Unlike Tari’s epic Japan adventure in which she explored God knows how many cities, I spent less than a week in two cities; Kanazawa and Tokyo. Most people would fly in straight to Narita, and getting to Tokyo is only a matter of jumping into your chosen mode of transportation et voila! But for those who want to know more about getting from Tokyo to Kanazawa to Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa to Tokyo, I hope this helps!
TOKYO TO KANAZAWA
The first leg of the trip is actually pretty straightforward, I used the Hakutaka Shinkansen which took me from Tokyo straight to Kanazawa. Technically we could have gotten to Shirakawa-go faster if we took the shinkansen to Takayama, but since we were spending the night, the list of attractions also came into consideration. While Takayama also looked like an amazing place to visit, Kanazawa was designated as an ‘Important Cultural Landscape’, and I figured that had to mean something. (Okay, fine – it was a case of eeny-meeny-miny-moe, and Kanazawa won).
KANAZAWA TO SHIRAKAWA-GO
You can only get to Shirakawa-go by bus from Kanazawa. I got frustrated during my planning stages as everything was in Japanese, and I just decided to grab bus tickets when we got to the station – dumb move. I only barely managed to get return tickets to Shirakawa-go and back, because I came on a weekend. Google translate is a helpful tool, and you should always, always buy tickets beforehand. Don’t count on luck to get you anywhere!
SHIRAKAWA-GO TO KANAZAWA
My slight misstep with the bus tickets meant I had to come up with a backup plan on the spot – I could go to Takayama from Shirakawa-go by bus, and then finish my trip home to Kanazawa by train. Thankfully, I managed to get bus tickets back from Shirakawa-go to Kanazawa, even though I had to split up with my friends on two different busses. Buying tickets online ahead of time is really the only way to go, especially if like me, you are under time constraints! Oh important thing to note; in Japan, everything is always on time. That means be ready at your platform at least 10 minutes before departure. I almost got left behind because I was too busy having a snow fight.
KANAZAWA TO TOKYO
I took the overnight VIP Liner bus back to Tokyo, which I talked about a little here. It was comfortable and extremely convenient, as we got to Tokyo in morning and managed to save on one night’s accommodation fee. Getting the bus is also infinitely cheaper than getting on the shinkansen, and getting the tickets were also pretty easy and straightforward at the VIP liner website or at Willer Express as both sites use English.
I used both the bus and the shinkansen because it was the better option for me, but if you are staying in Japan longer, or if you’re travelling between more than 2 cities, you might want to read Tari’s tips on travelling around Japan on her cost cutting post!