The Ultimate Guide to Getting from Kanazawa to Takayama, Japan

Takayama, Kanazawa, Japan

by Coco Tran On September 16, 2023

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Nestled in Japan’s picturesque Chubu region, Kanazawa and Takayama are two historic cities that provide a window into traditional Japanese culture. Known for preserved neighborhoods with wooden buildings, artisan workshops, temples, shrines, and excellent regional cuisine, these destinations should be on every Japan itinerary.

In This Article: Table of Contents

The Ultimate Guide to Getting from Kanazawa to Takayama, Japan

Kanazawa and Takayama are located about 85 miles (140km) apart, connected by several convenient transportation options. With bullet trains from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka reaching Kanazawa and Takayama accessible from Nagoya, both cities have never been easier to access for travelers.

This comprehensive guide provides all the key information on getting between Kanazawa and Takayama, plus tips for exploring both cities on a quick day trip or longer stay.

Overview of Kanazawa and Takayama

about Kanazawa

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  • Known as “Little Kyoto”, Kanazawa is a large city with a well-preserved historic core famous for Kenrokuen Garden, geisha districts, and art museums. Seafood from the Japan Sea is a local specialty.
  • Direct bullet train access from Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka makes Kanazawa very convenient to reach. The modern train station is a 10 minute bus ride from the main attractions.
  • Top highlights include Kenrokuen Garden, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Omicho Market, Higashi Chaya geisha district, and naga-machi samurai district.

about Takayama

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Takayama old town
  • Takayama is a small mountain town in the Japanese Alps, boasting a beautifully preserved old town with wooden merchant houses, morning markets, sake breweries and temples.
  • Famed for its high-quality Hida beef, soba noodles, and rural mountain scenery. The bi-annual Takayama Festivals with ornate floats are spectacular.
  • Top highlights include Takayama Old Town, morning markets, Takayama Jinya, Hida Folk Village, walking courses along the Miyagawa River and through Teramachi Temple Town.
  • Takayama is not directly connected to major cities by bullet train, but is accessible by limited express trains/buses requiring transfers.

Transportation Options from Kanazawa to Takayama

Kanazawa and Takayama are connected by direct highway buses, limited express trains, and driving your own car between the two cities. Below are the details on each option:

  Kanazawa to Takayama Bus (fastest, most convenient option)

  • Direct highway buses operated by Nohi Bus run frequently between Kanazawa and Takayama, with the one-way trip taking around 2 hours 15 minutes.
  • Busesdepart from Kanazawa Station’s east exit bus terminal. In Takayama, buses arrive at the Takayama Bus Terminal adjacent to Takayama Station.
  • There are around 10 buses daily in each direction, with frequent morning and afternoon departures. Check the Nohi Bus website for the most updated schedule.
  • The one-way fare is 3,390 JPY for adults and 1,700 JPY for children. Online reservations are recommended to secure a seat in advance.

  Kanazawa to Takayama Train (takes longer but very scenic)

  • There is no direct train between Kanazawa and Takayama. To travel by train, you must first go from Kanazawa to Toyama, then transfer to the limited express Hida train on the Takayama line.
  • The journey takes around 2 hours 40 minutes one-way and costs around 4,060 JPY by regular/local train or 5,610 JPY by bullet train and limited express.
  • Trains from Kanazawa to Toyama offer beautiful scenery passing through valleys and alongside rivers. The Hida limited express also provides views of the Japanese Alps.
  • With a favorable connection, the entire train trip can be as short as 2 hours. Butdirect buses are much more convenient.

Using the Japan Rail Pass between Kanazawa and Takayama

The Japan Rail Pass offers an affordable way for international travelers to access the country’s extensive rail network. However, the pass has limitations for travel between Kanazawa and Takayama.

The Japan Rail Pass does cover travel on all JR local and limited express trains between Kanazawa and Takayama, with a transfer required in Toyama. But the fastest highway buses operated by Nohi Bus cannot be used with the rail pass.

To travel by train with a Japan Rail Pass, from kanazawa to takayama you would take the following route:

  1. Local/Express JR train from Kanazawa to Toyama (1-1.5 hours)
  2. Transfer at Toyama Station
  3. Take the JR Limited Express Hida train on the Takayama line from Toyama to Takayama (90 minutes)

The entire one-way journey takes approximately 2.5-3 hours and requires the transfer at Toyama. This is less convenient than the 2 hour 15 minute direct bus.

With the rail pass, the trip is essentially “free” – but you must still reserve seats on the limited express Hida train at Toyama Station before boarding.

