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Asakusa to Nara on the Bullet Train

Whether it's your first time to Japan or your 10th, Japan's Golden Route of Tokyo to Kyoto is a great base upon which to devise your itinerary. It offers travelers a little bit of everything; modern bustling cities, historical landmarks, breathtaking natural scenery and traditional culture galore. The traditional Golden Route follows the Tokaido Road, a route that has been used for centuries by merchants, samurais and pilgrims to get from one city to the other. Tourism has also developed around this route with several other variations and augmentations in existence. We shan't get into the minutiae of that here, but suffice to say, this article will focus on how to get from Asakusa to Nara.






Senso-ji Temple

We started our journey from Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.

Senso-ji Temple, is one of the oldest and most significant Buddhist temples in the country. Founded in the 7th century, it is dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon and attracts 30 million visitors every year, three times the amount that visits The Vatican, making it the most visited spiritual site in the world. With a rich history and cultural significance, Senso-ji Temple symbolizes Tokyo's historical and spiritual heritage, modern-day rebirth, and desire for peace.


Asakusa, Tokyo Sky Tree, Asakusa to NAra, Asakusa to Kyoto, Tokyo to Kyoto, Tokyo to Nara

The temple grounds are comprised of several buildings, including the main hall, a five-story pagoda, and the Asakusa Shrine. Visitors gather around the large incense bowl and waft smoke onto their bodies in the belief that it will alleviate ailments and bad luck.


The narrow walkway lined with small shops between the two temple gates is called Nakamise-doori and is perhaps one the best places to purchase your souvenirs from Japan. The surrounding shopping streets are also great fun to explore. They are home to a whole host of interesting shops as well as places to eat and drink.



Asakusa Station

Asakusa Station is a train station located in Taito, Tokyo, Japan. It serves as a major transportation hub for the Asakusa district, providing access to the Toei Asakusa Line, Tobu Isesaki Line, and Ginza Line. One of the first underground stations in Japan, opening on 30 December 1927, the station building itself has become a popular sightseeing spot.


Asakusa, Tokyo Sky Tree, Asakusa to NAra, Asakusa to Kyoto, Tokyo to Kyoto, Tokyo to Nara

You will need to catch the Shinkansen (Bullet train) from Tokyo Station, so from Asakusa Station, take the Ginza Line to Kanda Station. The Ginza Line runs from Asakusa to Shibuya through several major tourist destinations and is well known for its use of vibrant yellow train carriages. The trip to Kanda station is just 6 stations away and costs only ¥170.


At Kanda Station, transfer to the Yamanote Line. The Yamanote Line is a loop line and has a daily ridership of up to 5 million people. It stops at 30 stations and has a total length of 34.5 km. Going full circle on the Yamanote line takes a little over an hour, as stations are only 2-3 minutes apart.


Ok, so now you are at Kanda Station on the Ginza Line where you will need to transfer over to the JR Yamanote Line. Exit the train and take a left towards the ticket gates. Immediately after the ticket gates, there is a small flight of stairs. Go up them and follow the corridor to the end. Follow the signs that say Number 1 Exit. This leads to the JR part of Kanda Station. At the ticket machine, buy a ticket for ¥140 for the JR Line. The whole process should take no more than a few minutes.


The Yamanote Line is abbreviated in station signs as JY in a green square. At Kanda Station, the Yamanote Line passes through tracks 2 and 3. We need to catch the outer circle to Tokyo station from track 2. It's just one stop to Tokyo Station.



Bento Box

Let's take a breather here to talk about Bento Boxes. Japan, amongst many other things, is famous for its proclivity for orderliness, a zen-like attitude to life and culinary arts. These three aspects of Japanese culture perfectly manifest themselves in the bento box - or lunch box. Bento boxes have a rich history dating back to the 11th century, and over time have devolved into a staple of Japanese cuisine as a convenient option for meals on-the-go and riding the Shinkansen without indulging in one is almost unthinkable!


The pinnacle of bento box brilliance is reserved for the Shinkansen. Sushi, tempura, katsu-don, hamburgers - the list of what is available is endless. Like eating pizza in Italy or fish and chips in England, enjoying a quality bento box on the Shinsanken is a traveler's rite of passage. Depending on the time of day, we highly recommend you skip either breakfast or lunch and get yourself a bento box for your trip on the Shinkansen.


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*A noteworthy twist on the modern bento box is the advent of the "Kyaraben," or character bento, which often features food shaped and arranged to look like popular characters from anime and manga. Google "Japanese kyaraben" and be prepared to be amazed.



Tokyo Station

So just one stop from Kanda Station is Tokyo Station, one of the largest and busiest train stations in the world. More than 4,000 trains arrive and depart here daily, servicing more than 500,000 people. It can be quite overwhelming with people rushing by left and right all under a rather claustrophobic low ceiling. But there's no need to panic. The signposts for the Shinkansen are large, clear and impossible to miss. Just make sure you are heading towards the Central Transfer for the Tokaido・Sanyo Shinkansen, which will also say "for Kyoto & Shin-Osaka"


If you already have your tickets, you can go straight ahead through the ticket gates. There is also the option of printing out your E-tickets at the station or even buying some on-the-day tickets. If you buy your tickets on the day, there is a high chance you will not be able to sit with your traveling companion or even worse, be left standing for the entire journey. To save yourself a possible headache, we highly recommend you book your tickets in advance.


The Tokaido Shinkansen leaves from tracks 16 and 17.



The JR Rail Pass

While in Japan, you should take the opportunity to ride the Shinkansen Bullet Train and taking it from Tokyo to Kyoto, then transferring for Nara is the perfect opportunity. Holders of the JR Pass will be able to ride it for free, although you need to keep the following in mind: The Japan Rail Pass is valid on the entire Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen and can be used on both the Hikari and Kodama train services. It is not valid for the Nozomi or Mizuho train services.


If you are a Japan Rail Pass holder and would like to ride the faster Nozomi or Mizuho trains, you will need to purchase an additional ticket called the "Only With Japan Pass Nozomi Mizuho Ticket." You will need to the purchase the ticket before boarding one of these trains. Purchases can be made one month prior to the day of boarding the train.. For more information on the pass, please visit the official site.



Kyoto Station

After arriving at Kyoto Station, the way to the Kintetsu Line is pretty straightforward. You'll see the signposts hanging from the ceiling. After exiting the ticket gate, the Kintetsu ticket gate is less than 50 meters right in front of you. You can't miss it.



You will need to purchase another ticket. A single to Kintetsu Nara costs ¥640. Should you elect to take the Limited Express, you will need to fork out an extra ¥520. There are two types of trains you need to look out for. If the train is bound for Nara, there is nothing to worry about. If the train is bound for Kashiharajingū-mae Station, you will need to get off at Yamato Saidaiji Station and then connect to a train to Nara. This transfer is really easy. Quite often the transfer is at the same platform, there is no extra cost and you'll probably only have to wait a few minutes for your connecting train.

And that is about it.


Despite the distance, the trip from Asakusa or Tokyo Station to Nara is straightforward and shouldn't take more than 3 hours.



 

Author: NARA Visitor Center & Inn





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