Nara is the former capital city in Japan and it is older than Kyoto. Many shrines, temples and districts are listed on UNESCO World Heritage, National Heritage and/or National Treasure. When you travel in Kansai region, you may think about visiting or staying in Nara. If you go to Osaka or Kyoto from other cities, such as Tokyo, you can get there by Shinkansen. But when you go to Nara, there are several routes and options. The trip route to Nara is varied by your trip plan and/or the deal which you intend to use.
In this post, I would like to share the information about access to Nara by train and bus.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Locations of JR Nara and Kintetsu Nara stations
- 3 Access from Kyoto
- 4 Access from Osaka
- 5 Access from Kobe
- 6 Access from Kansai airport
Please see the route map below:
Osaka and Kyoto are the gateways to Nara. JR and Kintetsu railway connects Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. And Nara Kotsu bus runs between Nara and Kansai airport.
Locations of JR Nara and Kintetsu Nara stations
Before I start to explain about the access routes, I would like to show you the locations of Nara stations. This may be reason why you choose Kintetsu railway. Please see the map below.
View Nara station in a larger map
Kintetsu Nara station is just a step away from many tourist spots, such as Kofuku-ji temple. Nara Park (Deer Park), Todai-ji temple (big statues of Buddha) and Kasuga Taisha shrine. These are within walking distance from Kintetsu Nara station.
JR Nara station is about 1 km away from Kintetsu Nara station. It is acceptable and still within walking distance. If you take Sanjo Dori (三条通/dark brown line in the map above), there are lots of shops along the street. You can enjoy this 1 km walking from the station to Sarusawa pond and Kofukuji temple. But if you travel with a senior or small child, you want to minimize to walk. Before choosing the route, please consider the location of the station in Nara.
Access from Kyoto
You can take either JR or Kintetsu. Kintetsu railway Kyoto station and JR Kyoto station are exactly same location.
If you use Kansai Thru Pass, Kintetsu railway is covered fully. If you do not intend to use any deals, take Kintetsu railway because Kintetsu Nara station is better location.
I show you the fastest train on each Kintetsu and JR lines.
Miyakoji Rapid Service on JR Nara line
There are three kinds of train running on JR Nara line between Kyoto and Nara. These are local, rapid and Miyakoji Rapid train. Miyakoji Rapid is the fastest JR train which connects Nara and Kyoto. The trip time is around 45 to 50 minutes. This train runs every 30 minutes in daytime. Please see the post below to find more information:
Express and Limited Express on Kintetsu railway Kyoto line
There are four kinds of trains running on Kintetsu Kyoto line between Kyoto and Kintetsu-Nara. These are local, semi express, express and limited express. Express is the fastest train which can be taken by only a base fare ticket. The trip time is almost same as JR Miyakoji Rapid train but as I mentioned, Kintetsu Nara station is closer to the tourist spots. Kintetsu railway is faster way to get there.
However if you pay 510 yen extra, you can take limited express train. The trip time is 30 minutes and accommodation is much nicer than express and JR Miyakoji Rapid train. Please see the link below to find the train route of Kintetsu railway Kyoto line. It does not show “Nara” or “Kintetsu-Nara” station on the map in this link. But many trains from Kyoto go to Kintetsu Nara station via Yamato-Saidaiji. The segment between Yamato-Saidaiji and Kintetsu-Nara belongs to Kintetsu railway Nara-Namba line.
Kyoto Subway Karasuma line and Kintetsu Kyoto line inter-connected through service
If you take Kyoto city subway Karasuma line to get Kyoto station, you may stay on the subway train after Kyoto station. Because many subway trains go through Kintetsu Kyoto line. A few trains go directly to Nara. Please see the link below to find the information in Kyoto city subway official site:
Access from Osaka
There are JR Yamatoji line and Kintetsu Nara line. But the departure station is different. You may choose the route by the pass or the departure station.
Yamatoji Rapid Service on JR Yamatoji line
If you intend to use JR Pass or JR West rail passes (such as Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass, Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass) for the trip to Nara, Yamatoji Rapid Service is fully covered and the fastest train to get Nara from Osaka.
