Built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, about 75km southwest of Kyoto, Kansai International Airport (KIX) is the closest major international airport to Kyoto and Osaka. Here’s our full guide to making the most of KIX.
Kansai International Airport international departures floor: SIHASAKPRACHUM / Shutterstock.com
KIX Guide Overview
While many international visitors to Japan fly via Tokyo (Narita or Haneda), Kansai International Airport (KIX) is another good option, especially if you plan to spend time in Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe etc) or points further west. KIX handles most of Kansai’s international flights and a lot of its domestic flights.
KIX is a spacious modern airport with some excellent shopping and dining options. KIX consists of two terminals: Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is by far the larger of the two and it contains almost all the shopping, dining, activities and services. Terminal 2 is little more than two warehouse-like buildings servicing budget airlines. Terminal 1 is really the heart of KIX and you won’t have any need to visit the drab second terminal unless you are using a Low-Cost Carrier (LCC).
Kansai International Airport: tera.ken / Shutterstock.com
In this guide, we cover the following:
- Getting to KIX
- KIX Terminal 1
- What to Eat at Terminal 1
- Shopping at Terminal 1
- Things To Do at Terminal 1
- Terminal 1 International Departures Floor (4F)
- KIX Terminal 2
- Getting to Terminal 2
- What to Eat at Terminal 2
- Useful Tips for KIX
- Best Hotels at KIX
- Other Useful Information
Getting to KIX
The best way to get from Kyoto to KIX is the Haruka Airport Express train, which costs Y2980 and takes about 75 minutes. You can use a Japan Rail Pass on this train. It also runs from Osaka to KIX (stopping at Shin-Osaka and Tennoji).
Haruka Airport Express.: Coward Lion / Shutterstock.com
Another option from Kyoto to KIX is an airport limousine bus, which costs Y2500 and takes about 90 minutes. There are similar buses from Osaka, Kobe and Nara.
Kansai Airport Limousine Bus: TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com
For our full guide to transport to/from KIX, see our Kyoto Airport Transport page.
KIX Terminal 1 Guide
If you’ve taken the train to KIX, you’ll arrive in the KIX train station directly opposite Terminal 1. As soon as you clear the turnstiles, you’ll see a sign pointing to Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Most people will take a left toward Terminal 1.
Terminal sign after arrival from train – image © Chris Rowthorn
A few steps will bring you to the start of the bridge to Terminal 1. The arrows are a little confusing – whether you’re flying domestic or international, you should cross the bridge to the terminal.
Arriving at Terminal 1 from the train – image © Chris Rowthorn
If you’ve taken a limousine bus to KIX, you’ll arrive on the fourth floor, which is the international departures level.
Arriving at Terminal 1 by limousine bus – image © Chris Rowthorn
Assuming you’ve arrived by train, you’ll cross the bridge to Terminal 1.
Bridge from train station to Terminal 1 – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here’s the entrance to the terminal. This brings you into Terminal 1, 2F, which is the domestic departures floor.
Terminal 1 entrance from bridge to 2F – image © Chris Rowthorn
As soon as you enter the building, you will see elevators on your left. Take these to the 4F floor for international departures check-in. We suggest doing this before exploring the shopping and dining options in this terminal.
Elevator from 2F to international departures 4F – image © Chris Rowthorn
Just past the elevators, you’ll see the domestic departures check-in counters on both sides of you. In front of you will be an escalator. Both of the 2F restaurant halls are behind the escalator (on both sides).
2F Domestic departures – image © Chris Rowthorn
There’s a useful map next to the escalator.
Terminal 1 map on 2F – image © Chris Rowthorn
What to Eat at Terminal 1
The landside of terminal 1 is loaded with excellent restaurants. Indeed, for someone who is used to the drab dining options at North American airports (Sbarro anyone?), the options at KIX will leave you wondering: “Why can’t they do this back home?!” Most of the restaurants are located on the 2F (domestic departures) and 3F (shopping and dining floor), but you’ll find a few other options below the Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza across the way from Terminal 1 (on the other side of the train station), as well as a few small cafes on 1F (international arrivals) and 4F (international departures).
