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

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

  1. Takeshisan,

    I am planning to use the Hokuriku Area Pass.

    Does this pass connect to Kyoto as well or stops at Tsuruga? If it stops at Tsuruga, what is the most economical way to connect to Kyoto and vice versa?

    Thank you

    1. Hi An,

      Hokuriku Area Pass does not cover Kyoto as you probably know. You have to get another pass, such as Kansai Wide Area Pass to proceed to travel to Kyoto.

      Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass is way more expensive but it may be considerable.


      Takeshi /

  2. Greetings Takeshi San,
    I am flying end Aug’15 into Nagoya (D1) and flying out from Tokyo (D11), and plan this routing:-
    D2: Nagoya ->Takayama, and Takayama->Shirakawago (rtn)
    D3: Takayama->Kamikochi (rtn)
    D4: Takayama->Toyama->Takeyama
    D5: Takeyama Alpine route (rtn to Takeyama), and ->Toyama
    D6: Toyama->Kyoto via Kanazawa
    ::Above D2-D6, use the Takayama Hokuriku Pass; and buy the Takeyama Alpine route 2 way ticket

    D7&8 : Kyoto:: use 2 day Kyoto Pass
    D9: Kyoto->Tokyo:: travel Shinkansen
    D10: Tokyo:: travel individual train/subway trips

    Appreciate your kind advice as to whether this routing and Pass usage is ideal, time and cost-wise.

    Or perhaps the Takeyama Alpine Pass is more economical ; in which case I change the routing to Nagoya->Kyoto->Toyama->Takayama->Toyama->Tateyama->Tokyo.
    I’m unclear as to the cost and coverage of this Pass.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi MsTan san,

      I think your original plan is better. Both JR Central and JR West sell Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route ticket. But both pass include return fare to departure city (Nagoya to Nagoya or Kyoto to Kyoto) and you must go through Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. I don’t think these deals are suitable for your trip.


      Takeshi /

      1. Greetings Takeshi San. Thank you very much for your kind assistance and very quick one at that. Have a good day. Tan San

  3. Hi Takeshi,
    We are 2 adult and 1 child under six years old flying into Osaka in mid-October for 7 days.
    Our travel plans are:

    Day 1: KIX to Kanazawa
    Day 2: Kanazawa to Shirawago
    Day 3: Kanazawa to Toyoma
    Day4: Kanazawa to Osaka
    Day 5: Osaka to Kyoto
    Day 6: Osaka to Kobe
    Day7: Osaka to KIX

    What pass will be the best value and convenient for us?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Chicosan,

      Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is the perfect choice for your trip from day 1 to 5.

      You may add subway or/and bus deal in Kyoto on day 5 because this pass covers trip to Kyoto but does not cover most part of Kyoto.

      For trip to Kobe, single fare of Hanshin Tourist Pass is a good choice. Please find the detail at the link below:

      There are some deals available for trip to KIX.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  4. Hi Takeshi
    i will be traveling on nov 12 2015
    will be staying in osaka for the 6 days
    but will visit hiroshima, miyajima, himeji, kyoto and kanazawa during the stay in osaka
    should i just get 7 days JR Pass for all my travel ?

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    we will be travelling in Japan in the beginning of November between Monday 2 November and Monday 9 November. Our planned route is Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka, Nakazawa, Nagoya. What would be the most efficient way to travel by train? Can we apply the Japan Rail Pass for these connections?

    Thanks in advance for your reply.


    1. Hi Antti,

      I think you can use Takayama Hokuriku Area pass for the first or second half of your trip.

      This pass does not cover direct route between Nagoya and Osaka/Kyoto. But you can use it for the route, Osaka-Kyoto-Kanazawa-Shirakawago-Takayama-Nagoya or reverse.
      You have two choices for Nagoya-Osaka/Kyoto. The first one is single ticket for Shinkansen. This is the easiest and fastest. The cost is around 10000 yen. If you want to save your cost, Kintetsu Rail Pass is the best choice.

      Takes a long time but it’s much cheaper. And also you can use this pass for getting Nara.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Thank you for your reply.

        I am wondering if the Kansai Hokuriku 7 day pass will work better for my itinerary as I will be travelling to Kyoto on Day 5 and Kobe on Day 6, then Day 7 go to KIX. It is 1.5k yen more than Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass.

        Thank you

        1. Hi Chicosan,

          That is a good deal too. But bus to Shirakaawago and reserved seat fee are not included in Kansai Hokuriku Pass. I think Takayama Hokuriku Pass plus extra is better choice.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

  6. Hi Takeshi,

    I’ll be going from Kyoto to Kanazawa on the thunderbird on 4thOct, Sunday.

    1. With the hokuriku area pass, can I just buy the ticket for Kyoto to tsuruga, and stay on the very same train and just show the area pass when they check tickets? Or do I have to get off at tsuruga and board again?

