We love Kyoto.
To be honest, it is not such a surprising thought nor a divergent opinion, but we have to confess this city has an incredible charm starting right when you get out of the Shinkansen. Kanpai’s assiduous readers might remember that we already complained about it, especially about its very early curfew and not convenient transportation system, but the former capital remains an excellent choice for any travel in Japan, knowing all the enchanting moments it has to offer.
However, Kyoto still has a close and big enemy that many put aside due to little knowledge or stereotypes about it: Osaka. We already talked about this underrated city as, when arriving in the region, all travelers seem to have eyes only for the traditional charms of the neighbors. Forgetting Osaka is, we believe, a mistake, especially for its practical aspects.
Divided duration and costs
Judge by yourself the duration and costs of necessary transportation for the most common touristy excursions in Kansai or towards the West (from Hyperdia without reserved seats):
- Himeji: 44 minutes and ¥3,740 / ~US$ 34.30 from Osaka (via Shin-Osaka) vs. 46 minutes and ¥5,590 / ~US$ 51.20 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Nara: 58 minutes and ¥800 / ~US$ 7.30 from Osaka (via Shinimamiya or Tennoji) vs. 47 minutes and ¥710 / ~US$ 6.50 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Kobe: 26 minutes and ¥410 / ~US$ 3.80 from Osaka vs. 56 minutes and ¥1,080 / ~US$ 9.90 from Kyoto (via Osaka)
- Hiroshima (and Miyajima): 100 minutes and ¥10,440 / ~US$ 95.60 from Osaka (via Shin-Osaka) vs. 96 minutes and ¥11,410 / ~US$ 104.50 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Uji: 52 min and ¥970 / ~US$ 8.90 from Osaka (via Kyoto) vs. 19 minutes and ¥240 / ~US$ 2.20 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Koyasan: 114 minutes and ¥2,220 / ~US$ 20.20 from Osaka (via Shinimamiya) vs. 137 minutes and ¥4,130 / ~US$ 37.80 from Kyoto (via Osaka then Shinimamiya)
- Okayama: 59 minutes and ¥6,230 / ~US$ 57.10 from Osaka (via Shin-Osaka) vs. 60 minutes and ¥7,850 / ~US$ 71.90 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Nagoya: 63 minutes and ¥6,560 / ~US$ 60.10 from Osaka (via Shin-Osaka) vs. 35 minutes and ¥5,800 / ~US$ 53.10 from Kyoto (nonstop)
- Tottori: 147 minutes and ¥7,090 / ~US$ 65.00 from Osaka (nonstop) vs. 164 minutes and ¥9,660 / ~US$ 88.50 from Kyoto (via Himeji)
In most cases, we gain on travel duration and we save Yen on transportation costs, and even sometimes on both. Those knowing the Japan Rail Pass can be already eager to use it. Let’s not forget about KIX, aka Kansai International Airport, towards which commuting will remain half price and distance from anywhere in Osaka compared to coming from Kyoto.
In the above given examples, we based our traveling time on Osaka Station (Umeda), but the city has the advantage of having two other big centers of transportation, easily accessible: the Shinkansen station of Shin Osaka on the North, and the Southern trio with Namba, Tennoji and Shinimamiya. Therefore, there are many possibilities, while in Kyoto only the JR station really covers the outskirts of the city, and depending on the location of your accommodation, you may also count a budget for taxi or lot of patience for the buses, if it's still working!
Other criteria not to forget
Just like we said on another article, Kyoto lives on this paradox: it welcomes a large amount of tourists (including Western travelers) all year round, but its establishments seem to barely support them. And yet, there are times in the year where the city becomes stifling and impracticable because of the always more important flow of tourists:
- Ohanami and Koyo, respectively beginning of April and end of November, to contemplate the cherry trees blossoms (sakura) and the maple trees colors (momiji)
- Gion matsuri, the biggest festival in Japan which freezes the city center during several days long in mid-July
Whereas the Tenjin-sai blocks "only" the banks of Dotombori river for two days.
The common idea, added to numerous travel guides and word of mouth, tends to consider Kyoto-Nara as the alpha and omega of visiting the Kansai. Let’s be clear about it: we are not trying to minimize these cities, however we have to consider that other cities are not underrated, just like Osaka.
There are many good points, additionally to its transportation hubs, and Osaka offers a place to live of high quality (especially around Umeda and Namba) with a very easy access to Kyoto, ideal for a day excursion: count a little more than 25 minutes and about ¥560 (~US$ 5.10). It is even free with the JR Pass.
Last but not least: since the demand for Osaka is lower from the tourists, its accommodation prices are often less expensive. Osaka has many interests to be enjoyed! Anyway, the charming and traditional Kyoto acts like a city we can enjoy for several days, while Osaka is the ideal location to move around the Kansai.