Once the ancient capital of Japan, Nara is a must- see place in Japan. Nara is popular day trip destination due to its proximity to Osaka and Kyoto. This charming city are well known for ‘friendly’ wild deer and long lists of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Nara is located an hour away from Kyoto and 40 minutes away from Osaka. There are plenty of things to do in Nara. If you only have a day to spare it is possible explore a few of the main sites in that time . If the plan is for a day trip and trying see as much as possible, then an early start is in order.
Getting to Nara
The best way to get to Nara from both Osaka and Kyoto is by train. Good thing is, trains from Kyoto and Osaka to Nara departs as early as 6 am. There are two companies operating train services from both Kyoto and Osaka to Nara, the JR Train Line and the Kintetsu Private Network. For public transportation timetable, information and route search in Japan, the HyperDia website and app would be a helpful tool. Bear in mind that these trains are not Shinkansen (bullet train), rather an express/ rapid line train.
Kyoto to Nara
JR Nara Line: The Miyakoji Rapid Trains departs from Kyoto Station every 30 minutes. The direct trip from Kyoto Station to the JR Nara Station takes 45 minutes. Cost for each way is ¥ 710. This fee is included as part of the JR Rail Pass .
Kintetsu Nara Line: The private Kintetsu Nara Line also departs from Kyoto Station . The express trains trip takes 35 minutes including transfer time and cost for each way is ¥ 1130. Train stops at Kintetsu Nara Station. The JR Rail Pass is not valid for use on this rail network.
Tip: Both JR and Kintetsu Line are located within Kyoto station but in different section. Arrive at least an hour prior to your train departure to give you enough time to navigate the station.
Tip: JR line is located on the Karasuma (North) side. Platform 8,9 and 10 is the boarding platform for JR Nara Line.
Tip: Kintetsu Line Station is in the Hachijo (South) side of the station. Limited express trains run from Platform 1 and 2 of Kintetsu Train Line.
Tip: Only the limited express line on Kintetsu Train line will take you to Nara in 35 minutes. The Local train will have up to 21 stops in between and takes longer.
Osaka to Nara
JR Yamatoji Rapid Service : You can access the Yamatoji Rapid Service from Osaka Station or the JR Namba Line. If you take your train from the JR Namba line, take the Yamatoji Line to Kyuhoji Station and transfer to the Yamatoji Rapid Service. Yamatoji Rapid Service from Osaka Station takes 50 minutes and cost ¥ 800 and ¥560 and 51 minutes from Kyuhoji Station.
Kintetsu Nara Line: Kintetsu Nara Line is located at the Osaka Namba Station. The rapid express train is takes 39 minutes at ¥ 560.
Tip : Watch out for the Kintetsu line, they have limited express and rapid line. Limited express can take you to Nara Station 5 minutes quicker than the rapid express, however will cost you ¥ 1090.
Tip: If you don’t own a JR pass and are travelling via the Kintetsu line, they have an unlimited travel 1 day (¥1500) and 2 day pass (¥2500). This allows unlimited travel on the designated Kintetsu Railway Line and the Nara Kotsu Bus Lines.
Tip: Kintetsu Nara Station is more centrally located and are closer to the city centre and the Nara Park.
Magnificent Deer at Nara Park
Nara Park or Nara Deer Park is home to 1200 wild spotted deer which happens to be quite friendly. These deer roam around the Nara Park relaxing and eating crackers fed by excited tourist. The deer crackers cost around ¥150 a bag and the deer absolutely love those! When you start feeding a deer, you will be surrounded by quite a few, who will politely do the Japanese Bow before accepting the crackers. Nonetheless, the deer looks beautiful, healthy and clean.They also do not mind human contact at all. While feeding, you can slowly touch and pat them. We have been told however that on occasions, they can get narky and start chasing people. Once you run out of deer crackers, unfortunately, the deer will move on to the next person with food.
You can easily spend 2 to 3 hours here walking around the park and watching the truly unique antiques of these splendid animal.
The Nara Park is located 5 minutes away from the Kintetsu Nara Station and 15 minutes from the JR Station. Once you are on the broad Sanjo Dori street, walk straight towards the hill until you see a large park.
Sanjo Dori Shopping Street
The walk up to the Nara Park along Sanjo Dori Shopping Street itself is exciting. There are plenty of shops, the side street shopping arcade and restaurants around here to explore. Moreover, the street and arcades are full of family run stores selling Japanese crafts, clothing, souvenirs and food.
This UNESCO World Heritage Listed temple has a great historical value and is a symbol of Nara’s ancient antiquity. The stunning five-story pagoda is Japan’s second tallest pagoda. Located a few minutes walk down the road from the Nara Park, the temple consist of 3 halls and a National Treasure Museum which features a must see collections of Buddhist Art. The entrance to the temple ground is free however entrance fees applies to the Museums and the halls.
End your trip with a leisurely walk along the Yoshikien Garden. This garden is located just around the corner From the Nara National Museum. Yoshikien Garden is a beautiful Japanese Garden which looks absolutely stunning in autumn.
Tip: Free entry into the garden by showing your non-Japanese passport.