How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient.

Todaiji is one of the popular spot in Nara. ©Nara Prefecture/©JNTO

Nara is former capital city in Japan and it is older than Kyoto. Some of shrines, temples and districts are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you travel in Kansai area, you may think about trip to Nara or stay in Nara. If you go to Osaka or Kyoto from other cities, such as Tokyo, you can get on Shikansen. It is easy and very accessible. How about Nara? It is not very accessible as much as Kyoto or Osaka. But it is easy. Especially if you use Japan Rail Pass, JR West Kansai Area Pass and Kansai WIDE Area Pass, you can access to Nara by JR lines without any extra charge. And Kintesu Railway (private railway company) connects Osaka/Kyoto with Nara too.

In this post, I would like to share the information about access to Nara by train.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

Overview of access to Nara


View How to access to Nara in a larger map

Usually Osaka and Kyoto are the places to access to Nara. Please see the map above. There are JR lines and Kintetsu railway lines among three cities. JR Yamatoji Rapid train that is shown by dark blue line runs between Osaka/Tennoji and Nara. JR Miyakoji Rapid train that is shown by dark green line on the map runs between Kyoto and Nara. And Kintesu Nara and Kyoto lines that are shown by dark red line on the map run between Kyoto/Osaka and Nara. Japan Rail Pass and other JR rail passes user can use both JR lines, Yamatoji and Miyakoji, with no extra charge.

Kintetsu is not covered by any kinds of JR rail passes. But some of you purchase single ticket or use Kansai Thru Pass. Kintetsu is the biggest private railway company in Japan.

I will explain each ways one by one.

Access to Nara from Osaka by Yamatoji Rapid Service

Yamatoji Rapid Service by 221 series
Yamatoji Rapid Service by 221 series

If you want to acess to Nara from Osaka by Japan Rail Pass without any extra charge, you should get on this train. Yamatoji Rapid is operated between Tennoji and Nara. This rapid train goes on Osaka Kanjo line (loop line) from Tennoji to Tsuruhashi, Kyobashi, Osaka, Nishikujo, Bentencho and come back to Tennoji again. And then this rapid train goes to Nara. So you can catch this train Osaka (Umeda area) and most of major stations on Osaka Kanjo line. This train is operated very frequently. Mostly it comes every 15 minutes. Please see the details about this train at the post, Access to Nara from Osaka by Japan Railway, Yamatoji Rapid Service.

Access to nara from Kyoto by Miyakoji Rapid Service

JR operates rapid train between Kyoto and Nara as well. This is called Miyakoji Rapid and this train is completely covered by Japan Rail Pass. It is operated every 30 minutes in daytime. Please see the post, Access to Nara from Kyoto by Japan Railways, Miyakoji Rapid Service to get the details.

Kintetsu Railway Nara line and Kyoto line

Kintetsu Railway is the biggest private rail company. The trains are operated among Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Yoshino, Ise and Nagoya.

Actually Kintesu is much more popular to get Nara for local tourists because of fare, frequency and location of Nara station. I compare JR fares and Kintetsu fares on each lines below. I also talk about the location later.

As long as you use Japan Rail Pass or other JR rail passes, Kintetsu is not your choice because it is not covered by the pass. But if you don’t have any plan to use JR rail passes and pay single fare, Kintetsu will be your choice. And also if you use Kansai Thru Pass, Kintesu trains is fully covered by Kansai Thru Pass. There are two lines that depart from Osaka or Kyoto to Nara.

Nara line between Osaka and Nara

In Osaka, Kintetsu has three terminal stations, Osaka-Namba, Osaka-Uehonmachi and Tsuruhashi.

As probably you know, Namba is one of the biggest downtown core in Osaka. Some of you stay in Namba area. JR has JR Namba station too. But you need to transfer to Yamatoji Rapid Service at Shin-Imamiya or Tennoji. So Kintesu takes you to Nara directly.

Osaka-Uehonmachi is located at same location as Osaka Subway Tanimachi line Tanimachi-Kyuchome station. You can transfer easily there. And you can transfer easily from JR Osaka Kanjo line (loop line) at Tsuruhashi. Let’s check fares and travel times.

Osaka-Namba or Osaka-Uehonmachi -> Nara : Travel time about 40 minutes (by Rapid Express), fare 540 yen
*If you take JR trains, fare is exactly same and travel time is almost same. But there are direct train to Nara during peak hours only. Otherwise you need to transfer either Shin-Imamiya or Tennoji.

Osaka-Uehonmachi -> Nara : Travel time about 35 minutes (by Rapid Express), fare 480 yen
If you take JR trains, fare is 690 yen and need to transfer at Tennoji. Travel time is 5-10 minutes longer than Kintetsu.

