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

kanazawa kenrokuen 1 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.

Comments

  1. Niken Atria says:

    Hello,

    My friends and I are planning to visit to Japan, and we are planning to use 2 kinds of JR Pass, which are Takayama Hokuriku area tourist pass and West Kansai Pass. Could you please check our itinerary below and give us some input:

    (15 – 19 with Takayama-Hokuriku pass)
    15/02/20 Osaka
    16/02/20 Osaka
    17/02/20 Osaka
    18/02/20 Shirakawa
    19/02/20 Shirakawa, Takayama, Kanazawa

    (20-22 with West Kansai [3 days pass])
    20/02/20 Kyoto
    21/02/20 Kyoto
    22/02/20 Nara

    And could you please answer to my queries below:
    1. What I understand we need to book Nohi bus in advance. How do we do this by Takayama-Hokuriku pass?
    2. The last shirakawago light-up event is on Feb 16th, and the entrance to the area will be limited around that time. Will it be back to normal on our visit date?

  2. Chester says:

    Hi Takeshi-san,

    I am so glad I saw your post about going to Kanazawa from Osaka/Kyoto. I hope you can help me get a clearer view on the best way to plan my 8-day trip (Feb 08-15, 2020). I land and depart from Osaka and I really want to see Kanazawa and Shirakawago (KS). Thank you so much!

    My plan is:
    Day 1: Arrive in Osaka
    Day 2: Tour Osaka
    Day 3: Travel to Kanazawa in the morning
    Day 4: Day trip to Shirakawago from Kanazawa
    Day 5: Travel to Kyoto from Kanazawa after lunch
    Day 6: Tour Kyoto
    Day 7: Travel to Osaka from Kyoto
    Day 8: Flight Back

    Questions:
    1. How does my itinerary look? Do you prefer this order or should I go to Kyoto first before seeing Kanazawa/Shirakawago then back to Osaka? Would there be significant difference in travel time/fare cost?
    2.I am planning to buy the Kansai Hokuriku Area Pass. Will all my rides in my itinerary be covered with this pass?
    3.Do I have to reserve bus tickets on my trip to Shirakawago or I can just buy round trip tickets on the day?

  3. Sc says:

    Thanks Takeshi for the link. It must have been an interesting 10 day journey for you. Beautiful scenery too. By the way, were you there in January and what was the temperature like?

    Some more questions Takeshi san:-
    1. The nohi bus to Shrikawago. If I am boarding it on 25 Dec, I can only call on book on 25th Nov? From one of your write ups, you mentioned that Shrikawago will be crowded with many people and buses. So how do we identify the correct bus to take assuming that the bus we board there and back will be different.
    2. The nohi bus to the okuhida onsen, do I have to book or can I buy the tickets in advance? Also is payment only in cash?
    3. The bus to Magome, also to pay in cash?
    4. We are staying in Kyoto and leave for Nagoya on 1st Jan. Do you suggest we board train to Nagoya from Shin Osaka or Kyoto with unreserve seats? We buy tickets on that day itself? Can we take the train at anytime or would you suggest early morning so as to beat the crowd?
    Thanks Takeshi.

  4. Sc says:

    Hi Takeshi-san
    Our day trip to Magome from Nagoya is on the 2nd of Jan.
    Ok to visit since it is the holidays? Will the place / shops be close? Also how do we get there from Nagoya? For a day trip, is Magome a better place to visit than Tsumago.
    Thanks Takeshi.

  5. Sc says:

    Hi Takeshi san
    Pls refer to our plans earlier, we have now made some changes.
    We arrive in Nagoya at about 8am on 24 Dec. We will not stay a night in Nagoya. Here are my queries:-

    1. We will try catch the 10am train from the airport to Nagoya Station. Since we will be buying the Takayama Hokuriku Area Pass here, we will need to exchange it for the ticket and also reserve our seats. This we need to do at the JR office in Nagoya station, so my question is how long will this take?
    Will we be able to catch the 12.48pm Hida with reserved seats to Takayama on the 24th then?

