Exploring Kyoto, Osaka and Nara: The recommended way to travel between the Kansai Trio

As two of the major tourist spots in Japan, Osaka and Kyoto are practically neighbors, which is why so many tourists travel between the cities seeking more sites to explore. Expectedly there are top-rated tourist attractions in Nara too, all accessible with different transportation methods to reach your famous destination.

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Traveling in Japan

The Kansai Trio - Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara

Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara are most commonly known as the Kansai Trio. These three areas are close with each other and house the most popular tourist spots in the Kansai area and thus, are grouped together by travel agencies as part of their travel packages or tours. Some people even hire itinerary planners to plan tours that involve these three areas before going to Japan. To those who wish to tour these areas but do not have any idea how to get there? Worry not! Below are some suggested ways to explore the Kansai trio that is surely within your budget.

Japan’s Extensive Railways

In this article, we will mostly be covering traveling between the three cities by train, as it is the most convenient and widely used and available option. Japan has train stations that connect the different regions of the country, making it easy to get to any of these three cities from elsewhere in the country. There are different types of trains that you can ride in Japan including bullet trains (shinkansen), regular local trains that are slower but cheaper than the shinkansen, limited express trains, express trains, and other types of special trains. The Shinkansen is known as the fastest train in Japan that competes with the travel time of planes. The maximum speed it can cover is 320 kilometers per hour.

Japan Rail Pass

And if you’re traveling by train throughout the country, not just within the aforementioned 3 cities, it may be best to get a Japan Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass allows you to ride trains under JR lines, including shinkansen and local trains, for free! (Not really for “free” since you have to buy the pass, of course, but it covers unlimited rides on JR Lines). The price depends on the time period (options of 7, 14, & 21 days) and the kind of seat that you will buy. Ordinary seats on the Shinkansen are around 29,000 to 60,000 yen round trip across country while green cars are around 39,000 to 83,000 yen.

Please note that this pass is only available to tourists that are in Japan temporarily and Japanese citizens who resided outside Japan for more than 10 years.

※ Japan Rail Pass, "Japan Rail Pass Price"

Traveling between Kyoto and Osaka

As Kyoto is in the middle between Osaka and Nara, we will be using it as a starting point. All times and prices apply for going to and from Kyoto. The times and costs vary depending on the station you start and end in each location.

The most convenient and fast way that you can get to Osaka if you are coming from Kyoto or vice versa is taking the shinkansen. If you drive or take the bus, it could take you more than an hour to get there. If you take the shinkansen, the fastest that you could reach Osaka from Kyoto or vice versa is 12 to 14 minutes for 1,420 yen. There are also other railways that you can take but they are slower than the shinkansen with 40 to 55 minutes of travel time.

Train Lines, Travel Time and Cost from Kyoto to Nara & Osaka

Train (Kyoto ↔ Osaka)

Travel Time


Shinkansen (Hikari)

Kyoto Station ↔ Shin-Osaka Station

12-14 minutes

1, 420 yen

Hankyu Line (Limited Express)

Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station ↔ Osaka-Umeda Station

44 minutes

400 yen

Keihan Line  (Limited Express)

Sanjo Station ↔ Yodoyabashi Station

51 minutes

410 yen

JR Kyoto (Tokaido) Line (Special Rapid Service) 

Kyoto Station ↔ Osaka Station (stops at Shin-Osaka)

29 minutes

560 yen

Traveling between Kyoto and Nara

The JR Kyoto Line (Miyakoji Rapid train) is recommended if you have a JR Pass, as it will cover the cost of your trip. The Kintetsu Line takes you straight to the heart of Nara, so if you prefer to save some transfer or walking time, it might be the better option.

Train (Kyoto ↔ Nara)

Travel Time


JR Kyoto Line (Miyakoji Rapid Train)

Kyoto Station ↔ JR Nara Station

45 minutes (70 minutes if you accidentally
take the local train instead of the Rapid)

710 yen

Kintetsu Line (Limited Express)

Kyoto Station ↔ Kintetsu Nara Station

35 minutes

1,130 yen

Kintetsu Line (Express)

Kyoto Station ↔ Kintetsu Nara Station

45-50 minutes

620 yen

Traveling from Osaka to Nara

When traveling directly between Nara and Osaka, taking the train is also the most convenient and fastest way. Trains take roughly half an hour to less than one hour to reach Nara and costs around 560 to 1,100 yen.

Again, the JR route is recommended for those with the JR pass, whereas the Kintetsu Line is a more accessible option to major tourist areas. 


Train (Osaka ↔ Nara)

Travel Time


JR Osaka Line (Yamatoji Rapid Service)

Osaka Station ↔ JR Nara Station

50 minutes

800 yen

Kintetsu Line (Limited Express)

Osaka Namba Station ↔ Kintetsu Nara Station

34 minutes

1070 yen

Kintetsu Line (Rapid Express)

Osaka Namba Station ↔ Kintetsu Nara Station

39 minutes

560 yen

Other Alternatives Travelling between Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara

Car Rentals

Some people may opt to drive rather than to use public transportation and would rent a car to travel. Renting a car in Japan usually costs around 5,000 to 20,000 yen per day, depending on the car being hired. There are also other costs to be considered, like parking and toll gate fees. Please note that an International Driving License (IDL) is needed before non-residents of Japan can drive a car.

※ Budget Rent a Car, "Car type / Fee"


Riding a bus to go between Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara is not that convenient and worth the hassle but it is easier if you are part of a tour. Some bus lines offer tours in a particular area available for 1 to 2 days. But once you are actually in one of the above locations, buses are a great way to get around. For example, the Nara bus pass usually costs around 500 to 1,500 yen depending on the length of the trip and the area that you would like to tour. You can also pay as you go, as the buses take cash or certain IC cards depending on the city.

※ Nara Station, "Nara Bus Passes"


If you’re going to explore the best of the Kansai area, trains are the way to go. The most recommended mode of transportation when you going between Kyoto, Osaka and Nara is definitely the train. Figure out whether saving time or money is your priority and find the best route there! We hope this article saved you the hassle of figuring out transportation and allows you more time to plan the exciting adventures you’ll have once you get there. Happy travels!

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