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. Felicia says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    I want to ask your recommendations. This is my first trip to Japan and I will go with my parent. I will be in Japan in the middle of May for 11 days.
    So, this is my itinerary for 11 days:
    Day 1: On flight to Osaka
    Day 2: Osaka Amazing day 1
    Day 3: Osaka Amazing day 2
    Day 4: Kyoto
    Day 5: Nara or Shirakawago or USJ?
    Day 6: Going to Tokyo
    Day 7: Alpine Route
    Day 8: Mt. Fuji
    Day 9: Disneysea
    Day 10: Tokyo
    Day 11: Go home
    What do you think about my schedule trip?
    I have bought JR Pass 7 days, and I will be using it from day 4 until end. I would like to ask your opinion about my schedule trip. Since I will be with my parent in this trip. What are your suggestions for day 5? I heard that kyoto and nara seem similar, and some recommendations said that it’s prefer for you to go to kyoto, instead of nara. And I want to ask you, is it worth to go to Shirakawago in the middle of May? I have searched some attractions for this time, and it’s like there is nothing at all at that place. And for USJ, do you think is it worth it if you go with your parent? Please help me in choosing one of these attractions, because I think I have one day free around my trip in Osaka, which is in day 5.
    One more questions, I heard that japan travel wifi provides foreigner free wifi, does it really works?

    Thank you and hope you can give me a lot of suggestions and recommendations, since this is my first trip to Japan.
    Thank you once again.

    • Hi Felicia,

      Your itinerary is okay but it’s busy. Especially day trip to Shirakawago from Osaka and day trip to Alpine route from Tokyo are quite big day trips.

      It’s hard to say which one is the best in Nara, Shirakawago or USJ. These places are completely different. If I were you, I choose Shirakawago. I’m not a big fan of theme park. As you expect, Nara is very similar to Kyoto.

      But if you want to slow down your trip, you can stay in Osaka or spend one more day in Kyoto. Kyoto has many things to show you.

      Whenever I go to Japan, I rent pocket wifi or purchase data sim card. I have never used Japan travel wifi.


      Takeshi /

  2. Gaile says:


    Could someone please advise if this itinerary is possible with the train passes/transpo mentioned:
    DAY1 – ARRIVE AT OSAKA. DOTONBORI night, tour around OSAKA. (Using 2days – JR Kansai Pass from Airport to Namba accomodation)
    DAY2 – NARRA whole day -> back to Namba Accom, [JR Kansai Pass DAY2]
    DAY3 – Universal Studios -> sleep in Namba. [7day JR PASS DAY1]
    DAY5 – KYOTO (GION, FUSHIMI INARI) ; sleep in Namba [JRPASS DAY3]
    DAY6 -> KANAZAWA (Kenrokuen Garden)->sleep in Kanazawa to Get ready for Tateyama Kurobe Alpine route for next day. [JR PASS DAY4]
    DAY7 -> TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE DAY: leave KANAZAWA 08:00 to Toyama to Tateyama (drop luggages at Tateyama Station for pickup later in Shinano-Omachi station)–> is this possible? Claiming time of luggages is latest 15:00-18:30. Do you think Alpine route can be done around the said time? sleep in TOKYO; [JRPASS DAY5+TATEYAMA ALPINE ROUTE OPTION TICKET+SHINANO OMACHI BUS+TOKYO METRO PASS].
    DAY8 -> TOKYO (option a: Tokyo – Kawaguchi – Mt Fuji – Gotemba – Tokyo) or option b: SHIRAKAWAGO? which is more doable or a nicer experience for whole day with kids? [JRPASS DAY6+BUS]
    DAY10-> TOKYO to NARITA, flight back home. [What is the cheapest fare option from TOKYO metro to NARITA airport for a family of 7?]

    Appreciate your help!


  3. CK says:

    Hi would like to ask your opinion as i will be travelling to japan end of this month (april). Here’s my plan:
    Day 1 + 2 -> in tokyo
    Day 3 -> Leaving tokyo to tateyama (include staying a night and visit the snow wall on the next day).
    Day 4 -> leaving tateyama to kanazawa (plan to stay over night and visit the place + shirawakago – the unesco village)
    Day 5 -> leaving Kanazawa to Osaka (staying there for 2 nights)
    Day 6 -7 -> in Osaka
    Day 7 -> leaving osaka back to Tokyo by noon (catching up the studio gibli by late afternoon).
    Day 8-9 -> tokyo
    Day 10 leaving Japan.

