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 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

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 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

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

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. Pear says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    May I confirm if Hokuriku Arch Pass covers the following JR trains?
    1. Nagano to Matsumoto
    2. Ueno to Maihama station (Disneysea)
    3. If not, will unlimited 7 days pass cover the mentioned routes?
    I understand that Kanazawa Loop Bus is not covered, but JR bus line which connects Kanazawa station to Kenrokuen Garden is covered by Japan Rail Pass. How’s about Hokuriku Arch Pass?

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Pear,

      1. No

      2. Partially. You have to pay for the extra fare about 200 yen.

      3. Yes.
      Regarding JR bus in Kanazawa, some say it’s covered and other say it’s not by JR Pass. Actually I’m not sure it’s covered by even JR pass.


      Takeshi /

      • Pear says:

        Hi Takeshi,
        I have revised my routes. After landing I plan to go from Narita to Toyama, then Kanazawa, Osaka, Universal studio, Arashiyama and Tokyo. I understand that both Hokuriku Arch Pass and 7 days JR pass cover these routes, but would like to confirm the followings:
        1. If I buy a Hokuriku Arch Pass, I can’t go directly from Osaka to Tokyo, but have to go back to Toyama route right?
        2. If I buy a JR 7 Pass, I can go directly from Osaka to Tokyo right?
        3. Will the following trains be covered by JR pass or Hokuriku Arch Pass?
        – Hankyu Kyoto Line Ltd. Exp. for KAWARAMACHI
        – Hankyu Arashiyama Line for ARASHIYAMA
        4. If not, could you please advise what is the best way to go from Osaka to ARASHIYAMA by JR?

  2. Pear says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    1. May I confirm my understanding that Limited Express Hakutaka is no longer available which mean there is only Hokuriku Shinkansen travelling from Tokyo to Toyama?
    2. I understand Hokuriku Arch Pass covers Narita airport and Shinjuku JR train, but will this Pass also is cover these areas:
    2.1 Tokyo Monorail lines includes Ueno, Ginza and Shibuya JR train, but not subway?
    2.2 Tokyo to Otsuki
    2.3 Tsukuba Express
    3. One of the condition for this pass is I have to stay less than 90 days in Japan right?


    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Pear,

      1. That is right.

      2.1 Tokyo monorail is covered but you misunderstand where Tokyo Monorail runs. It connects Hamamatsucho and Haneda airport. You don’t need to take this monorail to go around downtown Tokyo. You will take Yamanote line and Chuo line. You can take these local JR trains in downtown Tokyo by this pass but subway is not covered.

      2.2 I think I have mentioned already. This pass does not cover the trip to Fuji. You cannot get Otsuki by this pass. That is why I recommended to take express bus.

      2.3 No. It’s not JR.

      3. That is right. You must enter Japan as short term visitor.


      Takeshi /

  3. Pear says:

    I would like to ask if Hokuriku Arch Pass is the best option? I will be in Japan for 9 days, so when should I activate the pass? Are there any pass which is not consecutive 7 days?

    My itinerary is as follows:
    Day 1 Narita Airport – Lake Kawaguchiko
    Day 2: Lake Kawaguchiko (5 lakes)
    Day 3: Lake Kawaguchiko – Tokyo
    Day 4: Tokyo
    Day 5-8: Tokyo – Toyama (during the time in Toyama, my friend will drive for me)
    Day 8 : Toyama – Tokyo
    Day 9: Tokyo – Narita Airport (lunch time)


    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Pear,

      Hokuriku Arch Pass is the best option. You can start using it on day 3. But this pass does not cover Kawaguchiko to Tokyo. If you intend to visit the places in downtown Tokyo, you can take JR local trains in Tokyo. Express bus is the best way to get Kawaguchiko.


      Takeshi /

      • Pear says:

        Dear Takeshi,
        Thank you very much for your prompt response. Your advice is very useful.
        May I further ask the following questions?
        1. According to your bus link, does Shinjuku have the most frequent buses running to Kawaguchiko?
        2. If so, what is the cheap and best way to get from Narita Airport to Shinjuku?
        3. When I checked, it shows that I have to pay for unreserved seat of 5,520 yen if I travel from Tokyo to Toyama by Shinkansen Hakutaka, so it shows fare = 6,480 yen and unreserved seat of 5,520 yen, totaling 12,000 yen. Does this mean I have to pay for unreserved seat of 5,520 yen, not only fare of unreserved seat of 5,520 yen? I used to understand that I don’t have to pay for unreserved seat, so I am confused.

