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

Kanazawa Higashi ChayagaiTakayama, Kanazawa and Shirakawago
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 view large)

As you see the map above, there are several ways to get Kanazawa and Toyama, The Hokuriku Shinkansen from Tokyo, the limited express Thunderbird from Osaka and Kyoto, the limited express Shirasagi from Nagoya and the 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

The Hokuriku Shinkansen is the primary way to get Kanazawa and Toyama. It takes 2 hours 10 minutes to Toyama and 2.5 hours to Kanazawa by the fastest train, “Kagayaki” on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. Please find more information about the Hokuriku Shinkansen in the link below:

The limited express Thunderbird from Osaka and Kyoto

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

The 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.

There is no direct trains from Osaka/Kyoto to Toyama. You must transfer to the Hokuriku Shinkansen at Kanazawa. If you use JR Pass, Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass, Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass, you cannot take local train to Toyama from Kanazawa because this conventional line belong to non JR company. Only the Hokuriku Shinkansen is covered by these trains passes.

The limited express Shirasagi from Nagoya and Maibara

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

The 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 the Tokaido Shinkansen to get Maibara and transfer to this express train. The trip time is a bit shorter than Nagoya-Kanazawa direct access. You may find more information in the post below:

The limited express Shirasagi goes to Kanazawa only and you have to transfer at Kanazawa to get Toyama.

The 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 the limited express Wide View Hida.

In terms of distance, this route is shorter than the limited express Shirasagi and the Hokuriku Shinkansen route, Nagoya-Maibara-Kanazawa-Toyama. But it takes longer. It takes 3.5 hours from Nagoya to Toyama by Shirasagi and the Hokuriku Shinkansen. It takes about 3 hours 50 minutes by the limited express Wide View Hida. And also most of Wide View Hida runs between Nagoya and Takayama. There are only four 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:

The limited express Shirayuki and the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Niigata

There is no direct trains any more between Niigata and Toyama/Kanazawa. You have to transfer at Joetsu-Myoko station on the Hokuriku Shinkansen. The limited express Shirayuki connects Joetsu-Myoko and Niigata in 2 hours. Please find more information at the link below:


  1. Annie Lam says:

    Hi Takeshi-San,

    It will be my first time traveling to Japan. I will be in Japan for 10 days, and I’m considering to purchase a 7-day JR pass. Can you advise what would be the best way to plan my itinerary to maximize the usage of the JR pass?

    1 May – Arrival in Tokyo via Haneda, 9pm
    2 – 5 May – Kyoto. Planning to take a day trip to Arashiyama
    6 – 9 May – Back to Tokyo. I would like to take a day to visit to Mount Fuji and Gotemba premium mall.
    10 May – depart from Tokyo via Harita airport

    I have some additional questions:
    1. Can I use the JR pass to reach Arashiyama? If not, what transport passes do I need to buy?
    2. I read from your blog that there is a clear view of Mt Fuji if we choose the seat D on the JR train on the way to Kyoto. Can we make a booking to ensure that we get the seats in advance?
    3. I would like to plan a day to visit Mt Fuji, go to the Gotemba premium mall. What is the easiest way to reach there?

    Thank you,

  2. Suriani Kwan says:

    dear sir,
    I am first time travel to japan. I bought japan railpass for 7 days and plan to visit tokyo, hakone (day trip from tokyo), nikko (day trip from tokyo), takayama, shirakawago and kyoto.

    1. can JR pass be used for travel to Hakone, Nikko and Takayama ? and if yes, which train can be used in JR pass from tokyo to each hakone and Nikko.

    2. I love to visit takayama and shirakawago bfore proceed to kyoto – which is faster by JR pass whether :
    a/ to leave from tokyo via nagoya to takayama then back to nagoya to kyoto or..
    b/ to leave from tokyo to kanazawa then takayama – back to kanazawa to kyoto – means not go thru nagoya.

    3. in tokyo, will it be easier to access around tokyo if I stay in asakusa area or in shinjuku area ?

    thanks so much for yr help.


