July 2, 2017

Review: Kansai-Airport Express Haruka Green Car KIX to Kyoto Station

Planning & Booking
Planning & Booking II
Star Alliance First & Business Class Lounge LAX
Asiana First Class A380 LAX to Seoul (ICN)
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul (ICN)
Asiana A330-300 Business Class Seoul (ICN) to Osaka (KIX)
Kansai-Airport Haruka Express Green Car Kansai Airport to Kyoto Station
The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
JAL Sakura Business Class Lounge Osaka (KIX)
Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300 Kyoto (KIX) to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong to San Francisco
Hyatt Regency SFO

After clearing immigration, we followed the signs (in English) to the Haruka Express train.  I had read a fair amount about taking the train from Kansai Airport to Kyoto but the ticket situation was somewhat baffling.  We didn't need a JR pass and while there were discount options, I couldn't figure out how to purchase a discounted green car (first class) ticket in advance.  We certainly didn't need the first class experience but figured it would be worth reviewing.

We made it to the train station and headed to one of the green automated ticket kiosks.  I've had a fair amount of experience purchasing train tickets in other countries but this was a whole new level.  I finally managed to figure it out with a lot of help from Emily and a return from the station entrance gate to the ticket kiosk to get another ticket.  You need the ticket as well as the "express" surcharge ticket.  I should note that you need a chip and PIN card to make a purchase at the kiosk.  I was able to use my Barclays Arrival card with no issues - it's the only chip and PIN (that I know of) enabled card in my fairly large portfolio.  I imagine you could make a purchase with cash or a credit card at the staffed ticket counter but that would certainly take a bit more time and be less fun.

Correct tickets in hand, we made our way into the station and down the escalator for the train.  We had reserved seats on the green car for a specific train.  Service is limited on the platform to a handful of vending machines which makes sense considering there is one vending machine in Japan for every 23 people!

The train pulled up a few minutes prior to departure time and we boarded, stored our bags, and found our seats.  There were only a few other passengers in the green car so we had plenty of room to spread out.

The train left on time (to the minute) and we were off on the 75 minute journey to Kyoto Station.  The green car was very comfortable - seats were arranged in a 1 x 2 configuration with maybe 15 rows of seats.  There was plenty of storage above the seats.  Seats recline and have foot rests.

We were both glued to the window as we made our way through Osaka and up to Kyoto.  This limited express train only makes a handful of stops and reaches speeds of about 80 mph.  Not bullet train speeds by any means but still fast.

Once again, we pulled into Kyoto Station exactly on time, grabbed our things, and followed the signs to the taxi queue where a white gloved taxi driver would take us to the Ritz Carlton for about $15 USD.

Final Thoughts:
What a great way to travel.  Trains are just so relaxing.  There's minimal waiting, no security lines, plenty of room to spread out, and beautiful scenery out the large windows.  This is definitely the way to get to Kyoto from KIX.  The upgrade to the green car seemed worth it and we ended up doing it again on the return where we were the only people in the car.

Don't worry about getting tickets in advance unless you are traveling on a very tight budget.  I couldn't completely figure out the exact discount if we had purchased the discount card upfront but I think it would have been around $40 USD for two for the roundtrip.

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