    So my concerned is it sufficient time for me to see around the kanazawa + the UNESCO village at shirawakago (in 2 days 1 night?) .

    Any suggestion?


  4. Trine says:

    Dear Mr Takeshi

    You seen to be giving very good advice to travellers. Hope you can help me as well.
    I have purchased a 7 day Japan Rail Pass and plan to make the following trip:

    April 6: Tokyo to Gero Onsen
    April 8: Gero Onsen to Takayama
    April 9: Takayama via Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa
    April 10: Kanazawa to Kyoto
    April 12: Kyoto to Tokyo

    I have doubts whether this trip to Shirakawa-go Village and Kanazawa is worthwhile with this timetable or if we are better of staying in Takayama one more night and going straight to Kyoto from there. Could you help me with some advice?

    Thank you

    • Hi Trine,

      It’s feasible to drop by Shirakawago on the way to Kanazawa. Please see the bus timetable in the link below:

      There are lots of buses and very easy to drop by. Takayama is not very far from Gero Onsen. So you have a time to see Takayama on 8th and 9th in the morning. You can take a bus to Shirakawago to late morning and easy to make it.

      Advanced reservation is strongly recommended for bus to Shirakwago from Takayama and required to Kanazawa from Shirakawago. You can find online site in the timetable link as I mentioned above.


      Takeshi /

  5. Puspa Rini says:

    Hi Takashi

    I’d like to say thanks for providing very helpful information regarding Japan transportation. I will be in Japan April 24 until may 4 2017.

    April 24: NARITA – ITM
    April 24 – 26 : Osaka
    April 26 – 28 : Kyoto – Nara
    April 28 – 30 : Kyoto – Shirakawago – Tokyo
    Apr 30 – Mei 4 : Tokyo -disney sea – shibasakura – mt Fuji – gotemba – Alpine Route

    Should i buy JR Pass ..
    and kindly can give some advise

    Thank you very much

  6. Jenny Le says:

    First of all, I would like to say thank you for providing very helpful information regarding Japan transportation. I will be in Japan May 2017, mostly travel in Kansai region. I’m planning to purchase icoca & haruka pass and Takayama & Hokuriku pass. I would love to hear your opinion on this. Thank you
    May 13: KIX- Kyoto
    May 14: Kyoto
    May 15: Kyoto
    May 16: Kyoto – Nara
    May 17: Kyoto – Uji
    May 18: Kyoto -Kanazawa
    May 19: Kanazawa – Shirakawago
    May 20: Shirakawago – Takayama – Gero
    May 21: Gero – Osaka
    May 22: Osaka
    May 23: Osaka – Kansai airport

  7. fong says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I have question regarding to the day trip for Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go. Just wondering if we could reserve bus seats online beforehand. and how and where to ride the bus from the kanazawa station.


  8. Ricco says:

    Hi Takeshi,
    I will be arriving in Narita Airport by 16.00, following is my itinerary. Please take a look and let me know whether it’s feasible or not. Hope to hear from you soon.

    DAY 8 – TOKYO


  9. Gladys chan says:

    Hi, Mr Takeshi

    I will be travelling to Osaka with my daughter on 12/1/17. Will be in Osaka until 16/1/17. We would like to visit Shirakawago. Is it possible to make a day trip? Please advise what pass should we buy? Can we buy the tickets online? Pls give us an itinerary.

  10. Andreas says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    I’m planning to visit Japan on April 17 – 26 2017
    D1 : Reached Osaka in the evening stay in Osaka
    D2 : City tour in Osaka stay in Osaka
    D3 : Osaka – Takayama stay in Takayama
    D4 : Takayama – Shirakawago – Tokyo stay in Tokyo
    D4 : Tokyo – Kawaguchi – Mt Fuji – Gotemba – Tokyo stay in Tokyo
    D5 : Disney Sea stay in Tokyo
    D6 : Free
    D7 : Free
    D8 : Free
    D9 : going back home in early morning

    Could you please give some advise regarding my itinerary since I’m travelling with 7 adult and 3 kids 6y and 2 2y

    should I buy JR Pass ?
    Do you have 1D tour for Osaka / Tokyo / other place or please share if you have alternative place to go

    Thank you and regards

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