Osaka International Airport (commonly known as Itami Airport) is neither in Osaka City nor is it an international airport, despite what the name may suggest.
It is, however, one of Japan’s most popular domestic airports, servicing more than 14 million passengers yearly. The airport once had international flights, but the name remains unchanged after that was taken over by the Kansai International Airport for the region.
The airport’s location actually straddles both Osaka and Hyogo Prefectures, with the terminal complex falling in three different cities: Toyonaka and Ikeda, on the Osaka side, and Itami on the Hyogo side.
Despite being a domestic airport, an increasing number of international flight plans actually begin at Itami. Many carriers, such as JAL, will, from time to time, offer a free domestic connection from Itami up to either Narita Airport or Haneda Airport in Tokyo from where you can continue the rest of your international trip.
For locations not covered by Kansai International Airport, Itami Airport offers a cost-effective and time-saving alternative to taking the shinkansen (bullet train) up to Tokyo. A flight from Itami to the capital city can cost as little as ¥5,000, depending on the carrier and the time of travel, whereas a trip by bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo can cost as high as ¥13,000.
Perhaps the greatest advantage for domestic travelers, that Itami offers over Kansai International Airport is the convenient location, especially if you are coming from Osaka, Kobe or Kyoto.
To get from central Osaka to Kansai Airport takes at least an hour and that’s if you use the high-speed, and high price, rapid train service. Using regular trains takes about 90 minutes, and changing trains multiple times. Itami, on the other hand, can be reached from Osaka station in only 37 minutes.
A train journey using local trains from Kobe to Itami Airport takes only 57 minutes, compared to 105 minutes for the trip to Kansai International. Likewise, from Kyoto to Kansai Airport can take approximately s two hours whereas to get to Itami takes only 70 minutes.
If you want to travel stress-free around Japan, start your trip from Itami Airport for convenience and good prices.
For more on flights and transport in Japan, check out our Japan 101 guide.