June 2018 celebrates the one year anniversary of my last trip to Japan as well as the creation of this website. I visited Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, and Tokyo with my fiance (Ashley) and her mother in June 2017. My fiance's mother was living in Iwakuni, Japan at the time and meet us in Osaka to start the trip. I cannot recommend getting off a 13 hour plane and then taking a train ride from Tokyo to Osaka in the same day. We had a wonderful trip, new experiences, and learned much about each other. Traveling with others and traveling solo can create completely different experiences. As a male, it can be quite challenging sharing a bedroom and bathroom with two females for over a week. I wrote a journal chronicling our journey (as I also did on my first trip) and sent daily emails out to friends and family. The positive feedback I received from readers is what inspired me to share my knowledge and experiences with others.
Moving forward into the next year of writing, I will expand topics by touching more on what Japanese culture means to me. Starting in July, I plan to go deeper into the emotional connections with Japanese culture and how it has continuously inspired me since 2004. I hope you continue to join me on this adventure as we cross into the second half of the year.
Nara, Japan is a wonderful place to visit that is full of rich culture, history, and activities. It is a great place to visit for a day trip away from the larger cities of Kyoto and Osaka. There are a number of temples, parks, restaurants, shops, and other places to visit that will fill up an entire day. Best of all, Nara is easily accessible if you are staying in Kyoto or Osaka.
How to Reach Nara by Rail Line from Osaka
If you are staying in Osaka, you can travel by rail to Nara in less than an hour. There are two rail lines that connect to Nara from Osaka. If you have an active JR Pass, the Yamatoji Rapid Service from Osaka Station is free and under an hour to reach your destination. However, it will drop you off further away from the main tourist attractions. The other method to reach Nara is by using the Kintetsu Nara Line from Namba Station. The Rapid Express version is half the price of the Limited Express and only about five minutes slower. This is the recommended route to reach Nara as it will drop you off in an ideal location to explore the area.
How to Reach Nara by Rail Line from Kyoto
There are two rail line options departing from Kyoto Station. Using an active JR Pass, you can take the Miyakoji Rapid Service for free and arrive in about 45 minutes. The other option is the Kintetsu Nara Line. Like Osaka's Namba Station, the Rapid Express train will take about 50 minutes and is half the price of the Limited Express train. If you want to save about 15 minutes or the departure time is more convenient, the Limited Express train is a better option.
Recommended Activities for a Day Trip to Nara
One of the top attractions in Nara is Todai-ji Temple. The main hall is the world's largest wooden structure that houses a large statue of Buddha along with other statues. On your way to Todai-ji Temple, stop by Nara Park for a quick visit with the local deer. Another area to explore surrounds Kofuku-ji Temple. There are multiple shops, restaurants, and even an owl cafe. Mentouan, a restaurant famous for its udon noodles, is a popular destination. Just look for a line of people on the corner of Sanjo Dori. Some other places of interest are the Nara National Museum, and Isuien Garden.
In addition to buses and taxis, Kyoto offers two subway lines to travel around the city. The Karasuma Line (North & South) and the Tozai Line (West, East, and Southeast) stop at 31 different stations around Kyoto. A map of the subway lines along with bus routes can be found here.
A one-day pass to ride the subway is ¥600. Another option is purchasing a one-day subway and bus combination pass for ¥900. Otherwise, single use fares will run between ¥210 and ¥350 per trip.
Subway Operating Times
The Kyoto subways run about 5:30 a.m. until almost midnight daily. It is a fast and convenient way to move around the city. It will take around two minutes to travel from station to station. You can review more specific station travel information here.
Limitations of the Subway System
The two subway lines are great for moving around central Kyoto to some of the popular attractions and areas. It can be faster to take the subway to reach certain areas of Kyoto that would otherwise require a long bus ride. However, the subway system does not stop at every place in Kyoto you may want to visit. A combination of using the subway along with buses or renting a bicycle is worth considering to maximize your time.