Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto

Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO
Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO

I prefer to stay in many cities and feel different atmosphere. But I know that some of you do not agree. Because you will travel with huge luggage and it may be issue for you.

Thus day trip is a prefect solution. When you stay in Kansai area, there are many places to see, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Mt. Koya and many more places. But can you believe that you can visit Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto in one day?

I would like to show you the sample itinerary of this day trip in this post.

*The information in this article is current at the time of writing.

From Osaka/Kyoto to Kanazawa

Limited Express Thunderbird is the primary way to get Kanazawa from Osaka.
Limited Express Thunderbird is the primary way to get Kanazawa from Osaka.

Osaka 7:10 / Shin-Osaka 7:14 / Kyoto 7:38 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 1) – Kanazawa 9:46

I recommend you to see Kanazawa first. Because the next bus leave for Shirakawago at 10:50.

Nohi Bus timetable (Kanazawa – Shirakawago)

You cannot do anything in Kanazawa for one hour. You can spend whole morning in Kanazawa and take a bus to Shirakawago after lunch time.

Return trip to Shirakawago

Gasshozukuri housing is the landmark of Shirakawago. (C) Akira Okada/ (C) JNTO
Gasshozukuri housing is the landmark of Shirakawago. (C) Akira Okada/ (C) JNTO

Kanazawa 13:15 – (Nohi Bus) – Shirakawago 14:30
Shirakawago 17:30 – (Nohi Bus) – Kanazawa 18:45

As you see Nohi Bus timetable, 17:30 is the last bus to go back to Kanazawa. You have three hours in Shirakawago. The next bus to Shirakawago after 13:15 is 14:40 departure from Kanazawa and arrival Shirakawago at 16:05. I think this is too late to arrive Shirakawago. You have less than 1.5 hour. It is too short to see Shirakawago.

Go back to Osaka or Kyoto from Kanazawa

Kanazawa station was renovated before Hokuriku Shinkansen opened.
Kanazawa station was renovated before Hokuriku Shinkansen opened.

There are two runs of Limited Express Thunderbird from Kanazwa to Osaka, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.

Kanazawa 19:43 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 44) – Kyoto 22:02 / Shin-Osaka 22:25 / Osaka 22:50
Kanazawa 20:35 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 46) – Kyoto 22:44 / Shin-Osaka 23:07 / Osaka 23:12

So if you want to eat dinner in the restaurant, you can take the last Thunderbird. You will have two hours. There are many restaurants in Kanazawa station building.

If you want to go back to Osaka or Kyoto as soon as possible, take earlier departure at 19:43. You can grab some foods at Kanazawa station and eat on board. On board sales is not available on Limited Express Thunderbird. Don’t forget to grab it before getting on Thunderbird.

Suggested deal

Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is most recommended. Even if you use this pass just for this day trip, it is paid off. This pass covers all part of your trip.

If you have Japan Rail Pass, you can use the pass to get Kanazawa by Limited Express Thuderbird. But Nohi Bus to Shirakawago is not covered by JR pass. The extra fare is 3,290 yen for return.

Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass. Perfect deal to get Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama, Shirakawago from Nagoya to Osaka

Other rail passes in Kansai area, like Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Thru Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass are not recommended for this itinerary. Those do not cover most part of this itinerary.

Don’t forget to check the timetable before you go

The above sample itinerary is built by timetable of August 2015. When you use this sample itinerary, please check the updated timetable.

