Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Osaka/Kansai Region using JR Wide Area Pass

I visited Osaka once again last week and I am surprised to know that there are so many things that I haven't explored after more than 4 times of visiting the Kansai Region.

For this trip, I decided to book Jetstar because first, the flight from Manila leaves early in the morning at 6:55 AM and arrives Kansai before lunch, just right on time with the hotel checkin. The return flight is also convenient as it leaves Kansai Airport at 5:40PM and arrives Manila at 8:40PM.

So, let's get it on. First, I decided to visit Okayama, particularly the Korakuen Garden so for this trip, I chose the JR Wide Area Pass. It costs JPY7200 for unlimited rides including the shinkansen and haruka (unreserved seats) but only up to Okayama. This includes the Nozomi, Sakura or Hikari Shinkansen. I will discuss that later.

A 1-way ticket from Kansai Airport to Okayama is roughly JPY 7000 so a roundtrip ticket from Kansai to Okayama and back will definitely be worth the Kansai Wide Area Pass which also includes all the JR lines in the Kansai Region. 

Since this is the first time that I bought a JR pass, I am unfamiliar with it since unlike the Surutto Kansai Pass that works exactly like our MRT Cards using automatic gates, the JR pass should be inspected by the JR staff in all terminals. So when I arrived at Kansai, I went to the JR Office at the 2nd Floor of the Kansai Airport Terminal. So let's do this step by step:

This is the arrival area of Kansai Airport. Just follow the arrows that lead to the train/JR/Nankai line. Note that the JR Pass Exchange Office must be done at the JR Exchange Office and NOT at the Travel Desk (you get the Surutto Kansai Pass at the Travel Desk).

This is what you see after taking the escalator to the 2nd floor: the bridge that connects to the Kansai Airport  to the Kansai Airport Station:
Now from there, look to the left and you will see the JR Ticket Office. You will see something like this:

Go inside to get your JR Pass. In my case, I got my Kansai Wide Area Pass there. Now that you have the pass, you need to pass through the manned gate. This is the gate that has the PWD sign (and here is where the JR staff normally stays to inspect all tickets that are not IC.

The entrance to the JR line in Kansai Airport Station is marked with the "A" sign so you wont be lost. In the succeeding gates, you just need to pass through a similar manned gate/counter to access the trains. The JR pass will be inspected at this area. Same process in getting out of the station as you cannot use the automatic gates. Just the manned gate normally reserved for PWDs.

Now, if you hold a JR Kansai Wide Area Pass, you can ride the Haruka Train from Kansai Airport to Tennoji (nonstop) or the JR Rapid Express. The only difference is that the Rapid Express of JR from Kansai Airport to the Osaka Loop Line makes quite a number of stops unlike the Haruka that stops only at Tennoji before proceeding to Shin-Osaka (different from Osaka and Namba station) and then onward to Kyoto Station.

I got off at Shin-Osaka Station since from there, I took the Nozomi Shinkansen to Okayama (with just 1 stop at Kobe before proceeding to Okayama). If you want to go to Himeji, you can take the Shinkansen Sakura or Hikari since these trains stop at Himeji (after Shin-Kobe station).  Here are some more pics:

 One more thing: if you hold a JR Kansai Wide Area Pass, you need to go to the UNRESERVED area of the train. This is normally found at the end of the cars. You wont be lost since these areas are prominently marked in the platform and even inside the trains. You can enter the reserved area and walk until the end of the train where the UNRESERVED areas can be found. Another tip is that the unreserved area is usually at the far end of the platform =)

I will post later my discoveries on where best to shop =)

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