It's easy to get from Tokyo to Nara - a shinkansen (bullet train) takes you to Kyoto where you change trains for Nara. Read the full details below.
The 700 Series shinkansen (bullet train) at Tokyo station: Sakarin Sawasdinaka / Shutterstock.com
The Tokyo To Nara Takeaway
To travel from Tokyo to Nara, take a shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto, and then catch a train on the JR Nara line or Kintetsu Nara line from Kyoto to Nara.
It takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes to get from Tokyo to Kyoto. It takes around 45 minutes to get from Kyoto to Nara.
You can purchase Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen tickets online and have them delivered to your Tokyo hotel.
If you have a Japan Rail Pass, you can use it on the Hikari type of shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, and the JR Nara line from Kyoto to Nara. Note that the Japan Rail Pass is not valid on the Nozomi shinkansen or the private Kintetsu Nara line.
The Tokyo To Nara Details
Nara is essentially a three-hour journey from Tokyo via Kyoto. The fastest type of shinkansen, the Nozomi, takes 2 hours and 15 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto. The next fastest type of shinkansen, the Hikari, takes 2 hours and 30 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto, so it's almost as fast. Do NOT take the Kodama type of shinkansen, as it stops at many stations and is a lot slower.
You can catch the shinkansen at Tokyo station or Shinagawa station. All shinkansen stop at both stations. Tokyo station is the first station so there is a better chance of getting a seat. However, if you're coming from Narita Airport and want to go straight to Nara, then it's best to take the Narita Express to Shinagawa station and catch the shinkansen from there. It's a much shorter walk from the Narita Express platform to the shinkansen platform at Shinagawa station than at Tokyo station.
You can purchase Tokyo to Kyoto shinkansen tickets online online and have them delivered to your Tokyo hotel.
Once in Kyoto, you have two options to get from Kyoto to Nara:
- the direct express (tokkyu) on private Kintetsu line. This takes about 35 minutes.
- the Miyakoji Kaisoku Express on the JR Line. This takes about 45 minutes.
Tokyo to Nara With A Japan Rail Pass
To get from Tokyo to Nara with a Japan Rail Pass, you need to catch the Hikari shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto and then the Miyakoji Kaisoku Express on the JR Line from Kyoto to Nara. The Japan Rail Pass is only valid on the JR line.
See our in-depth guide to making the most of a Japan Rail Pass to see if it's a good fit for you. You can also buy a Japan Rail Pass online.
Do You Need Reserved Seats on the Shinkansen?
Normally, you don't need a reserved ticket to get a seat on the shinkansen. Just buy an unreserved ticket and show up and board the next shinkansen going your way. However, if you are traveling at rush hour (between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 7pm) or during peak travel seasons (31 Dec-3 Jan; the first week of May and mid-August), consider buying reserved tickets in advance. If you buy a shinkansen ticket online a seat is reserved for you automatically.
With a Japan Rail Pass, you can make reservations at any JR ticket window, up to one month in advance of your travel. You cannot reserve from overseas.
HINT: If you have unreserved tickets and you find that the unreserved cars are full on the next train heading out, just stand in line at the boarding spot for the next train so you can board it first – this will usually guarantee a seat and you probably won't have to wait more than 15 minutes.
First and Last Shinkansen Departures From Tokyo To Nara
During the day, there are several shinkansen every hour between Tokyo and Kyoto. You rarely have to wait more than 10 minutes for a train. The approximate first and last departures are listed below:
Westbound (Tokyo-Kyoto): 6:00am first / 7:50pm last
Eastbound (Kyoto-Tokyo): 6:14am first / 9:30pm last
Shinkansen Schedules and Timetables
English-language shinkansen timetables: JR Central English Site
English-language timetable and route search: HyperDia
Japan Travel Itineraries
If you're thinking of Hiroshima as part of a travel itinerary for Japan, see our 7 to 10 day Japan Itinerary: Kyoto, Nara, Osaka and Hiroshima for ideas on how to plan out your time. And see all our other Japan Itineraries for more inspiration on where to go and how to get there.
Nara Travel Guide:
To make the most of your time, see our in-depth guide to visiting Nara on our companion website InsideKyoto.com
- Nara Travel Guide Overview
- Things To Do In Nara
- Nara Walking Tour
- Places To Eat In Nara
- Nara Itineraries
- Nara Districts
- Nara Hotels
- Nara Ryokan
- Nara Cherry Blossoms
- Nara Fall Foliage
- Best Time To Go To Nara
- How To Get To Nara
- Getting Around Nara
- Nara Annual Festivals And Events
Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
- Check Tokyo accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Tokyo
- You can buy a Japan SIM card online for collection on arrival at Tokyo Narita or Haneda airports. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Compare airline flight prices and timings for the best Japan flight deals.
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
- A prepaid Suica card makes travelling around Tokyo much easier - here's how
- World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world