In summary, the Japan Rail Pass can be used make the train journey between Kanazawa and Takayama with an en route transfer. But buses are faster and more convenient. The rail pass savings are best utilized for long distance trips like Tokyo-Kanazawa and Takayama-Kyoto/Osaka.

  Kanazawa to Takayama By Car (flexible but requires driving)

  • Driving between Kanazawa and Takayama by car takes around 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions and stops along the way.
  • The route primarily utilizes the Hokuriku Expressway and Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway with 2,970 JPY in tolls one-way.
  • Having a car allows flexibility for side trips along the way. But buses and trains allow you to relax and enjoy the scenery.
  • Rental cars are available in both Kanazawa and Takayama. International driving permits are required for foreign travelers.
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kanazawa to takayama train cost

  • The regular train cost between Kanazawa and Takayama is around 4,060 JPY one-way. This includes the local/express train from Kanazawa to Toyama and the transfer to the Limited Express Hida train from Toyama to Takayama.
  • If taking a bullet train from Kanazawa to Toyama first, the total train cost is approximately 5,610 JPY one-way.

kanazawa to takayama train

  • There is no direct train from Kanazawa to Takayama. You have to transfer in Toyama. The train journey takes around 2 hours 40 minutes total.

kanazawa to takayama bus

  • The fastest and most convenient way is the direct highway bus operated by Nohi Bus. This takes around 2 hours 15 minutes and costs 3,390 JPY one-way.

kanazawa to takayama by car:

  • Driving by car takes about 2 hours from Kanazawa to Takayama. Toll fees are 2,970 JPY one-way.

kanazawa to takayama bullet train

  • There is no direct bullet train between Kanazawa and Takayama. You have to transfer to a local/limited express train at Toyama or Nagoya.

kanazawa to shirakawago

  • Buses take around 1 hour direct between Kanazawa and Shirakawago. It’s a popular day trip.

Kanazawa Station to Takayama Station:

  • The stations are 85 miles (140km) apart. The direct bus covers this in around 2 hours 15 minutes.
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Kanazawa or Takayama

I think you should definately visit both! They are geographically next to each other. But if you want to decide which area to spend more time in. Here is a comparison of Kanazawa versus Takayama to help you decide which city to visit or prioritize on your Japan trip:

Kanazawa VS

  • Large, modern city with about 450,000 residents
  • Very accessible – direct bullet train connections to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka
  • Top attractions are Kenrokuen Garden, 21st Century Museum, Omicho Market and preserved historic districts like Higashi Chaya geisha district
  • More accommodation, dining and nightlife options as a bigger city
  • Excellent seafood thanks to proximity to the Sea of Japan
  • Makes a great base for day trips to Shirakawa-Go, Noto Peninsula


  • Historic and picturesque mountain town with around 90,000 residents
  • Not on the bullet train network, requires transfers to access
  • Highlights are quaint Takayama Old Town, morning markets, festivals, Hida Folk Village
  • Lots of ryokans and smaller traditional accommodation
  • Specializes in high quality Hida beef
  • Easier access to the Japan Alps for hiking and nature

Takayama VS Kanazawa Summary

  • Kanazawa offers more convenience and city amenities given its size
  • Takayama provides better small town charm, scenery and cultural attractions
  • Ultimately, try to visit both if possible! Kanazawa for 2-3 nights and Takayama for 1-2 nights works well.
  • Visiting one as a day trip from the other is very manageable too thanks to direct transportation links.

So in general, prioritize Kanazawa if you prefer big cities and Takayama for a quainter cultural experience. Combine both on an itinerary to get the highlights of this beautiful region

When to Visit Kanazawa and Takayama- Best Time To Go From Kanazawa to Takayama

Kanazawa and Takayama both offer excellent sightseeing opportunities throughout the year, with seasonal highlights in each city:

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  • Spring (March-May): Cherry blossom season. Takayama’s Spring Festival takes place in mid-April with decorative floats. Mild weather.
  • Summer (June-August): Warm, humid weather with summer festivals. Good for temple and shrine visits.
  • Fall (September-November): Pleasant temperatures and fall foliage. Takayama’s Autumn Festival happens in October.
  • Winter (December-February): Very cold but dry weather with snowfall. Takayama has a charming snowy old town and Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen shines.

One Day Trip Itinerary from Kanazawa to Takayama

If you only have one day to see both cities, here is a suggested itinerary:

Kanazawa Morning:

  • Visit Kenrokuen Garden right at opening time to beat crowds and see morning sunlight on the landscapes.
  • Walk through Higashi Chaya geisha district and have tea/sweets in a preserved teahouse like Shima.
  • Explore Omicho Market and try the fresh sushi and seafood.

