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

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

  1. Hi Takeshi!
    We purchased the Takayama-Hokuriku area tourist pass. Is the limited express Thunderbird from Kanazawa to Osaka covered by the Takayama-Hokuriku pass?

  2. Dear Sir,

    How I am going back to Kanazawa by JR train from Takayama by using Takayama-Hokuriku tourist pass ?

    When would be the last train ?? Please advise as myself is travel on Dec 2015

    Gwek Looi

  3. Hello there,

    We will be in Japan from 11th to 20th of December 2015, however we still have no idea which pass we should get. Here’s our itinerary:
    11. From Haneda airport to central of Tokyo – 1 night (probably in Shibuya)
    12-13. Going to Osaka – 2 nights (going to the central on 12th and USJ + central on the 13th)
    14. Kyoto – 1 night
    15. Takayama – Shirakawago – Kanazawa – back to Kyoto for another night
    16. Kyoto – our last night (for the festival)
    17. Kawaguchiko or Hakone – 1 night for onsen (planning to go to Gotemba)
    18. Back to Tokyo central
    19. Tokyo Disney Sea + Tokyo central
    20. Haneda airport take off at 11am

    Actually we are still not sure whether we should go to the golden route from Osaka or Kyoto, but since we would like to walk around Kyoto from morning to evening and spend 2 nights in Kyoto to go to Gion and the festival, we decided to make the trip while we are in Kyoto.
    We also think that going to shirakawago is better from Takayama since we would have a more flexible bus trip since we do not have to make any reservation in advance.
    We are still confuse if we should buy the JR west and Takayama Hokuriku pass plus metro card for Tokyo central OR we just buy JR Pass instead. Can we still get into shinkansen if we buy JR west pass?

    Thanks alot!


    1. Hi Gisela,

      Your choice is JR pass 7 days. This is only pass to cover most part of your trip. Other deals do not work.

      You can start using 7 days pass when you leave for Osaka on day 2. You can take Shinkansen. You can find the details about the coverage of JR Pass at the link above. You don’t need to worry about the pass in Tokyo. If you start using pass on day 2, I believe the pass covers until you arrive Tokyo from Hakone (or Kawaguchiko)

      Overall, your plan is okay. But I have a few thing to mention to you.

      1. Trip to Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa
      Sorry but you cannot make it. It’s too much as day trip. But you can do Kanazawa and Shirakawago as day trip from Kyoto. Please see the link below:

      2. Kawaguchiko or Hakone
      Hakone is more accessible from Kyoto. Please see the link below:
      If you go to Kawaguchiko, you have to take express bus from Mishima or back to Tokyo and then take train to Kawaguchiko via Otsuki. It’s a big detour. On the other hand, you can access to Hakone from Odawara. Hakone-Yumoto that is one of most popular spots to stay in Hakone is a few stations away from Odawara.
      Both bus from Mishima and train to Hakone are not covered by JR pass.

      You may use subway pass for exploring in Tokyo. But single ticket is okay to Disney and Haneda.


      Takeshi /

      1. Hi Takeshi,

        Thanks for your reply! I just saw your post: sample itinerary for tokyo, hakone, kyoto and osaka classic route in 7 days. So, I modified my itinerary based on your reference since I don’t want to go to USJ and Disney Sea during weekend.

        11. Haneda-Tokyo (stay around Shinjuku)
        12. Tokyo – Hakone and Gotemba (1 night)
        13. Hakone – Kyoto (Arashiyama for Hanatouro festival and Gion at night) (1 night in Kyoto)
        14. Kyoto – Kanazawa and Shirakawago (day trip, stay in Kyoto)
        15. Kyoto (Higashiyama), afternoon train to Osaka (stay in Osaka)
        16. Osaka (USJ) + central (another night in Osaka)
        17. Osaka – Himeji (Himeji Castle) – Tokyo
        18. Tokyo Disney Sea
        19. Tokyo central
        20. Tokyo – Haneda (take off 11.45am)

        Do you think I should just do this itinerary or the previous one? And do I still need JR Pass for this itinerary? Because on the post that I referred to, you said that JR pass is actually more expensive than the conventional way. I am planning to follow the instruction you wrote there, modify it a bit by going to Himeji and Tokyo after Osaka.
        Also, what time do I need to get to the airport if the plane is taking off at 11.45?

        Thanks alot!


