How to Get to Nara
Within easy reach of both Kyoto and Osaka, Nara is a much smaller city but one with a very important history. As the capital prior to Kyoto, Nara boasts many significant temples including Japan’s largest, Todai-ji, and being notably smaller than Kyoto, it is a pleasant city to explore on-foot. On this page you will find the following information:
Once so powerful the capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto to limit the influence of the monks of Todai-ji, the story of Nara is inextricable from that of Kyoto and Japan itself. The city is home to multiple temples and shrines of international and global importance, with other historic and cultural attractions also on offer. While Nara is a small city, it is serviced by two train stations with a couple of important points to note – discussed below.
The following information is intended for international visitors, most of whom will have a Japan Rail (JR) Pass. For that reason, this page focuses on train travel and only uses buses in the absence of a good option to use the train network. Let’s start with the obvious question:
WHERE IS NARA?
Nara is a small but hugely historic city lying around 40KM to the direct south of Kyoto and 35KM to the east of Osaka – it takes around 50 minutes to reach Nara from both starting points. The city is serviced by two main train stations – Kintetsu-Nara Station and JR Nara Station. For visitors heading to Nara’s main attractions including Todai-ji and the Nara Deer Park, Kintetsu-Nara Station is the more convenient however services to it are not covered by an Japan Rail (JR) Pass. Services to JR Nara Station are covered – see below for details. Nara has plenty to keep you entertained for a couple of days or can be enjoyed as a daytrip from Kyoto or Osaka.
KINTETSU-NARA STATION vs. JR NARA STATION
Kintetsu-Nara Station: located within walking distance of some of the city’s most famous and popular attractions – including Kofuku-ji, Todai-ji, Nara Park, the Kasuga Grand Shrine and Nara National Museum – Kintetsu-Nara Station is the most convenient station to visitors heading to these sites. It is however important to note that services to and from this station are not covered by any Japan Rail (JR) Pass.
JR Nara Station: located around 1km / 10 to 15-minutes walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station, JR Nara Station sits further away from the city’s most famous attractions i.e. the walk to Todai-ji from JR Nara Station is around 30-minutes rather than 15-minutes from Kintetsu-Nara Station. However services to and from JR Nara Station are covered by the JR Pass making it an attractive option for many international visitors. Whichever station you choose to use, Nara is a small city that can be explored on foot and both stations will work in terms of getting to the most popular attractions, noting that Kintetsu-Nara Station is the more convenient of the two.
HOW TO GET TO NARA
In this section you will find information on how to reach Nara from the following starting points:
KYOTO – OSAKA – KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT – NAGOYA – TOKYO – NARITA AIRPORT – HANEDA AIRPORT – KANAZAWA – TOYAMA – NAGANO CITY – JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK – MATSUMOTO – KAMIKOCHI – TAKAYAMA – SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA – TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE
We endeavour to keep this information as up-to-date as possible and in recognition that most international visitors will be using the train network to move around Japan, most directions are for using the trains. If there is alternative option i.e. express or local bus, that is notably faster or economical, we also include that information.
FROM KYOTO / approx. 40 to 50 minutes
As noted above, there are two stations servicing Nara, both of which can be reached using services from Kyoto Station. Services heading to Kintetsu-Nara Station are the fastest and take you to the station closest to the most popular attractions however this option is not covered by any JR Pass and requires you to transfer trains along the way. Services two JR Nara Station take a little longer and ultimately place you further away from the main attractions of the city however this service is covered by the JR Pass.
1 / To Kintetsu-Nara Station (fastest/most convenient): take the rapid express service on the Kintetsu Nara Line bound, switching trains at Yamatosaidaiji and onto Kintetsu-Nara Station – approx. 40-minutes / JPY1160 – not covered by JR Pass.
2 / To JR Nara Station: take the JR Nara Line bound for Nara – approx. 50-minutes / JPY720 – covered by JR Pass.
FROM OSAKA / approx. 40 to 50 minutes
Visitors coming from Osaka have the option of using the Kintetsu Nara Line to Kintetsu-Nara Station or the Yamatoji Rapid Service to JR Nara Station:
1 / To Kintetsu-Nara Station (fastest/most convenient): take the rapid express service on the Kintetsu Nara Line – approx. 40-minutes / JPY560 – from Osaka Namba Station*.
2 / To JR Nara Station (covered by JR Pass): take the Yamatoji Rapid – approx. 50-minutes / JPY800 – from Osaka Station*.
*Please note, Osaka Namba Station and Osaka Station are not stops on the Tokaido or any other shinkansen line.
