The Hankyu Kyoto Main Line runs between Kawaramachi Station in Kyoto and Umeda Station in Osaka. It is run by the private Hankyu Railway company
The Hankyu Kyoto Main Line does not connect directly with Kyoto Station. The easiest way to reach it from Kyoto Station is to take the Karasuma Subway to Shijo Station and then transfer to Hankyu Karasuma Station.
This station is very convenient for central Kyoto and gives access to the Shijo and Kawaramachi shopping districts. It also has direct underground access to the Marui and Takashimaya department stores. Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Main Line is located 5 minutes walk away across the Kamo River.
This station is convenient for the financial district around Shijo and Karasuma. Daimaru department store is within easy walking distance. It also has direct underground access to the Karasuma Subway Line at Shijo Station.
At Omiya Station you can transfer to Shijo-Omiya Station and the Keifuku Randen tramline. This line connects to Keifuku Arashiyama Station and is one of three possible routes to the Arashiyama area. See below for further details.
The lively area around Saiin Station is packed with shops, restaurants and bars. You can also use this as a transfer point to the Keifuku Randen tramline at nearby Sai Station. In addition, City Bus 205 departs from here for Kinkakuji (The Golden Temple). The bus takes 16 minutes and costs 230 yen.
Change here for the Hankyu branch line that goes to Arashiyama. This is also a convenient stop for the gardens and palace buildings of Katsura Imperial Villa, and for students commuting to the Katsura Campus of Kyoto University.
It is possible to walk to Katsura Imperial Villa in 15 minutes, however a bus from the east exit of the station will get you there in 3 minutes and cost you only 160 yen. Take City Bus 33 or Keihan Kotsu Bus 14 or 2. Visits to Katsura Imperial Villa must be booked in advance with the Imperial Household Agency.
To go to the Katsura Campus of Kyoto University take City Bus 6 or Keihan Kotsu Bus 20 or 20B from the west exit of this station. These take 12 minutes and cost 240 yen.
Hankyu Arashiyama Station (on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line)
This station gives access to the scenic Arashiyama and Sagano area, one of the major tourist attractions in Kyoto. Famous sites in this area include, the Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji Temple, the Arashiyama Monkey Park and the famous bamboo forest. Rickshaw rides and boating on the river are also popular activities.
Change here to the Hankyu Kobe Main Line if you want to go to Kobe Sannomiya Station.
Umeda Station gives access to Osaka’s most popular shopping district. Here you can find the Hankyu, Daimaru, Hanshin and Isetan department stores. Other popular attractions and shopping areas in Umeda are the Umeda Sky Building, HEP Five, and Osaka Grand Front. Umeda station is also a major transportation hub. Here you can transfer to Hanshin, Subway Midosuji and other Hankyu lines. This station also connects directly with three other stations: JR Osaka Station, Higashi-Umeda Station and Nishi-Umeda Station. Kitashinchi Station is a short walk south of Nishi-Umeda Station. Effectively these stations form one big station complex. Of these stations JR Osaka Station is the most important as it connects with the JR Kyoto Line, the Takarazuka Line for northern Kyoto prefecture and the Osaka Loop Line.
Kobe Sannomiya Station (on the Hankyu Kobe Main Line)
Kobe Sannomiya Station is the main terminal for people visiting Kobe City, as it gives immediate access to Kobe’s main area of business, shopping and entertainment. Kobe itself is an attractive cosmopolitan port city. Its main attractions are Chinatown, Kobe Harborland, Meriken Park, Mount Rokko, and the Ijinkan, an area of foreign houses built in the 19th century.
Traveling to Arashiyama
The Arashiyama and Sagano area is serviced by three stations: Hankyu Arashiyama Station, JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, and Keifuku Arashiyama Station. All of these stations are fairly conveniently located, so the line you take will depend on your starting point in the city. If you are coming from central Kyoto, a popular route is to take the Hankyu Line as far as Omiya Station and then transfer to the Keifuku Randen tramline. The ride, in an old fashioned trolley car, lasts 20 minutes and follows a pleasant scenic route.
Traveling to Osaka
If you are traveling from central Kyoto, you might consider taking the private Hankyu Line from Kawaramachi or Karasuma Stations. This will get you to Umeda Station in around 40 minutes and cost you only 400 yen. The Hankyu Railway is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The alternative route to Osaka is to travel via Kyoto Station. The Special Rapid train on the JR Kyoto Line will get you to Osaka Station in 28 minutes for a fare of 560 yen. This route is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
Traveling to Kobe
If you are traveling from central Kyoto, you might consider taking the private Hankyu Line from Kawaramachi or Karasuma Stations. This will get you to Sannomiya Station in roughly 70 minutes or more. You will also have to transfer at Juso Station. The service is slower than taking the JR Kyoto Line but much cheaper at 620 yen. It may also be more convenient as you don’t have to go via Kyoto Station. Remember that the Hankyu Railway is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
The alternative route to Kobe is to travel on JR trains via Kyoto Station. The Special Rapid train on the JR Kyoto Line will get you to Sannomiya Station in Kobe in 51 minutes for a fare of 1080 yen. If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can take a high speed shinkansen to Shin-Kobe Station. This is much faster as it takes only 32 minutes, however Shin-Kobe Station is not as conveniently located as Sannomiya Station.
As the Hankyu Railway is a private company, it is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass. However, a Hankyu Tourist Pass is available for 1 or 2-day travel. This might be worth your while if you are planning to use Hankyu Railways between Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe.
Visitors from overseas can also get a Kansai Thru Pass (also called the Surutto Kansai Pass) for two or three days. This covers not only the Hankyu Railway but many of the private railways, buses and subway systems in Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara and Shiga. This pass cannot be used on JR Railways however. Visit the Kansai Thru Pass website to find out more.
Local residents can get a PiTaPa Pass which also covers many of the private railways, buses and subway systems in the Kansai Region. These are available from the stations of participating companies, however you will need a Japanese bank account to get one.
You can find timetables and station maps for the Kyoto Hankyu Main Line and Arashiyama Line at the Arukumachi Kyoto website. There is also a free bilingual PDF route map which you can download from the offical Hankyu Railway website. The Hankyu Kyoto Main Line and the Hankyu Arashiyama Branch Line are on the far left of the map and colored green. The Kobe Main Line is colored blue. To find a suitable train quickly and easily it is best to use an English language online route finder like Jorudan or Hyperdia.
Article and photos by Michael Lambe