    2. I am thinking of taking unreserved seats on the thunderbird from Kyoto to kanazawa, what are the chances that I won’t get a seat?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Sid,

      1. You can show both single ticket and limited express ticket for Kyoto-Tsuruga, and Hokuriku area pass when the conductor check your ticket.

      2. If you are solo traveller, I think you can get a seat. It’s hard to find side by side usually. But it’s very hard to say how busy it will be.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      1. Thank you for your reply Takeshi! Your article is very helpful!! Wonder if the hokuriku pass is the most economical for my trip:

        Day1-2 Osaka
        Day 2-3 Kyoto
        Day3-5 Kanagawa
        Day 5-6 Kobe
        Day 6-10 Osaka

        I’m planning to get the ICOCA Haruka and Hokuriku pass. Do you think this is the best value for my trip? Any inputs is highly appreciated! Thank you!

        1. Hi Sid,

          Why don’t you use Kansai Wide Area Pass before/after Hokuriku Area pass? Base fare and limited express surcharge (non reserved seat) for Kyoto-Tsuruga and Tsuruga-Kobe are slightly cheaper than Kansai Wide Area Pass. But if you start to use it on day 2, you can use this pass for Osaka-Kyoto transfer. And also when you go back to Osaka from Kobe, you can use this pass again. Total fare is not much different from Kansai Wide Area Pass at 8500 yen. But it’s much easier than handling single fare ticket.

          I agree with you to use ICOCA and Haruka. But I recommend you to add Kansai Wide Area pass for day 2 to 6.


          Takeshi / JP Rail

          1. Thank you so much Takeshi! Will definitely take that into consideration! So if I do end up buying the Kansai wide pass, do I just show both passes to the conductor on the train from Kyoto to Kanazawa?

            And can I pick up all three passes at kix and activate them later?

            Thank you once again!

          2. Hi Sid,

            Yes. You can show those at same time. And also you can pick up those at KIX. When you pick up, you can choose which day you want to start.


            Takeshi / JP Rail

  7. Hi Takeshi

    Appreciate your advice on my planned trip below:

    Passmo card
    Day 1-2 Tokyo
    Day 3 Mt Fuji

    Travel by highway bus from Tokyo to Takayama

    JR Takayama Hokuriku 5 Days Pass
    Day 4 Takayama
    Day 5 Shirakawago
    Day 6 Kanazawa
    Day 7 Japanese Alps (Tateyama/Shinhotaka)

    Travel from Takayama to Kyoto using the above JR Pass

    Kyoto 1 Day Pass & 2 Days Pass
    Day 8 Kyoto
    Day 9-10 Kyoto

    Travel from Kyoto to Osaka by xx(please advice)

    Osaka Amazing 2 Days Pass
    Day 11-12 Osaka

    Travel from Osaka to Kansai Airport by bus
    Day 12 Kansai Airport (midnight flight)

    Is JR 14 days pass worth compared to the above plan?

    We are ladies traveller of three.Looking forward to your reply.Thank you

      1. Hi Takeshi

        Thank you so much for your reply. I am really grateful bump into your website and received word of advice from you. May God bless you always for being kind and helpful ^_^

  8. Hello,

    Due to i bought JR Pass 7 days, So I would like to know, I can use JR pass for this Thunderbird? If i can use, i have to reserve the seat or not.

    Thank you so much.

  9. Hi Takeshi, I plan to use the Limited Express Train from Osaka to Kanazawa on 9 May 2015. Our group has 3 adults and 1 kid (5 year old). Since we still dont need to pay the ticket for five-year-old kid, I intend to buy unreserved seat ticket so that my kid can sit individually in his seat.
    1. Is it crowded on 9 May? I note that it has passed the Golden week but it is in Saturday. How big is he chance of getting a seat for four of us?
    2. Is the non-reserved car non-smoking? How to ensure that we board a non-smoking car? It will be a nightmare if we accidentally board into the smoking car.


    1. Hi Linda,

      1. It’s not a peak period, but it’s weekend. You can get a seat as long as you take this train at Osaka

      2. All cars are non smoking.

      In case that all seats will be full, you may be asked by conductor to share the seat with your kid because he’s free. In basic rule, you cannot use a seat for child passenger who doesn’t pay. As long as there are empty seats, you can use it for your child.

      Just for your info.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  10. Hi Takeshi,

    I am travelling to Japan from 6June to 12 June. My questions are:

    1. For ICOCA and Haruka pass, the one way pass can it be Osaka to Kansai Airport? As I saw many people bought this pass is from Kansai Airport to Osaka/Kyoto.

    2. If can’t use the pass, may I know how can I travel from Osaka to Kansai Airport? What is the cost?

    3. For Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, can I go Kanazawa from Kyoto? If yes, which train should I take? I told by the JTB where this pass only can use JR limited express and the train schedule are very less.

    Thanks a lot.


    1. Hi Cindy,

      1 and 2. Unfortunately no. Please find other deal.

      3. You can take this train, Limited Express Thunderbird. It runs every hour. You can find the timetable at Hyperdia:


      Takeshi / JP Rail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments links could be nofollow free.