The Hokuriku Shinkansen is a high speed “bullet train” rail line that connects Tokyo with the destinations of Nagano, Toyama, and Kanazawa in the Hokuriku region of Japan. Currently the line ends in Kanazawa, but there are plans for the line to be extended as far as Fukui and Tsuruga by 2022, and as far as Osaka by 2030.
This line is jointly operated by JR East and JR West and is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass. At JR Ueno Station Hokuriku Shinkansen services depart from platforms 19 and 20.
There are four services that run on the Hokuriku Shinkansen but only three run from Tokyo.
The Kagayaki is a limited stop service that runs between Tokyo and Kanazawa. This is the fastest service on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and can complete the full journey in 2 hours and 30 minutes. There is no unreserved seating on this train, so all seats must be booked in advance. The name Kagayaki means “brilliance”.
The Hakutaka is a slower multi-stop service that takes around three hours to travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa. Hakutaka means “white hawk”.
The Asama runs from Tokyo to Nagano and then terminates. This is a multi-stop that takes around 1 hour and 50 minutes. The train was named after Mount Asama, a famous mountain on the border of Gunma and Nagano prefectures.
The Tsurugi is a shuttle service between Toyama and Kanazawa that usually takes around 23 minutes. This train was named after Mount Tsurugi, a famous mountain in Toyama Prefecture.
The Kagayaki, Hakutaka, and Asama have ordinary seating, Green Car seating, and Gran Class seating which is the highest grade. The Tsurugi has ordinary seating and Green Car seating.
There are 18 stations on the Hokuriku Shinkansen route between Tokyo and Ueno.
Tokyo > Ueno > Omiya > Kumagaya > Honjo-Waseda > Takasaki > Annaka-Haruna > Karuizawa > Sakudaira > Ueda > Nagano > Iiyama > Joetsumyoko > Itoigawa > Kurobe-Unazukionsen > Toyama > Shin-Takaoka > Kanazawa
Between Tokyo and Omiya this route follows the Tohoku Shinkansen, and between Omiya and Takasaki this route follows the Joetsu Shinkansen. For detailed information on the stations between Tokyo and Takasaki please see our Tohoku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen articles. Information on the key destinations and on transfer points between Annaka-Haruna and Kanazawa stations is given below. Example ticket fares and journey times are given from JR Ueno Station. Tickets for reserved seats usually cost around 500 yen extra but this can go up and down in peak and non-peak travel periods. Unreserved ticket pricing is given below.
Karuizawa is an elegant highland resort town that is popular in the summer because of its mild weather, and also in the winter for its winter sports facilities. Outdoor activities include tennis, hiking, and golfing in summer and skiing and ice skating in winter. The town also has many shopping and hot spring bathing facilities. Below are some of the highlights.
- Karuizawa Ginza in the Kyu-Karuizawa district is a fashionable shopping district with many stores, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.
- Sites of natural beauty around Karuizawa are the Shiraito no Taki Waterfall, the Sengataki Waterfall, and the Kumoba Pond. The Shiraito no Taki Waterfall is 70 meters across and forms a long graceful veil of water which falls into a green forest pond. This waterfall is a 25 minute bus ride from Karuizawa Station. Sengataki Waterfall has an impressive 20 meter drop and is surrounded by beautiful woodland scenery. To get there take a taxi to the Sengataki car park and then take a 25 minute hike through the woods. Kumoba Pond is a peaceful stretch of water surrounded by woodland and walking paths that is a 20 minute walk from Karuizawa Station.
- Recommended museums in Karuizawa include Karuizawa New Art Museum, Sezon Museum of Modern Art, and the Forest of Muse museum park which includes a picture book museum and a craft toy museum.
- Kyu Mikasa Hotel is a historic wooden Western style building dating from 1906 which is now open as a museum. This designated Important Cultural Property is a 10 minute bus ride from Karuizawa Station.
- Picchio Wildlife Research Center offer a range of eco-tours at the Karuizawa Wild Bird Sanctuary. The evening Flying Squirrel Watching Tour is especially popular, but there are also bird watching, mountain biking, nature watching, and winter stargazing tours. Shuttle buses run from Karuizawa Station to the sanctuary.
- There are a great variety of golf courses in Karuizawa that are suitable for all levels of ability. Karuizawa Prince Hotel West and Karuizawa Asama Prince Hotel are two upmarket, luxury hotels in Karuizawa that have their own attached golf courses. The golfing season stretches from April to November.
- The ski season in Karuizawa usually lasts from early November to the end of March. The Prince Snow Resort is the largest ski resort in the area and has a variety of trails suitable for all levels. It is also easy to access as it is just a 10 minute walk from Karuizawa Station. Ski and snowboarding equipment are available to rent and private skiing lessons are available in English. Equipment can also be rented at the Prince Hotel East which is located at the bottom of the resort. This luxury hotel has a range of dining facilities and a hot spring spa in which to relax after a day on the ski slopes. A large shopping plaza is also located close to the hotel.
- Other popular hot spring resort hotels in Karuizawa are Hotel Cypress, Kose Onsen Hotel, Tsuruya Ryokan, Yutoriro, and Le Grand.
