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

naraOsaka, Kyoto, Kobe and Nara
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. dewi says:

    Hello Takeshi-san,

    I will be using JR hokuriku-takayama pass (5 days) for my trip as below:
    day 1 KIX – osaka stay in Tennoji area
    day 2 nara and transfer to kyoto
    day 3 kyoto and transfer to toyama
    day 4 alpine route ( murodo return trip from toyama) and transfer to takayama
    day 5 shirakawago ( return trip from takayama) and take direct bus to kawaguchiko
    day 6 to day 9 kawaguchiko and tokyo (not using any pass, maybe tokyo 72 hrs metro pass)

    there are things that i am not sure about as:
    1. if JR yamatoji line from tennoji to nara and JR miyakoji from nara to kyoto were covered by JR hokuriku-takayama pass?
    2. if they were covered, which one is more convinience to travel to kyoto. is it by JR miyakoji from nara or JR Haruka from tennoji?
    3. i am planning to go to alpine route on 20th nov. i know it will be closed from 8th nov but i’m wondering if i still can make a return trip to murodo? or do you know any place i can experience snow around that time without going far north to hokkaido?
    4. if nohi bus return trip from takayama to shirakawago were also covered by JR hokuriku-takayama pass?

    Thank you so much

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

      Hi Dewi san,

      Nara is not covered by this pass. This pass covers Yamatoji line between Tennoji and Kami only. You have to pay extra fare for Kami to Nara which is around 500 yen. You can pay this extra when you exit at Nara station. Kyoto to Nara is not covered either and this is more expensive and longer trip time.

      Alpine route is open until Nov 30.
      http://www.alpen-route.com/en/timetable/

      However the winter condition is expected in November. If you expect fall scenery, it will be completely different. You will see fall scenery at only beginning part.

      Nohi bus is covered by the pass.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Juanma says:

    Hello again, Takeshi.
    We want to go from Uehommachi station to Nara by Kintetsu Railways (travel dates: 14th or 15th October). Can I purchase the Rapid Expres ticket the same day I travel or is convenient purchase it some days before ?

    Many thanks.

  3. SC says:

    Hi Takeshi San,

    May I know which station in Osaka is the most convenience to stay nearby in order to get to USJ, Osaka aquarium, dotonbori, tenpozan, Nara and others sightseeing area.

    Rgds

  4. Christine says:

    Hi Takeshi-san

    Kindly ask your favour for our next trip to japan as follow: use 7 day JR Pass
    Should we need another pass
    Day 1 – Arrv. Osaka ( 1N )
    Day 2 – Nara, Kyoto ( 1N )
    Day 3 – Kyoto, to Toyama ( 1N )
    Day 4 – Alpen route, Nagano SMPark to Kanazawa ( 1N )
    Day 5 – Shirakawago, via Kanazawa to Tokyo ( 1N )
    Day 6 – Yokohama to Tokyo ( 1N )
    Day 7 – Hakone to Tokyo ( 1N )
    Day 8 – Kawaguchiko to Tokyo (1N)
    Day 9,10 – Tokyo ( 2N ) use day pass
    Thanks and wait for your reply.
    Regards,
    Christine

  5. sarasnara
    Saras Nara says:

    Ohayou gozaimasu, Takeshi –San,

    My husband and I will be travelling to Japan in Sept.2017. I have made an itinerary to include all we would enjoy and mostly doing our own walking tours. Is this itinerary too rushed for 10 days? Could I organize it better?

