I have seen a lot of great tips suggested on this site but I am unsure what is the best option, mostly around osaka.
We arrive at kansai airport and are staying near JR nanba station. I was originally thinking the haruka + icoca, but the nankai was suggested as it is quicker and close to the hotel too. We still want to travel around the inner city and the icoca seems preferable in ease to buying standalone tickets? but I can not find prices on the icoca buy its self, same fare rate + card cost?
for kyoto I believe we can use the icoca as well? except for on the tokaido shinkansen line joining all 3 cities. In tokyo it was suggested by a friend that we use the suica card.
about 4 years ago
The choice of metropolitan travel options can be a bit of a confusing area - it really depends on how much travel you are doing. First, let me go over the options I think you have:
Kansai area (Osaka/Kyoto)
ICOCA prepaid card (¥500 deposit, then prepay as per individual ticket cost). You can use this on the JR and metro systems in Kyoto and Osaka or wherever you see the ICOCA or PiTaPa sign - you can also use this on JR in Tokyo, but not the Tokyo metro so if you have the JR Pass then this is not that useful in Tokyo to be honest. You can buy ICOCA cards at vending machines in most metro stations in Osaka/Kyoto. You can also use the ICOCA to pay for travel between Osaka and Kyoto on standard train lines from Osaka station (not bullet train). Note that it is not a discount card, but a convenience card. This means you pay the same as for individual tickets but don't have the bother of buying tickets each time you travel.
Haruka + ICOCA deal. Good discount on getting into town and the ICOCA card. Possibly not that useful if you are planning on using your JR Pass to get into town but if you are not using a JR Pass it is a good deal and will give you lots of flexibility.
Osaka and Kyoto municipal metro cards. Good, but pricey option I think unless you are planning on doing a lot of travel, or are thinking of visiting Osaka Aquarium.
Kansai Thru Pass. Covers all non-JR travel (including nankai) across Kansai in an unlimited pass. A little bit pricey I think as you have to use the travel in one big block of time, but it does depend on how much travel you're thinking of doing. Using non-JR to travel between Osaka/Kyoto is fine, but a little bit fiddly compared to just going to JR Osaka/Kyoto Station
individual tickets. Often overlooked, but can be a very good option if you're planning on walking around a lot or don't have any plans at all ;). Municipal transport is not that expensive if you're doing 2 or 3 trips every day, and it does make things easier if you just pay as you go. Also, you don't have to put down a ¥500 deposit for buying tickets like you do with the prepaid ICOCA.
For Tokyo, the options are a little clearer I think as the JR Pass can be well used on the JR lines in the city:
SUICA prepaid card - (¥500 deposit, like the ICOCA card). Can be used on Tokyo Metro and JR. Also anywhere you see the Pasmo sign. Convenient, but no discounts on individual tickets.
PASMO prepaid card - (¥500 deposit, like the SUICA card). Can be used on Tokyo Metro and JR. Also anywhere you see the Suica sign. Convenient, but no discounts on individual tickets.
Unlimited Metro card - (¥710). I like this card if you are doing a lot of travelling around Tokyo. It lets you forget about paying for the metro for 1 day and is very good value I think, paying for itself in 4 trips.
individual tickets. As per Kansai. A good value option still.
Tokyo is a really big place so you should expect to use the Metro a more than you may in Osaka or Kyoto where walking around can be fine in combination withe metro/bus journeys. Note that non of these pass cards can be used on the Tokaido shinkansen, which can only be used with individual tickets, or with a Japan Rail Pass.