In this trip, we played tourist - I wanted my family to experience everything Osaka & Kyoto got to offer without thinking too much about the money - because Japan can be a bit expensive if you don't plan it properly. So by the time we reached the airport that morning, I searched for a tourist information center to choose which passes we might need in our trip. It was a long discussion in a long queue, and my siblings gave me the power to decide on which passes to buy. So we bought this passes in the first week when we arrived :
The pass to go to all the visitor's attraction in Osaka and the train/subway rides. It was a value for money, thank God we bought it because we didn't have to pay most of the ticket fees afterwards. By the second day pass usage, we already almost finish up all the listed places, we tried everything they offered because we already paid the super-discounted price. I urge you to buy this if you are exploring Osaka. We went to the castle, to the Tsutenkaku Tower, twice on different ferris wheel ride, awesome museums, discounted huge Kaiyukan aquarium, the zoo, etc. Too bad we didn't have more time for a cruise ride - I think that's the only thing we missed from the guide book.
A pass to use all the train, subways and buses in Kansai (Osaka - Kyoto - Nara - Hyogo - Wakayama - Shiga ). You'll get a guide book, map and coupons. But we just went to Kyoto twice, because we didn't cover most of the Kyoto parts we wanted on the first day. If I knew we didn't have time to explore the other part of Kansai, I would have bought the Keihan 2-days Osaka-Kyoto pass for only 1,000yen.
After my family went back to Malaysia, we went to Nara without any passes and I spent over 1,600 for return train ticket (which was too expensive - almost 3 times more without any passes). So the day after, we searched for a tourist information center to buy more passes for our remaining days. We still wanted to go to Bampaku-koen, outskirt of Osaka and another one-time exploration in Kyoto. So we bought :
Osaka-Kyoto Sightseeing Pass ( 1 day - 700 yen ) ****
When you buy the pass, you'll get a book of coupons you can use. So you still need to pay to enter certain places but with discounted prices and free gifts. It is way cheaper than buying without any passes that might reach at least twice the price. We went to Kyoto again for the third time and it rained (ha-ha).
Osaka Unlimited Pass ( 1 day - 500 yen ) ***
We bought it because we wanted to visit our final spot and that is Bampakukinen-Koen where Expo' 70 is located. It was quite a long ride as well and without passes, it might be a bit pricy, so after we discussed with the lady at the tourist counter, we just bought the Osaka Unlimited Pass. But we had to add more fees afterwards because to go to Bampakukinen-koen, we need to change to a monorail that was not listed in the pass. This pass is useful if you want to travel in main parts in Osaka - not including any free passes, just discounted coupons.
So plan properly! They have a looooot of passes to offer, almost every major train line got their own passes that you can buy from. If you are planning on a 1-week trip, for example : maybe you can allocate 2 days for Osaka, 2 days for Kyoto, 1 day for USJ and 1 day for Nara. So for every day you want to explore on certain area, you can buy the passes to get a great discounted price. What you can do is allocate at least 10,000 yen for all the passes to buy at the airport when you arrive there - make an initial plan beforehand and show to the tourist center people, ask for their opinion and choose wisely :D
Note : We didn't go to USJ as my brother and Aja wanted because I'm not so much of a theme-park person. So they probably sulking over it because I managed to drag them along to the huge Kaiyukan Aquarium and Tennoji Zoo, but not USJ :D But I tried soooo much to keep everything under budget and tried not to make any of the family members feel like they are on a tight money budgeting because some of them only brought RM 500 to spend in Japan la weyy =.= How to survive that.