• Shona McCarthy

Riding the Nankai Rapit Express

(Photos I took of the Nankai Rapit, inside and out.)

When I was preparing for my most recent trip to Japan, one of the things I wanted to do was to pay for as much as possible in advance, meaning that I could largely put money out of mind for the rest. One of the things I definitely wanted to do on my last trip to Japan was visit Universal Studios Japan aka USJ. But I wanted some way to save a little money on it. So I ordered a ticket through Klook that came with discounted Nankai Rapit Express tickets.

It should be pointed out that I haven’t attempted to book Nankai Rapit Express Tickets under normal circumstances, so I can’t speak for all of the advantages and disadvantages there are to booking with Klook. But I want to point out that stations where the Nankai Rapit Express stops seem to have machines where you can buy tickets right on the platform. Meaning you could in theory buy a ticket when you arrive at the station and then get right on to the next service.

If you do book through Klook, the assumption is that you want to leave Osaka Kansai Airport to go to Namba as quickly as possible and in relative comfort, and then, at the end of your trip in Japan, you want to get back on at Namba or somewhere nearby and go back to the Airport as quickly as possible. You have to take your Klook vouchers over to a counter just outside Arrivals at Kansai Airport where you will be issued with special ticket vouchers. Then, you need to take these ticket vouchers to be exchanged in the Nankai Rapit Train Station to get your ticket.

This I did at Kansai Airport with the first ticket voucher. At the window, a man who didn’t seem to know any English offered me multiple service times I could take. It was this way that I learned you really need to check what time it is before you choose your ticket time with Nankai. They won’t tell you what time it is as they offer you service options. They expect you to know. Perhaps gullible I thought, “There is no way this guy would give me a ticket for a train I couldn’t catch. So, I’ll agree to the soonest service.” His behaviour gave me no indication at all that it was leaving anytime soon. So, I calmly fed my ticket through the turnstiles. I think I even let an elderly man take the elevator since he was in a wheelchair. Then I went down to the platform and arrived just as the Nankai Rapit Express was leaving. “No problem.” I thought. “I’ll just take the next one.” But the next one wasn’t coming for another 32 minutes! The station manager on the platform even told me to take the next express train that came. When I did the math on Google Maps, it turned out he was right. Waiting for the next Nankai Rapit wouldn’t have been worth it at all. Especially since the first place I was staying in Osaka was in Higashi-Nari, a fairly long way away from Namba. I dragged my two massive suitcases through from Namba to another station and then I think two more before I finally made my way to my first accommodation. The stress was so intense I nearly caught a cold, but was revived by some soup I bought at KFC.

Getting Back To the Airport

Now, what you need to know as the reader is that prior to this trip I was extremely paranoid about having problems getting back to the airport. So not only did I book return Nankai tickets, I also booked a room at Kubota in Kaizuka-Shi, one of the closest places you can stay to the airport, just in case something went wrong. The place I chose was even right by the Nankai line and as I navigated the day, I saw multiple Nankai Rapit trains pass me. But none of the stations anywhere near my hotel would accept my voucher. I even tried at Izumisano Station. The station managers looked greatly astonished at the voucher and couldn’t even offer to give me a regular ticket to take a standard Nankai train to the airport.

I looked at which stations I could make the exchange at. And then I picked the one that would cost the least to travel to. It turned out to be Tochigi, only one station before Namba. To give you some picture of how far out of my way I was having to go out of my way just to get back to the airport, here is a map showing where I was staying, where Namba is and where the Airport is.

(Google Maps)

As you can see, for me it all wasn’t really worth it in terms of time. But, I did want to be able to describe the experience of riding the Nankai Rapit for the sake of writing this article. So, I went through it all, anyway. The Rapit train itself is very distinctive to look at from the outside. Purple and shiney. The cone is shaped something like a Batman mask with the ears missing. Inside, it is very comfortable and well furnished, even if I felt the luggage space was a little small. It was packed full with an assortment of different suitcases and bags. There was no discernible odour. I couldn’t tell if there were toilets or a dining car or not. You get to see some beautiful views of Osaka out of the window, so you get to say a kind of “fond farewell”.

Above all, it was fast. The time it took to get from Tochigi to Kansai airport was 2x faster than the time it took for me to get from my accomodation to Namba.

All and all, I’d say that it’s definitely worth it to prebook the Nankai Rapit if you’re staying somewhere in the main city area of Osaka. It’s not really worth it if you’re staying somewhere on the outskirts, and certainly not worth it if you chose an accommodation close to the airport. Unless ofcourse you don't prebook and just buy your ticket on the platform.

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