Hyperdia (check the train timetable)
Nohi bus (check the bus timetable)

106 thoughts on “Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto”

  1. Hi,

    Could someone please advise if this itinerary is possible with the train passes/transpo mentioned:
    DAY1 – ARRIVE AT OSAKA. DOTONBORI night, tour around OSAKA. (Using 2days – JR Kansai Pass from Airport to Namba accomodation)
    DAY2 – NARRA whole day -> back to Namba Accom, [JR Kansai Pass DAY2]
    DAY3 – Universal Studios -> sleep in Namba. [7day JR PASS DAY1]
    DAY4 – KYOTO day (NISHIKI, ARASHIYAMA, KINKAKU-JI) -> sleep in Namba [7DAY JR PASS DAY2]
    DAY5 – KYOTO (GION, FUSHIMI INARI) ; sleep in Namba [JRPASS DAY3]
    DAY6 -> KANAZAWA (Kenrokuen Garden)->sleep in Kanazawa to Get ready for Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route for next day. [JR PASS DAY4]
    DAY7 -> TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE DAY: leave KANAZAWA 08:00 to Toyama to Tateyama (drop luggages at Tateyama Station for pickup later in Shinano-Omachi station)–> is this possible? Claiming time of luggages is latest 15:00-18:30. Do you think Alpine route can be done around the said time? sleep in TOKYO; [JRPASS DAY5+TATEYAMA ALPINE ROUTE OPTION TICKET+SHINANO OMACHI BUS+TOKYO METRO PASS].
    DAY8 -> TOKYO (option a: Tokyo – Kawaguchi – Mt Fuji – Gotemba – Tokyo) or option b: SHIRAKAWAGO? which is more doable or a nicer experience for whole day with kids? [JRPASS DAY6+BUS]
    DAY9-> TOKYO (ASAKUSA, SHIBUYA, AKIHABARA, SHINJUKU) [JRPASS DAY7]
    DAY10-> TOKYO to NARITA, flight back home. [What is the cheapest fare option from TOKYO metro to NARITA airport for a family of 7?]

    Appreciate your help!

    Gaile

    1. Hi Gaile,

      Your itinerary is okay. But JR pass is not a good choice. I recommend you to use Hokuriku Arch Pass for the last 7 days of your trip (day 4 to 10).
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/tokyo-osaka-hokuriku-arch-pass-user-guide-clarify-valid-trains-coverage-area-and-compare-single-fare-and-pass.html

      I recommend you to change the beginning part of your trip like following:

      Day 1 KIX – Namba (single ticket 920 yen to take Nankai railway)
      Day 2 Kyoto
      Day 3 Kyoto
      You may use Kansai thru pass 2 days for these two trip to Kyoto
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-use-kansai-thru-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      And the you can start using Hokuriku Arch Pass. This is cheaper than JR pass and you can get Narita by Narita express.
      http://jprail.com/trains/sort-by-type/limited-express/narita-express.html

      When you go to Alpine route, I recommend you to leave Kanazawa earlier. If you leave at 8:00, you will be Tateyama around 9:00 to 10:00. It’s the busiest period. And also you should go to Nagano, not Shinano-Omachi. You can take express bus to get Nagano and it’s covered by Tateyama Kurobe option ticket. You can deliver your luggage to Nagano too.
      http://www.alpico.co.jp/access/express/nagano_omachi/#timetable_summer

      If you take train at Shinano-Omachi, you need to get local train to Matsumoto and then take limited express train to Shinjku. If you get Nagano, you can take Hokuriku Shinkansen to Tokyo directly. It’s much easier and faster actually.

      Both trip to Shirakawago and trip to Fuji/Gotemba are very busy trip. If you visit Shirakawago, you should go there from Kanazawa. You need to go to Kanazawa first even if you go to Shirakawago from Tokyo.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/sample-itinerary-of-day-trip-to-kanazawa-and-shirakawago-from-tokyo.html

      I recommend you to stay one more night in Kanazawa if you want to go to Shirakawago.