  4. Clare says:

    Hi Takeshi, I’m Clare from Indonesia. I am planning a trip to Japan in January 2017. I would like to ask what JR pass would you suggest for a 5 days trip to Karuizawa, Nagano & Shirakawago? I find the Hokuriku Arch too long and expensive as it is 7 consecutive days and I do not need to travel as far as Osaka. Thank you.

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Clare,

      Hokuriku Arch Pass is the best choice. There is no other deals to cover your destinations than Hokuriku Arch Pass even though it’s 7 days pass.


      Takeshi /

  5. Hi Takeshi,

    This is Ria from Philippines. I will be in Osaka from August 28 to Sept 03, 2016 but I’m planning to visit my cousins in Toyama Ken Nakanigawagun Tateyama Machi Yonezawa, my question is what is the best way to travel from Osaka going to my cousins’ address? I’m afraid they will not accompany me and they will just wait for me there in the nearest station. 🙁
    I hope you will help me.
    Thank you.

  6. Ryan says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Ryan here from the Philippines.

    My friends and I are going to Japan via Osaka Kansai on January 17-22,2017. Can you review the best train or bus pass for our trip.

    Jan. 17 arrival 7:30pm at Kansai. Plan is to go straight to Kyoto. How to go to Kyoto via Kansai airport?
    January 18 tour Kyoto
    January 19 go to Shirakawago from Kyoto and back to Kyoto again
    January 20 Kyoto half day tour then go to Osaka then tour Osaka in the afternoon
    January 21 tour Osaka and universal studio
    January 22 flight to Manila
    Can you suggest the ticket train or bus we need to buy for the trip?

    Your comments is highly appreciated Takeshi!

    Thank you!

  7. GOH says:

    Hi Takeshi
    i like to visit Kanawaza and Shirakawa-go before the Tatemaya
    Kurobe Alpine route and stay one night along the way.
    How can I plan my itinerary and which JR pass or
    modes of transportation would you recommend.

  8. Eli says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning on buying a green seven day rail pass to go from:
    Day 1: Fukuoka airport > Fukuoka
    Day 2: Fukuoka > Hiroshima
    Day 3: miyajima
    Day 4: Hiroshima > Osaka
    Day 5: Osaka > Kyoto > Osaka
    Day 6: Osaka > Kanazawa
    Kanazawa > shirakawago > takayama
    Takayama > Tokyo airport – for this I was just going to buy a ticket for the trip, as my 7 day pass would be finished by then, and I dont think i can use it to go from Kanazawa to takayama, so there is no point in getting the 14 day pass.

    I’ve been told that I can’t use the JR pass to go from Osaka to Kanazawa by my travel agent???

    Cheers, Eli

    • Takeshi Shimomura, Author of
      Takeshi / says:

      Hi Eli,

      First of all, you can use JR pass to get Kanazawa from Osaka. Honestly your travel agent does not have enough knowledge. But most of agent are not very familiar with Japan and train system in Japan is quite complicated.

      By the way, you will start using JR Pass 7 days on day 2. You don’t need the pass on day 1. So your pass will be expired on day 8. If you go to Tokyo from Takayama on day 8, you may use JR pass and save your cost. If you go to Tokyo from Takayama on day 9, use single fare for day 3, Fukuoka to Hiroshima. The fare for this segment is cheaper than Takayama to Tokyo.


      Takeshi /

  9. Mag says:

    Sorry, I missed out this: Can I use JR Pass for the following?
    Nagoya airport Nagoya Station Takayama Shirakawago Kanazawa Kyoto?

  10. Qian says:

    Good morning Takeshi
    Need some advice.
    Day 1 & 2 tokyo
    Day 3 tokyo 》Kanazawa
    Day 4 Kanazawa
    Day 5 Kanazawa 》Shirakawago
    Day 6 Shirakawago 》Takayama
    Day 7 Takayama
    Day 8 Takayama 》Toyama or Nagono 》Tokyo
    Day 9 to 12 Tokyo
    Should I buy 7 Day JR pass for Day 3 – 9?
    Is my trip plan workable ?Thanks

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