By Anna van Dyk
Nara Prefecture is home to Japan’s oldest towns and cities. Buddhism, Buddha statues, green tea, Japanese noodles, and many more things all got their start here 1300–1400 years ago. Nara also has the greatest number of World Heritage sites anywhere in the country, and is home to fairytale landscapes, beautiful temples and shrines, and friendly deer that will eat deer crackers right out of your hand! All of this awaits those coming from Tokyo and is as easy as taking two trains.
Tokyo to Kyoto on the Bullet Train
From Tokyo or Shinagawa Stations get on the Tokkaido-Sanyo Line shinkansen and ride it all the way to Kyoto. The fastest and most frequent express service, Nozomi, completes the journey in 2 hours and 18 minutes for ￥13,080 each way. Nozomi services are not covered by the JR Rail Pass, but all other services, including Kodama and Hikari, are. Hikari completes the Tokyo to Kyoto leg in about 2 hours 40 minutes, and Kodama take 3 hours 48 minutes.
For those not using a JR Rail Pass and looking for a discount, the Puratto Kodama Economy Plan offers a reserved seat and a free drink at a 25% discount over the regular reserved fare (￥10,100 each way vs. ￥13,600) if booked 24-hours in advance. Just reserve at the Tokai Tours ticket office at Tokyo, Shinagawa or Shinjuku Stations.
Kyoto Station to Nara
Once you reach Kyoto Station you have two options: transfer to the JR Nara Line or transfer to the Kintetsu Line.
- JR Nara Line
Transferring to the JR Nara Line is the more cost effective option for both JR Rail Pass users and regular travelers, it has the most Nara bound departures (4 every hour), and it’s right next to the Shinkansen-regular railway line transfer gate on tracks 9 and 10. If you're already in Kyoto, the regular one way fare from Kyoto to Nara is ￥710.
The Kintetsu Line is more time effective than the JR Nara Line taking about 5-10 minutes less time to traverse the distance from Kyoto to Nara, and Kintetsu Nara Station is much closer to Nara Park (less than a 5 minute walk) than JR Nara Station is (about 1.2 km).
The Kintetsu Line ticket gates are directly across from the Shinkansen’s Central Area ticket gates. Nara bound trains generally depart from tracks 11 and 12 (the right-most tracks when walking into the station through the ticket gates).
The one way fare to Nara on the Kintetsu Line is ￥620. Limited Express trains incur an additional ￥510 reserved seat fee but take less than 40 minutes to complete the journey.
Getting the most out of Nara
For free cultural activities and events in Nara, and for comprehensive information about Nara and the rest of Japan provided by knowledgeable and multilingual staff, head to the NARA Visitor Center and Inn next to Sarusawa Pond. It’s just down the stairs from the 5-story pagoda at Kofukuji Temple.
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Seven years of exploring and playing in the wilds of Japan! Now I'm JapanTravel's Tourism and PR Ambassador in Nara Prefecture and the Regional Partner for Nara Prefecture. It's been my experience that there's little if any awareness of Nara and its importance outside of Japan. My goal: remedy that