Kyoto subways are a little bit different than systems you will find in Japan (like in Tokyo). Here are a few quick notes to help you better navigate the Kyoto rail network.
Fewer stations – Kyoto has a lot fewer stations compared to the larger cities like Osaka and of course, Tokyo. This means you will have to pick and find your stations, so be prepared to walk a little bit more if you are far away from a station. It’s just part of life while staying in the ancient capital.
Trains run two directions – The major subways in Kyoto either run north and south with the Karasuma subway line or they run east and west on the Tozai subway line. There are other local lines that snake their way throughout the city, but the major lines run the two directions so just keep that in mind when you are trying to figure out which direction you need to head. You may have to find other ways of transportation as the subway system may leave you a distance from your final destination.
Trains are older – A really fun thing about the Kyoto subway cars is they are a little older compared to others, giving them a little bit more charm and personality compared to others throughout the country. This also means they are a little smaller, don’t have the strongest air conditioning, and don’t have a ton of seats, so be prepared to stand if you are getting on board a busy car.
More charm – The train stations are pretty charming when you compare them to the modern and semi-cold stations through Tokyo. The stations in Kyoto are older, smaller, and just hold that charm of the ancient capital that you will not find anywhere else in Japan.
Use your IC card – The ICOCA card is the IC card that is sold in Kyoto and can be used on most of their rail systems. However, don’t worry if you are using a Pasimo or Suica card from Tokyo, your IC cards from Tokyo can still be used on their rail systems, saving you time and money so don’t buy a new one when you arrive.