How to Get From Kyoto to Kanazawa using the Japan Rail Pass

Although it is often compared to Kyoto, Kanazawa does not enjoy the same popularity as its big sister However if you can easily access Kanazawa, Chasing Places asserts that this city fondly called “Little Kyoto” is definitely worth visiting.

The good thing about traveling between Kanazawa and Kyoto is that they are well connected by public transport, even though they are not neighbors in the ‘geographical sense’ (about 190 kilometers away from each other).

As you probably already know Kyoto is the former capital of Japan, rich with historical and cultural sites. Therefore, this former famous capital is visited by millions of people every year.  The crowd can be thick in Kyoto, and so if you’re not a fan of this busy atmosphere, Kanazawa might be a more precious travel gem.

Situated north of Kyoto, Kanazawa is more laidback, and feels more like a functioning Japanese city. It is small and compact, and some of its nice sites are situated in one area.  You can easily spend a day or two here before moving on to your next destination.

The fastest way to get to Kyoto from Kanazawa and vice versa is to take the JR Limited Express. And did we mention that the journey is very scenic especially during wintertime, when you get to see the towering alpine mountains in the distance.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to get from Kyoto to Kanazawa using the Japan Rail Pass:

1. Go to Kyoto JR Station. You can’t miss it because it’s in the center of the city.

The Kyoto Station is well-signed so just look for the directions
The Kyoto Station is well-signed so just look for the directions

2. Look for the Limited Express train line to Kanazawa. This limited express service is called ‘Thunderbird’. Every hour, there will be one or two JR Thunderbird Limited express trains coming in.

3. Pay the ticket. If you have the Japan Rail Pass, you can get on this ride without paying anything extra.  But if you don’t have a JR Pass, you can easily purchase a ticket from one of the machines. The fare is about 6,380 Yen for a non-reserved seat. You will pay more for a reserved seat.

In case you don't have a JR Pass, it is easy to buy from the ticket machine. You can change the language to English
In case you don’t have a JR Pass, it is easy to buy from the ticket machine. You can change the language to English

4. Enjoy the ride. Travel time is around 2 hours and 10 minutes. If you don’t take the Thunderbird service and opt for the local JR lines, you will need to transfer on multiple train lines before getting to Kanazawa. Just a reminder: train prices and times are all subject to change from the time of writing.

5. Arrive at JR Kanazawa Station.  We stayed right beside the station due to our specific itinerary, but from here you can easily take a bus to Kanazawa’s downtown area and other parts of the city to find a room.

We took Kanazawa's public buses around the city
We took Kanazawa’s public buses around the city

Travel Checklist: Do you have everything you need?

What Not To Miss in Kanazawa

As mentioned, Kanazawa has oftentimes gone unnoticed by tourists traveling throughout Japan, but I would have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. In one day, we got to see top sites like:

  • Kanazawa Castle Park, which is right across the beautiful Kenroku-en Garden
  • The historic geisha district called Higashi Chaya Area
  • Nagamachi Samurai House Area

Kanazawa's Castle Park is definitely worth a visit.
Kanazawa’s Castle Park is definitely worth a visit.

Where did we stay in Kanazawa?

Due to our specific itinerary we stayed close to Kanazawa Station.  We had some early morning and late evening train connections, therefore it made the most sense to stay somewhere close to the main station. After a lengthy search we eventually decided to stay at APA Hotel Kanazawa-Ekimae. We don’t have a direct affiliation with this property, therefore we can honestly say that it was a nice, affordable, mid-range option. The room we had was very small, but they managed to fit in a pile of amenities into such a small space. As usual, the room was spotless. It’s a pretty large hotel, so if you need a larger room you will have no problem finding one. The best thing about this property is that it’s literally 100 meters from Kanazawa Station! We took city buses to/from the sights in the city, but you might want to stay closer to the sights you want to see if your train connections are at convenient times. At the time of writing it had a score of 7.8/10 based on 347 verified guest reviews.

The view of Kanazawa from our hotel room.
The view of Kanazawa from our hotel room.

How to find the cheapest rooms in Kanazawa?

During our entire trip to Japan we relied on three useful sites to find the cheapest rooms:,, To save you some time and money, I have created links to their respective properties in Kanazawa:

Top Rated Properties in Kanazawa Based on Verified Guest Reviews

Important: Mobile Users must swipe from left to right to see entire table.


  • Properties rated based on ‘overall’ review scores from each respective website’s verified guests.
  • Minimum of 50 verified guest reviews required to be considered eligible for comparison.
  • All star ratings and verified guest review scores are tallied at the time of writing, and therefore, are subject to change.

Compare Room Prices in Kanazawa –

Alternatively, you can use the search box below to compare all the cheapest room prices in Kanazawa. Remember, if you have any additional questions about getting from Kyoto to Kanazawa just let us know!

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