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Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/13 23:51
My wife and I are planning a 2 night leg in Kanazawa to visit Takayama Festival and anything else we can squeeze in this very short time. Hotels in Takayama were obviously booked solid so we opted to travel in from Kanazawa. We will have an active JR Pass during this period.

Saturday, April 13: Train from Tokyo to Kanazawa (hotel is in Kanazawa station)

Sunday, April 14: Travel from Kanazawa to Takayama for festival, then train back to Kanazawa in the evening.

Monday, April 15: Train from Kanazawa to Hiroshima. We have a short stay in this region as well so would be leaving early (ie. not sticking around on the 15th)

My main concerns are:

1. What's the best way to visit attractions over the 2 days? Primarily, in addition to the festival, I want to visit Kenrokuen Gardens in Kanazawa, and if at all possible, Shirakawago.

2. I don't know if it makes sense to try and squeeze Shirakawago on the 14th AM before the festival (Bus from Kanazawa > Shirakawago, bus from Shirakawago > Takayama, then train back to Kanazawa in evening). Or if it's better to do it on on the 13th?

3. Are we even going to be able to get reservations on these trains (and/or buses)? We arrive on April 8th so I wouldn't be able to make reservations any earlier than that. I understand that the Hida in particular could be booked solid, and even the train from Tokyo could be dicey?

Thank you for any help!
by Potatoface  

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/17 13:10
I don't know if bumping works, but..bump
by Potatoface rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/17 14:05

I wasn't sure about answering as I've never gone to the Takayama Festival and if it were me I would just spend more time in Kanazawa, but I really like Kanazawa.

I can't imagine you having a problem booking the train from Tokyo to Kanazawa, Kanazawa to Shin-Osaka and then Shin-Osaka to Hiroshima. I took the train from Kanazawa to Nagano and then Nagano to Tokyo in late June and had no problem getting 2 seats on it and I was only booking 2 or 3 days out. I had no problem booking a Hida from Nagoya to Takayama and from Takayama to Toyama (the latter was done same day) in June 2017, but it was also June and not during a festival so....

I have no idea about train or bus popularity for the Takayama Festival as I've never been, but I would warn you that you need to be very aware of the Hida times from Toyama to Takayama and Takayama to Toyama because there are only 4 in each direction a day and there are only about 4 locals a day that travel the entire route. So unless you can make the 8:00 am from Toyama to Takayama you will need to take the 9:52 that gets in at 11:23. The Last Hida leaves Takayama for Toyama at 17:19. If you miss it there is a local that has a short layover at 17:51 but if you miss both of those the next train that goes part way through without a long wait in Inotani is the 20:55, in which case you won't be in Toyama until 23:01.

Most trains in Japan do have non-reserved cars outside of a few specific trains like the Kagayaki (the fastest train between Tokyo and Kanazawa, the Hakutakas which are still pretty fast do have non-reserved cars), Hayabusas between Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate, Komachi between Tokyo and Akita, and the Hayate between Shin-Aomori and Shin-Hakodate. (Some of the special Joyful trains and possibly the night trains are reserve as well.) Hidas are not all reserve though so if for some reason you can not get two seats, just make sure you are there early enough to line up for seats in non-reserve. If you're taking the local at 17:51, then it won't matter because there are no reserved seats on it. Again I've been going late June to early July lately, but the only trains I've had to do non-reserve because all reserved seats were booked were Hiroshima to Shin-Osaka and Koriyama to Tokyo when I missed my original shinkansen. On both those shinkansen I had no problem getting non reserved seats.

If you want to see the garden and castle then you're going to have a hard time going to Shirakawa Go as well. I have no idea what time you plan to arrive from Tokyo, but I would do my best to arrive early in the day on the 13th so you could have the afternoon for the garden and the castle. I think it will be tight if you're a big garden fan, but it's the only time you have.

