Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto

Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO
Kanazawa castle is one of the best places to see cherry blossom. (C) JNTO

I prefer to stay in many cities and feel different atmosphere. But I know that some of you do not agree. Because you will travel with huge luggage and it may be issue for you.

Thus day trip is a prefect solution. When you stay in Kansai area, there are many places to see, such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Himeji, Mt. Koya and many more places. But can you believe that you can visit Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto in one day?

I would like to show you the sample itinerary of this day trip in this post.

From Osaka/Kyoto to Kanazawa

Limited Express Thunderbird is the primary way to get Kanazawa from Osaka.
Limited Express Thunderbird is the primary way to get Kanazawa from Osaka.

Osaka 7:10 / Shin-Osaka 7:14 / Kyoto 7:38 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 1) – Kanazawa 9:46

I recommend you to see Kanazawa first. Because the next bus leave for Shirakawago at 10:50.

Nohi Bus timetable (Kanazawa – Shirakawago)

You cannot do anything in Kanazawa for one hour. You can spend whole morning in Kanazawa and take a bus to Shirakawago after lunch time.

Return trip to Shirakawago

Gasshozukuri housing is the landmark of Shirakawago. (C) Akira Okada/ (C) JNTO
Gasshozukuri housing is the landmark of Shirakawago. (C) Akira Okada/ (C) JNTO

Kanazawa 13:15 – (Nohi Bus) – Shirakawago 14:30
Shirakawago 17:30 – (Nohi Bus) – Kanazawa 18:45

As you see Nohi Bus timetable, 17:30 is the last bus to go back to Kanazawa. You have three hours in Shirakawago. The next bus to Shirakawago after 13:15 is 14:40 departure from Kanazawa and arrival Shirakawago at 16:05. I think this is too late to arrive Shirakawago. You have less than 1.5 hour. It is too short to see Shirakawago.

Go back to Osaka or Kyoto from Kanazawa

Kanazawa station was renovated before Hokuriku Shinkansen opened.
Kanazawa station was renovated before Hokuriku Shinkansen opened.

There are two runs of Limited Express Thunderbird from Kanazwa to Osaka, Kyoto and Shin-Osaka.

Kanazawa 19:43 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 44) – Kyoto 22:02 / Shin-Osaka 22:25 / Osaka 22:50
Kanazawa 20:35 – (Limited Express Thunderbird 46) – Kyoto 22:44 / Shin-Osaka 23:07 / Osaka 23:12

So if you want to eat dinner in the restaurant, you can take the last Thunderbird. You will have two hours. There are many restaurants in Kanazawa station building.

If you want to go back to Osaka or Kyoto as soon as possible, take earlier departure at 19:43. You can grab some foods at Kanazawa station and eat on board. On board sales is not available on Limited Express Thunderbird. Don’t forget to grab it before getting on Thunderbird.

Suggested deal

Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass is most recommended. Even if you use this pass just for this day trip, it is paid off. This pass covers all part of your trip.

If you have Japan Rail Pass, you can use the pass to get Kanazawa by Limited Express Thuderbird. But Nohi Bus to Shirakawago is not covered by JR pass. The extra fare is 3,290 yen for return.

Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass. Perfect deal to get Takayama, Kanazawa, Toyama, Shirakawago from Nagoya to Osaka

Other rail passes in Kansai area, like Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Thru Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass are not recommended for this itinerary. Those do not cover most part of this itinerary.

Don’t forget to check the timetable before you go

The above sample itinerary is built by timetable of August 2015. When you use this sample itinerary, please check the updated timetable.

Hyperdia (check the train timetable)
Nohi bus (check the bus timetable)

180 thoughts on “Sample itinerary of day trip to Kanazawa and Shirakawago from Osaka or Kyoto”

  1. Dear Takeshi,

    Good day to you.

    We would like to visit Osaka – Shirakawago – Alpine – Osaka in 12 Apr till 21 Apr 18 and below is our plan itenary;

    12 to 14 Apr Osaka
    14 to 17 Apr Shirakawago & Alpine snow Wall
    17 to 20 Apr Kyoto
    21 back to Kansai Airport, flight time is 10am

    Would like to know is my route make sense?

    According to my plan above should I buy JR pass?

    For my plan to Shirakawago and Alpine, can I stay at Toyama only? And what is the best transportation for this?

    As my last day At Kyoto, and my flight is morning 10am, what is the faster train I can take from Kyoto Station to Kansai Airport? Or I should stay at Osaka instead?

