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To Yoshino on the Blue Symphony Express


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The average delay on Japan’s world famous Shinkansen bullet train service is less than a minute! Shinkansen trains have been designed to “feel like an airplane,” and operate at speeds of 240kph-320kph, which cuts the travel time between Tokyo and Osaka (552.6 kilometers) down to as little as 2 hours and 30 minutes! But did you know that Japan has trains that are even more comfortable, albeit more sedate, than the legendary Shinkansen?


Besides the Shinkansen, several Japanese railway companies also offer special “Sightseeing Trains” that operate along scenic railways and provide a unique travel experience in carriages that offer extra comfort and first-class service. One such train is "Blue Symphony", a sightseeing express train operated by the Kintetsu Private Railway Company in Kansai. Debuting in September of 2016, it has since established itself as one of the finest sightseeing train experiences in all of Japan.




Blue Symphony

The Blue Symphony is a special limited express train that operates between Osaka Abenobashi Station, in Osaka’s bustling Tennoji district, and Yoshino Station in the mountains of Nara. It is the ultimate way to access the stunning and beautiful Mt. Yoshino, famous for its 30,000 plus sakura trees, rich culture, historical importance and glorious autumn colors.



Boarding the Blue Symphony Express feels like stepping inside the pages of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express.” The passenger cars are decked out with plush carpeting, large picture windows with drapes, brass luggage racks, elegant wood paneling and complimentary decor, and comfortable green velour chairs that would not look out of place in an English stately home.


A saloon-style seating arrangement and wooden tables with candle-lantern-shaped lights complete the “Orient Express” feel (though outlets at every row for charging one’s various devices provide convenience and a reminder that this is the 21st century).



The Blue Symphony’s central “Lounge Car” is equally elegant. It’s brightly lit and features more wood and brass, leather upholstered seating and a bar designed to replicate the ambience of a high-class hotel. The food and drink available on board are unique to the places the Blue Symphony passes through. Many areas along the Minami-Osaka Line and the Yoshino Line are perfectly suited to growing fruits, including Asuka Ruby strawberries, Kawachi grapes, figs and oranges.


There’s also a small library area with park-bench-like seating for anyone who wants to enjoy some of the books on offer, which range from stylish picture books of sightseeing spots that the train passes through, to practical travel guides and historical works.


The main locations of interest along the route are historic Asuka, scenic Mitarai Valley, and the hot spring town of Dorogawa Onsen but here is the full list of stops along the Kintetsu Railway’s Minami Osaka Line on which the Blue Symphony runs:

Osaka Abenobashi – Shakudo – Takadashi – Kashiharajingu-mae – Asuka – Tsubosakayama – Yoshinoguchi – Fukugami – Shimoichiguchi – Muda – Yamato-Kamiichi – Yoshinojingu – Yoshino



The Blue Symphony makes 2 roundtrip journeys per day.


  • The first Yoshino bound train leaves Osaka Abenobashi Station at 10:10 am and arrives at Yoshino at 11:28.


  • The second train leaves Osaka Abenobashi Station at 2:10 pm and arrives at Yoshino at 3:28pm


  • The first return train departs from Yoshino at 12:34 pm and arrives at Osaka Abenobashi Station at 1:51pm


  • The second train leaves Yoshino at 4:04 pm and arrives at Osaka Abenobashi Station at 5:22pm



Buying Tickets

Because the Blue Symphony is a special sightseeing train and also a limited express service you will have to pay extra surcharges on top of the regular train fare. For adults, the complete extra surcharge is ¥730 yen (Limited Express fare: ¥520, special car fare: ¥210) and for children, it is ¥370. (Limited Express fare: ¥260, special car fare: ¥110 ).


The above charge is on top of the regular train fare between destinations. At the time of writing, the current one-way fare for an adult ticket from Osaka-Abenobashi to Yoshino is ¥990.

Should you board from Kashiharajingu-mae Station, the price is ¥480.


All together, a single ticket on the Blue Symphony from Osaka Abenobashi Station to Yoshino comes to ¥1,720.


As Blue Symphony is not an ordinary commuter train, prior booking is required. Reservations can be made up to 4 weeks prior to departure via either Kintetsu's dedicated webpage or at major Kintetsu Stations. It should be noted that the fare for Blue Symphony is not included in the Kintetsu Rail Pass of Japan Rail Pass


Snacks, food, drinks and souvenirs are sold separately.

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Taking a journey by train is always a little bit special, and the Blue Symphony is a cheap and fun way to make the journey to or from Yoshino a wonderful part of your adventure.



Finally, we will leave with with a few snaps of the terminal station in Yoshino. Here you'll find a small information center with its adjacent sakura-themed pink postbox, several souvenir and snack shops, large and super-clean public toilets and a pathway to the Yoshino ropeway, the oldest surviving aerial lift line in Japan dating back to 1929.



If you have any questions or comments, please get in touch. We are more than happy to help.


 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn

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