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

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.

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.

164 thoughts on “Nara access guide from Osaka, Kyoto, Kansai airport and Kobe by JR, Kintetsu Railway and Airport bus”

  1. I will do my itinerary without the purchase of a JR Pass.
    I am considering the following:
    Narita – Tokyo: Tokyo Shuttle bus 1000
    Tokyo – Kyoto: 1380
    Kyoto – Nara: 620
    Nara – Kyoto: 620
    Kyoto – Osaka: 560
    Osaka – Himeji: 2270
    Himeji – Kobe: 970
    Kobe – Osaka: 410
    One-day unlimited Pass, Enjoy Eco Card
    Price (weekend) – Adult: 600 yen
    Osaka – Kansai: 1190
    Have I selected the right trains and the total cost is less than the cost of a JR Rail Pass?
    If no can you offer your suggestions?

    1. Hi Calvin,

      JR pass does not work. Your calculation is right. But I think the fare for Tokyo to Kyoto is not 1380 yen. I think it’s 13,800 yen. JR pass is way higher than total fares anyway.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi-San,

    I am going to Osaka/Kyoto in May and i hope you could help me in choosing what passes i should get for the trip. Thank you Sooooo much in advance!
    My 11 days itinerary are:

    Day 1 evening, 1800 arrive in Kansai Airport. Lodging at Nagahoribashi.
    Day 2: Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple and Shinsekai.
    Day 3 :Probably around namba area, dontonbori, shinseibashi.
    Day 4: Mount Koya day trip and back to osaka
    Day 5: Universal Studio Japan
    Day 6: Check out and stay in Kyoto (Shijo Horikawa area)
    Day 7: Kyoto Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple, Kinkaku Temple and probably Ginkaku Temple.
    Day 8: Kiyomizu-dera, fushima-Inari
    Day 9: Shopping around Downtown Kyoto
    Day 10 : Day Trip to Nara
    Day 11 : Check out and to Kansai Airport

  3. HI! Could you please tell me which is the best pass in terms of time and money saving if my itinerary is the following:

    day one: Narita airport to kyoto

    day two: Kyoto to nara for the day

    day 6 Kyoto to Tokyo

    day 7 tokyo to Kamakura

    day 8 Tokyo to Mount Fouji

    I’ll be 4 more days travelling around Tokyo (metro) and I also have to return to the airport to catch my flight back home. If I plan to concentrate all my longer rides on the first seven days, is it still convenient to buy a 14 day pass (taking into account that I would like to go to Mt fuji on day 8, that I have to traver around tokio on the rest of the days and that I need to get back to the airport? ) or buying a 7 day one would be just fine?

    Thank you!!

    maria jose

  4. Hi, could you please advise me on the best pass to get:

    Fly into Nagoya, then to Kyoto, then to Nara, and back to Nagoya for departure.

    What is the best rail pass for me to get that will also save me money?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Kintetsu rail pass is most affordable choice.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/kintetsu-rail-pass-most-affordable-deal-for-osakakyoto-nagoya-and-access-to-ise.html

      But this pass does not cover airport to Nagoya station. And you cannot get Kyoto directly from Nagoya. You have to change trains at least once even if you add limited express surcharge. You can find all info in the link above.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hello Takeshi san,

    may you help me to to choice the best pass that I can used for my itinerary below:

    day 1, osaka – nara, we plan to stay near osaka station
    day 2 osaka -Takayama
    day 3 universal studio osaka, dontoburi and osaka aquarium
    day 4, osaka-kyoto
    day 5, osaka-tokyo
    day 6, tokyo-yokohama
    day 7, tokyo-hakone
    day 8, tokyo disney sea
    day 9, prepared for going back

    Sincerely
    Tina

    1. Hi Tina san,

      You may use JR pass 7 days for the first 7 days. JR Pass does not cover whole part of your trip in this 7 days because it does not cover subway, city bus and other non JR transportation. Please see the link below to find more info:
      https://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

      Single ticket is okay for day 8. If you leave from Haneda or Narita, you can find some info in the links below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/haneda/how-to-access-from-haneda-airport-to-downtown-tokyo.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hello Takeshi,

    Can you help me identify which train pass should i get for below itinerary? Also, do you have any travel information on Sapporo? I’ll include our itinerary as well just in case you can help us.

