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. Ian says:

    Hi Takeshi!

    I am currently planning a trip to Japan during the first half of July. a rough plan of my itinerary would be like this:

    Day 1: Arrive at Osaka, stay at Namba
    2: Explore Osaka
    3: Explore Osaka
    3: Trip to Kobe (overnight)
    4: Trip to Nara (overnight)
    5: Go to Kyoto (overnight)
    6: explore Kyoto and take train to Tokyo
    7: purchase Hakone free pass and head to hakone and then to kawaguchiko
    8: explore kawaguchiko and head back to Tokyo in the evening.
    9: Explore Tokyo
    10: Explore Tokyo
    11: Explore Tokyo
    12: Aiport for departure

    Would purchasing the nationwide JR pass be too expensive as i would only be taking one shinkansen trip from Kyoto to Tokyo?
    Also, what pass would you suggest me to get to make my expenses cheaper? Or should I get a pass at all?

    Thank you!!!

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I am planning to make a day trip from Osaka (Namba) to Mount Yoshino and Nara. My plan is to go to Mount Yoshino early in the morning and proceed to Nara at around noon.

    Previously, you suggested to me to get the Kintetsu pass one day. You mentioned that “But Yoshino is outside coverage area. You can take Kintetsu train from Nara to access Yoshino. So you need to add extra fare when you exit Yoshino station.”

    If I’m going to Yoshino first before going to Nara, how will the fare work? Do I still need to go to Nara to access Yoshino? I believe that this would be a much longer route than if I travelled direct from Namba to Yoshino.

    From Hyperdia, this are the few suggested routes.

    1) From OSAKA-Namba, take Kintetsu Nara Line Local for HYOTANYAMA.
    Transfer at TSURUHASHI, and take the Kintetsu Ltd. Exp. to YAMATOYAGI .
    At YAMATOYAGI, take Kintetsu Kashihara Line Local for KASHIHARAJINGUMAE.
    Thereafter, take Kintetsu Yoshino Line Local for YOSHINO.

    2) From NAMBA (subway) , take Osaka City Subway Midosuji Line for NAKAMOZU.
    Alight at TENNOJI and walk to OSAKAABENOBASHI.
    Take Kintetsu Minami-osaka/Yoshino Line Exp. for YOSHINO.

    May I know which will be a better route if I use the Kintetsu One Day pass? I understand that the pass does not cover limited express train. If I choose to take option no 1, how much extra would I have to pay on top of the pass?

    For my trip from Yoshino to Nara, am I right to say that the pass will not cover any part of the trip and I will have to pay the full fare depending on which train I take?

    Thank you for your kind advice.

  3. Amy says:

    Hello Takeshi-san,
    Should I buy a JR pass or different tickets/passes as my trip is 11 days? Or activate the JR pass later?
    I don’t know which journey JR Pass can be used- could you also please indicate in my itinerary.

    Thu 17 Mar 2016 (Day 1 Osaka)
    Arrival in Osaka’s Kansai airport around 8:45am
    Hotel somewhere in betwee Kitahama Station & Osaka Station
    Visit Umeda Sky Tower
    Visit Osaka Castle
    Walk around the Ebisu Bridge

    Fri 18th March (Day 2 Osaka-Himeji-Nara-Osaka)
    Take train to Himeji to visit Himeji Castle
    Take train from Himeji to Nara (visit Deer Park)
    Take train from Nara to go back to Osaka by 5pm

    Sat 19th March (Day 3 Osaka-Kyoto)
    Check-out to take train to Kyoto
    Check-in hotel near Kyoto station
    Explore Gion area

    Sun 20th March (Day 4 Kyoto)
    Travel to Philosopher’s Walk and nearby temples
    Ginkakuji

    Mon 21st March (Day 5 Kyoto)
    Arashiyama’s bamboo forest and nearby area
    Kinkakuji

    Tue 22nd March (Day 6 Kyoto)
    Imperial Palace
    Nijo Castle
    Other temples (maybe Southern Kyoto’s temples)

    Wed 23rd March (Day 7 Kyoto-Tokyo)
    Nishiki Market
    Check-out Hotel
    Take train to Tokyo
    Check-in Tokyo (somewhere Chiyoda-ku)

    Imperial Palace
    Yasukuni Shrine
    Shibuya Cross

    Thu 24th March (Day 8 Tokyo)
    Take train to Hakone for day-trip
    Back to Tokyo at night

    Fri 25th March (Day 9 Tokyo)
    Check-out Change Hotel in Tokyo (somewhere Shinjuku)
    Visit Shinjuku

    Sat 26th March (Day 10 Tokyo)
    Visit some shrines and temples

    Sun 27th March (Day 11 Haneda Airport)
    Check-out Hotel
    Relax around Hotel
    Go to airport

    My trip starts on 17th March but should I activate JR Pass from 18th to 24th March? Or is there other better ways?

    Thanks
    Amy

  4. Hi Takeshi,

    This is Kristoffer. I’m planning for an Osaka (w/ Nara)> Kyoto > Tokyo (with Hakone) trip. I’ll arrive at KIX at 11:40am on Mar 26, 2016 and depart from Narita at 11:00am on April 3, 2016.

