I am quite sure you must be at a loss on how to figure things out when you tour Osaka without availing of a package tour. A lot has done it and frankly, Osaka tranport system is very user-friendly although I must admit, it is daunting at first. So, as far as my itinerary is concerned, this is how I did my Osaka tour.
Day 0: Arrival at Osaka Kansai International Airport (night time if Cebu Pacific, early morning if Jetstar. And yes, Jetstar flies to Osaka from Thursday to Monday)
Day 1: Himeji Castle, Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (entire day)
Day 2: Nara (Todaiji Temple, Nara Deer Park)
Day 3: Kyoto (whole day), visit Gion, Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine
Day 4: Kobe and Osaka (Osaka Castle, Dotonbori shops, Glico Man, etc), shop at Rinku Town Outlet Shops before proceeding to Kansai International Airport departure at night (via Cebu Pacific)
Now, given the itinerary above, you will see that you will be moving around the Kansai Region. Given that, you will have to decide which way to go: is it via the JR West Rail Pass? Surutto Kansai Pass? or will it be more advantageous for you to just buy a pre-loaded SUICA card and simply top up when your credits run out?
The questions above are quite easy to answer. True, JR Pass gives you access to all JR lines in the west/Kansai region BUT you cannot use the pass on subways or any other train except those marked as JR. The SUICA card may be good if you will be just selecting some of the spots. However, (and this is my recommendation), if you intend to go to all the places specified in my itinerary, the runaway winner is the Surutto Kansai 3-day pass. The reason is because it gives you access to all lines in Kansai region except those from JR. It is even accepted in the subways in Kyoto. To illustrate, this is a summary of expenses to complete a 3-whole day tour:
|Nankai Limited Express to Namba||920|
|Namba to Umeda||240|
|Umeda to Sanyo Himeji||1490|
|Himeji to Akashi||670|
|Akashi to Umeda||920|
|Umeda to Namba||240|
|Nara Kintetsu to Namba||560|
|Namba to Yodoyabashi||240|
|Keihan Yodoyobashi to Gion||410|
|Gion to Fushimi Inari||210|
|Fushimi Inari to Gion Shijo||210|
|Gion to Yodoyabashi||410|
|Yodoyabashi to Namba||240|
|Namba to Kobe||410|
|Kobe to Namba||410|
|Namba to Tanimachiyonchome||240|
|Tanimachiyonchome to Namba||240|
|Namba to Kansai||920|
Note that all figures are in Japanese Yen. The total cost, if you will opt to buy the SUICA and just pay for every destination, is JPY 9540. If you will buy the Surutto Kansai Pass, it will only cost JPY 5000 so that is almost 50% savings. Note also that if you will be staying at a hotel not situated at Namba, you will again have to add more or less JPY 240 per train travel from Namba to your hotel. Also remember that JR Pass does not cover subways so that's an additional expense everytime you will be taking the subway.
I have not tried using the JR West Rail Pass since, as I said before, it is not honored in subways so it is a bit restrictive for me.
So where will you buy the Surutto Kansai Pass? From Kansai Airport Arrivals, just look for the Travel Desk and ask for a 3-day Surutto Kansai Pass.
Picture above is taken from Travel Desk's Official Twitter Account =).
You will need to present your passport to get the Surutto Kansai Thru Pass.
I hope this helps people who are still undecided on which pass to take.