    Day 1 Jan 24, 2018 Wednesday
    Osaka Castle Tour
    Namba, Shinsaibashi, Dohtonbori
    Day 2 Jan 25, 2018 Thursday
    Universal Studios Japan
    Day 3 Jan 26, 2018 Friday
    Kyoto Tour
    Fushimi Inari Shrine
    Tofukuji Temple
    Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
    Gion Street
    Day 7 Jan 30, 2018 Tuesday
    Nara Deer Park
    Todaiji Temple
    Kofukuji Temple
    Gangoji Temple
    Nara Museum
    Kasuga Taisha Shrine

    Day 4 Jan 27, 2018 Saturday Sapporo
    Odori Park
    Sapporo TV Tower
    Susukino
    Sapporo Beer Museum
    Clock Tower
    Day 5 Jan 28, 2018 Sunday Sapporo
    Moerenuma Park
    Mt. Moiwa
    Day 6 Jan 29, 2018 Monday Sapporo
    Takino Suzuran Hillside Park
    Otaru Canal
    Tanukikoji

    Thank you so much in advance!

    Joyce

    1. Hi Joyce,

      How do you get Sapporo from Osaka? If you intend to take a train, JR pass is your choice.
      https://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

      But the trip to Sapporo from Osaka by train is very very long trip. Please see the link below to find the info:
      https://jprail.com/destinations/hokkaido-area/how-to-get-sapporo.html

      There is no overnight train available. You have to spend one whole day for just moving.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hello Takeshi,

        We wil board ANA airlines going to Sapporo. This will be our 7 days itinerary and we need your expertise on what train passes should we get to fully maximize our travel.

        Day 1 Osaka
        Osaka Castle Tour
        Shinsaibashi, Dohtonbori

        Day 2 Osaka
        Universal Studios Japan

        Day 3 Kyoto
        Fushimi Inari Shrine
        Tofukuji Temple
        Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

        Day 4 Sapporo
        Odori Park
        Sapporo TV Tower
        Susukino
        Sapporo Beer Museum
        Clock Tower

        Day 5 Sapporo
        Moerenuma Park
        Mt. Moiwa

        Day 6
        Takino Suzuran Hillside Park
        Otaru Canal
        Tanukikoji

        Day 7
        Nara Deer Park
        Todaiji Temple

        Thank you so much for accommodating my inquiries 🙂

  7. Hello Takeshi San, we will be stopping over at Nara for a day trip from Kyoto and using the JR 7 day pass. Can we use the pass to go to Nara-koen Park, Isuien Garden, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga-taisha shrine and Kofuku Ji Temple? And is this possible to do in one day? Please let me know, thank you!

  8. Hello Takeshi san,

    I am confused of the rail passes that are available and I hope you can give me some suggestions as to what passes should I get :-
    Day 1 : Kansai Airport to Shin-Osaka (3 days) [Yodogawa-ku]
    Dotonbori, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Tsutenkaku
    Day 2 : Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple, Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden, Hep Five Ferris Wheel,
    Day 3 : Himeji Castle, Kobe, Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
    Day 4 : Osaka to Kyoto (3 days) [Higashiiru,Shijyo-Dori]
    Nijojo and Imperial Castle, Potoncho
    Day 5 : Fushimi Inari Shrine, Byodin Temple, Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama Bamboo Groves
    Day 6 : Nishiki Fish Market, Kiyomizudera Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, Gion
    Day 7 : Kyoto to Tokyo (2 days) [Asakusa-bashi, Taito-ku]
    Meji Shrine, Shibuya, Sensoji Temple, Ginza
    Day 8 : Tsukji Fish Market, Kamakura Kotoku-in, Hase-Dera Temple, Akihabara
    Day 9 : Tokyo to Hakone (1 day) [Sengokuhara, Hakonemachi]
    Owakudani, Hakone Shrine, Lake Ashi, Gotemba Premium Outet
    Day 10 : Hakone to Tokyo (1 day) [Asakusa-bashi, Taito-ku]
    Free and easy- Ameyoko
    Day 11 : Tokyo to Sapporo (thinking of flying) (5 days) [Chuo-ku]
    Odori Park, Susukino, Otaru, Lake Toya
    Looking forward for your advise and hope to hear from you soon 🙂
    Warmest regards
    Siew