        1. Hi Gisela,

          I think this one is better. JR Pass suits this trip and it’s cheaper than single fare. If you have only one way from Tokyo to Osaka, JR Pass does not work. But you will go back to Tokyo after Himeji. JR Pass is much cheaper. You may start using it on day 2 of your trip. You can use JR train to get DisneySea.

          You can use Shinkansen to get Odawara and then use Hakone Free Pass. It’s cheaper than Odakyu from Shijuku to Hakone via Odawara.

          Usually you have to be airport 3 hours before. But I recommend you to check your airline.


          Takeshi /

  4. I am going from Uozu Station to Kyoto Station. What would be the ideal way to go? Hyperdia shows the Ainokaze Toyama Railway for KANAZAWA (looks like this involves a transfer to the IR Ishikawa Railway for KANAZAWA) and then taking the THUNDERBIRD to Kyoto Station. I am willing to pay a bit more if it means a more direct route (less transfers, faster travel).

    Also, I may want to stop in Kanazawa to sightsee for a few hours. What would be the best option if I wanted to do that and still get to Kyoto Station later?

    1. Hi Paul,

      I think the route that hyperdia showed is the best route. If you take Hokuriku Shinkansen from Toyama to Kanazawa. it’s faster but not very different. Trip time by Ainokase and IR Ishikawa is around 1 hour for this segment. If you take Shinkasnen, it takes 25 minutes. But you have to transfer at Toyama station. You may spend at least 10 minutes, but may be more. It depends on connection schedule. And also you have to pay Shinkansen surcharge that is 2000 yen at least. I don’t think it’s worth paying to save only 15 to 20 minutes.

      If you take original route, you just get off at Kanazawa before taking Thunderbird. The last Thunderbird departs from Kanazawa around 20:30.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hello,I will go Japan on nov first time and I’ll go to Sun Dome Fukui(for a concert) from Tokyo-Okachimachi Station.I will have Japan Raill Pass..How can I go Sun Dome Fukui,what is the road route ? can you help me ^^

    Sincerely Yours

    1. Hi Tub,

      I don’t know which part of Fukui Sun Dome Fukui is. But you can take the following route to get Fukui.

      Okachimachi (Local train) Tokyo
      Tokyo (Tokaido Shinkansen Hikari) Maibara
      Maibara (Limited Express Shirasagi) Fukui

      You may find the train schedule at Hyperdia.


      Takeshi /

  6. hi there,
    im traveling to kyoto and would like to take the earliest train to kanazawa so that i can travel to shirokawa, may i know how much it cost for a one way ticket?


  7. hi,

    I plan to go Osaka-Kanazawa-Osaka with 5 days trip, will arrival kansai international airport, my question as below
    1. i will buy the thunderbird train ticket from osaka to kanazawa, what pass i need to buy?
    2. is it i need to change the train from Kansai, if i take thunderbrid train?
    3. how to book the thunderbird train ticket? This pass is can use for anywhere?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Carol,

      1. Takayaha Hokuriku Area Pass is recommended.

      2. Yes. You can take limited express Haruka to get Shin-Osaka and transfer to Thunderbird there.

      3. You cannot book it online. You have to book when you exchange and purchase the pass in Kansai airport station.


      Takeshi /

  8. hi,

    i plan go to Kanazawa/shirakawago and kyoto, so i will choose the JP 5days pass Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass.
    May i know where to get the timetable and can we reserved online before we reach Osaka?

    my plan
    day1: Osaka(4pm reach)-Kanazawa
    day2: Kanazawa-shirakawa
    day3&4: shirakawa(maybe day trip to takayama)
    day5: Shirakawa-Kyoto (ques: if i use my pass on day 1, 4pm, means my pass will expired on this day at 11.59pm?)


    1. Hi Grace,

      Unfortunately there is no online reservation available. But you can make it when you exchange the pass. It’s not hard to book upon arrival.
      The pass is valid midnight to midnight. So even though you start to use the pass at 16:00, it’s expired at 23:59 on day 5 as you guess.

      You can find the timetable at Hyperida.

      You can find the bus schedule at the link below:


      Takeshi /

  • Your comment will not be shown until I approve.
  • Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.
  • If you want to ask me which pass suits your plan, please tell me your detailed itinerary and location to stay. I cannot choose any deals without the detailed itinerary because I have to compare the total single fare and deals

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