Nara access guide from Osaka, Kyoto, Kansai airport and Kobe by JR, Kintetsu Railway and Airport bus

naraOsaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
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Todaiji is one of the popular spot in Nara. ©Nara Prefecture/©JNTO

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.

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Overview

Please see the route map below:

Click to view large

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.

But 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), JR trains are covered and your choice is JR.

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:

Access to Nara from Kyoto by Japan Railways, Miyakoji Rapid Service

Express and Limited Express on Kintetsu railway Kyoto line

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

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.

Kintetsu railway Kyoto-Kashihara line map

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:

Kyoto city subway Karasuma line route map

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.

Yamatoji Rapid Service

Rapid Express on Kintetsu railway Nara line

The exterior of Kintetsu Railway commute trains

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:

Kintetsu railway official site (English)

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

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 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:

Kansai airport limousine bus official site (English)

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.

Nara Access Ticket (Nankai railway official site)

The travel time is not much different from JR Haruka and Yamatoji Rapid combination.

Comments

  1. Mui Siew says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Thanks for your info on my last trip to Kanazawa 🙂
    I’ll be visiting Japan again next month, Nagoya this time 🙂
    Need your advise on this:

    My friends and I will be renting a car travelling around starting from Nagoya and all the way to Nagano. After that, we’ll return the car back at Nagoya, and take a train to Osaka.

    I’m just wondering if I can buy the Kintetsu Rai Pass Wide (5,700yen) to use?
    I will purchase the ticket in advance in KL, Malaysia. Then only exchange it while I arrive in Nagoya airport. However, since the ticket only valid for 5 days. I will not use it first when I arrive, but only use it when I want to travel from Nagoya to Osaka. Is it possible to do that?

    As we also plan to go to Nara, so we may also use this for it too.

    Can we also use this pass for going to Kansai airport from Osaka? It will be within the 5 days after the ticket is validate.

    Thank you.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Mui Siew,

      Welcome back. 🙂

      I have received similar inquiry before.
      First of all, you can use airport access ticket beside rail pass. That means it’s not included in 5 days. You also can use it for access from/to Chubu and Kansai.
      But I have checked this info in last year. The rule may be changed. When you purchase exchange order, please make sure this condition with travel agency.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  2. CN says:

    Hello,

    I will be travelling to Japan in about 2 weeks time and I am trying to figure out the best /convenient travelling mode. Hope you could provide me some insight, comment / information. Thanks in advance! I will then provide an summary of our itinerary and mode of transport in mind below :-

    Day 1, Osaka
    -From Kansai Airport to Tennoji (our hotel is Tennoji Miyako Hotel)
    -We will be visiting Doguya-suji > Kuromon-Ichima > Dotombori > Osaka Castle > Osaka Museum of ousing and Living > Umeda Sky Buiilding by subways
    -We will be getting the ‘ICOCA & HARUKA” round way ticket which costs JPY 4060, where we will be using the Haruka tickets for our travel from Kansai Airport to Tennoji
    -In our first day, we are planning to get the “Enjoy Eco-Card” at JPY 600 (unlimited use of subways) for our travelling purposes in Osaka subways

    Day 2, Kyoto
    -We are planning to use the ICOCA card to travel to Kyoto from Tennoji, according to http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=TENNOJI&arv_node=KYOTO&via_node01=UMEDA(SUBWAY)&via_node02=OSAKA&via_node03=&year=2014&month=09&day=13&hour=10&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7 the fare is JPY 280 for subway and JPY 560 for JR for one way ticket
    -We should arrive at JR Kyoto station and visit Kinkaku-ji Temple (bus) > (bus) Nijo Castle > (bus) Kiyomizudera Temple, all by buses
    -Travel back to Osaka
    -Appreciate if you could provide us the fares or sources where we could get the fares of the JR to Kyoto from Tennoji and espcially on the buses fare for budgeting purposes as I cant manage to find the bus fare guide

    Day 3, Nara
    -We are only going to Nara Park and the fares are JPY 470 per way, according to http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/search.html?dep_node=TENNOJI&arv_node=NARA&via_node01=&via_node02=&via_node03=&year=2014&month=09&day=15&hour=10&minute=00&search_type=0&search_way=&transtime=undefined&sort=0&max_route=5&ship=off&lmlimit=null&search_target=route&facility=reserved&sum_target=7 via JR line
    -I have just noted that the ICOCA card does not cover the transportation to Nara which we would need to buy the tickets manually before entering the JR, I suppose
    -Travel back to Nara

    Day 4
    -Travel back to Kansai Airport via Haruka Express ticket

    My main concern is that we will be visiting Japan on 13 – 16 Sept 2014 and I was informed it is the 3-day holiday in Japan. Our group consists of about 11 people and therefore convenience is our main priority (in travelling) especially in buying tickets for travelling. Sorry for the long message, hopefully you could advise if there are any better travelling mode and the fare budgets. I know that the ICOCA card would only consist of JPY 1500 and therefore would like to have an idea of how much we should top up before hand!

    Thank you very much.