    Appreciated your help on this, thank you in advance

    Regards
    AiKim

    1. Hi AiKim,

      If you travel all part of Alpine route, Hokuriku Arch Pass is recommended because you will travel from Nagano after Alpine route. It’s cheaper than JR pass.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/tokyo-osaka-hokuriku-arch-pass-user-guide-clarify-valid-trains-coverage-area-and-compare-single-fare-and-pass.html
      https://jprail.com/destinations/chubu-area/trip-report-of-tateyama-kurobe-alpine-route-from-toyama-to-nagano.html

      Tateyama Kurobe option ticket is recommended if you go through alpine route:
      http://www.jrtateyama.com/e/

      This is not sold now but I expect it will be on sale again. If you have round trip, regular ticket is your choice. Hokuriku arch pass does not cover it anyway. Hokuriku arch pass does not cover the bus to Shirakawago either.

      You can use Hokuriku arch pass for the first 7 days. You can add other deals after using this pass:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html

      You can take limousine bus from Kyoto.
      http://www.kate.co.jp/en/timetable/detail/KY

      If you have round trip to some point on Alpine route, such as round trip to Murodo, you can use Takayama Hokuriku area pass:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      This pass does not cover Alpine route but it covers the bus to Shirakawago from Kanazawa or Shin-Takaoka. If you use this pass you can use it for 13 Apr to 17. You may add other deal before using this pass:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-kyoto.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      After using this pass, it’s same as Hokuriku arch pass.

      You can stay in either Kanazawa or Toyama.

      Please expect Alpine route will be Super Super Crazy busy.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Thanks a lots Takeshi San.
        Really appreciated for your quick response on this.

        I will check the information that you have share with me.

        Ai Kim

  2. Hi Takeshi san,

    Good day!
    Me and my friends (total 6 pax) will travel to Osaka end of this month. Below is our itinerary:

    31 Jan – arrive KIX 5:40am. Direct to Kyoto (LIMITED EXPRESS HARUKA).

    1 Feb – Kyoto – Kobe (day trip)

    2 Feb – Kyoto – Kanazawa (JR THUNDERBIRD EXPRESS)

    3 Feb – Kanazawa – Takayama (NOHI BUS)

    4 Feb – overnight Takayama

    5 Feb – Takayama – Gero Onsen (NOHI BUS)

    6 Feb – Gero Onsen – Osaka (LIMITED EXPERESS HIDA)

    7 Feb – Osaka

    8 Feb – Morning flight

    Questions:
    1. May I know the transportation services that I use correct?
    2. Is there any recommend pass to use? Like JR pass 7 days.
    3. Do I need to book advance for the NOHI BUS?

    Many thanks for your advice.

    1. Hi Irene san,

      I recommend you to use the following deals:

      For 31 Jan and 1 Feb
      Kansai area pass 2 days
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/how-to-use-jr-west-kansai-area-pass-compare-pass-and-single-fare.html

      For 2 Feb to 6 Feb
      Takayama Hokuriku area pass
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/takayama-hokuriku-area-pass-perfect-deal-to-get-takayama-kanazawa-toyama-shirakawago-from-nagoya-or-osaka.html

      For 7 and 8 Feb, please see the links below:
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-residents/how-to-choose-the-best-train-pass-for-sightseeing-in-osaka.html
      https://jprail.com/sample-itineraries/airport-access/kansai-kix/how-to-choose-the-deals-for-access-tofrom-kansai-airport.html

      On Feb 6, you intend to take Wide View Hida to Osaka from Gero. There is one direct train available. However Takayama Hokuriku area pass does not cover this route fully. Because this train runs outside coverage area which is Gifu to Kyoto. If you want to take this train by this pass, you need to pay about 4500 yen extra for base fare and express train surcharge. Otherwise, you need to go back to Kanazawa if you want to avoid extra charge. But it’s a big detour.

      You should book Nobi bus right away. Nohi bus is always busy. I’ve heard many travelers cannot book it. If you want to use Takayama Hokuriku area pass, Nohi bus is covered but you need to make a call to book. Online is not available.
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  3. Hi Takeshi San

    Im trying to book Nohi bus to go to Shirakawa from Kanazawa and read from the website Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass need to call reservation center.
    Having hard time reach the number (0577) 32-1688 as provided in the website. Should I include 0 followed by 577 or dial straight 577 (w.o 0)? Im dialing from malaysia (incase anyone else can help me).

