Kansai International Airport is one of Japan’s (日本) most important airports along with Haneda (羽田) and Narita (成田) Airport in Tokyo (東京). As the name suggests, it serves the Kansai (関西) region in Western Japan, being located very closely to Osaka (大阪) and relatively so to Kyoto (京都).
If you plan to start your journey to Japan in either of those cities instead of Tokyo, you will land at this airport. The airport floats on a man-made island about 40 kilometers from Osaka city.
As soon as it was built back in 1994, it immediately started handling all international air traffic that was previously dealt with by Osaka’s other airport, Itami airport (伊丹空港). This one now mainly serves domestic flights only.
Itami airport is closer to Kyoto than Kansai International airport. Many visitors that land in Tokyo and come to Kansai via Shinkansen (新幹線) will want to fly back home from Tokyo. Boarding a short 1-hour flight from Itami airport is a quick and cheap method to do so.
When I first traveled to Japan in July 2017, I booked a multi-stop flight back to Frankfurt that allowed me to start in Itami and fly back home via Haneda without worry about luggage and such. Pretty handy.
Anyway, back to Kansai International Airport.
Kansai International Airport's Layout
The airport has 2 terminals total. Terminal 1 is the main attraction where almost all of the long-distance flights depart from. It has its own train station and lots of bus connections, making it very accessible.
The second terminal is mostly for low-budget airline carriers for domestic use or to nearby countries like South Korea or Taiwan.
It is only accessible via a free shuttle bus from Terminal 1.
Services & Facilities
Tourist Information centers, JR offices for your Japan Rail Pass or IC-Card (in Kansai you’ll get the Icoca card instead of Suica but the usage is the same. It should also work just fine in Tokyo and the likes.) and rental opportunities for cars, pocket WiFi or SIM Cards.
In addition, the airport is open 24 hours a day and has multiple convenience stores and bathroom facilities. So, if you’re looking to spend parts of the night there due to late or early flight time, you’ll be just fine.
Speaking of late or very early flights, be sure to check the available transportation to get to the airport. Most trains and buses don’t run after 22:00 and before 8:00 in the morning so you will have to plan around that. There is however an hourly bus from Osaka Station (大阪駅) that runs all throughout the night (it leaves at full hours, e.g. 1:00, 2:00, etc.)
How to get to Kansai International Airport
There are a number of different methods you can use to get to the airport.
First you have the usual airport limousine bus that takes about an hour and costs 1,500 Yen (12€/$14) from central Osaka. This is certainly not the fastest method but will give you a better view of the environment if you’re a fan of that. These buses usually leave every 30 minutes or every hour during later times.
Wherever you want to go, there is always the option of the taxi. I do not recommend using this method however as it is tremendously expensive. A ride to and from the airport will easily cost you at least 15,000 (120€/$150) or even 17,500 Yen (141€/$159) if it’s late at night. On top of that, it takes pretty much the same amount of time as the bus. Please only use a taxi if all else fails.
Train connections offer by far the most variety and accessibility, as expected.
Nankai Airport Express
This is the cheapest method to get to and from Kansai International Airport. It costs 900 Yen (7,26€/$8.18) one way and takes about 45 minutes. Keep in mind that this is a normal commuter train though, thus stops at multiple stops along the way and can get pretty crowded during busy hours.
The faster alternative from Nankai Railways. This train takes about 10-15 minutes less and stops at fewer stations. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about a seat or highly crowded trains as all seats are reserved. A ride to Osaka’s Namba Station costs 1,400 Yen (11€/$13).
JR Kansai Airport Rapid
Next are of course the Japan Railways options. This one can easily be compared to the Nankai Airport Express, being very similar. It serves every major central station in Osaka. A ride to Tennoji Station will take about 50 minutes and cost 1,000 Yen (8,06€/$9.09). Same thing as above, this is a normal commuter train so be aware of that.
JR Limited Express "Haruka"
Lastly, we have the fastest option to central Osaka from JR. It has both reserved and unreserved seats and generally has a similar feeling to a Shinkansen. With this, you can even come and go from/to Kyoto, with a travel time of about 70 minutes and 3,500 Yen (28€/$32) in cost.
On this train, there is a special offer going on. If you have the Icoca IC-Card that I talked about earlier, you can get a huge discount on your ticket to and from the airport! A ride to Tennoji Station will cost 1,100 Yen (9€/$10) instead of 2,000 (16€/$18) and to Shin-Osaka Station it will be 1,300 Yen (10,48€/$11.81) instead of 3,000 (24€/$27)!
This alone is more than enough reason to get yourself that Icoca card. If you’re curious about how to get your hands on one, check out this article. I explain the process with the example of the Suica card for Tokyo, but it is the same for Icoca as well.
For the trips in the other direction, from Kansai Airport to central Osaka, just switch around all the methods mentioned above!
Hotels around Kansai International Airport
There are about 4 hotels in close vicinity to the airport. If you’re looking to spend a quick night before heading into the fray, these are excellent options.
Two of these hotels are directly adjacent to the Terminal 1 building, namely the Hotel Nikko and First Cabin. As the name suggests, the latter is a capsule hotel. They are a tad cheaper than a regular one, but you don’t get a full room. I recommend trying it out at some point, though not for too many nights.
The two other hotels are located around nearby Rinku Town Station which is only a 5-minute train ride away. Both of these offer free shuttle buses to the airport from around 5:00 until 23:00 in the evening.
You can get your IC-Card and activate your Japan Rail Pass. If you want to you can get yourself pocket WiFi or a SIM Card and also exchange some money if you still need to. All-in-all, Kansai International Airport will prepare you for the rest of your journey.
And that’s it for Kansai Airport, I hope you enjoyed it!
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For my next post I am going to talk about Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan!
See you there!