Riding Kansai’s Hello Kitty HARUKA

ByJustin Hanus
May 29, 2024

Riding Kansai’s Hello Kitty HARUKA

There is now an extra-fun way to reach Osaka and Kyoto from Kansai International Airport: the Hello Kitty HARUKA train. It’s not just for fans of Hello Kitty (although they will likely be most excited to ride this train) — it’s a fun experience for all passengers.

What are the Hello Kitty HARUKA Trains?

HARUKA are super-express trains featuring a Hello Kitty design inside and out. The express train itself has been running since the opening of Kansai International Airport in 1994, but the Hello Kitty design wasn’t introduced until 2019. Originally, though, only six HARUKA trains featured the theme. Their huge popularity led all the trains to receive the makeover by 2021.

What Do the Trains Look Like?

The super-express train used to have a sleek white body. This is now covered with a traditionally-inspired floral motif along with the famous Hello Kitty character, created by Sanrio. The result is intended to be both timeless and kawaii.

There are now four different designs, meaning you may have a difference experience if you go to and from the airport a few times. The designs are called:

Butterfly — A navy blue and red design featuring butterflies and blossoms
Ori-Tsuru — Meaning origami crane, it has a pink color palette featuring folded paper cranes
Kanzashi — Featuring ornamental hairpins, combs, and other traditional hair embellishments
Ougi — Japanese folding fans feature in the design along with four-leaf clovers in an earthy color palette

The interior features the same pattern as the exterior in places like the doors, walls, and restrooms. Although there is no merchandise for sale in the train, you can purchase souvenirs like mugs and tote bags at the Kyoto Railway Museum Shop and online at the Train Box store.

There’s no food to purchase onboard, but there is free Wi-Fi and charging ports.

The Route

From Kansai International Airport, you can take the HARUKA to Tennoji (a 35-minute journey), Shin-Osaka (a 50-minute journey), and Kyoto Station (a 80-minute journey). Of course, you can also take the same route in reverse to reach Kansai International Airport. It’s the only line running directly between the airport and Kyoto.

Purchasing a Ticket

If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you won’t need to purchase a ticket for the HARUKA train. However, it may be worth making a seat reservation (which is free), as the train is popular and does fill up during peak season. The busiest times are Golden Week and Obon.

If you don’t have a JR Rail Pass, you’ll need to purchase an unreserved, reserved, or green seat. Green is first class in a luxury carriage, also available for an additional fee for JR Rail Pass holders (or free for Japan Rail Green Pass holders). Purchase tickets at the Travel Service Center ticket counter at the airport or from the Green ticket machines.

If you’re heading to Kyoto from the airport, taking the HARUKA makes sense, as it’s the only way to avoid changing trains. Although you have more options if you’re traveling between the airport and Osaka, it’s worth opting for HARUKA for the added experience of Hello Kitty on the train.

SEASONposter, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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