The Best Way to Explore Nara and Kyoto from Osaka in 1 Day
So, you have a day to travel around Nara and Kyoto. Organizing your whole family for this is a pain, you have no idea about the traffic or where to go… you’ve given up before you’ve even started. But wait! If you use this bus tour, it’ll all get taken care of for you!
Jan 23 2018 (Sep 09 2020)
*This tour is no longer available. Please use this article as a guide to plan your own Kyoto and Nara daytrip!
*This article was written in collaboration with Hankyu Travel International Co. Ltd.
H (right): Hey, do you remember that bus tour we took before?
K (left): Yeah, I do. What about it?
H: They apparently released a new one!
K: Oh, really?! Where is it?
H: Apparently, it’s a 1-day bus tour that covers Nara and Kyoto. You’ll be able to visit, in this order: Nara’s Todai-ji Temple, Nara Park, Kyoto’s Heian Shrine (Heian Jingu), and Gion!
K: Wow, it’s amazing that we’ll be able to go to so many places in a single day. It’s difficult trying to figure out how to get to places in Kyoto and Nara, and carrying the luggage everywhere is also a pain, so a bus tour would be pretty relieving!
H: Exactly. Want to go?
K: Yeah, let’s go! I want to see the deer at Nara Park! Book it already!
Conveniently Meet at Umeda or Namba
There are two meeting places: the Nishi-Umeda Temporary Bus Parking Lot near JR Osaka Station and the subway's Umeda Station, or Namba Parks, which is near Namba Station. Both of these places are easily accessible via public or private transport.
This is the sightseeing bus that you'll be boarding for this tour.
This is a picture of Namba Parks, which is near Namba Station.
The bus boarding times are as follows. Please note that since this is a group tour, everybody should make sure to be on time.
[Meeting Places & Meeting Times]
Umeda, Osaka (Nishi-Umeda Temporary Bus Parking Lot) Assemble at 8:20 am, Depart at 8:30 am
Namba, Osaka (Namba Parks 1F Parking Lot) Assemble at 8:50 am, Depart at 9:00 am
Can’t Speak Japanese? No Problem!
English-speaking guides will accompany you on this tour, so there’s no need to understand or use Japanese. On the day, the tour guide will carry a flag like the one in the photo above, so please use that to find the meeting place.
Prior to its release, two of the staff members at tsunagu Japan actually embarked on this tour in order to give you a full introduction of these sightseeing spots!
Todai-ji Temple & Nara Park (Approx. 150 Minutes)
Todai-ji Temple, located in Nara Park, is one of the most famous temples in Japan. It has over 1,200 years of history. In particular, you may have heard of the Great Buddha known as the “Buddha of Nara” that is housed in the Great Buddha Hall (Daibutsu-den) – the largest wooden structure in the world. In 1998, it was marked as a “Historic Monument of Ancient Nara” and registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
H: This is Todai-ji Temple’s Great Buddha Hall, where the Buddha of Nara resides, isn’t it?
K: Correct! Let’s burn some incense before we enter.
H: Wow, we finally got to see the Great Buddha. As expected, it’s huge.
K: Hey, it says here that it’s 15m tall and weighs 350t.
H: It certainly makes an impression. It’s majestic…
K: By the way, do you know about “The Great Buddha’s Nostril”?
H: The Great Buddha’s Nostril?
K: Yeah. At the bottom of this pillar, there’s a hole that’s apparently the same size as the hole of the Great Buddha’s nostril. All you have to do is pass through it, and you’ll spend your days in good health.
H: Really? If that’s the case, I’ll give it a go. But… the hole looks a little small. I might not be able to make it through.
H: It might be a bit tough for adults, but small kids have no problem!
K: Let’s go take a look at the store right outside of the Great Buddha Hall!
H: Look, look at how cute this deer pouch is!
K: Look! There’s even post cards of those signs that you see everywhere: the ones that say “Watch Out For Incoming Deer”! I need to buy this as a souvenir.
[Entrance Fee for the Great Buddha Hall]
(Junior high school students and above) 600 yen
(Elementary school students) 300 yen
*The price for this bus tour does not include the entrance fee to the Great Buddha Hall.
