This guide on how to get to Nara from Tokyo goes along with this one day Nara itinerary with the best places to visit.
As an ancient capital of Japan, Nara can be a good place to go for some history and culture.
This city is also where you’ll find the nearly 50 foot tall Great Buddha, the largest bronze statue of Buddha in Japan.
Oh, and the deer. Nara is also very well-known for the deer.
You will see them everywhere. If you’ll be making your way to the top attractions of Nara, you won’t have to go searching for deer. They are all around.
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So now, is it easy to get from Tokyo to Nara by train?
It can be pretty easy.
The best way to get from Tokyo to Nara because of the long distance is in part by the fast shinkansen bullet train.
But there is no shinkansen station in Nara, which means that whether you travel with or without a JR pass, you need one train transfer.
With the JR pass, there is a specific train that you’ll need to take, but there are still frequent enough timings of trains running between Tokyo and Nara that it’s pretty convenient.
If you’re looking to get to Nara using your JR pass, you basically have one option that you’ll want to take.
If you don’t have a JR pass, you have a few options to get from Tokyo to Nara by train:
- Shinkansen bullet train + JR train (JR pass option)
- Shinkansen bullet train + Kintetsu train
Train stations to know about
In Tokyo, there are 2 shinkansen stations:
- Tokyo station
- Shinagawa station
You’ll be transferring in Kyoto when you take the shinkansen:
- Kyoto train station
In Nara, there are 2 train stations in separate locations:
- JR Nara station
- Kintetsu Nara station
How to get from Tokyo to Nara with a Japan rail pass
Cost with JR pass: FREE!
- SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN + JR RAPID TRAIN
- Tokyo to Kyoto: Hikari shinkansen (2 hr 40 min)
- Short walk at Kyoto station from the shinkansen line to the JR line
- Kyoto to Nara: JR rapid train (45 min)
- Total time: Around 3 hours 45 minutes from start to finish including transfer time
It’s possible to travel from Tokyo to Nara by using the JR pass only, so you won’t have to pay anything extra!
The one small downside of the JR pass is that you can’t use the pass to take the fastest Nozomi shinkansen. So you’ll have to be sure to get on the Hikari.
In terms of time it takes, the Hikari will get you from Tokyo to Kyoto 20 minutes slower compared to the Hikari.
Similarly in Nara, you can’t take the fastest train from Kyoto to Nara, and you need to make sure you take a train on the JR line. The JR rapid train that you take will get you to Nara around 10 minutes slower compared to fastest Kintetsu train.
How much does it cost to get to Nara from Tokyo WITHOUT a Japan rail pass?
Now, let’s say you’re trying to figure out if you should have your JR pass activated when you go to Nara, or you won’t be traveling around Japan at all with a JR pass.
Listed prices are approximate just so you can start to get at least a little bit of an idea.
These are your main options.
Option 1: Nozomi shinkansen + Kintetsu limited express
Cost: 15,040 yen (US$132)
- SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN + KINTETSU LIMITED EXPRESS TRAIN
- Tokyo to Kyoto: Nozomi shinkansen (2 hr 20 min)
- Short walk at Kyoto station from the shinkansen line to the Kintestu line
- Kyoto to Kintetsu Nara station: Kintetsu limited express train (35 min)
- Total time: Around 3 hours 5 minutes from start to finish including transfer time
This is the fastest way to get to Nara when you look at time on train.
The Kintetsu limited express (as opposed to just “express”) requires an additional seat reservation on top of your normal ticket. The seat reservation is an added cost of 620 yen (US$5) and the limited express is around 10 minutes faster than the regular express train.
There also might be a way to save $30 on your shinkansen ticket to Kyoto. See the Kodama discount option here for the Tokyo to Kyoto trains.
Option 2: Nozomi shinkansen + Kintetsu express
Cost: 14,530 yen (US$127)
- SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN + KINTETSU EXPRESS TRAIN
- Tokyo to Kyoto: Nozomi shinkansen (2 hr 20 min)
- Short walk at Kyoto station from shinkansen line to Kintetsu line
- Kyoto to Kintetsu Nara station: Kintetsu express train (45 min)
- Total time: Around 3 hours 15 minutes from start to finish including transfer time
Whether you take the Kintetsu limited express or Kintetsu express can also come down to when you arrive at Kyoto station.
You can decide once you get to Kyoto which train you want to take based on train timings, as you’ll buy your Kintetsu ticket once you get to Kyoto station.
It’s possible that it could make sense to take another train instead of waiting for the next limited express to depart.
Option 3: Nozomi shinkansen + JR rapid train
Cost: 14,140 yen (US$125)
- SHINKANSEN BULLET TRAIN + JR RAPID TRAIN: From Tokyo station
- Tokyo to Kyoto: Nozomi shinkansen (2 hr 20 min)
- Kyoto to JR Nara station: JR rapid train (45 min)
- Total time: Around 3 hours 20 minutes from start to finish including transfer time
And again, whether you want to take the Kintetsu line or the JR line to Nara can come down to train timings for when you get to Kyoto.