    Min

  4. Hi Takeshi,
    i have a plan to visit tokyo on 6 march to 10 march 2018.
    and this trip will being the first solo trip or solo traveling for me.
    after 2 month to think how to create the best itinerary so i can use that for my trip and don’t get lost in japan.
    because i am alone.
    can you help me to give me advise itinerary for my trip?
    i will arrived at Haneda Transport on 6 march, 9 morning

    thanks for your help
    Cheers

    1. Hi Rose,

      Unfortunately I mentioned the following just above the comment section:

      “Please do not ask me to make your itinerary. Because I am not your personal travel agent. I am very happy to check your itinerary. But please try to make the plan by yourself. In this website, there are lots of resources to make your plan.”

      So please try to make your trip plan by yourself first. And then if you can show me it, I give you advice.

      At this point, your trip plan is almost blank. I cannot give you any comments at this point.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      1. Hi Takeshi,
        i am sorry that i din’t aware about your comment warning 😀 , i am just very exited to read your blog. and then yaahh hehhe

        ok, then this below my itinerary, for now i am stil search for transportation, i am stil learning about that

        may you can give me some advise about my itinerary and transportation i can be using during my trip in tokyo

        Tuesday, 6 March, 2018
        08.00 – 09.15 Osaka – Tokyo Haneda Airport
        09.15 – 12.00 Haneda Airport – Shinjuku North Hotel
        12.00 – 15.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Tokyu Tower
        15.00 – 18.00 Tokyu Tower – Shibuya
        18.00 – 20.00 Shibuya – Shinjuku
        20.00 – Back to Shinjuku North Hotel

        Wednesday, 7 March, 2018
        08.00 – 12.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Yokohama
        12.00 – 16.00 Yokohama – Kamakura
        16.00 – 19.00 Kamakura – Shinjuku
        19.00 – Back to Shinjuku North Hotel

        Thursday, 8 March, 2018
        07.00 – 09.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Tsukiji
        09.00 – 13.00 Tsukiji – Ginza
        13.00 – 14.30 Ginza – Asakusa
        14.30 – 19.00 Asakusa – Skytree
        19.00 – Skytree – Shinjuku North Hotel

        Friday, 9 March, 2018
        07.00 – 13.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Disneyland
        13.00 – 19.00 Disneyland – Odaiba Tokyo Bay
        19.00 – Odaiba Tokyo Bay – Back To Shinjuku North Hotel

        Saturday, 10 March, 2018
        07.00 – 11.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Korakuen Garden
        11.00 – 14.00 Korakuen Garden – Omotesando
        14.00 – 15.00 Omotesando – Shinjuku North Hotel
        15.00 – 16.00 Shinjuku North Hotel – Airport Haneda

        1. Hi Rose,

          You can use one of the deals for Haneda access round trip + Tokyo subway ticket. Please see the link below:
          http://www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/airport_bus/index.html

          If you can, you can switch 7 Mar and 8 Mar. So you will stay in Tokyo on 7th and visit Yokohama and Kamakura on 8th. You can use 48 hours subway pass for 6th and 7th.

          Please see the link below to find the info about trip to Yokohama and Kamakura.
          https://jprail.com/destinations/kanto-area/yokohama-and-kamakura-access-guide-find-the-right-deal-and-route-from-your-place-to-stay.html

          There is no deals to cover Odaiba and Disneyland. Subway does not cover these places. Use regular fare for 9th and 10th as well.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  5. Hello Takeshi san,

    thanks for your reply before,
    this time i want to ask about taking the nohi bus to shirakawago from kanazawa using the takayama hokuriku 5days tourist pass,
    is it true that i need to do a reservation before arrival date?
    where should i email to ask for reservation?

    and since im buying the takayama hokuriku 5days pass from travel agent in my country, all i receive is a exchange order/ coupon?

    also, our travel plan to shirakawago is a day trip which will be start from kyoto-kanazawa-shirakawago and vice versa,
    i wonder if we can take the earlier trains and bus to reach shirakawago so that we still got plenty of times to strolling around shirakawago and return before night?

    looking forward for your reply,
    warm regards,
    JOSH 🙂

    1. Hi Josh,

      Advanced reservation is strongly recommended. But you need to make a call. Online is available for only regular ticket user. The pass user have to make a call. Even if you book it after you arrive in Japan, you need to make a call anyway. You can find the phone number in the timetable.
      https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/shirakawago.pdf

      When you want to take the earlier one, you need to make a call again to change your booking. Otherwise you may have to wait in Kanazawa.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  6. Hi. I need your help and advise . What time the last train from kyoto to takayama/kanazawa depart ? Because if possible i want to take the last train & overnight in the train then continue to shirakawago once arrive early in the morning . If this possible to do it ?

