Access to Kanazawa from Osaka and Kyoto. Limited Express Thuderbird

683 series is the primary fleet for limited express train in Hokuriku region, such as Thunderbird and Shirasagi.
683 series is the primary fleet for limited express train in Hokuriku region, such as Thunderbird and Shirasagi.

Thunderbird is operated between Osaka (大阪) and Wakura-Onsen (和倉温泉), Kanazawa (金沢). This train is the fastest transfer from Osaka/Kyoto to Kanazawa. This train is very popular for both business and leisure travellers. Because there are several popular location along this trains’s route, like Awara-Onsen (芦原温泉) hot springs, Kaga-Onsen (加賀温泉) hot spring, Kanazawa and Wakura-Onsen hot spring. If you go to Kanazawa from Osaka, simply take this express train.

This train used to run to Toyama via Kanazawa. But on March 14, 2015, Hokuriku Shinkansen was opened and it connects Tokyo, Nagano, Toyama and Kanazawa directly. Now you have to transfer from Limited Express Thunderbird to Hokuriku Shinkansen when you go to Toyama from Osaka or Kyoto.

This train is fully covered by Japan Rail Pass. Let’s see the details.

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

Route, schedule and time required

Thunderbird runs 22 round trips a day. It takes 2 hours and 40 minutes to Kanazawa from Osaka. Some of Thunderbird are extended to operate to Wakura-Onsen. It takes about 4 hours from Osaka to Wakura-Onsen.

*You can find it at the bottom of JR West website.

View Limited Express Thunderbird in a larger map


Most of Thunderbird stop
Station to Kanazawa/Wakura-Onsen Remarks
Osaka (大阪) x
Shin-Osaka (新大阪) x Connect to Shinkansen
Kyoto (京都) x Connect to Shinkansen
Katada (堅田) * Some of Thunderbird stop
Oumi-Imazu (近江今津) * Some of Thunderbird stop
Tsuruga (敦賀) * Most of Thunderbird stop
Takefu (武生) * Most of Thunderbird stop
Sabae (鯖江) * Most of Thunderbird stop
Fukui (福井) x
Awara-Onsen (芦原温泉) * Most of Thunderbird stop
Kaga-Onsen (加賀温泉) * Most of Thunderbird stop
Komatsu (小松) *
Matto (松任) * Some of Thunderbird stop
Kanazawa (金沢) x
Hakui (羽咋) x
Nanao (七尾) x
Wakura-Onsen (和倉温泉) x

x:All trains stop *:some trains stop


Thunderbird is serviced by 681 or 683 series. 681 is older than 683. But basically it is no difference.

The seat pitch in Green seat is 1160mm. It is the standard of most JR trains. The seat configuration is 2+1. It has spacious and nice holding. It is quite good seat. The seat pitch in Ordinary seat is 970mm. It is a little bigger than the standard. Car#3 is only for women. Some of JR train give this kind of service for women travellers.

*Sonic Rail Garden has copyright for all images of accommodations below.

Train formation

Thunderbird train formation

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

*G=Green seat R=Reserved seat NR=Non reserved seat
Smoking is not allowed on these trains.

Images – 681/683 series

Green seat
681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird

Ordinary seat
681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird

Sanitary space
681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird 681/683 series - Limited Express Thunderbird

166 thoughts on “Access to Kanazawa from Osaka and Kyoto. Limited Express Thuderbird”

  1. Takeshi san

    I’m visiting Fukui on 12/2 and return on 17/2 with my colleague with flight arriving KIX, I’m learnt that Haruka is available from KIX to Shin-Osaka, then I should take the Thunderbird. Since my flight arriving KIX may be around 4:00pm already, would you recommend the below?
    1/ Book the tickets for Haruka and Thunderbird in advance?
    2/ Do you recommend to purchase the JR pass for reducing ticket cost?

    If so, please advise how and where can I book the tickets ?

    Thank you very much!


    1. Hi Sherman san,

      Unfortunately you cannot book it in advance because online is not available. You have to book it upon arrival.
      JR Pass is too expensive because return fare is less than 17,000 yen. It’s way cheaper than JR pass. My recommendation is ICOCA and Haruka.

      It covers Haruka between KIX and Kyoto. So you can take Haruka to Kyoto. And then transfer to Thunderbird at Kyoto by single fare. You can purchase it at KIX station and book Thunderbird at same time.
      This combination is cheaper than regular fare.


      Takeshi /

  2. Hello!!

    I will be travelling from Okayama – Shin Osaka – Fukui. Can I buy the Thunderbird ticket in Okayama along with my shinkansen ticket?

    Thank you!! :)

    1. Hi Sally,

      Yes. It’s completely no problem.
      You can purchase any JR trains ticket at most of JR stations in advance. If you want, you can purchase it before your departure date. Of course you can purchase it just before you depart from Okayama.