H: Still, I’m surprised that there’s so many deer within these compounds.
H: These deer are so cute that they heal my soul…
K: Me too. However, be careful! When giving them food, it’s best to try not to panic.
K: Deer are normally well-behaved, but if you do something like panic, they might get mad and start acting up, like biting your clothes. That’s what happened to my friend!
H: Alright. Humans and deer have to respect each other anyway.
K: Now that we’re done worshipping at Todai-ji Temple, let’s walk to Nara Park and eat some lunch!
H: That sounds good! I’ve been ready to chow down for a while now.
K: Alright, then let’s head there slowly while gazing at the deer.
K: When the cherry blossom season rolls around, you can gaze upon the amazing scene of deer and cherry blossoms together. It’s one of the beautiful scenes in Kasuga (Nara) that we can’t miss!
H: I heard that there are restaurants and cafes around Nara Park as well!
H: What about visiting a quiche specialty store, Le Case, or eating some Mahoroba Buddha Pudding? I heard the pudding has a cute illustration of Buddha on it!
K: Ooh! Quiche seems like an interesting and sophisticated choice, no?
H: I see it! It looks really fancy. Seems like you can get a quiche lunch set to eat in the store or order quiche for take out.
K: Everything looks so delicious! Looks like there’s around 15 types of quiche in total. Some of them are savory, but others are for dessert. Let’s buy at least two!
H: Aha, should we go and buy the pudding too?
K: Of course ♪
K: Wouldn’t we be eating too much?
H: No way! If it’s delicious, it’s all worth it!
Heian Shrine (Approx. 30 Minutes)
After fully taking in all that Nara Park had to offer, we moved on to Kyoto. The first place we visited once in Kyoto was the incredibly popular tourist spot, Heian Shrine.
Heian Shrine was constructed in 1895 to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of when the former capital of Japan, Heian-kyo (what’s now known as Kyoto), became the capital of Japan. The Jidai Matsuri (Time Festival) that’s celebrated there every October is one of Kyoto’s three biggest festivals.
K: I’ve been to Kyoto many times before, but this is my first time visiting Heian Shrine!
H: It’s also my first time. Isn’t that torii (gate) superb?!
K: Can you believe that this torii has a height of 24.4m and a width of 18m? Even the posts are a stunning thick 3.6m!
H: That’s enormous! Let’s take a quick photo to remember this.
K: Next up is the Oten-mon Gate. Seems like it’s the entrance to the shrine’s compounds.
H: I can’t get over how pretty the contrast between the scarlet color and the blue sky is!
K: Up front, we have the Daigokuden. Apparently, it’s a 5/8 scale reproduction of the original structure that existed over 1,200 years ago, during the Heian period.
H: That’s amazing! Now that I think about it, it’s rare for a shrine to have an emerald green roof, isn’t it?
K: I think it’s gorgeous and bright! It was constructed in an Irimoya style (a type of Japanese roof architecture). Did you know that the front is an impressive 30m wide?
H: That’s huge!
K: The left and right structures of the Daigokuden that almost look like its wings are called “Soryu-ro Tower” and “Byakko-ro Tower”. If you look at Daigokuden from up front, the right is Soryu-ro Tower and the left is Byakko-ro Tower.
Gion (Approx. 120 Minutes of Free Time)
*This changes to 100 minutes in March – April and October – November due to busy traffic.
Next, we rode the bus to Gion.
Upon alighting from the bus, you will see Chion-in Temple right in front of you, and right next to that is Maruyama Park (Maruyama Koen). Maruyama Park is famous for its beautiful springtime cherry blossoms (sakura). Once you go through the park and pass by Yasaka Shrine (Yasaka Jinja), you will reach Shijo Street (Shijo-dori).
This is a picture of a weeping cherry blossom tree in full bloom during springtime, which Maruyama Park is famous for.
H: Finally, we’re in Gion! I’m so excited.
K: Is there anywhere in particular you want to go?
H: Yup! I want to go to places like Yojiya – a cosmetics store that’s famous for their oil-blotting face paper, Saryo Tsujiri – a cafe specializing in matcha (powdered green tea), and Tenshu – a restaurant that specializes in ten-don (rice bowl with tempura).
