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

kanazawa kenrokuen1 to 3 days
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 understand that some of you do not agree. Because you will travel with the huge luggage and it may be issue for you.

Thus the 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 as one day trip?

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

From Osaka/Kyoto to Kanazawa

Osaka 6:30 / Shin-Osaka 6:34 / Kyoto 6:59 – (The Limited Express Thunderbird 1) – Kanazawa 9:13

The limited express Thunderbird takes you to Kanazawa directly.

I recommend you to see Kanazawa first. The next bus leave for Shirakawago at 9:40. You can catch this bus easily in 30 minutes. But if you go to Shirakawago first, you come back Kanazawa around 15:00. It is a bit late to see this town because some of attractions are closed around 17:00. If you focus on Shirakawago more, you can go to Shirakawago right after you arrive in Kanazawa. Please find the timetable of the bus to Shirakawago in Nohi bus official site:

Nohi Bus official site

You cannot do anything in Kanazawa for one hour. You can spend whole morning in Kanazawa and take the 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 13:10 – (Nohi Bus) – Shirakawago 14:25
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 13:10 is 14:40 departure from Kanazawa and arrival Shirakawago at 15:05. This is still okay. It depends on which place you want to see more. You can adjust as you like.

Go back to Osaka or Kyoto from Kanazawa

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

The last Thunderbird to Osaka leave Kanazawa at 20:47. There are some more trains before this. You can pick which departure you like. Please find the timetable of the limited express Thunderbird in the link below:

Due to COVID-19, it may be operated on a schedule different from the normal timetable. Check the train schedule on Hyperdia.
Hyperdia perfect guide, train timetable and route search engine

So if you want to eat dinner in the restaurant, you can take the last train. 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. You can grab some foods at Kanazawa station and eat on board. On board sales is not available in the limited express Thunderbird. Don’t forget to grab it before getting on the limited express Thunderbird.

Suggested deal

Takayama Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass is most recommended. This pass is valid for 5 days. Even if you use this pass just for this day trip, you can get the worth of it. This pass covers all part of your trip.

If you have JR Pass or Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass or Hokuriku Arch Pass, you can use the pass to get Kanazawa by the limited express Thunderbird. But Nohi Bus to Shirakawago is not covered by these passes.

Other rail passes in Kansai area, like Kansai Area Pass, Kansai Thru Pass, Kansai Wide Area Pass are not recommended for this itinerary. Those deals 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 the timetable of September 2019. When you use this sample itinerary, please check the updated timetable.


  1. Duwi says:

    Hi Takeshi!

    Your guidelines are very helpful and I thank you for that!

    However I just have a quick question. I am planning to travel to Shirakawa-go from Kanazawa on the 29th of December. Is the village still open during those late December dates, and also is the bus still running normally?

    Thank you very much once again!

    Kind wishes,


  2. Ryan Chua says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    This is Ryan here again. I am clarrifying something on my trip to Shirakawa, Ainokura, Takayama or Suganuma.

    Basically I have 2 days to spare but I need to get back to Kanazawa the same day.

    I have based the information from Nouhi Bus at the their website.

    8:10- 9:35 Travel time from Kanazawa to Shirakawa (Nouhi)
    9:35-10:25 Time in Shirakawa (Nouhi)
    10:25- 10:50 Travel time from Shirakawa to Suganuma (Nouhi)
    10:50 – 12:06 Suganuma (any good restaurant there? I dont have any option as the next Kaetsuno bus to Ainokura will be on 12:06)
    12:06 – 12:20 Travel time to Ainokura (Kaetsuno)
    12:20- 14:18 Ainokura
    14:18- 14:33 Travel back to Suganuma
    14:33- 15:45 Suganuma again
    15:45- 16:45 Travel back to Kanazawa

    Pls help me make my itinerary better. Thanks. My original idea is to spend one day for all the places including Takayama (maybe cut Suganuma because I read Ainokura is better)

    Btw, do you know if I need to reserve every now and then since most buses have reservation?

    Thank you very much and sorry to bother you.


  3. Ryan Chua says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    Ryan here again. You already know I am staying at Kanazawa on Nov 5-9 and I am planning on going to Shirakawa, Gokayama and Takayama.

    Pls help me set my itinerary. Thanks

    so far I have 2 dates avaible for this 6 and 8 and as you can see I walk fast but the problem here is the transportation since its a train where you could hop in and out after 15 mins.

    So far this is what I research on the net with nouhi and kaetsuno

    Nov 6 / or 8
    8:40 – 9:40 Kanazawa to Gokayama (Suganuma)
    After 9:40, do I have to wait until 12:06 to hop in the bus to ainokura isnt that so long?

    Btw, after ainokura, I go to Shirakawa at 14:33 then take the bus back to Kanazawa at 16:25?

    The next day I go to Takayama at 13:50

    I am confused here. Sorry to bother you on this.

    I tried shirakawa 1st before I came with bottleneck on the way back from ainokura

    Thank you very much!


    • Hi Ryan,

      Your plan is good. I don’t see any issues. But you may take the following route:
      Kanazawa 8:40 – 10:05 Shirakawago
      Shirakawago 13:50 (Kaetsuno) 14:21 Suganuma
      Suganuma 15:21 (Kaetsuno) 15:35 Ainokuraguchi
      Ainokuraguchi 16:45 (Kaetsuno) 17:15 Johana or 17:55 Shin-Takaoka

      If you drop off at Johana, take local train to Shin-Takaoka and transfer to Hokuriku Shinkansen.

      This is other plan that I think. Probably your choice is your plan or the plan above. There are not many choices.