      Takeshi /

  3. Hi! We will go to Japan on January 29. We enter thru Osaka and plan to take the overnight bus to Kanazawa. Are there overnight JR bus from osaka to Kanazawa?
    We will also go to takayama and shirakawago then back to osaka. Can you recommend a better and cheaper transportation? Thanks!


  4. Thanks Takeshi San,
    I am using Toyama as the base for this trip, planned going from Kansai airport to Kanazawa and then Toyama on 1/29 on my own, on 1/30 booked to join a local tour to Shokawa River boat and Suganuma and then, on my own, take the Kaetsuno bus to Shirakawago light up the evening (reservation not available for the trip going but have booked the Kaetsuno bus on the way back to Toyama), on 1/31, from Toyama go to Okuhida Shinhokata ropeway via the newly opened Toyama-Okuhida line by Nohi Bus and spend a night there, on 2/1 get back to Toyama and that night head to Kansai airport for the plane returning to my country. I will not be staying in Takayama or taking train going from or bound for Nagoya. Seems it will be using the JR lines of western side Chubu where the Thunderbird runs plus local buses from Toyama most time. Thanks, Jason

    1. Hi Jason san,

      Takayama Hokuriku Area pass is the best choice. You can take Haruka from KIX to Shin-Osaka and Thunderbird from Shin-Osaka to Kanazawa. Hokuriku Shinkansen to Toyama from Kanazawa is also covered. Even though most of trip by bus in your trips are not covered by this pass, this pass is much cheaper than single fare. Kaetsuno bus may be covered but it doesn’t seem to be regular scheduled bus. It may not be covered.


      Takeshi /

  5. Dear Takeshi San, I am trying go to Hokuriku area from Kansai airport only for 4 days( mainly for the Shirakawago light up in Jan), so mean to combine both Kansai area daily pass and the Hokuriku area pass(4 days). Since I heard that with both passes, I cannot ride the Thunderbird. Such a bad news! So I want to know is that too time consuming if taking only the type of trains available with both passes ?? I have a few days travel time only, so better to shorten time on transport though. I am considering getting the Takayama Hokuriku area pass, but then, that one does not cover the train or Shinkansei from Nogoya to the Kansai airport where my plane departs. Do u have any kind advice on selecting the right pass? Thanks in advance. Jason

    1. Hi Jason,

      I want to make sure the following things:
      1. How do you get Shirakawago? Do you take express bus from Kanazawa or Takayama? Do you intend to take tour?
      2. Even if you use Kansai area pass and Hokuriku pass, Nagoya is not covered anyway. How do you visit Hokuikuri region, Shirakawago and Nagoya? I want to see the detailed itinerary of your trip.


      Takeshi /

  6. Hello
    we are arriving at Kansai on the evening of 28 December and want to travel to Nagano / Myojo-Kogen on 29 December. We are planning to travel with the Thunderbird 13 to Kanazawa, and from there to Nagano.
    As far as I can see we cannot reserve seats on the train until we are in Japan – is this correct? Will we be able to reserve seats on the Thunderbird when we arrive on 28 December to travel on 29 December?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Jim,

      It might be challenging. Because Japanese go back to hometown just before New Years holidays to spend the time with family and friends. The trains that depart from major cities, like Osaka is very busy. According to JR announcement, the busiest day is Dec 30th. But 29th is also busy. Probably late afternoon departure is busier than morning departure. But you cannot book a train before you arrive in Japan as you think.

      You may find the availability at Cyber station. It’s Japanese site but I wrote about how to use this site at the link below:

      I hope it will help you to find some more info.


      Takeshi /

  7. Dear Takeshi,

    I will be returning to my home in Oosaka from my few day long Tokyo trip on the 26th and I decided to take a big detour and check out Shirakawago.
    I don’t know how crowded these trains are, and I would need your advice if I should be making reservation for the hokuriku shinkansen between Ueno and Kanazawa, and especially if it is needed for the Thunderbird between Kanazawa and Shin-Oosaka. I really wouldn’t want to miss any of these trains because there are no free seats left having to stay out in the middle of winter.
    However I don’t have to stick to any specific train so I am good as long as I can get on any of the morning shinkansen trains and I would be taking any one of the last Thunderbird trains, probably one between 18:06 and the last train at 20:35.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Endy,

      In this year, the busiest days are 28th to 30th. You need to book your seat if you travel in this period. And school winter break starts on 25th. After this date, it will be busier. Reservation is still recommended in winter break too.


      Takeshi /

      1. Takeshi san

        Thank you very much for your advice. I have bought the pass and will be in Japan this week. People like you make travelling around Japan much easier and a more enjoyable experience!



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