How to access to Kanazawa and Toyama from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Niigata.

Kenrokuen is one of the biggest names in Kanazawa and also one of three  top gardens in Japan.  ©Ishikawa Prefecture Tourist Association and Kanazawa Convention Bureau/© JNTO
Kenrokuen is one of the biggest names in Kanazawa and also one of three top gardens in Japan. ©Ishikawa Prefecture Tourist Association and Kanazawa Convention Bureau/© JNTO

Kanazawa is one of the big names in Japan. It has lovely preserved town and Kenrokuen garden that is one of three well known gardens with Kairakuen (Mito) and Korakuen (Okayama). Kanazawa is located in Hokuriku region. In this region, Toyama is well known as the gateway to Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route.

In mid March, 2015, Hokuriku Shinkansen open and both Kanazawa and Toyama are very accessible from Tokyo. In this post, I would like to show you about access from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Niigata.

Route map

Please see the map below:

Kanazawa and Toyama access map (Click to enlarge)
Kanazawa and Toyama access map (Click to enlarge)

As you see the map above, there are several ways to get Kanazawa and Toyama, Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo, Limited Express Thuderbird from Osaka and Kyoto, Limited Express Shirasagi from Nagoya and LImited Express Wide View Hida from Nagoya and Kyoto.

I would like to explain these routes one by one

Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo and Nagano

Newest Shinkansen fleet E7 series for Hokuriku Shinkansen
Newest Shinkansen fleet E7 series for Hokuriku Shinkansen

Hokuriku Shinkansen makes Kanazawa and Toyama be much closer to Tokyo! Please see the trip time by fastest train connection before and after Hokuriku Shinkansen open.

Joetsu Shinkansen and
Limited Express Hakutaka
before Mar 13, 2015
Hokuriku Shinkansen
after Mar 14, 2015
Tokyo – Toyama 3 hrs 15 mins 2 hrs 10 mins
Tokyo – Kanazawa 3 hrs 50 mins 2 hrs 30 mins

As you see the table above, we can save at least one hour for one way. If you want, day tirp to Kanazawa from Tokyo is not impossible. And Hokuriku Shinkansen is a direct access from Tokyo to Toyama and Kanazawa. We had to transfer at Echigo-Yuzawa or Nagaoka to get Tokyo and Kanazawa from Tokyo. This is another asset too. I wrote about Hokuriku Shinkansen at the link below. You will find more information about this Shinkansen line.

Hokuriku Shinkansen, direct access to Kanazawa, Nagano and Toyama from Tokyo

Hokuriku Shinkansen was operated as Nagano Shinkansen before March 13, 2015. It was exteneded to Kanazawa. That means this Shinkansen line connect Nagano and Kanazawa much shorter than before. Before Hokuriku Shinkansen open, we had to take local train from Nagano to Naoetsu. And then we have to transfer to Limited Express train. Hokuriku Shinkansen makes a trip between Nagano and Kanazawa be much easier and more convenient too. Now it is much easier to drop by Nagano on the way to Kanazawa and Toyama.

Limited Express Thunderbird from Osaka and Kyoto

Limited Express "Thunderbird"
Limited Express Thunderbird runs between Osaka/Kyoto and Kanazawa.

Limited Express “Thunderbird” connects Osaka/Kyoto and Kanazawa directly. It runs very frequent and about 20 round trips. The average trip time is 2 hours 40 minutes.

Access to Kanazawa from Osaka and Kyoto. Limited Express Thuderbird

Most of Thunderbird connected Osaka and Toyama directly too. But this train runs between Osaka and Kanazawa only except one round trip to Wakura-Onsen. Now there is no direct access from Osaka/Kyoto to Toyama. We must transfer to local trian or Hokuriku Shinkansen. If you use JR Pass, you cannot take local train to Toyama from Kanazawa because conventional line belong to non JR company. Only Hokuriku Shinkansen is covered by JR Pass.

Limited Express Shirasagi from Nagoya and Maibara

683 series for Limited Express Shirasagi
683 series for Limited Express Shirasagi

Limited Express Shirasagi runs between Nagoya and Kanazawa and some trips run between Maibara and Kanazawa. The average trip time between Nagoya and Kanazawa is 3 hours. You may take Shinkansen to get Maibara and transfer to this express train. The trip time is a bit shorter than Nagoya-Kanazawa direct access.

