Setting foot in Osaka for the first time, I was somewhat overwhelmed to learn the train system in Japan. There are so MANY types of trains I had to memorize from HARUKA, Airport Rapid, Nankai, Metro, to JR Pass, Shinkansen, and yadda yadda yadda.

It was 10 PM in Osaka and from what I recalled, the weather was pleasantly windy. While reading the itinerary notes I had been prepared, I, along with my cousin, unwaveringly walked towards the underground station.

Well, in the beginning everything was safe and under control. But then, the next thing I knew I was utterly disoriented in choosing which train to go to central Osaka. The night was late. I was in a big hurry and didn’t even have time to learn the MRT map.

osaka, train system in japan
Shinsaibashi. Located in the heart of Osaka, it’s a perfect place for you to visit if you want to shop. (source: Osaka Station).

There was no other way than asking the Japanese at the station for help. First, I asked this Japanese girl who didn’t seem to be able to speak English. But, to my surprise, she was eager to help anyway. First, she checked the schedule on the smartphone application and told me to get on the next train. So, I kept on waiting till the said train came. This time, the train came with a different form.

The previous train I got on was shaped like the Shinkansen, but this next train was shaped just like a plain Metro, only that the seats were pointing forward. I was quite certain this was the right train, but deep down I was reluctant to get on. I didn’t know why, maybe I was worried about getting lost too far in the city I wasn’t familiar with. Ah, a wishy-washy me! So, I decided to wait for the third train, hoping that I could wash away all my worries and be ready to get on.

Read More: ICOCA, E-Money That You Can Find in Osaka

The third train eventually arrived and it looked like a regular Metro. I learned that the train was bound for Osaka. I thought to myself that this was it; this was the right train to Osaka. So, with a bold move, I took a step to get on the train as I thrusted my suitcase inside.

And, there we were–my cousin and I, starting another new journey to the big city of Osaka. Our train was running. Chill out, just chill out, I told myself as I tried to relax my mind by enjoying the scenery of the busy, majestic town of Japan. But slowly, the worries came crushing me again just because I thought the name of the station I was passing didn’t match with what Google Maps mentioned.

Couldn’t help but hurriedly wake my sleeping cousin up to get off at the next stop, Hineno Station. The station was rather lonely and quiet, maybe because the night was pretty late. Hastily, we looked for the EXIT door, wishing to meet anyone who could give us directions. Then, we saw the woman sitting on the floor, listening to some music.

I asked her, but she just shook her head and answered with Japanese. It seemed futile since I couldn’t comprehend anything she said. Getting no answer, I thanked her and returned to the platform.

Lucky I bumped into Shiho!

Not long after coming back to the platform, a humble-looking man with glasses came and stopped near us. His face was still looking young. I guess he was on the way home from work. Judging from the fact that he looked fairly young, I presume he was a company intern. Anyhow, I hoped this young man knew where Tennoji Station was, I thought to myself.

cara ke pusat osaka
Stasiun Tennoji, one of the strategic landmarks  in Osaka. That is why I chose to stay here.

And… you know what? He was wholeheartedly willing to take us there! I mean, wow, he was so nice! Well, I assumed he couldn’t bear to see our silly confused faces, hahaha! Besides, it was already 11 PM for God’s sake. Long story short, we took the way together. I asked his name to drive away the awkwardness between us. His name was Shiho. Just like the others, Shiho was not very fluent in English, but what personally astonished me was the fact that he was willing to try.

“Where are you from?” asked him, little bit stammering. 
“Indonesia. Are you a student or…not?” I asked him back.
“No, I work.”

Talking with Shiho reminded me of the movies I had watched with Japanese people in them. They pronounce ‘R’ in a kind of distinctive (if not strange) way–a bit peculiar to hear it directly for the first time. In one moment, Shiho fell silent again, clumsily looking for something to talk about.

“It’s cold here, ya?”
“Yes, yes. Winter in %$%#$ Osaka,” he replied with a somewhat mix of English and Japanese, “How %#$# in Indonesia?”
“We only have two kinds of weather, summer and rainy. You should visit Indonesia”.

Our conversation with Shiho went quite well as the time flew without our knowing. Next thing we knew we had reached Tennoji Station (eventually!). We thanked Shiho a lot for his help. Then, he went in a different direction towards his home. As he walked away from us, I could clearly see that he was still checking us to make sure that we won’t get lost again. What an amiable guy he was, I had to say!

3 Ways to Reach the Heart of Osaka

If you are going to downtown Osaka, you can choose to take the train or bus. I myself have checked the train system in Japan beforehand, especially the ones that were still operating at 9 PM to 12 AM. Unfortunately, it was a particular mistake not to learn attentively about the shape of the trains we needed to take.

If you decide to take the train, the first thing you’ve got to do is find the location of the airport station on 2F. Follow the sign ‘Airport Station’ until you see the train gates for JR (blue) and Nankai (red). Next, look around until you see automatic ticket vending machines in gray, blue, and green: gray for single local train tickets, green for HARUKA and shinkansen, blue for ICOCA.

JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service

jr kansai airport rapid service
Kansai Rapid Service. This is the train that I once hesitated to ride, but fun fact: this is the right train I should have to take instead, hehehe. Even though it is similar to a regular train, the seats are forward-facing. (source: Pinterest).

You can access this train whether with a one-way ticket or ICOCA, but you will thank me later if you use ICOCA since it makes it a lot easier for you to transact. At first I intended to take this train to Tennoji Station because the operating hours are up until 11.32 PM (for more details, click here). But apparently, it was a regular train, not a rapid train. This is why I ended up getting lost into several stations instead of reaching Tennoji Station. Thank God I met that kind-hearted Shiho who gladly accompanied us from Hineno Station to Tennoji.

The price charged in taking the regular JR or rapid train is the exact same, which is 1,060 yen. The only difference is the speed. Anyway, if you are going to take the rapid one, make sure you read the information written on the running text on the side of the train. Or else, you can take the regular JR train (Kansaikuko Line) like me, but you have to transit at Hineno first, while the rapid one doesn’t require you to take any transits.

JR Haruka

cara ke pusat osaka
Haruka has a way more comfy seat than the rapid train, almost similar to the Shinkansen (source: Japan Rail Pass).

Unlike rapid, riding with a Haruka train will require you special tickets, so your ICOCA may not be working in this case. Well, I must say that Haruka is way more comfortable, while the price is also expensive, which is 2,330 yen to Tennoji and Osaka.

Fret not! You can get a discount if you buy ICOCA and Haruka together. The price is ¥ 1,100 (for the Haruka only). The seat you get is non-reserved, so you will only get the rest of it. Despite its super comfortness, I personally recommend this train only if you intend to go directly to Kyoto.

Nankai Airport Express

nankai airport express
Nankai Airport Express (source: Japan Travel).

Nankai Airport Express is similar to Haruka’s for its distinguishable exterior style compared to other public trains. The price per ticket is ¥ 1,600. This train is very accessible for those who stay the night at the hotel near Namba Station. Now, take note: if you’re interested in taking Nankai, you must pass the red gateway once you first arrive at the airport railway station.

Another important note is, in order not to get lost like me (hehe), it’s better to learn to distinguish the types of trains by paying attention to the exterior and interior. Believe me, it will save your time and energy. From what I learned, the more exclusive the type, the more luxurious-looking the shape will be. Also, don’t ever be afraid to ask local residents. Yes, they–the Japanese people– are sure super nice, friendly and will not hesitate to help you!

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