    2. Also, we will stay the 24th night in Takayama and the 25th night in the okuhida onsen area. The following are our 2 options. Option 1 is to visit Shrikawago on 25th morning, return to Takayama and catch the bus to okuhida onsen. Then on the 26th morning we catch the bus back to Takayama and explore the place, then take the Hida to Toyama and then the Hokuriku to Kanazawa. At least we get to see abit of Toyama. Option 2 is to explore Takayama on the 25th morning, take bus to okuhida and stay a night. The next morning we leave okuhida for Takayama and take the bus to Shrikawago and then to Kanazawa. Which will be a better option, Takeshi?
    Thanks Takeshi

    By the way, there has been a slight change in my email address.
    Sc

  6. Hd says:

    Hi Takeshi,

    We plan to visit Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Takayama from Kyoto using the Takayama Hokiruku Pass, staying 2 nights at Kanazawa. The following is our itinerary:

    Day 1 – Kyoto to Kanazawa via Thunderbird.
    Day 2 – Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Takayama via Nohi bus. Return trip to Kanazawa from Takayama via Nohi bus.
    Day 3 – Kanazawa – Kyoto via Thunderbird. Kyoto – Osaka via local train.

    I understand that I have to call for reservation on the Nohi bus and I’ve been studying the schedule. This is the possible bus schedule that we can follow:

    Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go: 9:10-10:35
    Shirakawa-go to Takayama: 13:30-14:20
    Takayama to Kanazawa: 16:30-18:45

    1. Is my understanding of the schedule correct?
    2. The pass covers Kyoto-Osaka local train, right?

    Thank you very much.

    Hd

    • Hi Hd,

      Your trip plan is good. But if you stay in Takayama a little bit more, you can take the train from Takayama to Toyama and Toyama to Kanazawa.
      The limited express Wide View Hida departs from Takayama at 17:19 and arrive in Toyama at 18:52. You can take the Hokuriku Shinkansen from Toyama to Kanazawa. The Shinkansen runs very frequently. The train on the Hokuriku Shinkansen comes usually every 20 to 30 minutes. It takes 20 minutes from Toyama to Kanazawa. Of course this route is covered by Takayama Hokuriku Area tourist pass and you can get another 45 minutes in Takayama. If you want to go back to Kanazawa earlier, you can keep your trip plan. This is one of the suggestions.

      You can take the local train from Kyoto to Osaka. You can take the limited express Thunderbird as well even though it’s such a short ride.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

  7. Sc says:

    Hi Takeshi
    Thank you for your reply.
    We have made some slight changes to our itinerary:

    Day 1 24 Dec Nagoya
    Day 2 25 Dec Takayama and stay a night at Okuhida area
    Day 3 26 Dec Shirikawago, Kanazawa (stay a night)
    Day 4 27 Dec Toyama and then back to Kanazawa
    Day 5 28 Dec Kyoto
    Day 6 29 Dec Kyoto
    To cover Arashiyama, Kinkaku- ji temple, Nijo castle, Higashiyama, Kiyomizudera, Ginkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari, not sure about Uji
    Day 7 30 Dec Nara, Osaka
    Day 8 31 Dec Osaka
    To cover Namba, Dotonbori, Houzenji, Shinsaibashi, Umeda, Osakajo,
    Shinsekai and maybe instant ramen musuem
    Day 9 1 Jan Board shinkansen unreserved seat from Shin Osaka to Nagoya. It will not be difficult I hope.
    Day 10 2 Jan Nagoya
    Day 11 3 Jan Departure

    1. Takayama Hokuriku area pass for day 2 to 5?
    2. Will the train be difficult to board to Kyoto on the 28th?
    3. Do we use Kansai thru pass 1 or 2 days and add on Icoca card for Kyoto and Osaka?
    4. Can this Icoca card be used in Nagoya?
    Looking forward to your advice and comments. Thanks Takeshi.

    Sc

    • Hi Sc,

      1. Yes.
      2. It will be busy day but the train to Kyoto is much slower than train from Kyoto. I believe you will be okay.
      3. There is no one day Kansai thru pass. 2-day is minimum but you cannot get the worth of it. Actually Kansai one pass is better than ICOCA. Both are basically same but Kansai one pass offers discount at many attractions in Kansai area.
      https://kansaionepass.com/en/about.html?info=1
      4. You may use it in Nagoya. But Kansai one pass includes 500 yen deposit. If you want to refund this deposit, you have to spend all funds before you leave Osaka and Kyoto, and return the card before you go to Nagoya. You cannot get the refund in Nagoya. It is possible in Osaka/Kyoto area only.
      If you don’t care about the deposit, just keep the card and use it in Nagoya.