  3. Catherine Low says:

    Takeshi san, my daughter, sister and i (3 ladies), we arriving in Narita on 6th Jan in the evening around 6pm from canada. We brought JR 7 days pass and plan to travel to Kanazawa on 7th Jan. Originally, we plan to stay in Narita Nikko for 1 nite and travel the next day to Tokyo then change train to Kanazawa but we are afraid of the peak commuters timing. So will it be better for us to travel to Tokyo on the 6th Jan and stay for the night? And if it is in Tokyo, where do u think is best for us to stay? Is Itabashi Station a good location to stay as the APA Hotel offers good reasonable rate for one night.

    Our itinerary is as follows:
    7-8 Kanazawa
    8-10 Takayama
    10-14 Tokyo

  4. Emily says:

    Hi Takeshi san,

    I have looked at this website. The route map, to get from OSA to Kanazawa, I need to take 3 different JR lines.

    I am not sure if this pass can take Thunderbird Limited Express, however, I need to go along all 3 lines so I have to change lines between Osaka to Kanazawa. It is not allowed direct from Osaka to Kanazawa.

    Much appreciate your advice.


    On the below route map, .

    One website mentioned that you can on it but you may need to pay extra (in 2012). Let me have a look again tonight to see if you can take Thunderbird. When do you plan to buy the JR Pass? If tonight, then I might not have enough time before leaving work to help you look. I have to do it after work.

    • Hi Emily,

      Limited Express Thunderbird goes on these three lines. As I mentioned, this pass covers Thunderbird and not required to transfer. So don’t worry and it’s quite simple. The line means that it’s like a section. You don’t need to think about it. This map makes you be confused.

      All you have to do is getting on Thunderbird.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Emily says:

        Hi Takeshi san,

        Thank you for your quick reply.

        I will stay one night in Shin-Osaka. Can I get on the station at Shin-Osaka and take the Thunderbird express direct to Kanazama.

        Sorry for having many questions.


  5. Ummy says:

    Would do you give me for the time table of local/Ripid train from Kanazawa to Kyoto?

  6. Leung says:

    Please help me with information on Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Ticket – Shirasagi line starting from Nagoya for 7 days. Thanks, Leung

  7. MAY says:


    Let say I take Ltd.Shirasagi to Kanazawa from Nagoya then after 3-4 hours I take Ltd.Express Thunderbird then Hida to go to Takayama….is all the trains covered by JR Pass?

    Another option is I just go to Korankei then back to Nagoya then take Hida to Takayama.

    Which is the best place to see during autumn, Kanazawa or Korankei?

    • JPRail says:

      Hi May,

      Yes. Those trips are covered by JR Pass.

      I have never been to Korankai. So it’s hard to compare for me. But I have heard lots of good reputation about Korankai to see fall foliage.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

  8. Lyn says:

    Hi! Are there overnight trains from Nagoya going to Kanazawa? Because I tried checking the schedule online and it says it would take us a ten-hour train ride to arrive in Kanazawa station. Because our flight arrives in Chubu Centrair at 9PM and I was wondering if trains going to Kanazawa are still available or do we have to wait in the morning? And if there are trains at night, how long would the travel time take? Thank you!

  9. Feny says:

    Thank you Takeshi for the info….

    Couple more questions if you don’t mind…

    Looking at my itinerary below, shall i buy the 14 days pass or 7days enough? if 7 days, when should i better start?