FROM KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT / approx. 1.5 hours
For visitors traveling directly to Nara from Kansai International Airport, it will be easiest to do so by heading to JR Nara Station. It is the fastest and least confusing option. From Kansai Airport, take the JR Kansai Rapid Service to Tennoji Station and switch to the JR Yamatoji Rapdi Service bound for Osaka, disembarking at JR Nara Station – approx. 90-minutes / JPY1740.
FROM NAGOYA / approx. 1.5 hours
Reaching Nara from Nagoya is most easily done via Kyoto. Both Kyoto and Nagoya Station are stops on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, making the journey quick and easy. From Nagoya Station, take any Tokaido shinkansen service to Kyoto – 35-minutes / JPY5170 – and once in Kyoto, follow the direction above onto Nara. For more information about everything on offer in and around Nagoya, see our ‘Nagoya & Kii Peninsula’ destination page.
FROM TOKYO / approx. 3.5 hours
The eastern terminus of the Tokaido Shinkansen line, it’s also easy to reach Nara from Tokyo, via Kyoto. From Tokyo Station, take the Tokaido Shinkansen, between 135 to 160-minutes / JPY13000 to JPY14,000 (depending on which service you choose). Once in Kyoto, follow the directions above to reach Nara. For more information about everything on offer in the capital, see our ‘Tokyo’ destination page.
FROM NARITA AIRPORT / approx. 4.5 hours
Travelers heading from the airport to Nara can do so in a three-step journey via Tokyo and Kyoto. Narita Airport is connected to Tokyo by two rapid services – the Narita Express (NEX) and Keisei Skyliner. Travelers heading directly to Nara from the airport should use the NEX to Tokyo Station and once there, switch to the Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Kyoto Station.
The NEX takes around 55-minutes / JPY3070 to travel from Narita to Tokyo Station. Once in Tokyo, follow the directions above to reach Kyoto.
FROM HANEDA AIRPORT / approx. 4 hours
It is faster to reach Nara from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport than Narita Airport. Haneda is serviced by two rail lines – the Tokyo Monorail and Keikyu Line. When heading directly to Nara from Haneda Airport, it is best to use the Keikyu Line to Shinagawa Station and then switch to the Tokaido Shinkansen bound for Kyoto. – a total journey time of 170 to 200-minutes / JPY14,170. Once in Kyoto, follow the directions above to reach Nara.
FROM KANAZAWA / approx. 3.5 hours
Reaching Nara from Kanazawa Station is very straight-forward. From Kanazawa, take the Limited Express Thunderbird – – 125-minutes / JPY6490 – to Kyoto Station, Once in Kyoto, follow the directions above. For more information about everything on offer in around Kanazawa, see our ‘Kanazawa’ destination page.
FROM TOYAMA / approx. 4 to 4.5 hours
From Toyama Station, take any service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen line to nearby Kanazawa – 20 to 25-minutes / JPY2860 – and then follow the directions above onto to Kyoto and finally, Nara. For more information about everything on offer in around Toyama, see our ‘Alpine Route & Toyama’ destination page.
FROM NAGANO CITY / approx. 5 to 5.5 hours
When travelling from Nagano Station to Nara, visitors have a choice of three routes – via Nagoya, Kanazawa or Tokyo – each taking between 5 to 5.5-hours. We recommend making the journey via either Nagoya or Kanazawa, allowing you to incorporate other destinations in Central Japan into your travel itinerary. Here are your three options:
1 / via Nagoya (recommended): from Nagano Station, take the Limited Express Shinano. Operating approximately once per hour, the journey takes around 3 hours and costs JPY6930. Much of the line takes you through a particularly beautiful part of Japan and stopping at Matsumoto and Kiso-Fukushima, allowing you to visit Matsumoto Castle, the Kiso-Ontake Mountain Range and/or the Nakasendo Trail on the way. Once in Nagoya, follow the directions above.
2 / via Kanazawa: take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Kanazawa Station – between 65 to 90-minutes / JPY8920 to JPY8590 (depending on which service you use). Once in Kanazawa, follow the directions above.
3 / via Tokyo: take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Nagano to Tokyo Station – between 80 to 110 minutes / JPY8000 to JPY9000 (depending on which service you use). Once in Tokyo, follow the directions above to reach Nara.
For more information about everything on offer in around Nagano City, see our ‘Nagano’ destination page.
FROM THE JIGOKUDANI MONKEY PARK / approx. 6 to 6.5 hours
To reach Nara from the Jigokudani Monkey Park takes time and multiple transfers. From the park, you have the option of: 1. a direct express bus from the park to Nagano Station or 2. a local bus to Yudanaka Station followed by an express train to Nagano Station.
