The Kyoto Municipal Subway is an underground railway network with just two lines: the Karasuma Subway Line which runs north to south, and the Tozai Subway Line which runs east to west. These two lines are connected at Karasuma Oike Station. Although this subway system is quite limited, it can be used in combination with other bus and railway networks to access most areas of the city.
The Karasuma Subway Line runs between Kokusaikaikan Station in the north and Takeda Station in the south. This line is especially useful as it provides a quick connection between Kyoto Station and Kyoto’s city center at Shijo Station.
Other useful stops are Karasuma Oike Station for Kyoto International Manga Museum, Imadegawa Station for the Gosho Imperial Palace Park, Kitaoij Station for the Daitokuji Temple complex, Kitayama Station for Kyoto Botanical Garden, and Kokusaikaikan Station for Kyoto International Conference Center.
For full details of this route and its key destinations see our Karasuma Subway Line article.
The Tozai Subway Line runs between Rokujizo Station in the south-east and Uzumasa Tenjingawa Station in the west. This line is particularly convenient for traveling between the city center and destinations like the Higashiyama sightseeing district in the east or Nijo Castle in the west. Other useful stops are Daigo Station for Daigoji Temple, Keage Station for Nanzenji Temple, Sanjo Keihan Station for city center shopping and Pontocho alley, and Uzumasa Tenjingawa Station for the Toei Uzumasa Eigamura theme park.
For full details of this route and its key destinations see our Tozai Subway Line article.
Transfers & Connections
Although the areas that are covered by the Kyoto subway system are quite limited, the two lines do connect with other railway lines at various points along their routes. The combination of these various railway services actually makes up an extensive transportation network for the city. You can download a free PDF route map showing this complete network. The major transfer points are listed below.
Karasuma Subway Line Connections
Takeda Station links the Karasuma Subway Line with the Kintetsu Kyoto Line which connects Kyoto with the city of Nara. Usually you will need to transfer between these lines but there are some through services between them.
Kyoto Station is the major transportation hub of Kyoto city with outbound railway services to all parts of Japan. You can also transfer here to the JR Sagano Line for the popular Kyoto tourist destinations of Nijo and Saga-Arashiyama. Kyoto Bus Station is on the north side of Kyoto Station and here you can access bus services for all parts of the city. See our article Taking a Bus in Kyoto for full details of most Kyoto’s useful bus routes.
Shijo Station has direct underground access to the Hankyu Kyoto Main Line at Karasuma Station. The Hankyu Kyoto Main Line runs from Kyoto-Kawaramachi in the city center to the popular Kyoto tourist destinations of Katsura and Arashiyama, and beyond those it continues on to Osaka.
Karasuma Oike is the transfer point between the Karasuma Subway Line and the Tozai Subway Line.
Tozai Subway Line Connections
Rokujizo Station is the transfer point for the JR Nara Line and Keihan Uji Line. The Keihan Uji Line runs to Uji, a small city on the outskirts of Kyoto which is best known for its two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Byodoin Temple and Ujigami-jinja Shrine.
Sanjo Keihan Station is the transfer point for the Keihan Main Line. This line is particularly useful as it runs north to south through the center of the city and provides access to many of Kyoto’s major tourist locations.
Nijo Station is another transfer point for the JR Sagano Line that runs between Kyoto Station and JR Saga-Arashiyama Station.
Uzumasa Tenjingawa Station is the transfer point for the Keifuku Randen Tram Line. This is Kyoto’s last operating tramline and it runs to destinations in the Arashiyama district and to Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavilion).
Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau run both the Kyoto Municipal Subway and Kyoto City Bus network. Because of this a variety of discount passes are available some of which include discounted rides on both the subway and on city buses.
The Kyoto Municipal Subway One-day Pass gives unlimited travel on the Karasuma and Tozai subway lines. It is priced at 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for children. This pass includes discounts for entry to a number of popular tourist locations. You can buy this pass at subway station ticket offices and vending machines and also from the Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center by Kyoto Station’s subway entrance.
The Subway & Bus One-Day Pass and Two-Day Pass give unlimited travel on both the Subway and on Kyoto City Bus routes. Some sections of Kyoto Bus and Keihan Bus routes are also included. These passes include discounts for entry to a number of popular tourist locations. The Subway & Bus One-Day Pass is priced at 900 yen for adults and 450 yen for children. The Subway & Bus Two-Day Pass is priced at 1,700 yen for adults and 850 yen for children. These passes are available from subway station ticket offices, from Kyoto Bus Information Center which is outside the north gate of Kyoto Station, and from the Kyoto City Bus and Subway Information Center by Kyoto Station’s subway entrance.
The Traffica-Kyo Card (also called the “Traffica Kyoto Card”) is a prepaid card which gives a 10% discount on Kyoto City Buses and on the Kyoto Municipal Subway. Cards priced at 1000 yen and 3000 yen are available for adults and 1000 yen cards are available for children. This card is available from Kyoto City Bus and Subway information centers, and subway station vending machines.
The Kansai Thru Pass is a special pass for overseas visitors, which is useful when transferring between Kyoto Municipal Subway and other private railway lines. This pass covers subway systems, bus services, and many other private railways in Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Shiga. It does not cover JR railways however. For more information please visit the Kansai Thru Pass website.
The Japan Rail Pass is only valid for JR railway lines and for shinkansen services, so it does not cover the Kyoto Municipal Subway. When transferring between the subway and JR lines you will need to buy separate tickets.
IC cards are prepaid cards which can be used to travel on trains and buses. The local IC card for the Kansai region of West Japan is called ICOCA, but the major cards of different regions can be used interchangeably across the country. These IC cards can be used instead of cash on both the Kyoto Municipal Subway and Kyoto City Bus networks. Fares are usually discounted when using IC cards and it will also save you the time of buying a ticket. For more information on Japan’s major IC cards and how to use them see our IC Cards article.
A special IC card for overseas visitors to the Kansai region is also available which is called the Kansai One Pass. The Kansai One Pass includes special discounts at sightseeing spots throughout the region. For more details visit the Kansai One Pass website.
Station maps and timetables are available at the Arukumachi Kyoto website. A PDF route map and information brochure is also available for Kyoto’s subway and bus services. To find train and transfer times quickly and easily it is best to use an English language online route finder like the Japan Transit Planner or Hyperdia.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.