      Takeshi /

  4. Lisa says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    This is my 1st visit to Japan & need your advise for the plan to Shirkawago as I’m not sure where is the best place I should depart from.
    I will arrive Kansai airport on 4/2/2016 @ 0650 and leaving on 11/2/2016 @ 1100

    This is what I plan-

    4/2 – 5/2 – Once touch down Kansai, straight proceed to Kyoto and stay for 2 nights

    5/2-6/2- Spend a night in Takayama/Kanazawa, our plan is to visit Shirakawago, (is spending a night in this place necessary)?
    Any idea if we can do kyoto-shirakawago-osaka within a day ?

    7/2- 10/2 – Osaka

    11/2- depart from Kansai airport

    ‘m having some problem to plan the trip to Shirakawago..if I plan to travel from Kyoto, the most convenient way is to stop in Takayama or Kanazawa ? We are planning to do a day trip in Shirakawago and spend a night in Takayama or Kanazawa instead of heading straight back to Osaka. I have read in some forum that we can do day trip to Shirakawago, but I’m not sure if we have enough time.

    And which railway pass do you recommend for 5 of us ?

    Thank you in advance

    • Hi Lisa,

      I have day trip itinerary from either Osaka or Kyoto to Shirakawago in the post above. Have you read it?
      I also recommend Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass for the trip, either day trip or stay in Kanazawa for one night.


      Takeshi /

      • Lisa says:

        Hi Takeshi,

        I roughly have an idea to do day trio from Kyoto after reading your recommendation. Would like to check with you if it’s a compulsory to do reservation for the Nohi Bus ? If I don’t do reservation will I come into situation where there’s no more seat available ? and payment only be make when I redeem the ticket ?

        • Hi Lisa,

          If you take a bus from Kanazawa, reservation is required. If you don’t make a reservation, you might not be able to get a seat. It depends on how busy it is. If there are some seats available, you can take it. Otherwise you will waste your time.

          You don’t need to pay when you reserve. You can pay on the spot. If you worry about a seat, don’t hesitate to make a call even if it’s overseas call.


          Takeshi /

  5. Bee says:

    Dear sir,
    May I know what pass I have to buy for my trip 6 days?
    Kansai airport – Kanazawa-Osaka-Kansai airport
    Many thanks

  6. Linda Silvana says:

    Hi again Takeshi,

    We’re going to make a bus trip from Kanazawa – Shirakawago – Takayama. Do we have to make reservation for the Nohi Bus days prior to departure or can we just buy on the time to depart, or maybe the day before. Because we plan to arrive in Kanazawa from Osaka, spend the night here and then the next morning to Shirakawago – Takayama.
    Thanks in advance for your reply.


  7. Elaine says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    Thanks for your advices. Based on many of your posts that I enjoyed reading, I go with your suggestions easily.

    My daughter said that Takeshi san made it sounds simple because you don’t travel in a family of 5 with luggage and children in toll. Perceptive, she is!

    I will familiarize ourselves with Hyperdia and Nohi Bus schedule before we embark.

    Best Regards

  8. Elaine Lam says:

    Dear Takeshi san,

    You make travelling between places sounds so easy. Now I am tempted to make a trip to Shirakawago during our 2 nights stay in Kanazawa in Dec.

    Is 3 hours all you need in Shirakawago? How about travelling between places of interest and the Nohi bus-stop? Is there a problem travelling so late in the evening back to Osaka?

    • Hi Elaine,

      In my opinion, 3 hours is minimum. If you can stay longer, you can stay more. In this itinerary, I tried to put as many as possible because I have received this kind of inquiries many times. Many travellers want to have day trip itinerary.

      If you have extra time, you can take Kaetsunou bus to get Takaoka and drop by Gokayama, Ainokura. These are small villages but it has a great atmosphere.

      The problem when we travel in late night is scenery. It’s dark and no scenery.


      Takeshi /

  9. Yana says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I am having quite a hard time deciding about how I can travel Japan as a budget traveler. Timely, I came across your blog and I’ve felt delighted on how you respond to people’s queries here. I hope you can help me as well.
    I am scheduled to travel to Japan for 10 days in Autumn this year. My point of entry is Nagoya (Nov. 19) and exit through Narita Airport (Nov. 28). Here’s my schedule:
    Day 1 arrive in Nagoya
    Day 2 around Nagoya and stay in Nagoya (or go to Kyoto stay in Kyoto)
    Day 3 go to Kyoto then go back to Nagoya
    Day 4 in Nagoya
    Day 5 in Nagoya
    Day 6 from Nagoya drop by Shizuoka for Mt. Fuji
    Day 7 Go to Tokyo
    Day 8 around Tokyo
    Day 9 around Tokyo (?)
    Day 10 go to Narita Airport from Tokyo
    a. Given my schedule, what transportation passes should i get in order to avoid overspending on transportation cost or misusing transpo cards because of their validity and applicable routes (e.g. JR Railpass cannot be used in Nagoya, right?)
    b. What other places i can visitng as well through your suggested applicable economical passes?
    c. You may also suggest a sample itinerary for this trip schedule..Much appreciated!



    • Hi Yana,

      Before I choose the deal or single ticket, I would like to make sure some points.

      1. What is your plan when you are in Nagoya other than trip to Kyoto. Are you going to see the place in the city of Nagoya only. Or do you intend to visit some places outside Nagoya? Takayama and Kiso valley are recommended and it can be made as day trip from Nagoya.

      2. Do you just want to see Mt. Fuji? Or do you want to go at the base of Fuji or Fuji 5th station? What do you want to do in Fuji. There are many places to see Fuji. You have to make sure this point.

      So far there is no train deal to cover your trip. But if you make a trip other places that you don’t mention in your plan, JR Pass may work. So please give me more detailed plan.


      Takeshi /

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