We recommend eating before you pass through security and customs. There are a few restaurants in Terminal 1 airside, but they’re not great and they’re limited.
Terminal 1/2F Domestic Departures Level Dining Options
There are two restaurant halls/food courts on 2F. On the south end (right side as you enter from the train station), you’ll find the Gourmet Avenue food court, which tends to less crowded than the other.
Gourmet Avenue food court – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here are some of the options in Gourmet Avenue:
Mosdo: A version of the MOS Burger chain that also serves donuts (hence, the “do”).
Mosdo – image © Chris Rowthorn
Hana Goyomi: A relatively refined soba noodle shop.
Hana Goyomi noodles – image © Chris Rowthorn
Nigiri no Tokube: A conveyor belt sushi shop that is always jammed.
Nigiri no Tokube conveyor belt sushi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Nigiri no Tokube interior – image © Chris Rowthorn
At the north end (on the left as you enter from the train station), you’ll find the ever-popular Machiya Koji restaurant hall/dining court.
Machiya Koji dining court – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here are some of the options in Machiya Koji:
Starbucks: Your best coffee option in Terminal 1.
2F Starbucks – image © Chris Rowthorn
Horai 551: A popular, cheap and greasy Osaka Chinese restaurant specializing in gyoza, pao and shumai. You can take away or sit down.
Horai 551 Chinese restaurant – image © Chris Rowthorn
Machiya Koji Food Court: A variety of mostly Japanese options spread out around a central dining area.
Machiya Koji food court – image © Chris Rowthorn
Teppan Curry Indo no Roux: An excellent Japanese-style curry rice shop.
Teppan Curry Indo no Roux – image © Chris Rowthorn
Ryukishin: A so-so ramen restaurant.
Ryukishin ramen – image © Chris Rowthorn
At the far south end of 2F, you’ll find a McDonald’s.
McDonald’s – image © Chris Rowthorn
Terminal 1/3F Shops and Dining Level
If none of the above options strike your fancy, head to 3F, which is entirely dedicated to shopping (south end) and dining (north end). Here are some of the restaurants on 3F:
Boteju: Tasty okonomiyaki and yakisoba.
Boteju okonomiyaki – image © Chris Rowthorn
Ganko Sushi: Decent sushi and other Japanese dishes (sit at the counter and order nigiri a la carte if you feel adventurous).
Ganko Sushi – image © Chris Rowthorn
Ganko Sushi interior – image © Chris Rowthorn
KYK Tonkatsu: Good tonkatsu and other fried dishes.
KYK Tonkatsu – image © Chris Rowthorn
Benitoro Gyozaro: Gyoza and lots of other Chinese dishes.
Benitora Gyozaro Chinese restaurant – image © Chris Rowthorn
Sojibo: Good soba and udon in relatively refined surroundings.
Sojibo soba – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kamakura Soup with Noodles: Passable ramen in an approachable setting.
Kamakura Soup with Noodles – image © Chris Rowthorn
Sachifukuya: Healthy set meals of home-style Japanese food (good stuff).
Sachifukuya Japanese restaurant – image © Chris Rowthorn
Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza Restaurants
During busy seasons, all of the restaurants in Terminal 1 can be crowded. At these times, savvy travelers walk across the bridges to the Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza, which has a small restaurant hall of the 2F level.
Here are the offerings at Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza:
Matsuya Gyudon: Japanese fast-food beef bowls. Cheap and relatively tasty.
Matsuya gyudon – image © Chris Rowthorn
Oragaya: Simple soba and udon dishes.
Oragaya soba – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kappogi: An izakaya with the usual food and beer/sake offerings.
Kappogi izakaya – image © Chris Rowthorn
Shopping at Terminal 1
Most of the shops in Terminal 1 are located on the 3F shopping/dining level. Here are some of our favorite shops on this level:
Daiso: A branch of Japan’s most popular 100 yen shops.
Daiso 100 yen shop – image © Chris Rowthorn
Uniclo: A limited selection from Japan’s excellent and stylish casual clothing brand.