    1. Hi Lost,

      Unfortunately there is no overnight trains available. If you take the last train to either Takayama or Kanazawa, you need to stay there. You can find the train schedule at hyperdia.
      jprail.com/travel-informations/basic-informations/timetable-and-reservation/hyperdia-perfect-guide-train-timetable-and-route-search-engine.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Hi Takeshi….

    My plan go to Osaka In 10 January 2018…..
    From Kansai (11 January) go to Takayama and then to Shirakawago (12 January) —- Back to Osaka (Tenojiku)…
    13 january 2018 go to Umeda….
    14 january 2018 Back to Kansai…
    What pass can I Using?

    Thanks before…^^

  8. Hi ,
    I will be travelling to Osaka on 10/3/2018-16/3/2018. Can you help me to plan my trip ?
    10/3/2018 6.00am reach Kansai airport.
    Plan travel to Kyoto. Overnight there.
    11/3/2018 plan to Kanazawa
    12/3/2018 plan to shiragawa
    13/3/2018 plan back to Osaka
    14-16/3/2018 travelling around osaka

  9. HI Takeshi!
    Appreciate your kind advice for my itinerary below mainly on the Shirakawago part

    Day 1 – KIX directly to Kyoto (follow the mini 2 trip pinned on the thread)
    Day 2 – Kyoto (follow the mini 2 trip pinned on the thread)
    Day 3 – Kyto to Osaka (namba)
    Day 4 – Osaka around namba for some shopping
    Day 5 – Osaka castle & maybe some mini trips?
    Day 6 – Osaka to Shirakawago (will buy the Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass) – stay at Takayama
    Day 7 – Takayama back to Osaka and fly back Msia..

    On my Day 6, I wish to reach Takayama before 2pm as I am planning to buy a bus tour that depart the station at 230pm for the Light up event on 21st January.

    The fastest should be Shin-Osaka to Gifu to Takayama that can reach by 1230pm. Is this train covered by Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass? If yes, do I need to get down on Gifu and on board another train to Takayama?

    If the above journey is not covered by the pass, what other options do I have that can reach before 2pm?

    Also, the Takayama Hokuriku Pass can covered most of my journey on the above itinerary from Day3 from Kyoto to Osaka and the rest of the days?

    1. Hi Eevann,

      Takayama Hokuriku area pass does not cover the route which you mentioned. If you use this pass to take this route, you need to pay extra fare for Kyoto to Gifu. It costs around 4000 yen for base fare and reserved seat.

      If you don’t want to pay extra, you can take Osaka-Kanazawa-Takayama route. It’s same route as sample itinerary above. Take Limited Express Thunderbird to Kanazawa and change bus to Takayama via Shirakawago. If you leave Osaka around 7:30, you can get Takayama around 13:30. This route is covered fully.

      Takayama Hokuriku area pass covers only JR trains. You may need to add some extra to take subway.
      https://jprail.com/travel-informations/tips-for-japan-rail-pass/guide-to-take-trains-in-osaka-how-to-choose-the-best-route-by-train-to-get-the-major-spots.html

      You may use ICOCA and Haruka for day 1 and 2.
      jprail.com/travel-informations/other-rail-passes/rail-pass-for-visitors/icoca-and-haruka-ticket-very-flexible-and-good-deal-for-tourist-who-stay-in-kansai.html

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  10. Hi Takeshi San,

    I need your advice.
    I am on business trip in Himeji until 5 Dec. (FYI : my passport chop is not visitor pass)
    Could you advise is there any special pass (3 days – 5 days) for non-visitor?
    I can’t use Takayama Hokuriku area 5 days pass, right ?
    5 Dec – Himeji
    6 Dec – Osaka
    7 Dec – Kyoto
    8 Dec – Shirakawago
    9 Dec – Toyama
    10 Dec – back to Tokyo
    Above mentioned is my draft tour plan.
    Thanks in advance.
    Mr. Aung

      1. Thanks a lots Takeshi San.
        Really appreciated for your quick response.

        Very helpful your suggestions.

        Best Regards,
        LynnHtun Aung

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