    Arigatou gozaimasu,
    Saras

    JAPAN ITINERARY using 7 Day JR Pass and others

    DAY 1 – ARRIVAL @ KIX, TRAVEL to KYOTO, (Limo Bus to Kyoto)/Stay @ APA Villa Hotel Kyoto Ekimae
    DAY 2 – Kyoto NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA, MUSEUMS & Samurai Show (Bus pass)
    DAY 3 – SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA, NISHIKI MARKET, GION, Gion Corner Show (Bus pass)
    DAY 4 –ARASHIYAMA, KINKAKUJI, NIJO and Ran Theatre (ACTIVATE: JR pass)
    DAY 5 – Mishima ONE DAY TOKAIDO TOUR to MT. FUJI area (via Tokaido Shinkansen) (check out/keep luggage@ APA Villa Hotel Kyoto Ekimae)
    Kyoto>Shizuoka> 10.30am TOUR >ends Mishima 1700-1830
    DAY 6 – Mishima>LAKE KAWAGUCHI >Mishima (via Fujikwo Highway Bus)
    Mishima Stn >back to Kyoto (evening Tokaido Shinkansen
    DAY 7- ONE DAY TRIP TO FUSHIMI INARII and NARA (JR Kyoto to JR Nara>JR Kyoto to Shin Osaka( Tokaido Shinkansen) Stay@ Hotel MyStays Shin -Osaka
    DAY 8 – ONE DAY TRIP TO HIROSHIMA from OSAKA (Sanyo Shinkansen)
    DAY 9 – OSAKA BAY AREA & UMEDA BLDG area (Osaka Loop Line /JR Pass and Subway)
    DAY 10- OSAKA CASTLE & CITY TOUR (Osaka Loop Line/Jr Pass and Subway) (check out/keep luggage@ MyStays Shin Osaka)
    7pm DEPARTURE to KIX (Shin-Osaka to KIX via Limited Haruka Line)

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

      Hi Saras san,

      I looked into your itinerary and it’s very organized. Your trip plan is great and I don’t have anything to mention to you.
      I have only one suggestion. For day 8 and 9, I recommend you to use Osaka amazing pass. It includes subway unlimited ride and admission for major attractions. I think it works for your trip.
      https://www.osaka-info.jp/osp/en/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Siti says:

    Hi Takeshi.What if my apartment is near to “ShinFukae” on the Osaka city “Sennichimae” Subway Line.
    Which route or line should i take to go to Nara Park?

  7. Esther says:

    Hello Takeshi-san !

    I’ve read ALL your articles on osaka/kyoto but still I am having a headache choosing between city day passes, Kansai-thru pass, Kansai area pass,Kansai Wide area pass and Koyasan Heritage ticket…this is because i am travelling to some places outside the city too.

    This is my itinerary
    Day 1 – From Osaka, take day day trip to Kobe and Nara
    Day 2 – Osaka –> Mount Koya (day trip)
    Day 3 – Osaka aquarium, shinsaibashi
    Day 4 – Osaka Castle, Minoh Waterfall, train to Kyoto
    Day 5- Kyoto –> Amanohashidate (day trip)
    Day 6- Kyoto Arashimaya
    Day 7- Kyoto Fushimi Inari
    Day 8- Back to airport

    For Osaka, I am staying near JR Namba, and for Kyoto in Higashiyama near Gion-shijo.
    I could really use you advice please!

  8. goh PS says:

    Hi, Takeshi San.
    Our family of 4 people, with children 4 and 6 year old, will be travelling around Kansai area. Our itinerary is as follow:
    Day 1: Kansai International Airport to Osaka Station
    Day 2: Osaka Station to Kyoto (Day trip)
    Day 3: Osaka Station to Nara (Day trip)
    Day 4: Travel within Osaka city (Osaka castle)
    Day 5: Travel within Osaka city
    Day 5: Travel within Osaka city
    Day 7: Osaka City to Kansai International Airport
    Is the Kansai Thru Pass worth it? OR should we take the Airport Limousine to NARA? Thanks very much!

  9. Ping says:

    Hi, Takeshi San.
    Our family of 4 people, with children 4 and 6 year old, will be travelling around Kansai area. Our itinerary is as follow:
    Day 1: Kansai International Airport to Osaka Station
    Day 2: Osaka Station to Kyoto (Day trip)
    Day 3: Osaka Station to Nara (Day trip)
    Day 4: Travel within Osaka city (Osaka castle), transfer to Universal-city station
    Day 5: No travel
    Day 6: Universal-city station to Kansai International Airport
    May I know what train pass to buy? Or single train tickets are better?
    Thanks.

  10. Michel says:

    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

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