Uniclo – image © Chris Rowthorn
Hakuhin Toy Park: A must for last-minute gifts for the kiddies.
Hakuhin Toy Park – image © Chris Rowthorn
Pokemon Store: If your kid’s addicted to this game, you can’t miss this shop.
Pokemon Store – image © Chris Rowthorn
Muji to Go: A small selection of distinctive Japanese products. Great for souvenirs.
Muji to Go – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kokokara Fine: The best pharmacy at KIX.
Kokokara Fine pharmacy – image © Chris Rowthorn
Tachikichi: A famed Kyoto brand with some really lovely Kyoto goods. Highly recommended for nice gifts and souvenirs.
Tachikichi Kyoto goods store – image © Chris Rowthorn
You’ll find several other shops scattered around Terminal 1. The most useful are:
Lawson: The best convenience store at KIX. Great for drinks, snacks and onigiri etc. It’s at the south end of 2F.
Lawson convenience store – image © Chris Rowthorn
Tsutaya: This Japanese bookstore has a good selection of English-language books on Japan and a smaller section of general English-language books. It’s at the south end of 2F.
Tsutaya bookstore – image © Chris Rowthorn
Tsutaya books on Japan – image © Chris Rowthorn
Tsutaya English books – image © Chris Rowthorn
Applause Gift Court: This shop specializes in Japanese sweets to give as gifts and souvenirs. Several of Kansai’s best sweet shops have sections here. Choose well here and you will make someone very happy.
Applause Gift Court – image © Chris Rowthorn
Applause Gift Court shop – image © Chris Rowthorn
Franz machiya strawberry sweets – image © Chris Rowthorn
Things to Do at Terminal 1
KIX Airport Lounge: If you desperately need a shower or nap, or just want to escape the crowds and get some work done, then the KIX Airport Lounge is an economical and good option. It’s at the south end of 2F.
KIX Airport Lounge- image © Chris Rowthorn
KIX Airport Lounge interior – image © Chris Rowthorn
Rafine: If your neck is hurting merely from the anticipation of your 12-hour flight home, then stop by Rafine for a quick massage. It’s at the north end of 2F.
Rafine massage – image © Chris Rowthorn
Post Office: If you want to send a few letters or postcards before heading home, hit the post office at the north end of 2F. There’s also a postal ATM for Japanese cash.
Post Office – image © Chris Rowthorn
Terminal 1 4F International Departures Floor
In addition to all the great stuff listed above, there are some useful services on 4F, the international departures floor.
4F International Departures – image © Chris Rowthorn
Here are some of the most useful services on 4F:
Your Wrap: If you’re worried about your luggage coming apart en route, why not get it wrapped tightly in plastic?
Your Wrap luggage wrapping service – image © Chris Rowthorn
Repacking Area: Don’t be one of those people desperately opening their suitcases on the floor in front of a check-in counter to redistribute their belongings in hopes of avoiding excess baggage fees. Instead, do your repacking at the designated repacking area, which has a handy scale to see just how much more you have to take out of your suitcase and cram into your carry-on bag.
Repacking Area – image © Chris Rowthorn
Repack Area scales – image © Chris Rowthorn
Business Center: It’s not particularly fancy, but if you need to use a computer or send a fax, this is the place to stop.
Business center – image © Chris Rowthorn
Starbucks: If you need just one more shot of caffeine to get you to the gate, this mini-Starbucks at the back of the hall should do the trick.
4F Starbucks – image © Chris Rowthorn
Security Wait Time Sign: Security tends to be fast and efficient at KIX, but you can still save a few minutes by finding the fastest line. This sign has the details. It’s near the back of the hall.
Security wait time sign – image © Chris Rowthorn
KIX Terminal 2 Guide
Terminal 2 at KIX seems explicitly designed to punish people who take Low-Cost Carriers (LLCs). It’s sort of a pain to get to and once there, you’ll wish you had chosen a legacy carrier. It’s really just two warehouses where you stand in line to check in. If you want to do any dining or shopping, do it at Terminal 1 before heading over to Terminal 2.