Kanazawa to Takayama:

  • Take the direct bus departing Kanazawa Station after lunch, arriving in Takayama by mid-afternoon.

Takayama Afternoon/Evening:

  • Check into accommodations and drop off luggage.
  • Walk through Takayama Old Town, stopping at shops, sake breweries and the Takayama Jinya.
  • Have an early dinner at a Hida beef restaurant like Maruaki or Sakuratei.
  • Optional: Visit morning markets and temples illuminated at night.

With only one day, this manages to cover the top highlights in each city at a quick pace. For a more relaxed experience, extend to a two or three day trip.

Two to Three Day Itinerary – Kanazawa to Takayama Itinerary

Spending two to three days between Kanazawa and Takayama allows time to see top attractions at a more leisurely place with the ability to take day trips. Recommended schedule:

Day 1 – Full Day in Kanazawa:

  • Start with Kenrokuen Garden then explore Naga-machi samurai district.
  • Visit 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
  • Walk through Higashi Chaya geisha district.
  • Wander Omicho Market and have seafood lunch/dinner.

Day 2 Morning/Afternoon in Kanazawa:

  • See attractions missed on Day 1 like Nomura House, Myoryuji Ninja Temple.
  • Take the direct bus to Takayama after lunch, arriving mid-afternoon.

Day 2 Afternoon/Evening in Takayama:

  • Explore Takayama Old Town, Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine and Takayama Jinya.
  • Optional: Join a walking tour of Takayama’s morning markets and sake breweries.
  • Have dinner at a Takayama restaurant like Center4 Hamburgers, Madokoro or Suzuya.

Day 3 in Takayama:

  • Start early at the Miyagawa Morning Market.
  • Take a side trip to Shirakawa-go thatched roof village or the Hida Folk Village.
  • More time to see sites in Takayama like the Festival Floats Exhibition Hall.

Where to Stay in Kanazawa and Takayama

Kanazawa has abundant accommodation choices as a large city, while Takayama options range from small traditional inns to large resort hotels. Below are recommendations:

Kanazawa Hotels:

Takayama Hotels:

For a unique experience, consider staying in a ryokan (traditional inn) with tatami rooms, onsen baths and kaiseki meals, like Hoshokaku or Yatsugatake-no-Ou in Takayama.

Alternatively, book a farmhouse in Shirakawa-go to experience life in a historic thatched roof village. Hida Hotel Shirakabaso is one recommended option with river views.

Tips for Exploring Kanazawa

Here are top tips for making the most of your time in Kanazawa:

  • Purchase a Kanazawa Tourist Pass offering discount admission to top attractions plus unlimited bus rides.
  • Visit Kenrokuen Garden first thing in the morning or late afternoon when fewer crowds are there.
  • Walk through atmospheric historic districts like Higashi Chaya and Nagamachi after dark when lanterns are lit.
  • Indulge in the fresh sushi and seafood at Omicho Market. Crabs and oysters are excellent in winter.
  • Check for hands-on cultural experiences like gold leaf crafts, tea ceremony, samurai lessons, taiko drumming and more.
  • Day trip options include Shirakawa-go thatched roof village, Kaga Onsen hot springs town and Noto Peninsula.
  • Stay near the main attractions in the center or nearby Korinbo area instead of far-flung Kanazawa Station.

Tips for Exploring Takayama

To make the most of your Takayama visit, here are helpful tips:

  • Avoid visiting only on weekends and holidays when crowds and rates surge.
  • Stay overnight in a ryokan to experience top hospitality and soaking in onsen baths.
  • See the floating lanterns at Shiroyama Park and temples illuminated at night.
  • Wake up early to catch the lively atmosphere at the Miyagawa Morning Market.
  • Sample Hida beef at restaurants like Hida Kotte Ushi, Suzuya, or cheaper at Takumi-ya.
  • Dress warmly in fall/winter when nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.
  • Consider the Takayama-Hida area tourist pass, or book a guided morning tour of markets.
  • Side trip to UNESCO World Heritage Shirakawa-go thatched roof village is a must.

Ready to Travel from Kanazawa to Takayama?

Whether you’re traveling between Kanazawa and Takayama or using one as a base to explore the other on a day trip, you’ll be rewarded with amazing cultural experiences.

With the convenient transportation links connecting these historic cities, you can easily craft an itinerary ranging from a single day to a week or more in this appealing region of Japan.

Follow the tips outlined in this guide to choose between the bus, train or driving routes from Kanazawa to Takayama. Then dive into all the top attractions, restaurants, hotels and neighborhoods that make both destinations shine. A visit here promises beautiful scenery, warm hospitality and treasured travel memories!

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