Some of this train connected Nagoya and Toyama directly. But it is same thing as Limited Express Thunderbird. All trips go to Kanazawa only and you have to transfer at Kanazawa to get Toyama.

Limited Express Wide View Hida from Nagoya via Takayama

KIHA 85 series for Limited Express Wide View Hida
KIHA 85 series for Limited Express Wide View Hida

If you go to Toyama from Nagoya, you may take this route, Nagoya-Gifu-Takayama-Toyama by Limited Express Wide View Hida.

Access to Takayama and Hida from Nagoya. Limited Express Wide View Hida

In terms of distance, this route is shorter than Limited Express Shirasagi and Hokuriku Shinkansen route, Nagoya-Maibara-Kanazawa-Toyama. But it takes longer. It takes 3.5 hours from Nagoya to Toyama by Shirasagi and Hokuriku Shinkansen. It takes aboiut 3 hours 50 minutes by Limited Express Wide View Hida. And also most of Wide View Hida runs between Nagoya and Takayama. There are only 3 round trips between Nagoya and Toyama. The scenery is stunning to take Wide View Hida route. If you have an extra time, this route is recommended. But Takayama is worthy of a stop!

Nohi bus from Takayama via Shirakawago

If you intend to visit Takayama, you can get Kanazawa via Shirakawago by bus. This route is very popular. Many tourists take this route and visit Takayama, Shirakawago and Kanazawa same time. Please find more information at the link below:

How to access to Takayama by trains and buses

Limited Express Shirayuki and Hokuriku Shinkansen from Niigata

Limited Express Hokuetsu connected Niigata and Toyama/Kanazawa directly before Hokuriku Shinkansen open. But there is no direct access any more and we have to transfer at Joetsu-Myoko station on Hokuriku Shinkansen. Limited Express Shirayuki connects Joetsu-Myoko and Niigata in 2 hours. Please find more information at the link below:

Limited Express Shirayuki. Intercity express between Joetsu-Myoko and Niigata

203 thoughts on “How to access to Kanazawa and Toyama from Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Niigata.”

  1. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be arrive at Kansai airport on 16/11/17, then my arrangement as follow:
    – 16/11/17 stay & travel at Osaka
    -17/11/17~19/11/17 travel to Kyoto (travel around & stay there)
    -20/11/17 depart to Kanazawa in the early morning(plan to take Thunderbird), then take Nohi bus to Shirakawa-go. Then in the evening will take Nohi bus back to Kanazawa and stay at Kanazawa.
    -21/11/17~24/11/17 travel to Namba, Osaka and walk around Osaka.

    My question is can i take the “7days Kansai-Hokuriku Pass”(by JRWest)? is it most suitable and worth for my trip? and did it cover the Thunderbird which travel from Kyoto to Kanazawa and back?

    Thank you.
    Best regards,
    Alfred

      1. Dear Takeshi,

        Thanks for your kind reply and suggestion, if i purchase the “7days Kansai-Hokuriku Pass” is that cover the same JR rail line and Limited Express Thunder from Kyoto to Kanazawa as the Takayama Hokuriku pass? just that not cover the Nori Bus to Shirakawago?

        Best Regards,
        Alfred

        1. Hi Alfred,

          It’s same between Osaka and Toyama. So you can take Limited Express Thunderbird by Kansai Hokuriku area pass. But Kansai Hokuriku area pass does not cover JR Line to Takayama and Nagoya. This is the biggest difference.

          On the other hand, Takayama Hokuriku area pass does not cover any local JR lines in Kyoto. But Kansai Hokuriku area pass covers JR line in Kyoto, such as going to Saga-Arashiyama, Fushimi and even Nara.

          Nohi bus is not covered by Kansai Hokuriku area pass as you think.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

          1. Hi Takeshi,

            Really appreciate for your valuable advise, after consider your suggestion, i think i shall get a Kansai Area Pass for first 4days(6,300yen) and Takayama Hokuriku Pass for the last 5days(14,000yen) as you suggested. i think this will be most worth for me.

            Besides, how can i purchase Takayama Hokuriku Pass online? it seem like different with the purchase method of other JR West pass like Kansai Hokuriku and Kansai Area Pass. By the way, i m from Malaysia.