      You need other deal for Fuji and Gotemba. The following link shows you Fuji and Hakone one day trip. Even if you don’t go to Hakone, it’s still busy trip.
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/1-day/fuji-hakone-one-day-trip-sample-itinerary-you-can-visit-both-lake-kawaguchi-and-hakone-by-day-trip-from-tokyo.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. HI Takeshi,

        Thanks so much for your reply. Few more questions:
        1. So Hokuriku Arch Pass can be used from Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go back to Kanazawa right?
        2. If we leave early from Kanazawa to Alpine route, what is your recommended time considering the Luggage drop-off pickup time?
        3. Where exactly do we dropoff luggage from Kanazawa to be picked up in Nagano?
        4. Is the price indicated in Baggage forwarding meant “per medium luggage”? What are the inclusion for that baggage forwarding service?
        5. When you mentioned we can use pass from Tokyo to Narita airport, and our accomodation in Tokyo is near Tsukiji station, would mean we have get 2-3days Tokyo metro pass, then on our departure day,we take Hibiya Line from Tsukiji station, then towards JR yamanato line to Nippori Station to Narita for free (using JR pass+Tokyo metro), correct??

        Thanks again for your valuable help!
        Gaile.

        1. Hi Gaile,

          1. The bus to Shirakawago is not covered by either Hokuriku arch pass or JR pass. It’s extra.

          2,3. As early as possible. I recommend you to be Toyama by 7:00. But it’s totally up to you. The first train to Toyama from Kanazawa depart at 6:00 am.
          http://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/english/wb/common/timetable/e_hokuriku_u/index.html
          You can drop off your luggage at Dentetsu Toyama station from the first departure train to 09:30 am. Dentetsu Toyama station is located next to JR Toyama station.
          http://www.alpen-route.com/en/transport_new/baggage.html
          http://www.alpen-route.com/en/timetable/timetable.html
          You cannot drop off at Kanazawa. You have to carry it to Toyama from Kanazawa.

          4. I don’t know the detailed info about baggage service. Please contact the company of alpine route service. You can find the contact at the link of baggage service above.

          5. You don’t need to go to Nippori. It’s Keisei skyliner station which is not covered by JR pass. You can catch Narita Express at Tokyo station. You can take subway to Ginza and then take another subway Marunouchi line to Tokyo.
          http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/subwaymap/pdf/routemap_en.pdf

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi would like to ask your opinion as i will be travelling to japan end of this month (april). Here’s my plan:
    Day 1 + 2 -> in tokyo
    Day 3 -> Leaving tokyo to tateyama (include staying a night and visit the snow wall on the next day).
    Day 4 -> leaving tateyama to kanazawa (plan to stay over night and visit the place + shirawakago – the unesco village)
    Day 5 -> leaving Kanazawa to Osaka (staying there for 2 nights)
    Day 6 -7 -> in Osaka
    Day 7 -> leaving osaka back to Tokyo by noon (catching up the studio gibli by late afternoon).
    Day 8-9 -> tokyo
    Day 10 leaving Japan.

    So my concerned is it sufficient time for me to see around the kanazawa + the UNESCO village at shirawakago (in 2 days 1 night?) .

    Any suggestion?

    regards
    CK

    1. Hi CK,

      I think you can do Kanazawa and Shirakawago in one night two days. It’s not hard to do it.

      You may use JR pass for the fist 7 days and Takayama Kurobe option ticket.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html
      http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/

      You may add other deals for the last 3 days, such as subway pass.
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/index.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Dear Mr Takeshi

    You seen to be giving very good advice to travellers. Hope you can help me as well.
    I have purchased a 7 day Japan Rail Pass and plan to make the following trip:

    April 6: Tokyo to Gero Onsen
    April 8: Gero Onsen to Takayama
    April 9: Takayama via Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa
    April 10: Kanazawa to Kyoto
    April 12: Kyoto to Tokyo

    I have doubts whether this trip to Shirakawa-go Village and Kanazawa is worthwhile with this timetable or if we are better of staying in Takayama one more night and going straight to Kyoto from there. Could you help me with some advice?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Trine,

      It’s feasible to drop by Shirakawago on the way to Kanazawa. Please see the bus timetable in the link below:
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      There are lots of buses and very easy to drop by. Takayama is not very far from Gero Onsen. So you have a time to see Takayama on 8th and 9th in the morning. You can take a bus to Shirakawago to late morning and easy to make it.