      Cheers,

      Takeshi / JPRail.com

      • Sc says:

        Thanks Takeshi for your prompt reply.

        Please clarify what has been suggested in your reply:
        1. Throughout our stay in Kyoto, Osaka and visit to Nara, we will use the kansai one pass?
        2. On day 9 which is 1 Jan, we will buy unreserved shinkansen seats from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya?

        I have gone through some of your other recommendations and hope you can comment on the following:
        3. We may stay in Kyoto for the entire time rather than move to Osaka. We arrive in Kyoto on day 5 (28 Dec). We will likely leave our stuff at the hotel and move on to Osaka for a day trip. Can I assume that Takayama Hokuriku Area (THA) pass will cover the train rides from Kyoto to Osaka and back to Kyoto?
        4. THA will also cover the train rides on Osaka Loop on day 5?
        5. We will visit the tourist attractions in Kyoto on day 6 and 7.
        We will then make a day trip to Nara and Osaka again on day 8. So for these days do we buy the kansai one pass?
        6. On 1 Jan, do you suggest that we get the platt kodama and depart from Kyoto to Nagoya or still buy shinkansen unreserved seats and depart from Kyoto to Nagoya?
        Thanks Takeshi.
        Sc

        • Hi Sc,

          1. Yes.
          2. Yes.
          3. Yes. You can take even the limited express trains, such as Haruka, Thunderbird. But it does not cover the Shinkansen.
          4. Yes.
          5. It’s up to you. Kansai one pass does not give you the unlimited ride. It offers convenience and discount at many attractions. In the trains fare, Kansai one pass is same as using regular fare. So if you don’t want to buy a ticket one by one, you can use this card.
          6. Platt Kodama is slightly cheaper. But you MUST take the assigned train. The train and the seat will be fixed if you use Platt Kodama. If you use unreserved seat, you can buy it even the day of travel at Kyoto station and you can take any trains on January 1st. So if you want the flexibility, regular unreserved seat is better.

          Cheers,

          Takeshi / JPRail.com

  8. Sc says:

    Hi Takeshi

    Thank you for your reply.
    1. What pass do I need to buy to visit most of the usual tourist attractions in Kyoto including a visit to Nara? I may check out of the hotel in Kyoto and visit Nara on day 6 and proceed to Osaka ( we will have 2 and a half day in both Kyoto and Osaka) . So I will need to store my luggage somewhere to visit Nara? Is traveling on 29th dec very busy?

    2. Also in Osaka, what pass will be suitable to use to visit most of the tourist attractions including Kobe and Himeji?

    3. Do I take the Shinkansen to Nagoya from Shin-Osaka? Will there be more unreserved seats available from Shin-Osaka?

    4. Are there any other trains besides the shinkansen from Nagoya to Osaka?

    5. Is there space in the Nohi bus for luggage?
    Sorry, so many questions. Thanks Takeshi.

    Sc

  9. Sc says:

    Hi Takeshi
    My family and I will be arriving in Nagoya on 24th Dec
    This is our itinerary:-
    Day 1 24 Dec Nagoya
    Day 2 25 Dec Takayama, we plan to stay in Okuida onsen
    Day 3 26 Dec Shrikawago, Kanazawa (1 night in Kanazawa)
    Day 4 27 Dec Kyoto
    Day 5 28 Dec Kyoto (Nara)
    Day 6 29 Dec Kyoto
    Day 7 30 Dec Osaka
    Day 8 31 Dec Osaka (maybe visit Kobe, Himeji)
    Day 9 1 Jan Nagoya
    Day 10 2 Jan Magome
    Day 11 3 Jan Depart from Nagoya for home
    Pls advise on the following:-
    1. The types of passes we need to buy for our itinerary.
    2. Should we get Takayama Hokuriku area pass for day 2 to 4?
    Also they allow 4 reservations, does this include the bus to Shirikawago and Kanazawa? Since we can only activate our passes when we get to Nagoya on the 24th, will it be difficult to get reserve seats on the 25th and 27th Dec?
    3. Will all tourist atttactions close when we are in Osaka or Kyoto?
    4. How do we go back to Nagoya and to be sure of getting seats which is better, to go back to Nagoya from Osaka or Kyoto? Then I have to change day 4 and 5 Osaka and day 6 to 8 Kyoto.
    Thank you.
    Sc

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