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. nuryuziliana dolmat says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    Thank you for your suggestion on daytrip to shirakawago from tokyo. My friend and i am planning to visit there next 28/12./2019. my concerns is :
    1. Is it feasible to round the whole village in 3 hours? we are not that young to walk fast in cold wheather
    2. is the place crowded as it falls on the weekend n getting near to new year celebration? do we need to book the train and bus earlier?
    Thank you for your suggestion on daytrip. we thought of staying in Takayama intially as the time of journey is long.
    love to hear your recommendation.
    thank you

  2. Meilani says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning travel to Japan for 12 days.

    I’m arrive in Tokyo and going to Osaka for 5 days, while i’m staying in Osaka, i want to day trip to Kobe & Nara.

    After 5 days, i’m going to Nagano for 3 days. (Going to Kurohime Kogen).

    And then back to Tokyo.

    In my case, do i need JR pass only or need other pass?

    Pls info.

    Thank you.

  3. Yee Wen says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Would like to find out is there a direct train from Toyama to Shinjuku?


  4. wendy says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    I will be traveling to Osaka from 27 August to 6 September for a duration of 10 days.

    27/8 : will arrive at Kansai airport around 930 pm and overnight at the airport.

    28/8: frm Kansai airport to Kanazawa and stay 1 night in Kanazawa.

    29/8 : from Kanazawa to Shirakawago and will stay 1 night in Shirakawago.

    30/8: From Shirakawago to Kyoto and will stay 3 nights in kyoto until 1/9

    2/9: from kyoto to osaka and will stay 4 nights in osaka until 6/9.

    will travel to nara or kobe for 1 day trip btw 4/9 or 5/9.

    So do you think I should buy the 5 days takayama-hokuriku pass + 5 days kansai wide area pass OR
    7 days kansai hokuriku pass + another 3 days west kansai pass?

    Hope to get advice from you. Thank you.


  5. Denzkie Pearlada says:

    Good Day!

    My Friend and I will be Climbing Mt. Haku and Mt. Tateyama This July and we will go to Toyama, I am not sure if we should be getting a 7-day whole Japan JR Pass just to get to Toyama and Kanazawa, since it is much more expensive we are looking for other options . I am not Familiar with other JR Pass which includes Toyama. Can you help us, We want to know which JR Pass should we purchase going to Toyama and Kanazawa only.

    Thank you very much in advance,


  6. Ivy says:

    Hello Takeshi,


    We will be travelling to Japan next year (April 13 – 20, 2018) and this is our route
    Nagoya -> Takayama -> Shirakawa-go -> Tateyama Kurobe Alpine -> Matsumoto -> Osaka

    Is there a pass suitable to our plan? I’ve read Takayama-Hokuriku Area pass but Tateyama is not covered.
    So it will be Takayama-Hokuriku Area Pass then will buy additional ticket for Tateyama Kurobe Alpine?

    day 0: PH to Nagoya
    day 1: Nagoya
    day 2: Takayama
    day 3: Overnight in Shirakawa-go Village
    day 4: Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route
    day 5: Matsumoto to Osaka or Shinano Omachi to Osaka
    day 6: Universal studios
    day 7: Osaka Free-Day

    Thank you.

    • Hi Ivy,

      You may use Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass from day 2.

      You need to pay the bus fare to get Shirakawago. It’s not in the coverage area.

      And also you need to pay for Nagoya to Osaka. You can get Nagoya on day 5 by this pass. After that, this pass does not help. Single fare is only the choice/


      Takeshi /

  7. fifi says:

    Hi Takeshi

    I will be travelling in mid Jan via this route for 7 days (touch and go trip) :-
    Nagoya – Kanazawa – Takayama – Shirakawago – Takayama – Nagoya

    1) Is Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass the best option for savings? Since is meant for 5 consecutive days use, it will probably ends at Takayama – Shirakawago leg? Can you advise as I’m not sure how is it calculated? For the rest of the trip back to Nagoya from Takayama, how much will be the single ticket price per pax ?

    2) For the trip from Takayama to Shirakawago via Nohi bus, I read that we need to book in advance? I can’t find any button to do that.

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Josephine GOH says:

    Hi Takeshi

    I am planning to take Shinkansen from Osaka to Kanawzawa and thereafter bus to Shirakawago and back to Osaka on same day.

    Firstly, do you think this is possible? What is best way to travel from Kanazawa station? I cannot seems to find if there is any bus from Kanazawa station to Shirakawago and back to Kanzawa station.

    Thanks for your help.

    Best regards

    Appreciate if you can help to advise

  9. Alfred says:

    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,

  10. Chan says:

    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!

    • 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.


      Takeshi /

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