Starting from the park, the express bus costs JPY1500 each way and takes 55 minutes to reach Nagano Station. In comparison, taking the local bus from the park to Yudanaka Station followed by the train, takes 15 minutes and costs JPY310 before the limited express train to Nagano takes 45 minutes and costs JPY1290 – a total journey of around 60 to 70 minutes and costing JPY1600.
Once at Nagano Station, choose your preferred route to Osaka following the directions above – please note, public transport to and from the monkey park is not covered by any Japan (JR) Pass. For more information about everything on offer in around the park, see our ‘Explore Yamanouchi – Home of the Snow Monkeys’ page.
FROM MATSUMOTO / approx. 4 to 4.5 hours
Take the Limited Express Shinano from Matsumoto Station to Nagoya Station – approx. 130-minutes / JPY5610. Once in Nagoya, follow the directions above to reach Nara. For more information about everything on offer in around the city, see our ‘Matsumoto’ destination page.
FROM KAMIKOCHI / approx. 7 hours
Reaching Nara from Kamikochi is a 3-step journey via Takayama and then Kyoto. From the Kamikochi Bus Terminal, take the bus to the Hirayu Onsen Bus Terminal – 25 to 30 minutes – and then switch to the bus headed to Takayama – another 60 minutes. Once in Takayama, follow the directions below to reach Kyoto and then onto Nara. Kamikochi is one of Japan’s most spectacular natural landscapes. For more information about what’s on offer there, see our ‘Kamikochi’ activity page.
FROM TAKAYAMA / approx. 5 hours
To reach Nara from the historic town of Takayama, take the Limited Express Hida service from Takayama Station bound for Nagoya Station – approximately 145-minutes / JPY5610. Once in Nagoya, take any service on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Kyoto Station – 35-minutes / JPY5170. Once in Kyoto, follow the directions above to reach Nara. For more information about everything on offer in around the city, see our ‘Takayama’ destination page.
FROM SHIRAKAWA-GO & GOKAYAMA / approx. 5.5 hours
When traveling from the World Heritage-listed villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama to Nara, it will be fastest to do so via Kanazawa. The Hokuetsu Bus company operates regular services between the main village of Ogimachi (with some additional services to Suganuma from March until November) and Kanazawa Station. A one-way journey takes approximately 85 minutes and costs JPY1850. Once in Kanazawa follow the directions above to reach Nara. For more information about one of Central Japan’s most remarkable destinations see our ‘Shirakawa-go & Gokayama’ activity page.
FROM THE TATEYAMA-KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE / approx. 6 hours
To reach Nara from the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route it will fastest to descend to the Toyama-side of the mountain and do so from Tateyama Station. From Tateyama, take the Toyama Chiho Railway from Tateyama Station to Dentetsu Toyama Station – 60 minutes / JPY1230. Once in Toyama, walk the short distance to Toyama Station and follow the directions above onto Kanazawa and then onto Nara. One of Japan’s most remarkable experiences, our ‘Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route’ page is a great place to start when planning your visit.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN VISITING NARA
Nara has a decent range of accommodation with the option of also staying in nearby Kyoto or Osaka where you will find a huge range of hotels and guesthouses including luxury, mid-range and budgets options. Our ‘Where to Stay in Kyoto & Nara?’ page listed the best areas including accommodation listings.
40 THINGS TO DO IN KYOTO, NARA & OSAKA
Boasting some of Japan’s most important temples and shrines, the former capitals of Nara and Kyoto are the country’s most historic cities. Our ’40 Things to Do in Kyoto, Nara & Osaka’ page lists some of the most popular and rewarding attractions in the cities along with nearby Osaka – one of Japan’s great metropolises, famous for its friendly locals, food, shopping and nightlife.
PRIVATE CHARTERS & TOURS IN CENTRAL JAPAN
Operating all year round, we are Nagano’s No.1-rated tour and charter operator, offering a range of services including group tours, private tours and charters. We can arrange transport including a private vehicle and driver, to transport you to, from and between any destination in Central Japan.
Our drivers and vehicles are fully certified, allowing us to transport you to and from your preferred destinations, in combination with any activity that suits your interests and schedule including transport to and from any destination in Central Japan. All vehicles are fitted with a protective screen – separating the driver from passenger and luggage area – and our drivers wear protective masks, allowing you to move between your destinations in comfort and safety.
We can arrange both private tours with an English-speaking guide or a private charter, including a private vehicle and driver but without a guide. We’d love to be part of that experience and help you discover even more!
Why choose us?
Awarded a 2022 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for our 1-Day Snow Monkeys, Zenko-ji Temple & Sake Tour – recognised as one of the Top 10 Experiences in Japan – we have the local knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your time in Nagano and Central Japan.
Got a question about arranging a charter or tour in Central Japan? Contact us and let’s get planning together!