesn’t have an airport. The closest airport to Kyoto is Osaka International Airport (also called Itami Airport) which is around 36 km from Kyoto, and about 55 minutes away by bus. However, because Osaka International Airport only takes domestic flights, most international travelers find that Kansai International Airport is more convenient. Kansai International Airport is 77 km away from Kyoto in Osaka Bay, and a 75 minute journey away by limited express train.
Another option for people traveling directly to or from Kyoto, is to fly via Chubu Centrair International Airport, near Nagoya. This airport is around 97 km from Kyoto, but the journey time by train is under 80 minutes.
Let’s look at each of these airports in turn, before comparing travel options from Tokyo airports.
Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport: ITM)
Despite having “international” in its name, Osaka Airport stopped serving international flights in the mid-1990s, when Kansai Airport opened as the main regional international airport. However, not all international destinations are served directly by Kansai Airport, so sometimes traveling via Tokyo and then Osaka Airport is the better option. Also, Osaka Airport is served by flights from all regions of Japan, so it is useful for domestic trips. For a downloadable map of this airport, visit the official Osaka Airport website.
Osaka Itami Airport Flights
Both ANA and JAL operate regular flights from Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports to Osaka Airport. Flights from Narita take 1 hour and 20 minutes and flights from Haneda take 1 hour and 10 minutes. For domestic travelers, there are also flights to and from all the major cities in Hokkaido, Tohoku, central Honshu, western Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa.
Transport from Osaka Itami Airport
By Limousine Bus
The easiest way to travel between Kyoto and Osaka Airport is to take the limousine bus. The fare is just 1,310 yen and the direct service takes around 55 minutes, depending on traffic conditions.
Buses for Kyoto leave from bus stop 2 which is directly outside the airport’s Central Block, and arrive at the Hachijoguchi Exit on the south side of Kyoto Station.
Buses from Kyoto leave from the G3 bus stop which is outside the Avanti shopping mall, and directly across from Kyoto Station’s south side. Tickets can be bought on the day from a ticket machine or attendant. For more information, see the Osaka Airport Transport website.
By Shared Taxi
MK Taxi run an affordable shuttle service between Osaka Airport and multiple destinations in Kyoto for 2,900 yen per person (one way). However, this service must be reserved at least three days in advance. The advantage of the MK shuttle is that it takes you straight from the airport directly to your accommodation in Kyoto. However, the shuttle is a minivan shared with other passengers, so how long the journey takes depends on the route for the whole group. Traveling this way can take between 1.5 to 2 hours. For more details and online bookings visit the MK Taxi website.
There are five rental car companies to choose from at Osaka Airport, including Toyota, Nissan, Nippon, Orix, and Times. All five rental companies can be found at the General Information Desk on the 2nd floor of the airport’s Central Block. Cars can be booked on the day, but you should check the individual reception hours for each company. Driving between the airport and Kyoto can take between 45 minutes and 80 minutes depending on the time and the traffic conditions.
Renting a car might be a worthwhile option if you intend to explore areas outside Kyoto that are less accessible by train or bus. However, you will need a valid international driver’s license in order to rent a car in Japan. For more details about car rental, see our article: Car Rental in Kyoto.
It is also possible to travel between Osaka Airport and Kyoto by train for just 980 yen. However, the route is complicated, with at least two changes on the way, and it can take between 60-70 minutes.
Kansai International Airport (KIX)
Kansai International Airport is the major regional airport near Kyoto, with both domestic and international services. Most people traveling directly to Kyoto from overseas will use Kansai Airport as the airport has international flights to and from locations in Asia, Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. For a downloadable map of the airport, visit the official Kansai Airport website.
Transport from Kansai Airport
The fastest and most comfortable way to travel between Kansai Airport and Kyoto is by using the Limited Express Haruka which is operated by JR West. This train takes around 75 minutes to reach Kyoto Station and costs 2,850 yen. The Haruka departs from Platform 4 at Kansai Airport Station which can be accessed via the 2nd floor of the Terminal 1 building. Tickets can be booked on the day, and there are around 30 daily services.
For more details about the Haruka service, and other travel options from Kansai Airport, please see our complete guide: Traveling Between Kyoto and Kansai International Airport.
Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nagoya (NGO)
Chubu Centrair International Airport (or just “Centrair”) is a major airport in central Japan, with both international and domestic services. The airport is located on an artificial island in Ise Bay which is 35 km south of Nagoya, and 97 km east of Kyoto. However, because of fast rail links it can still be a convenient access point for Kyoto. If there are cheaper flights to Centrair than to Kansai Airport, Centrair could be the better option. For a complete floor map of the airport, visit the official Centrair website.
Transport from Centrair Airport
Centrair is linked to Nagoya Station by Meitetsu Railway’s μ Sky Limited Express (μ is pronounced myu) which takes just 28 minutes for a full fare of 1,230 yen. At Nagoya you can transfer to the JR Tokaido Shinkansen for Kyoto. This will take around 35 minutes for a full fare of 5,070 yen (unreserved). Including a 15 minute transfer between trains, it is possible to complete the full journey from Centrair to Kyoto Station in just 1 hour and 18 minutes, for a full fare of 6,300 yen (a reserved seat on the shinkansen will usually cost around 500 yen extra).
Tokyo Airports – Narita and Haneda
Not all overseas destinations are served directly by the Kansai or Centrair airports, so it might be cheaper or easier to travel via Tokyo. If you don’t take a connecting domestic flight to Osaka Airport, the best alternative is to travel to Kyoto by train. Here are the details.
Transport from Narita Airport
From Narita Airport take the Narita Express into Tokyo and then transfer to a Tokaido Shinkansen service for Kyoto at either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa Station. Which station you choose depends on your departure time from the airport. Times vary but the Narita Express can get you to Tokyo Station in around one hour for 3,020 yen, and to Shinagawa Station in around 70 minutes for 3,190 yen. Shinkansen times also vary but it is possible to get from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2 hours and 20 minutes for a fare of 13,080 yen (unreserved). Including your transfer time, the complete journey from Narita Airport to Kyoto Station could be around 3 hours and 35 minutes for a full fare of 16,100 yen.
For more details on these services and alternative ways to travel from Narita Airport see our complete guide: Traveling Between Kyoto and Narita International Airport.
Transport from Haneda Airport
From Haneda Airport take the Keikyu Airport Line’s Rapid Limited Express train to Shinagawa Station, and then transfer to a Tokaido Shinkansen service for Kyoto. The Keikyu Rapid Limited Express train will get you to Shinagawa Station in 16 minutes for just 410 yen. From Shinagawa the fastest journey time to Kyoto is 2 hours and 10 minutes, and the fair is 13,080 yen
(unreserved). Including your transfer time, the complete journey from Haneda Aiport to Kyoto could be as little as 2 hours and 46 minutes for a full fare of 13,490 yen.
For more details on these services and alternative ways to travel from Haneda Airport see our complete guide: Traveling Between Kyoto and Haneda International Airport.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by natchan/pixta (1), Wei Ling Chang/Shutterstock (2). All rights reserved.