Being the second largest cosmopolitan area in Japan after Tokyo, over 9.4 million foreign tourists visited Osaka in 2016. As it can get quite confusing for travelers when booking a flight to the city, let’s quickly go through it’s two airports: Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Itami International Airport (ITM).
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX)
Located 50km south of Osaka, the Kansai International Airport opened in 1994 and took over all international flights from Itami Airport, as well as some of the domestic flights.
The airport has two terminals, with Terminal 2 being exclusively for low-cost carriers. However, it has fewer bus connections and no train station, but is connected to T1 with free shuttle buses.
As for the transportation to Osaka, you can either take the airport limousine bus or the train, which is the relatively cheaper and quicker option. There are three different trains: Nankai Railways that goes to Namba and Shinsaibashi (area for shopping and nightlife), JR Haruka train that goes through Osaka, Kyoto… etc, and JR airport rapid train that also connects the airport to Osaka.
ITAMI (OSAKA) International Airport
Located about 10km north of Osaka, Itami International Airport is no longer the international airport of Japan, but the name was left unchanged after being taken over by Kansai International Airport. It is classified as a first-class airport and is now entirely domestic, with 30+ destinations across Japan.
To reach Osaka from Itami Airport is quite simple: you can either take the airport limousine bus, or the Osaka Monorail for a slightly cheaper option. With the monorail, transfer at the next station Hotarugaike to the Hankyu Takarazuka Line for Umeda Station.
To summarize, you will be flying into Kansai Airport if you’re arriving from another country, and probably into Itami Airport if you’re just flying from another Japanese city!