As you see, Kintetsu is much easier to get Nara than JR trains. But if you travel to Nara from Umeda area, you need to go to Namba or Tsuruhashi if you want to take Kintetsu. JR Yamatoji Rapid Service give you direct transfer. Please make sure where you will be in Osaka before choose Kintetsu or JR.

Limited Express are not operated very often between Osaka and Nara. But there are operated every 30 minutes between Kyoto and Nara. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

By the way, Rapid Express is the fastest train except Limited Express in all Kintetsu trains. Limited Express is faster but you need to pay surcharge, another 500 yen. Limited Express is not much faster than Rapid Express. Travel time is mostly 5 minutes shorter than Rapid Express. But accommodation is much different. Rapid Express is a commute train. Limited Express is same type of accommodation as JR Limited Express trains. And also there are many other kinds of trains on Kintetsu line, such as Express, Semi-Express, Local. Some of the commute trains do not go to Nara directly. You need to transfer at Yamato-Saidaiji station where is two stations before Nara.

Hanshin Railway and Kintetsu Nara line

Many Hanshin Railway trains go through Kintetsu Nara line from Kobe and Amagasaki.

Hanshin Railway is other private railway company and it connects Umeda/Namba with Kobe (Sannomiya). Hanshin and Kintetsu go through trains each other. Rapid Express runs between Sannomiya and Nara directly. It is operated every 20 minutes during daytime and travel time is 75-80 minutes. The fare is 940 yen. This is only direct service between Kobe and Nara. Any JR trains do not connect Kobe with Nara directly. You have to transfer at JR Osaka station.

Kyoto line between Kyoto and Nara

Interior of limited express trains. All seats are reserved at 500 yen surcharge. (C) Sonic Rail Garden

Kintetsu Kyoto station is exactly same location as JR Kyoto station. You don’t need to think about departure station. Just compare travel time and fare.

Kyoto -> Nara : Travel time about 50 minutes (by Express), fare is 610 yen.
*If you take JR trains, fare is 690 yen and travel time is 45 minutes.

JR trains are faster. But if you don’t care about surcharge 500 yen, you can take Kintetsu Limited Express. This is the fastest train and it takes about 30 minutes. Some of the trains do not go to Nara directly. You need to transfer at Yamato-Saidaiji station where is two stations before Nara.

Kyoto Subway Karasuma line and Kintetsu Kyoto line
Some of the trains go through Kyoto Subway Karasuma line as well. Please check Kyoto City Transportation Subway map. Green line on the map is Karasuma line. If you stay in Kyoto along this subway line, you may be able to catch the train to Kintetsu Kyoto line.

The locations of JR Nara station and Kintetsu Nara station

This is one of reason why Kintesu is more popular than JR. Please see the map below.


View Nara station in a larger map

Kintesu Nara station is just step away from Kofukuji temple. Nara Park, Daibutsu (big statues of Buddha) and Kasuga Taisha shrine are within walking distance.

JR Nara station is about 1km away from Kintetsu Nara station. Most of spots are still within walking distance. If you take Sanjo Dori (三条通/dark brown line on the map above), there are lots of shops along the street. You can enjoy 1km walk from the station to Sarusawa pond and Kofukuji temple. It is the easiest way to get there too. Check the movie below about Sanjo Dori street.

114 thoughts on “How to access to Nara by Japan Rail Pass. If you don’t use JR Pass, Kintetsu Railway is more convenient.”

  1. Aloha Takeshi-San!
    I have been told by people to get the JR Pass but others tell me that getting separate passes are cheaper since we are going to Nara/Osaka. Can you help? The followings is our itinerary:
    Day 1: Haneda – Osaka, Namba Station
    Day 2: Osaka Aquarium
    Day 3: Osaka – Nara (day trip)
    Day 4: Osaka Castle
    Day 5: Osaka, Namba Station – JR Shinjuku Station & Tokyo Dome
    Day 6: JR Shinjuku Station – Mt Fuji (day trip)
    Day 7: Tsukiji Market
    Day 8: Tokyo Area
    Day 9: JR Shinjuku Station – Haneda Airport

    Mahalo!
    Michel

    1. Hi Michel san,

      JR pass is your choice because 7 days pass is almost equal to round trip fare between Tokyo and Osaka by Shinkansen. So you can use 7 days pass for the first 7 days.

      But you may need to add some extra even when you use JR pass. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html#How_to_use_JR_pass_in_major_cities_and_tourist_spots

      You can use subway pass after you finish using JR Pass.
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/travel/index.html

      I recommend you to visit Tsukiji on day 8 because only subway takes you there and JR pass does not work.

      Single ticket is only choice to get Haneda from Shinjuku.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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