Asuka (飛鳥) refers to the south-eastern part of Nara Basin, which mostly overlaps with contemporary Asuka Town (明日香村), in Nara Prefecture.
Asuka is the land where Japan has developed into a centralized state than a collective sovereign between 6C AD and 8C AD. Imperial palaces were built on this ground to form an ancient capital city of Japan, Asukakyo (飛鳥京). It is widely considered as the first capital city of Japan.
Numerous burial mounds and ruins of ancient buildings are discovered and preserved in Asuka, thus making the whole area itself a big historical museum that attracts so many visitors.
There are no airports in Asuka. Kansai International Airport is the closest to Asuka, which is a 90 minutes car drive from this airport. Transportation such as cars and trains are recommended to take from Kansai Airport to Asuka.
If you are accessing from Narita International Airport, take a train to Tokyo station and you can take Shinkansen to Kyoto station.
There are car rentals available in Kansai International Airport. If the option is renting a car to drive down to Asuka, the ride should only take ninety minutes, depending on traffic. You can take Hanwa Expressway northbound, exit at Mihara JCT onto Minami Hanwa Expressway to Katsuragi IC, and take Route 24 eastbound to Ofusa crossing, where you turn right onto Route 169. Then you can get to Asuka after driving about 3km.
Another option is to take Nishi Meihan Expressway to Koriyama IC, where you take Route 24 and drive southbound to Shijo-machi crossing where you turn left onto Route 169. Then you can get to Asuka after driving about 3.5km.
Car parks are available at major sightseeing places such as temples and museums. Most car parks charge ¥1,000 one time, regardless of parking hours.
Kintetsu railway is by far the most convenient transportation method for tourists.
From Osaka, take subway or JR to Tennōji station. Walk to nearby Ōsaka Abenobashi station and take a train that heads for Yoshino (吉野). Both limited express and express trains departs about twice per hour. Limited express isn't much faster than express trains. It grants you a seat, but doubles the fare. The trip to Asuka takes 40~45 minutes.
From Nara, go to Kintetsu Nara station. Take any train departs from this station and change at Yamato Saidaiji to trains for Kashihara Jingu-mae(橿原神宮前), on Kashihara Line. From Kashihara Jingu-mae Station, change to Kintetsu Yoshino Line and get off at Asuka (飛鳥) Station. Otherwise, local bus services are available from Kashihara Jingu-mae Station to destinations in Asuka. Avoid taking limited express trains (called Tokkyū / 特急)) on the way because it won't save you much time. Express trains departs about twice per hour. The trip to Asuka takes 50~70 minutes depends on which train you take.
From Kyoto, go to Kintetsu Kyoto station. Take a train that heads for Kashihara Jingu-mae. Both limited express and express trains departs about twice per hour. Limited express is about 15 minutes faster and grants you a seat, but doubles the fare. From Kashihara Jingu-mae Station, change to Kintetsu Yoshino Line and get off at Asuka Station. Otherwise, local bus services are available from Kashihara Jingu-mae Station to destinations in Asuka. The trip to Asuka takes 65~95 minutes depends on which train you take.
Asuka is geared more towards the domestic rather than the foreign tourist, and as such English signs/menus are relatively scarce. For example, as of March 2010, very little non-Japanese information/signage was present at the Asuka Historical Museum. When you arrive Asuka station, be sure to visit the information center on the left hand site when you leave the station. They may have the only English map you can find here.
Kame Bus (かめバス), is a bus service that tours around major sight-seeing spots including Kintetsu Kashihara Jingu-mae and Asuka Stations, and a one-way trip between the two stations, through Asuka Town takes around 35 minutes. The bus runs about twice per hour on weekends, but only once per hour on weekdays. A One-day Free Ticket is available at ¥650
Bicycles are available for hire at most accommodation locations around Asuka Town, and dedicated bike/pedestrian paths connect the main historical/sightseeing attractions around the town. Where no bike paths are available, the roads are generally slightly wider and quieter than in the cities, although caution is advised in the narrow main streets of Asuka town, where vehicular traffic can travel alarmingly quickly. There are also rental shops around the train stations and major sight-seeing spots, but whether they speak English or not is unknown.
Generally the roads and paths are relatively flat, and a gearless bike will suffice (and tend to be more common at the hire outlets); however, a geared bicycle would be helpful for getting up the few gentle slopes around the town.
It is also possible to walk around the town if you have a few hours to spend. The town itself is quite peaceful and feels different from other major tourism area in Japan. If you happens to get a English guide map, it has a recommended walking route marked on it. However only some of the road signs around the town are bilingual.
Out of the station, cross the street at the lights, and on your right you will find a small farmers' market. Fresh strawberries (of the Asuka Ruby variety), Japanese apricots (ume, 梅) to make umeshu at half the supermarket price, and a great variety of other local produce is available. May be seasonal only.
As you walk out of Asuka Station and pass the bike rental shop on your left, you will see a sign for a cafe and small hotel a 150 meters to the right. Follow it, and you'll find yourself in a restaurant with an attractive classy interior that doesn't seem to belong in Japanese inaka. Try the hayashi rice, it's heavenly.
Close to Kame-ishi and Tachibana-dera, there is a small restaurant/cafe called 喫茶歩楽都. Basic meals are served. The coffee is good and the cake is homemade. The wooden interior and looks through the windows make for a nice ambiance.
There are many guesthouses (民宿, minshuku) in the Oka, Toyura and Tachibana districts. For reservation or more information please ask Asukakyo Tourism Association at +81-744-54-2362 or send email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kintetsu railway regularly leave for Kashihara and Yoshino. At Kashiharajingumae station you can change trains for Osaka, and at Yamatoyagi station for Nara, Kyoto and Nagoya.
Buses leave Asuka station for Kashiharajingumae station. They depart every one hour.