    Osaka (Mar 26-28)
    – I’ll stay near Dotonbori area
    – On Mar 26, i’ll go to Aquarium, USJ (just outside for picture :p), Shinshaibashi
    – On March 27, i’ll go to Osaka Castle, Umeda, Nara (after lunch), then go back to Osaka
    – I’ll depart for Kyoto early morning of Mar 28

    Kyoto (Mar 28-Mar 31)
    – I’ll stay near Kyoto Station
    – On March 28, i’ll go to Arashiyama, Kinkakuji, more temples…
    – On March 29, i’ll go to Fushimi Inari Shrine, Gion area, cherry blossoms sighting…
    – On March 30, I’ll go to parks, more temples…
    – I’ll depart for Tokyo on March 31, early morning ~6-7am

    Tokyo (Mar 31-Apr 3)
    – No definite places to go yet in March 31
    – On Apr 1, i plan to go to Hakone/near Mt. Fuji (do we need full day for this? or can it be half-day)
    – On Apr 2, explore more of Tokyo, cherry blossoms sighting…
    – My flight is at 11:00am at Narita

    What would you recommend for the passes that i need to have? Do you have any suggestions that i should add or take out from my trip? is it too congested? By the way, i’ll travel with my wife who will be 5 months pregnant by then and my sister.

    Thank you!

  5. Jess says:

    Hi, i’ll be travelling to japan from 12-25 oct. arrival kate night and departure from tokyo haneda airport. May i know which itinerary fit the best? I plan to visit tokyo, kyoto, osaka, kobe, nara. (If possible hirojima n miyajima).
    Shoud i explore tokyo first or toklyo at last. Thankss

  6. Hello!

    We will be travelling to Japan this coming November and plan to go to Osaka-Nara-Kyoto-Tokyo. The trip will be more or less a week. Is it best to buy the unlimited JR pass for 7 days since we plan to get around each city. Thanks for your advice!

  7. Jesslyn says:

    Hi takeshi

    Need some advice from you please,
    I’m going osaka for 4day 3 night trip. Will be arrive to Kansai in the morning
    I’m staying in tennoji ward. Near osakauehonmachi stantion.
    My plan as bellow
    I’m not too sure should I get Kansai thru pass or amazing pass or single fare.

    Day1.
    Osaka- namba, dhoti nori, baron, kuromon market , umeda sky building
    Day 2
    osaka to Nara ( todaiji temple )
    Nara to Kyoto ( kenninji temple and hanami-koji
    Kyoto back to osaka
    Day 3
    osaka ( osaka castle, osaka acquarium , tempo zhan Ferris wheel)
    Day 4
    To airport

    Is it possible to do a day trip for osaka-nara-kyoto-osaka?
    What is the best pass I should get ?

    Hope to hear from you.
    Thanks very much

  8. Patrick says:

    Hello Takeshi,

    We’ll be going to Japan for 6days/6nights. Our route includes Osaka (for april19-22 which includes trips to Nara& Kobe)-Kyoto (overnight, april22-23)-Osaka (april 23-25. Kindly help us what is the best pass to travel these areas? Is it IC Card?JR Kansai Pass? Or Kansai Thru Pass?

    Thank you

    Regards,
    Patrick

  9. Ayesha says:

    Hello, I would appreciate your advice.

    I am based in Kobe and would like to do a day trip to Yoshino.

    Is this possible in terms of travel time?

    I have a 3 day Kansai Thru Pass.

    Please could you tell me which lines I could use to get to Nara, and then connect to Yoshino.

    I understand that my pass only covers me as far as Nara.

    I read somewhere that the Special Rapid Service connects Kobe directly to Nara. Is this still valid and can I use this service on my pass?

    Thank you

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

      Hi Ayesha,

      It’s tight but not impossible.

      Special Rapid is JR train and it’s not covered by Kansai thru pass. You cannot take this train. And this train does not take you Nara from Kobe anyway.

      You can take Hanshin railway at Sannomiya, Motomachi. Some of trains go directly to Kintetsu line via Osaka-Namba and take you Kintetsu Nara station directly. Please find the map at the link below:
      http://www.surutto.com/images/ticket/kansai_thru_pass/english/en_map.pdf

      After that, you can take Kintetsu Nara line to Yamato-Saidaiji, Kashiwara line to Kashiwarajingu-Mae, and then take Yoshino line. The map does not show Yoshino and shows Yoshino line to Tsubosakayama. Kansai thru pass covers to this point, Tsunosakayama. You can add for Tsubosakayama to Yoshino only and 430 yen for one way. You can pay this fare when you exit at Yoshino station with showing your pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. pvhaecke – Bruges
    PJVH says:

    Hello,

    I’ll be travelling to Japan in September.
    I plan to visit Himeji, Osaka, Nara and Kyoto. What would be the best option in my situation.
    The plan is to stay two days in Osaka, then a day trip to Himeji, then two days Nara, then four days in Kyoto and then one last day in Osaka.

    If you need more information on my itinerary please ask.

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