    Day-1 arrive Narita 07.40 morning – check in hotel in Shijunku – Imperial Palace – Ginza- Ueno Park – Asakusa- Akihabara – Shinjuku
    Day 2- Tsukiji Fish Market (going super early if possible to see the tuna auction, any train suggested from Shinjuku?) – Mega Web – Tokyo Tower – Roppongi – Shibuya -Harajuku – Yoyogi park – shinjuku
    Day 3 – Disneyland
    Day 4- Disneysea
    Day 5- Hakone – Hakone Tozan train – Hakone Cablecar – Lake Ashi cruising – Hakone Check Point – Hotel near Hakone Yumoto station
    Day 6 – Hakone Yumoto – Odawara Statio – Nagoya – Toyota Museum (if lucky) – Takayama – Check in hotel in Takayama
    Day 7 – Takayama Station – Niho Bus to Shirakawa go – Check in Shirakawa go
    Day 8 – Nohi Bus – Kanazawa Station – Thunderbird to Kyoto – Check in hotel – Kyoto Imperial palace – Nijo Castle
    Day 9 – Kinkakuji – Nishiki Market – Kiyomizudera Temple – Higashimaya District – Gion
    Day 10 – Fushimi Inari Shrine – Kyoto Station – Nara Station – Todaiji Temple <– this might be skip if we get a chance to visit Toyota Factory/museum in Nagoya
    Day 11 – Kyoto station- Osaka Station – Check in – Osaka Castle – Shitennoji Castle – Minami
    Day 12 – Osaka station – Hiroshima – Peack park – Hiroshima Castle – Mazda Museum (if lucky) – Miyajima – Itsukushima Shrine
    Day 13 – Osaka – Tokyo
    Day 14- Tokyo – Narita

    around Kyoto and Osaka, does the JR pass still applicable in the downtown? using the subway?

    Nohi bus reservation by phone, I haven't tried this yet, do you think the person answering the phone can speak English? or do I need to find a translator?

    Ekiben, is this ekiben available in all train station? or just bigger station? I saw he pictures of Ekiben in your Facebook…drolling…..hahaha Does the shop selling Ekiben open since early morning? say around 7am?

    Thank you again for assiting me…

  10. Feny says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning to stay overnight in Hakone on 13th January 2014. The next day which is 14th January, proceeding to Takayama. Stay overnight in Takayama.
    On 15th January will proceed to Shirakawa go and stay overnight in Shirakawa go.
    16th January proceed to Kanazawa and straight to Kyoto/Osaka.

    My question is, what is the fastest way to get to Takayama from Hakone? I was reading an article saying to take Kodama Shinkansen to Nagoya and from Nagoya take limited express train/hida to Takayama, which in total will be around 290minutes…what a lengthy way…

    Or shall I change my itinerary to be Tokyo-Kyoto, then Kyoto-Kanazawa, Kanazawa-Shirakawa go, Shirakawa go – Takayama, then lastly Takayama – Tokyo??

    reading your article above, saying Tokyo to Takayama with 2x train changes, it will also take nearly 4 hours…

    do you think it’s worth coming to Shirakawa go especially during winter time after this lengthy journey?

    Thank you for your feedback… much appreciated!

    • JPRail says:

      Hi Feny,

      If you go to Takayama from Hakone, you can shorten the trip time if you can take Hikari at Odawara. Please see the following link:

      You can find some “H” mark trains stop at Odawara where is the nearest station from Hakone. That is the second fastest train, Hikari. It’s much faster than Kodama. For example, if you take Hikari 507 that departs from Odawara at 10:08, you can get Nagoya at 11:21. You can transfer to Wide View Hida 9 that departs from Nagoya at 11:43 and arrive at Takayama at 14:08. This is the fastest.

      As long as you go to Takayama, you will spend 2.5 hours to get there from Nagoya. Even if you change itinerary, you will spend 4hrs+ from Takayama to Tokyo.

      I love Takayama and Shirakawago. Especially Shirakawago in winter time is amazing. I understand you will spend many hours to visit there. The choice is yours.


      Takeshi / JP Rail

      • Feny says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        Thank you for you quick reply. Hikari train is covered by JR pass, right? how about the Wide View Hida 9 from Nagoya to Takayama?
        if i have to pay extra, do you think i have enough time from getting off from Hikari then buy the ticket and catch the Hida?
        or can i buy this Hidatrain ticket earlier? Sorry, i haven’t fully read the Japan rail details yet…

        I was reading the Niho bus from Shirakawa go to Kanazawa which required reservation. I went to the website, and not sure if I can reserve the seat online (maybe i miss the link?) or I have to call the bus company itself to reserve the bus?

        Out of rail questions…was it super cold during winter in Japan? especially sleeping in Ryokan? Does the Ryokan normally provide heather?

        Thank you…

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