    1. Hi Siew san,

      Basically you can follow my sample in the link below:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/7days/basic-itinerary-of-osaka-kyoto-and-tokyo-in-7-days.html

      And you can add Kansai area pass one day for trip to Himeji on day 3 and Hakone free pass 2 days for day 9 and 10 on top of the sample in the link above.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/hakone/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Hello Takeshi san,

    A very good day to you. I will be travel to Japan west for 9 days and kinda confuse with transportation and need your kind advise. These are my itineraries:

    Day 1 Kansai airport to Kyoto – shall i buy Icoca+ Haruka tickets – 1 way or 2 way? or Shall i buy JR West Pass for 4 days?
    Day 4 Kyoto to Tennoji –
    Day 5 Tennoji to Nara + Kobe
    Day 6Tennoji to Namba
    Day 7 Tennoji to Osaka
    Day 9 Tennoji to Kansai airport

    Basically i will stay Kyoto for 3 nights and explore Osaka, Nara, Kobe from Tennoji…Not sure i shall take JR-West Kansai Rail Pass (4 days) or I just take Icoca + Haruka ticket or Osaka Amazing pass or Kansai thru pass..

    Hope to hear from you soon.

    Thank you so much!
    Cai

    1. Hi Cai san,

      I recommend you to use ICOCA and Haruka one way for day 1. You may add Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA. Kansai one pass is same type card as ICOCA but it designed for foreign tourist. It offers the discount at many attractions:
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      Use Kansai one pass when you take train and subway in Kyoto. You can use it for taking city bus too but city bus pass is sold at 500 yen for one day. You can get the worth by only 3 rides. It’s much better than using Kansai one pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      Use Kansai one pass for Kyoto to Tennoji too. But if you want to take Haruka from Kyoto to Tennoji, Haruka discount ticket for Kyoto to Tennoji is cheaper than using single ticket or Kansai one pass. If you take JR train after arrival Tennoji, you can use Kansai area pass.

      Kansai area pass is also your choice for day 5. So you may use 2 days Kansai area pass for day 4 and 5.

      In Osaka, you can choose the deal in the link below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html

      At last, you can use Haruka discount ticket again on the last day if you want to take Haruka. Don’t buy round trip ICOCA and Haruka to Kyoto. Purchase separately and get better deal.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Hello Takeshi san,
    Due to Japan railway and buses are many lines, it makes me difficult to choose what kinds of pass is more economical for our trip in Japan , can you give any suggestions? The followings is our itinerary:
    Day 1: Kansai Airport to Osaka, Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka Castle and Dotonbori
    Day 2: Universal studio
    Day 3: Osaka – Kyoto (Uji)
    Day 4: Kyoto to Nagoya
    Day 5: Nagoya – Gotemba station
    Day 6: Gotemba – Mt Fuji (day trip)
    Day 7: Mt Fuji – Tokyo station /Shinjuku station
    Day 8: Tokyo Area
    Day 9: Shinjuku Station – Haneda Airport
    Sincerely
    Nelly

    1. Hi Nelly san,

      You need to purchase a regular ticket for city to city transfer.

      For KIX to Osaka, Yokoso Osaka ticket is most recommended:
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      Single ticket is your choice for day 2 to 7. There is no deals available which is cheaper than single ticket. But if you intend to visit Hakone before going to Gotemba, you may think about using Fuji Hakone Pass. It covers from Odawara-Gotemaba-Fuji (Lake Kawaguchi)- Shinjuku in Tokyo.
      http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/fujihakone/

      Otherwise you need to purchase a regular ticket for Nagoya-Mishima by Shinkansen, Mishima to Gotemaba by bus, round trip bus fare to Fuji from Gotemba, and Gotemba to Tokyo bus. I think Fuji Hakone Pass is easier choice.

      In Tokyo, you may use subway pass or other deal.
      https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Single ticket is your choice for going to Haneda.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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