This rapid train depart from Tennoji. But this runs to counterclockwise direction on Osaka Kanjo line (loop line) from Tennoji to Tsuruhashi, Kyobashi, Osaka, Nishikujo, Bentencho. This train comes back to Tennoji again and then 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. In day time, it runs every 15 minutes. Trip time to Nara is 55 minutes from Osaka and 35 minutes from Tennoji. If you cannot take this train, you can take rapid or local train. But you may have to change trains on the way.
Please see the details about this train in the link below.
Rapid Express on Kintetsu railway Nara line
If you intend to use JR Pass or other JR deals, Kintetsu is not covered. You should take JR Yamatoji Rapid train to get Nara. But if you use Kansai Thru Pass, it’s fully covered. If you do not use any passes, Kintetsu railway is better choice because of fare, frequency and location of Nara station.
In Osaka, Kintetsu has three terminal stations, Osaka-Namba, Osaka-Uehonmachi and Tsuruhashi. Namba is one of the biggest downtown cores in Osaka. JR has JR-Namba station too. But JR-Namba station is a bit away from the center of Namba. Please see the link below to find more information:
If you take JR train from JR-Namba, you have to change to Yamatoji Rapid Service at Shin-Imamiya or Tennoji. On the other hand, Kintetsu takes you to Nara directly.
Osaka-Uehonmachi is located at same location as Osaka Subway Tanimachi line Tanimachi 9-chome station. You can transfer easily there. And you can transfer easily from JR Osaka Kanjo line (loop line) at Tsuruhashi.
There are 6 kinds of trains running on Kintetsu railway Nara line, such as Limited Express, Rapid Express, Express, Semi Express, Suburban Semi Express and Local. Limited Express is the fastest but you have add a seat fee on top of a base fare. And this is a commute line and Limited Express does not run very frequently. The fastest and most convenient choice is Rapid Express. This is a sort of the commute train. Please do not expect a comfortable seat and interior. You may have to stand up in the train.
The travel times from major terminal stations to Kintetsu Nara station are the following:
Osaka-Namba or Osaka-Uehonmachi -> Kintetsu Nara : 40 minutes by Rapid Express
Tsuruhashi -> Kintetsu Nara : 30 minutes by Rapid Express
Please see the link below in Kintetsu railway official site to find the Kintetsu railway Namba-Nara line route map:
Trip time is not much different between Kintetsu railway Rapid Express and JR Yamatoji Rapid. However Kintetsu Nara station is better location. Just keep it in your mind.
Access from Kobe
If you access to Nara from Kobe, you have to go through Osaka. There are two ways to get Nara as well. These are JR and Hanshin-Kintetsu Railways.
JR Special Rapid and JR Yamatoji Rapid Services
This is the way for the traveler who wants to use JR Pass or other JR deals. You may take Special Rapid train from Kobe to Osaka. After arrival in Osaka, you can take same way that is Yamatoji Rapid train. There is no direct JR trains from Kobe to Nara.
Hanshin Railway and Kintetsu Nara line
Hanshin Railway is other private railway company and it connects Umeda/Namba and Kobe (Sannomiya). Hanshin railway and Kintetsu railway are connected each other at Osaka-Namba station. Many trains go through each other. Some Rapid Express run between Kobe-Sannomiya and Nara directly. It is operated every 20 to 30 minutes during daytime and travel time is 75 to 80 minutes.
This is only direct train service. It is the easiest and the fastest way to get Nara from Kobe.
If you use Kansai Thru Pass, both Hanshin and Kintetsu railways are covered fully. If you do not use any deals, this is the best choice as well.
Access from Kansai airport
There are three ways, Nara Kotsu bus, JR and Nankai-Kintetsu railways.
Nara Kotsu airport limousine bus
This is only direct transportation from Kansai airport to Nara. Please see the link below to find the timetable and the faretable:
If you do not use any train passes, this is the best way to get Nara from Kansai airport.
JR Limited Express Haruka and Yamatoji Rapid Service
This is the way for the traveler who want to use JR Pass or other JR deals.
Kansai airport (Limited Express Haruka) Tennoji (Yamatoji Rapid) Nara
The travel time is around 1 hour 15 minutes. All trips are covered by any JR deals.
Nankai railway and Kintetsu railway
This route is covered by Kansai Thru Pass. And Nara Access Ticket is the deal to cover this route. This is most affordable way to get Nara from Kansai airport.
The travel time is not much different from JR Haruka and Yamatoji Rapid combination.