If you want to go to Shirakawa Go, it would make the most sense to go on your way to Takayama. Here is the bus schedule:

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/17 18:04
Given the number of people that visit the festival, I have managed to avoid it so far and I would not like to try to book accommodation or transport to Takayama on those dates. I expect every available seat on the trains (from both directions) would be booked on the 15th of March - and while that (Takayama) is a destination I try to book in advance even without the festival I wouldn't guarantee a booking if I received a request for it - you might just be standing in the non-reserved car both ways.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/19 11:31
@rkold: Thanks so much for the train info.. I'll keep all of that in mind while planning. I was actually looking at a late departure from Takayama if possible in order to view some of the night parade (starts 6:30 pm). The 20:55 would get me back at 23:35, and we have an early departure for Hiroshima the next morning (7:55). Rough but do-able. One of the train transfers back to Kanazawa is a Kagayaki though. Am I out of luck? From what I have heard, these trains will be fully reserved well before we arrive in Japan. I don't know what to expect in terms of the unreserved cars, how early we'd have to line up, and whether we'd even get in. Side-question, how can I tell from a hyperdia search which trains are all reservation, etc?

@JapanCustomTours: This confirms some of my concerns. Let's say the whole point of our leg in Kanazawa was for the Takayama festival and we really wanted to make it. What would be our options? I was considering the bus in, but would want to catch a late train back to Kanazawa if there's any chance at all there will be room (either a seat reservation, or a few hours of misery standing in an unreserved car?).

@any: Is this a do-able itinerary?

April 13:
- Arrive early from Tokyo
- Visit Kanazawa attractions, primarily Kenrokuen and castle, and whatever else we can fit in.

April 14:
- 8:10 Bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawago (9:25 arrival) -- buses to be reserved March 14
- 12:35 bus from Shirakawago to Takayama (13:25 arrival)

Tricky part:
- 20:55 train from Takayama to Kanazawa (23:35 arrival) (If reserved, or unreserved, is even an option??)
---- If this is not at all an option, miss the evening festival, and take the last bus at 16:30 from Takayama back to Kanazawa (18:45 arrival). In which case I'd arrange to arrive earlier so it's not just 3 hours here.
by Potatoface rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/19 12:52

I want to stress I have never been to the Takayama Festival and I honestly would not want to go to Takayama then because it sounds too crowded for my tastes. (I have been to Takayama.)

I pre-booked my Kagayakis in June only 1-2 days out and never had a problem getting 2 seats. I booked my train from Kanazawa to Nagano like 2 days out and my Kagayaki from Nagano to Tokyo 1 day out. Neither train was the first or the last though. Heck, I booked both a shinkansen to Sendai and my return trip to Tokyo (I think both shinkansen were technically Komachi vs. Hayabusa, but they were all reserved seating and in Sendai the Komachi and Hayabusa are still connected) day of my trip to Sendai without issue.

The 20:55 train from Takayama to Inotani with a transfer at Inotani for the 22:10 from Inotani to Toyama are all local trains which means there are no reserved seats. You might be standing the whole way, I've no idea, but seats will be first come first served and with a JR Pass/Ticket you're not going to be denied boarding unless the train is so packed it can't hold any more people. I believe the train from Takayama to Inotani originates in Takayama so it shouldn't have passengers from an earlier stop at least.

Assuming train times don't change (I forget when the official schedules are released, hopefully someone more knowledgeable than me can point you in that direction) but going by the current trains listed on Hyperdia there is a 23:33 Tsurugi from Toyama to Kanazawa. It will arrive in Kanazawa at 23:56. It has 4 cars of non reserved seats. It is a shuttle that only goes between Toyama (first station), Shin-Takaoka (second station) and Kanzawa (third and final station, or the reverse route of Kanazawa, Shin-Takaoka, and Toyama.) You have 30 minutes before this Tsurugi leaves, so unless every single person on your train back is going for non-reserved seats on the Tsurugi, if you immediately go and wait for it, chances are you will get a non-reserved seat.

So outside the bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go/Shirakawa Go to Takayama. If you just use local trains between Takayama and Toyama and if you can't get a reserved seat use a Hakutaka or Tsurugi between Kanazawa and Toyama. And are willing to possibly stand for the whole trip from Takayama to Toyama in both directions, it is possible.