            Thank you.
            Best Regards,
            Alfred

          2. Dear Takeshi,

            Noted with thanks, 4days Kansai Area Pass is worth to take for my 1st day arrive in Osaka and 3days in travel in Kyoto?

            Thank you.

            Best regards,
            Alfred

          3. Hi Alfred,

            Kansai area pass 4 days does not work. Because it does not cover subway and city bus in both Osaka and Kyoto. Especially in Kyoto, you will rely on city bus lots. As I recommended, use several deals in each cities. Please refer my first reply.

            Cheers,

            Takeshi / JPRail.com

  2. Hi Takeshi,

    I will be travel to Osaka on coming Dec 23 – Jan 1, will be using Takayama-Hokuriku Tourist Pass to cover part of our trip. Please see our itinerary as below:

    Dec 23 (Sat): Arrive Kansai Airport (10pm). Stay overnight at Osaka.
    Given that we arrive airport on late night, should we exchange and activate the Takayama-Hokuriku Pass on Dec 23? or exchange and activate on the next day Dec 24 (are we still able to get to reserve our seat for 7am/7.40am limited express train to Kanazawa on the same day)? The pass is said to be activated once it exchanged, or we can indicate to activate on the specific date (Dec 24) we wish? As of reservation for Limited Express Thunderbird & Wide View Hida can only make at Major JR station, or there’s any other way?

    Dec 24 (Sun): Osaka-Kanazawa. Stay at Kanazawa.
    (concern as per above)

    Dec 25 (Mon): Kanazawa-Shirakawago-Takayama
    Leave Kanazawa to Shirakawago (nohi bus). Leave Shirakawago to Takayama (nohi bus). Stay at 1 night at Takayama.
    Understand that most of the Nohi bus schedule are required to do reservation, however if we have reserved a specific time and is it possible to change to another time if we wish to (for example, to leave shirakawago earlier at 3pm, instead of as reserved 5.20pm)?

    Dec 26 (Tue): Takayama
    Takayama – Hirayu Onsen – Shinhotaka Ropeway
    Stay 1 night at Hirayu Onsen.
    Will Takayama-Hokuriku Pass cover Nohi Bus for Shinhotaka ropeway / hirayu line? Or we have to get a separate single fare for every bound (such as Takayama-Hirayu Onsen(check in) / Hirayu onsen-Ropeway/ Ropeway-Hirayu Onsen/ Hirayu onsen(check out)-Takayama)? How likely are we to catch the bus with closet time? (considering it’s peak season and 1 hour time for next bus)

    Dec 27 (Wed): Takayama-Toyama-Kanazawa-Osaka/Kyoto
    Leave Hirayu Onsen to Takayama (Nohi Bus).
    Takayama-Toyama (Limited Express Wide View Hida).
    How to reserved for Limited Express Wide View Hida?
    If we reserved on the day before, what is the chances to get to reserve for earliest 11am train?

    Toyama- Kanazawa (Hokuriku Shinkansen).
    Is Hokuriku Shinkansen only cover Tsurugi/Hakutaka train, under Takayama-Hokuriku Pass?

    Kanazawa-Osaka/Kyoto (Limited Express Thunderbird).

    Dec 28(Thu)-30(Sat): Kyoto
    Dec 30(Sat)-1(Mon): Osaka

    I have a few concern as per above. Your advice is much appreciates.

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Chan,

      You can exchange the pass on arrival day if you can. But JR ticket office in Kansai airport station is closed at 23:00. You may not be in time. If you cannot, you have no choices. You will exchange it next day.

      You can book a train seat at any major stations. But in Kansai area, most of stations have reservation window which is called “Midori no Madoguchi”. You can book all train seats when you exchange the pass if you like.

      You may take an earlier bus if you want in Shirakawago as long as seat is available. Ask a driver when you want to ride an earlier bus.

      Takayama Hokuriku area pass does not cover Shin-Hokata/Hirayu. Single ticket is required. It’s hard to say how busy the bus will be. Please ask Nohi bus ticket window at Takayama station when you get Takayama.

      You may be able to book a seat at Takayama station for Takayama to Toyama. But advanced reservation is recommended.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

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