K: You did your research, huh!
H: Of course!
K: There are so many restaurants along Shijo Street. I want to go to all of them!
H: Oh, it’s Yojiya! Let’s go! I want to buy that oil-blotting face paper as a souvenir.
H: I’m so full… Hey, isn’t that the matcha cafe, Tsujiri?
K: You’re right! My mom loves matcha, so I might get a little something for her as a souvenir.
H: It’s on the 2nd floor. But I’m so full that I can barely eat another bite! What a shame.
K: Yeah. Let’s buy something matcha-flavored to take home as a souvenir instead!
K: Let’s take a look at Gion's Shira River (Shira-kawa) and Tatsumi Bridge (Tatsumi-bashi).
H: Wait! Look at this post office!
K: Oh, how cute! Let’s take a quick photo.
H: So, this is Gion’s Shira River. The scenery here is so beautiful!
K: Being surrounded by all these traditional Kyoto buildings lends it a certain atmosphere.
H: They say that in spring, the cherry trees lined along the river will be in full bloom. Just imagining it makes me think that, oh, it’s so beautiful.
K: Crossing over Tatsumi Bridge and seeing nothing but traditional Japanese buildings lining the road makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time.
H: Yeah, you can really feel true “Japan” here.
K: Look, there’s a person in a kimono-style wedding dress taking photos over there!
H: People say that this is a lucky place to take wedding photos.
K: I see!
K: It’s almost time to meet back up, so let’s head back slowly.
H: Okay! Can we go back along Hanami Street (Hanami-koji) to experience more of “true Japan”?
H: Look at this sign.
K: It’s such a simple picture, but it gets the point across so effectively.
H: Agree. Let’s try not to break any rules!
H: I really like the townscape here. There aren’t any skyscrapers, just these old buildings. It’s a sight to see!
K: I want to live here. I don’t want to go home!
H: I’d be fine with that, but the bus is above to leave!
K: You’re right!
H: Before we leave, let’s take a photo to commemorate this trip!
K: This sign on the street is really pretty!
H: Isn’t it? If we take it like this, we can upload it to our social media.
K: I’ll upload it later! We should show off to our friends who couldn’t come!
H: Ah~ that was fun! We managed to go to a lot of places in one day.
K: Time really does fly. It feels really fulfilling to be able to visit all these sightseeing spots in a single day!
H: I’m a little tired, but since the bus will be taking us back to Osaka, I can just sleep on the way. Bus tours make things so easy – they’re great!
Thoughts About the Day Trip
K: I’ve made countless visits to Kyoto, but I feel like this is a very timely and energy-efficient way of traveling around the area. I still remember the first time I went to Kyoto… I didn’t even know the bus stop name, so a lot of my time was spent finding my way! Looking back, it would’ve been great if I had signed up for a bus tour back then. They’re really convenient! I really recommend it to people in Osaka who’ve never visited Kyoto or Nara before, yet want their journey to go smoothly!
H: The last time I came to Kyoto for sightseeing, I only visited Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizu-dera). Thanks to this bus tour, I was able to visit many other places that I had never seen before. Furthermore, I even had the chance to go to Nara! The deer were a bit scary when they were aiming for my rice crackers (senbei), but they were actually really cute! This bus tour was worth it, especially since I was able to explore two ancient cities with completely different atmospheres thanks to it!
Book Here! <<From Osaka>> Nara & Kyoto 1-Day Bus Tour
Departure Dates: July 1 (Sun), 2018 - September 30 (Sun), 2018 *On Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
Price: 6,000 yen
*Lunch costs, along with the entrance fees for visiting and worshipping at Todai-ji Temple and Heian Shrine’s Shin-en Garden, are not included in this price
Meeting Place & Time:
Nishi-Umeda Temporary Bus Parking Lot near Osaka Station and Umeda Station (Meeting Time: 8:20 am)
Namba Parks near Namba Station (Meeting Time: 8:50 am)
*This tour is no longer available.
The bus will depart if even just one person signs up, so hurry and reserve your seat! They plan to operate this bus tour until September 30 (only on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday), so why not participate and embark on this fun journey?
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.