      Advanced reservation is strongly recommended for bus to Shirakwago from Takayama and required to Kanazawa from Shirakawago. You can find online site in the timetable link as I mentioned above.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  4. Hi Takashi

    I’d like to say thanks for providing very helpful information regarding Japan transportation. I will be in Japan April 24 until may 4 2017.

    April 24: NARITA – ITM
    April 24 – 26 : Osaka
    April 26 – 28 : Kyoto – Nara
    April 28 – 30 : Kyoto – Shirakawago – Tokyo
    Apr 30 – Mei 4 : Tokyo -disney sea – shibasakura – mt Fuji – gotemba – Alpine Route

    Should i buy JR Pass ..
    and kindly can give some advise

    Thank you very much

    1. Hi Puspa,

      If you are pretty sure to visit Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route, JR pass is your choice. As long as you use JR pass Kyoto-Shirakawago-Tokyo and Tokyo-Alpine route-Tokyo, you can get the worth of 7 days pass.
      But Apr 30 to May 4 will be Golden Week which is one of the busiest season in the year. You must pick the date when you go to Alpine route and book your seat in advance.
      https://www.eki-net.com/pc/jreast-shinkansen-reservation/English/wb/common/Menu/Menu.aspx?_ga=1.4778995.1325107855.1421419524
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/2017-busiest-period-to-travel-by-train-tips-to-book-your-seat-in-even-busy-period.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hi,
    First of all, I would like to say thank you for providing very helpful information regarding Japan transportation. I will be in Japan May 2017, mostly travel in Kansai region. I’m planning to purchase icoca & haruka pass and Takayama & Hokuriku pass. I would love to hear your opinion on this. Thank you
    May 13: KIX- Kyoto
    May 14: Kyoto
    May 15: Kyoto
    May 16: Kyoto – Nara
    May 17: Kyoto – Uji
    May 18: Kyoto -Kanazawa
    May 19: Kanazawa – Shirakawago
    May 20: Shirakawago – Takayama – Gero
    May 21: Gero – Osaka
    May 22: Osaka
    May 23: Osaka – Kansai airport

    1. Hi Jenny,

      When you purchase ICOCA and Haruka, you can purchase Kansai one pass instead of ICOCA. It’s same type of card as ICOCA but this card offers discount at many attractions.
      http://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1

      You can use Kansai one pass to take trains and buses in Kyoto. But I recommend you to add all day bus pass at 500 yen for one day.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      You can get the worth by only 3 rides of bus. You can save your fund in Kansai one pass for other trips, like Nara, Uji. You can use Kansai one pass in Kyoto when you need to take trains. When you take bus, you can use bus pass. It’s more efficient.

      Takayama Hokuriku area pass is a good choice. But when you go back to Osaka from Gero, you may need to pay extra. Because the shortest route from Gero to Osaka is Gero-Nagoya (or Gifu)-Osaka. But this pass does not cover Nagoya-Kyoto segment. If you take the route Gero-Toyama-Kanazawa-Osaka, it’s covered fully but it’s a big detour.

      The most common route from Gero to Osaka is taking Wide View Hida to Nagoya and Shinkansen from Nagoya to Shin-Osaka. In this case, you have to pay at lease 4300 yen which is discount deal, Platt Kodama. Please see the link below to find the details about Platt Kodama.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/platt-kodama-one-way-deal-among-tokyo-nagoya-kyoto-and-shin-osaka-by-shinkansen.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi Takeshi,

    I have question regarding to the day trip for Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go. Just wondering if we could reserve bus seats online beforehand. and how and where to ride the bus from the kanazawa station.

    thanks

  7. Hi Takeshi,
    I will be arriving in Narita Airport by 16.00, following is my itinerary. Please take a look and let me know whether it’s feasible or not. Hope to hear from you soon.