I hope this information helps!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/20 10:56
@rkold: Appreciate your responses. You are the ultimate train guru.

Mind if I ask a couple of follow ups?

For the bus online reservation system, when I select the direction, I see departures from Kanazawa to Shirakawago or to Takayama, but I don't see the option to reserve departure from Shirakawago to Takayama. Not sure if I'm missing something?
You did mention you're not familiar with this bus but I figured it's worth asking..

For the train - you mention the JR Takayama line to Inotani and Toyama, but how about the last leg from Toyama to Kanazawa (Kagayaki 519)? I believe this one is all-reserved so I could also end up stuck in Toyama? Or can you still stand on an all-reserved-seating train? Your HyperDia link is basically the itinerary I was planning back to Kanazawa.

If any part of this doesn't pan out... I would just need to figure it out in advance so I'm not stuck with reserved buses to Takayama and no way back!

If I know in advance that it's impossible, I could try inverting the days - April 13th to Shirakawago and Takayama, and April 14th to stay in Kanazawa. Though the way I'm looking at it is that it would be a shame to miss it!
by Potatoface rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/20 11:17

A quick response because I need to go to bed.

I'm not a train guru, there are many many people here far more knowledgeable than I.

The Hyperdia link shows the Kagayaki as route 1 because it is the fastest. But if you look at Route 2, you will see the Tsurugi I mentioned in my last post which is the shuttle with 4 cars of non reserved seats between Toyama and Kanazawa. It leaves at 23:33 vs 23:16 and arrives at 23:56 vs. 23:35, which is why it is route 2. Route 3 involves taking a private line and then a JR local also at 23:33 but it arrives after midnight. So if you can't book the Kagayaki you want for route 1 you can try for a reserved seat on route 2 the Tsurugi and/or try to get a non-reserved seat. If for some reason that Tsurugi is not running, you can take the private line and then JR local to get to Kanazawa even though it gets in at 00:24. Since both the private line and JR local are regular trains, neither has reserved seats and it's first come first served. You will have plenty of time to know ahead of time if that Tsurugi is not running for any reason since you can try to book it when you arrive in Japan if the Kagayaki is full.

When I visited Shirakawa Go, I did a tour because I didn't want to dink with the buses. From what I remember though, and you can check on this website. The bus between Shirakawa Go and Kanazawa and Kanazawa and Takayama is reserved. The bus between Shirakawa Go and Takayama is unreserved and first come/first served. I have no idea how busy the bus will be. Honestly, Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa is way more interesting than Shirakawa Go. I thought it felt like a huge tourist trap in 2010 and that was nearly 10 years ago, so if you want to make sure to make it to Takayama, just book the bus from Kanazawa as it might be faster than trying to take a train from Toyama.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/20 11:55

If it is of any help to you, I have been to the Takayama Spring Festival last year and it was literally packed with tourists and locals. The weather on the festival weekend was rainy so the day puppet show on the Saturday was cancelled half-way and so was the evening parade. On Sunday, the weather was better, therefore the morning parade went ahead as scheduled. It was hard even finding a spot to stand during the show and the parade, but it was fine to walk around the town and explore the shops there in other times. However, the rain and the crowds didn't make that very enjoyable.

So my 5 cent advice is that even if you plan on doing something, the weather may affect it. So lower your expectations and have some plan B if things don't work out as you hoped.

I went to Takayama by bus from Kyoto on a tour so I can't advise you on train transport during this time, but seeing the number of crowds on that weekend I believe things would be fully booked way in advance. Personally, even though it was interesting to experience a Japanese festival, if I were to go to Takayama again, I would certainly avoid festival time.

by Cana (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Kanazawa transit during Takayama festival 2019/2/21 10:45
Working on a plan B and wondering if everything will be as disastrous if I go to Takayama on April 13th? I imagine the trains could very well still be fully reserved even on the 13th?
by Potatoface rate this post as useful

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