    Regards,

    CN

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi CN,

      You made a right choice, ICOCA and Haruka, and Eco Card. You can use all day bus pass at 500 yen in Kyoto. I think you know that. But I put the link just in case.
      http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html

      When you travel from Tennoji to Kyoto, subway and JR via Umeda/Osaka is the cheapest. If you take JR from Tennoji to Osaka and transfer the train to Kyoto, it’s much more expensive than subway and JR.

      As long as you have funds in your ICOCA, you can enter the station and take a train. You can adjust a fare when you exit the station. So when you go to Nara, you can use ICOCA to enter the station anyway. There are vending machine to adjust fare beside the ticket gate. You can use it to exit Nara station. If you cannot find it, ask station staff. In Nara, they are very familiar to the tourist from overseas.

      You can add some more fund into ICOCA if you want. But you have to add 1000 yen at least. If you intend to take subway after you come back from Nara, you can consume 1000 yen.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • CN says:

        Dear Takeshi,

        Thank you very much for your reply and advise.

        Now I have a clearer understanding on what type of transportation I should rely on during my stay in Japan.

        I will be getting ICOCA & HARUKA, using Haruka for travelling from Kansai Airport to Tennoji and vice versa, ICOCA card for travel to Kyoto and Nara using JR and subways and for my first day of travel in Osaka using subways. I will also be getting the City Pass All-Day Pass in Kyoto for the buses!

        Again thank you for sharing and for the fast reply!

        Regards,

        CN

  3. Mieosa says:

    Hello,

    I am going to Kyoto+Osaka next week. I am a bit confused between which pass to choose: JR West Rail, ICOCA + Haruka or Kansai Thur Pass.

    This is my itinerary:

    Day 1: KIK Airport to Kyoto + Arashiyama (Afternoon) — Staying in Kyoto
    Day 2: Nara + Kyoto — Staying in Kyoto
    Day 3: Kyoto to Osaka
    Day 4: Osaka
    Day 5: Osaka + Universal Studio
    Day 6: Osaka to KIK Airport.

    I am planning to buy the ICOCA + Haruka Pass but I am not sure if I should buy the one-way or the return deal. Or should I buy the JR West Rail Pass for day 1 and use the Kansai Thru Pass for all the other days?

    Would really appreciate if you can give me some advice!

    Thank you very much.

  4. Andie says:

    Hi takeshi/JP rail
    Will be traveling to kix(Osaka ) for 6nights in december14
    I’m not sure if i need JP rail pass.
    My itenary will include universal studio and Nara
    Please help me plan this 6 nights trip as I’m not sure where else to visit
    Thank you

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of JPRail.com
      Takeshi / JPRail says:

      Hi Andie,

      How about Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. There are lots of places to see. You have to find where you want to go first. I can’t make it because there are too many options and I don’t know your taste. Japan-Guide.com will help you to make your plan.
      http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1105.html

      After you complete your plan, you can think about which pass you need. At this moment, it’s too early to think about it.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  5. Ambrose says:

    Hi,

    I will be travelling to Japan in April but I am confused with the options of rail passes available.

    My itinerary is below:

    Day 1: Arrive Osaka airport, travel to Kyoto. Travel around Kyoto.
    Day 2: Visit Kyoto during the day. Travel to Nagoya at night to stay.
    Day 3: Attend wedding at Nagoya whole day.
    Day 4 – 5: Morning travel back to Kyoto. Visit Nara etc.
    Day 6: Kyoto to Hakone. Visit attractions in Hakone.
    Day 7-10: Hakone to Tokyo.

    I read about the Kintetsu line but I can’t find the train timetable and travel time anywhere. I thought it should be useful for the Day 1 – 5. But perhaps JR pass will be easy and convenient.

    From Day 6 to 10 I am clueless if a JR pass is better or just single tickets.

    Please advise which is the most time-saving and cost efficient way!

  6. Nurul says:

    Hi,

    I will have trip to Japan on Nov this year. I bit confused in choosing the best ticket/pass while be there.Here my draft itinerary.

    Day 1 – 3 : Arrive at Tokyo.
    Plan to go to: Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, Asakusa, Tokyo tower, Sumida area
    Day 4 – 10: Stay at Kyoto
    -Have sightseeing in Kyoto.
    -Have 1 day trip to Osaka
    -Have i day trip to Nara
    Day 11 : Kyoto to Kansai Airport.

    Really appreciate if you can give advice or suggestion.
    Thank you..^-^

  7. Azeem says:

    I will traveling from mito to kyoto. And from kyoto to hiroshima. And then from hiroshima back to mito. Is this possible with a JR pass because everytime i look up travel information it says i have to take the Tokaido line.
    Is there a way to get to kyoto/hiroshima/mito with the jr pass?
    Thank you

  8. Jenova6 says:

    Hi,

    I am going to Yoshino from Shin-Osaka and will be using the Kansai Thru Pass in April. For the section not covered by the pass for Kintetsu train, how should I purchase it? Thanks.

  9. m
    m says:

    hello! i was wondering if the seishun 18 kippu can be used on the miyakoji and yamatoji train lines?

  10. Andy says:

    I have always used the kintestu line to Nara, and have always found it to be clean, punctual and convienent.

    Just a thought, If someone wants to see kansai (Nara/Kyoto/Kobe) and Ise, then the kintetsu 5 day pass is great value as it includes 3 limited express trips as well.

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