    DAY 1 – TOKYO: ARRIVAL
    DAY 2 – TOKYO: ASAKUSA, AKIHABARA, SHIBUYA, GHIBLI, SHINJUKU
    DAY 3 – ECHIGO-YUZAWA: SKI RESORT & ONSEN
    DAY 4 – OSAKA: UMEDA, NAMBA, DOTONBORI
    DAY 5 – KYOTO: FUSHIMI INARI, HIGASHIYAMA, NISHIKI, ARASHIYAMA, KINKAKU-JI
    DAY 6 – KANAZAWA: OMICHO, HAKUICHI, 21ST MUSEUM, OLD TOWN
    DAY 7 – SHIRAKAWA-GO
    DAY 8 – TOKYO
    DAY 9 – TOKYO: LEAVE

    Thanks,
    Ricco

    1. Hi Ricco,

      Your plan is busy but no problem to do it. It’s feasible.
      I recommend you to use JR Pass for the last 7 days of your trip.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/japan-rail-pass-user-guide-how-to-use-jr-pass-to-its-maximum.html

      You can use other deals for the first 2 days. There are lots of deals that includes airport access and subway unlimited ride ticket. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/narita/the-list-of-deals-for-access-to-downtown-tokyo-from-narita-airport.html
      http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html#anc02

      Some places cannot be accessed by JR pass and other places cannot be by subway, such as Ghibli. So you may visit the places by subway on day 2 and Ghibli is good to visit on day 8 because you use JR pass. Please see the link below:
      http://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/tokyo-kanto-area/guide-to-take-trains-in-tokyo-how-to-choose-the-best-deal-and-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Hi, Mr Takeshi

    I will be travelling to Osaka with my daughter on 12/1/17. Will be in Osaka until 16/1/17. We would like to visit Shirakawago. Is it possible to make a day trip? Please advise what pass should we buy? Can we buy the tickets online? Pls give us an itinerary.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Gladys,

      You can do it as you read the post above. You can use same itinerary.
      Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is the best choice. This pass is valid for 5 days but it’s still cheaper than regular fare. It’s useful for even day trip.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  9. Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning to visit Japan on April 17 – 26 2017
    D1 : Reached Osaka in the evening stay in Osaka
    D2 : City tour in Osaka stay in Osaka
    D3 : Osaka – Takayama stay in Takayama
    D4 : Takayama – Shirakawago – Tokyo stay in Tokyo
    D4 : Tokyo – Kawaguchi – Mt Fuji – Gotemba – Tokyo stay in Tokyo
    D5 : Disney Sea stay in Tokyo
    D6 : Free
    D7 : Free
    D8 : Free
    D9 : going back home in early morning

    Could you please give some advise regarding my itinerary since I’m travelling with 7 adult and 3 kids 6y and 2 2y

    should I buy JR Pass ?
    Do you have 1D tour for Osaka / Tokyo / other place or please share if you have alternative place to go

    Thank you and regards

    1. Hi Andreas,

      JR pass does not work for Kansai airpot-Osaka-Takayama-Tokyo. It costs less than 25000 yen even if you pay single fare. JR pass is not recommended for Fuji-Gotemba trip. Express bus is better way.

      So if you have one more other long trip on day 6 or 7, such as trip to Nikko, JR Pass will work. You can use JR trains in Tokyo and Osaka. But single fare is quite affordable. It does not help to use JR pass. You need to have a long distance trip on day 6 or 7.

      If you don’t use JR pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass may be considerable. It covers Takayama and Shirakawago from Osaka. But you have to go through Nagoya. You cannot take the route of Osaka-Nagoya/Gifu-Takayama.
      http://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      If you use this pass, you can get Nagoya after Takayama. And you need to pay single fare for Nagoya-Tokyo. Total cost is around 25000 yen but it includes bus to Shirakawago. This is the cheapest option.

      If you want to get Takayama from Osaka easier, you need to use single fare ticket. Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is not your choice.

      For Fuji and Gotemba, you can get there buy express bus and local bus. Please see the links below:
      http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/highway/detail/id/1
      http://bus-en.fujikyu.co.jp/route/detail/id/1
      http://www.premiumoutlets.co.jp/en/gotemba/access/bus/

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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