You may also want to base your decision on where you’re going once you get to Nara. You might want to choose the train station that’s closer to where you’re headed.
Option 4: Local trains from Tokyo to Nara
Cost: 8,500 – 9,000 yen (US$80)
Or maybe even less than $30
As you can imagine, taking the local train from Tokyo to Nara will be a LOT slower compared to taking the bullet train. Remember that if you take the bullet train option, it takes 3 to 3.5 hours to get to Nara from Tokyo.
But if you’re not short on time and you’re trying to save a little bit of extra money, this is an option you can consider.
Tokyo to Nara by local train:
- 6 different trains, so 5 transfers
- Train #1: 1 hour 45 minutes (Tokyo to Atami)
- Train #2: 2 hours 10 minutes (Atami to Kakegawa)
- Train #3: 1 hour (Kakegawa to Toyohashi)
- Train #4: 2 hours 10 minutes (Toyohashi to Maibara)
- Train #5: 1 hour (Maibara to Kyoto)
- Train #6: 45 minutes (Kyoto to Nara)
- Total time from start to finish including transfer time: Around 10 hours
This is NOT the only way to get to Nara by local trains from Tokyo.
There are alternate routes too, but this is just to give you an idea of what it may take to go for the cheaper train option. You would be looking at 5-7 train transfers if you go for this cheaper way.
Now, what is this $30 ticket price for Tokyo to Nara?!
Well, this is for people traveling in a group, or you might even consider it if there are 2 of you.
It’s said to only be for a limited time, but there is a “seishun 18” day pass.
You can use this for unlimited train rides on JR trains that are local trains and rapid trains. You can’t use it on shinkansen trains, and you can’t use it on JR trains that require a seat reservation.
The other “catch” is that you need to buy a pack of 5 train tickets. It’s actually sold as a ticket package of “5 days worth of travel.” So you can think of this as 5 separate day passes.
The seishun 18 pass costs 11,850 yen (US$105).
Even if you don’t use of all 5 of the train tickets, it can work out to be cheaper to buy the pack if you’re traveling in a group.
- For a family of 5, this works out to around $21 each
- For a family of 4, this works out to around $25 each with 1 extra unused ticket
- If you’re a group of 3, this works out to around $35 each, with 2 unused tickets
- For 2 people, it would be around $50 each, with 3 unused tickets
You can check here to see if the seishun 18 pass is currently available and for additional details. You’ll buy this pass once you’re in Japan at JR ticket offices.
JR train or Kintetsu train to Nara?
In Kyoto, the JR line and Kintetsu line can be found at the same station.
This is not the case in Nara. The JR Nara stop is located in a separate location from the Kintetsu Nara stop.
The Kintetsu train station is slightly closer to the best things to do in Nara compared to the JR train station.
But even if you take the JR train to get to Nara, it’s not that big of a deal, as the distance between the 2 train stations is about a 10 minute walk.
Transferring from the Shinkansen line at Kyoto station to Nara line
Whether you’re traveling with or without a JR pass, you’ll transfer at Kyoto station if you’re taking a shinkansen to get to Nara.
When you get to Kyoto station, you’ll walk over to the JR line or Kintetsu line, depending on which train you’re taking next.
Kyoto station is pretty big, but if you follow the signs or ask the train station employees, you’ll be able to find your way.
If you’re traveling without a JR pass and taking a Kintetsu train to travel the rest of the way to Nara, you’ll buy just your shinkansen ticket in Tokyo. Then when you get to Kyoto, you’ll buy your Kintetsu ticket.
Public transportation apps to download before your trip to Japan:
- Google Maps
- Navitime for Japan Travel
Have these apps on your phone and you’ll become a pro in no time at navigating public transportation in Japan!
When you’re in Tokyo and ready to head to Nara, search for directions to Nara from your current location!
Top tips for using Navitime to get from Tokyo to Nara
- To search train timings when you’re traveling with a JR pass, see the option “tourist pass”
- If you’re not using a JR pass, you’ll need to search for the JR train and Kintetsu train separately, since they are 2 different train stations
- For the JR line, it’ll be “Nara”
- For the Kintetsu line, it’ll be “Kintetsu-Nara” with the hyphen and no space
- To search local trains only, unclick the following under search options:
- Shinkansen, added-fare trains, city bus
- Once you get to Kyoto station, use your current location to search for train timings to Nara. In particular when traveling without a JR pass, you might find alternate options that will get you to Nara faster than waiting for the next Kintetsu limited express train
Best things to do in Nara
Now that you have a better idea of how to get to Nara, what to do when you get there?!
Here are some ideas!
1. Visit Great Buddha Hall at Todaiji Temple
2. Walk to Kasuga taisha shrine
3. Visit Kasuga taisha
4. Visit Sangatsudo temple
5. Visit Kofukuji temple
Plan your trip to Nara
For further details on planning your trip to Nara, be sure to take a look at this list of the best places to visit in Nara in one day so you can see lots and lots of deer!
HAPPY KYOTO TO NARA PLANNING!
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