KIX Terminal 2 – image © Chris Rowthorn
Getting to Terminal 2
To get to Terminal 2, first, head to the KIX train station. From there, look across to see the Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza building. Take the bridge to that building (there are moving walkways to speed your journey).
Bridge from train station to Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza – image © Chris Rowthorn
Once there, enter the atrium and look for the signs for the free shuttle bus to Terminal 2 on your left.
Signs for shuttle bus to Terminal 2 – image © Chris Rowthorn
Take the escalator down to the boarding area.
Escalator to shuttle bus to Terminal 2 – image © Chris Rowthorn
The buses come frequently.
Shuttle bus boarding point – image © Chris Rowthorn
The buses are free and they have some spaces where you can put your luggage.
Shuttle bus to Terminal 2 – image © Chris Rowthorn
Terminal 2 Guide
The trip to Terminal 2 takes a couple of minutes. When you get to the bus stop at Terminal 2, you will see the domestic departure hall on your left.
Terminal 2 domestic departure hall – image © Chris Rowthorn
There’s a small café in the domestic departure hall.
Pronto Café – image © Chris Rowthorn
There’s also a restaurant that serves simple meals.
Lion Restaurant – image © Chris Rowthorn
And there’s a convenience store.
7-11 convenience store – image © Chris Rowthorn
To the right of the bus stop, you’ll find the international departure hall, which is even less pleasant than the domestic departures hall, mostly due to the ever-present crowds.
Terminal 2 international departure hall – image © Chris Rowthorn
Useful Tips for KIX
After flying through KIX for years, we’ve picked up a few tips:
- Take the Haruka: The Haruka Airport Express is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to KIX. If you want to avoid the crowds, get a reserved seat or a Green Car seat.
- Eat landside: The best restaurants are in Terminal 1/landside. There are a few restaurants airside, but they’re not great and usually crowded.
- Eat under the hotel to escape crowds: The restaurants at Hotel Nikko/Aeroplaza are way less crowded than those elsewhere.
- Stay at the airport: If you’ve got an early flight or late arrival, stay at the Nikko or First Cabin (see following hotels section).
Recommended Kansai International Airport Hotels
If you’ve got an early morning flight or a late arrival, you may want to stay at or near the airport. Here are the best places to do so:
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
Right at KIX, this hotel is where we stay when we have early departures. Rooms are spacious and quiet and they can deal with families. There’s nothing like waking up at a reasonable hour and then strolling for one minute to get to the departure hall. Rates can be surprisingly reasonable as well!
Hotel Nikko Kansai Airport – image © Booking.com
First Cabin Kansai Airport
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
If your finances don’t extend to the Nikko, then this is your only other option right at KIX. It’s a perfectly good no-frills option with small but efficient “cabins”. It’s about a two-minute walk to Terminal 1 and also very close to the shuttle bus to Terminal 2.
First Cabin Kansai Airport – image © Booking.com
Swissotel Nankai Osaka
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
You don’t have to stay right at KIX to be very near to the airport in terms of time. The private Nankai Line’s Rapi:t express runs from Osaka’s Namba Station to KIX in 34 minutes. Conveniently, the Swissotel Nankai Namba is located directly above Nankai Namba Station. It’s a superb hotel with some mind-boggling views over Osaka and beyond.
Swissotel Nankai Osaka – image © Booking.com
Hotel Granvia Kyoto
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
As mentioned earlier, the JR Haruka Airport Express runs from Kyoto Station to KIX in 75 minutes. The Hotel Granvia Kyoto is located directly above Kyoto Station. So, you can get a good night’s sleep here and then have a very easy stroll to your airport train. And, it’s a great hotel to boot!
Hotel Granvia Kyoto – image © Booking.com
For more KIX airport hotel picks, including hotels directly across the bridge from KIX in Wakayama (with free airport shuttle service), see Kansai International Airport Hotels.
Other Useful Information
- Kyoto Airport Transport
- Osaka Airport Transport
- Kansai International Airport Hotels
- Narita Airport Guide
- Haneda Airport Guide
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)