What the Limited Express?
The JR Limited Express trains are trains that have fewer stops along their lines, as well as a “seat fee”.
If you are just traveling in Japan, you will probably have a JR Pass, and if you don’t, you should. JR Pass covers the Limited Express fees, so for the most part, JR Pass holders do not have to worry about calculating fees. On the other hand, if you are going to be in Japan longer than three months, you will not be able to have a JR Pass, and will have to pay everything out of pocket.
About JR West Limited Express Ticket Fees
Now, we will discuss the fees associated with the JR West Limited Express trains.
Limited Express fees can be a little tricky. The total ticket fee is comprised of up to two fees: the fare to your destination and the price of your seat. The cost to your destination depends on the distance you want to travel, but the total price of your ticket can vary a lot depending on which seat you want. Green car seats are the most expensive, since they are like first class. Your average seats are in the reserved car, and then there is the non-reserved car. The non-reserved car, like the name implies, has no reserved seats for customers. While this means you might have to stand for the duration of your trip if you can’t find any seat at all (rarely happen though), it is 520 yen less than the reserved car.
Furthermore, I’d like to add that switching from one Limited Express line to another is not a good idea. If you go from one Limited Express to another you will more than likely add *more* fees. The reason for this is because you must pay for your seat on each Limited Express train you ride.
Exploring Japan on JR West Limited Express
Now we will talk about which JR West Limited Express trains go where. Since our home base is in Osaka, all the trains in this section leave from major stations in Osaka City, like Osaka or Shin-Osaka Station.
The Hokuriku region is a popular get away. It is full of many historic cities, delicious food, and relaxing onsen. Kanazawa is an especially popular tourist destination, not just because of the points already mentioned, but also because it is the gold capital of Japan.
If you head to Hokuriku via the Limited Express, you will probably take the Thunder Bird. A Thunder Bird train leaves Osaka Station every 30 minutes and takes only 2 hours to Fukui, and then and 3 hours to Kanazawa. Given that it takes 5 hours to get Kanazawa by bus, the Thunder Bird is very convenient and quick.
Major Stops: Tsuruga, Fukui, Kaga Onsen, Kanazawa
The Sanin region has also many tourist spots and nationally famous onsen. There are several Limited Express trains that go to the Sanin region, each taking a different route. If you decide to check out the Sanin region because to do some research ahead of time. Train service as a whole in the Sanin region is very sparse, so need to be sure about the train schedule ahead of time, especially if you need to change lines.
The fastest train to the Sanin region is the Super Hakuto, which runs once every two hours. Tottori with its large sand dunes, is a popular stop along this line. It will take you X hour to get to Tottori from Osaka Station. If you have a JR Pass, be careful when you take this train because it uses a non-JR train line, the Chizu Express, to get to Tottori; meaning you have to pay for the time the train used the Chizu Express line.
Major Stops: Kobe, Himeji, Sayo, Tottori, Kurayoshi
The Koonotori and Kinosaki are the Limited Express that goes to Kinosaki Onsen, major tourist destinations in the Kansai region. Koonotori departs from Osaka and Kinosaki from Kyoto, respectively. It takes only 2 hour to get to Kinosaki Onsen from each destination.
Major Stops: Fukuchiyama, Toyooka, Kinosaki Onsen
Hashidate goes from Kyoto to Amanohashidate via Sanin Line, which takes only 2 hours. This train does not go through Osaka.
Major Stops: Ayabe, Fukuchiyama, Miyazu, Amanohashidate
Hamakaze runs only three times a day and is bound for Hamasaka, via the JR Bantan Line. This train goes though some really remote countryside areas and is a bit slow, but it is the only Limited Express train that goes to Takeda Castle and Ikuno Silver Mining from Osaka. It also goes to Kinosaki Onsen.
Major Stops: Kobe, Himeji, Ikuno, Toyooka, Kinosaki Onsen, Kasumi
The following are trains bound for Wakayama Prefecture and the tip of the Kii Peninsula. South Wakayama is home to Shirahama, a major tourist destination in the Kansai region. Shirahama has popular beaches and relaxing onsen, so its a great vacation spot.
South Wakayama is also where you can find Kumano. Kumano has three big shrines, the Kumano Sanzan. Each of these shrines have ties to some of the earliest stories of Japanese mythology and the arrival of Emperor Jimmu.
The Kuroshio goes to the south Wakayama and has service from Tenno-ij and Shin-Osaka stations once an hour. After Wakayama Station, it runs along the shoreline, so passengers can enjoy some great scenic views.
Major Stop: Wakayama, Kii-tanabe, Shirahama, Kii-Katsura,
For Kansai Airport
If you need to get to the Kansai Airport from Kyoto or vise-versa, then the Haruka is more convenient. It runs twice an hour and goes directly from the airport to Kyoto. Keep in mind that the Haruka does not stop in Osaka. So, if you’d like to visit Osaka’s central city area, consider the Rapi:t via the Nankai Line instead.