Karuizawa Station is also served by the Shinano Railway Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 5,180 yen
Train time: 1 hour
Sakudaira Station serves Saku City in Nagano Prefecture. Saku is known for Tatsuoka Castle, an unfinished 19th century castle that was meant to be built in the shape of a 5 pointed star. It is also the site of the Usuda Star Dome, an astronomical observatory which is open to the public from 10.00 to 22.00 each day. Every year in the first week of May, Saku City holds a colorful Hot Air Balloon Festival in which balloonists from all over Japan take part.
This station is also served by the JR Koumi Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 5,610 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 9 minutes
Ueda City’s main attraction is Ueda Castle which dates from 1583 and is a 15 minute walk from Ueda Station. Just outside the city is the hot spring resort town of Bessho Onsen. In addition to its public bathing facilities this small town has a number of historic temples which can all be visited quite easily on foot. Popular resort hotels at Bessho Onsen are Uematsuya Ryokan, Kashiwaya Honten, and Kawasemi no Yado. Bessho-Onsen Station is a 30 minute train ride from Ueda Station on the Bessho Line.
Ueda Station is served by the Shinano Railway Line and the Ueda Electric Railway Bessho Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 5,940 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 19 minutes
Nagano is the capital city of Nagano Prefecture. Nagano’s attractions include the forest shrine of Togakushi Jinja, the reconstructed 16th century Matsushiro Castle, and Zenkoji Temple which is known for its gigantic Sanmon and Niomon gates. Nagano is also a jumping off point for the Japan Alps, and the popular ski resorts of Hakuba, Shiga Kogen and Nozawa Onsen (also known for its hot springs). Other nearby attractions include the town of Obuse, the former home of famed ukiyo-e painter Katsushika Hokusai, and the snow monkeys of the hot spring town Yudanaka.
Nagano station is also served by JR East’s Iiyama Line, Shinonoi Line, and Shinetsu Main Line, as well as the Shinano Railway Line, Kita-Shinano Line, and Nagano Electric Railway Nagano Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 7,470 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 32 minutes
Iiyama City in Nagano Prefecture has very heavy snow fall and is nicknamed “little Kyoto of the Snow Country” because of its many shrines and temples. In February each year the Iiyama Snow Festival is held which features giant snow sculptures, illuminated snow huts, and fireworks.
This station is also served by the JR Iiyama Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 7,900 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Joetsumyoko Station serves the city of Joetsu in Niigata Prefecture. Joetsu has two castles: the ruins of Kasugayama Castle which date from 1573, and the partially reconstructed Takada Castle which was first built in 1614. The park around Takada Castle is famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring.
This station is also served by the ETR Myoko Haneuma Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 8,550 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 54 minutes
Itoigawa is located in a UNESCO Global Geopark and marks this fact with a special tourist information center at the Itoigawa Station. Called Itoigawa GeoStation GeoPal the center includes a Geopark Tourist Information Center, a Model Railroad & Diorama Gallery, and a waiting room in which a preserved KiHa 52 diesel train is on display. Local attractions include the Fossa Magna Museum (dedicated to a dramatic local fault line in the earth’s crust), plenty of hot springs, and a scenic landscape which is perfect for hiking, cycling, and rock climbing.
This station is served by the JR Oito Line and the ETR Nihonkai Hisui Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 10,270 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
This station serves the city of Kurobe in Toyama Prefecture. Exit here to access the Unazuki Onsen hot spring resort and the scenic Kurobe Gorge, one of Japan’s deepest and most beautiful ravines. From Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station transfer to the nearby Shin-Kurobe Station and take a local train on the Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line to Unazuki Onsen Station. The journey costs 630 yen and takes 25 minutes. Popular spa resort hotels here are Enraku, Entaijiso, Yukai Resort, and Unazuki Kokusai Hotel. Sightseeing trains for the Kurobe Gorge depart from Unazuki Station which is a 3 minute walk from Unazuki Onsen Station.
Train fare (unreserved): 11,130 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 24 minutes
Toyama is the capital city of Toyama Prefecture. It has many popular tourist attractions and is a convenient access point for hiking routes along the Tateyama mountain range.
- Toyama Castle is a reconstruction of the original castle which was first built in 1543. Inside is a museum of local history, and outside is a pleasant park and gardens. The castle park is just a seven minute walk from the station.
- The Sato Memorial Art Museum is also located in the castle park and displays the arts and crafts collection of the local businessman Sato Sukekuro as well as two historical tea houses.
- Toyama Glass Art Museum is a 9 minute walk from Toyama Castle. The museum building was designed by the architect Kengo Kuma, and houses a permanent exhibition of contemporary glass artwork, and a “Glass Art Garden” by the celebrated artist, Dale Chihuly.
- Boat cruises on the Matsukawa River are a popular way to see the season. In the spring the boats sail through a tunnel of cherry blossom.
- Toyama is also within striking distance of hiking routes along the Tateyama Mountain Range. To get to Tateyama Station take the Toyama Chiho Railway to Tateyama Station. It takes around 1 hour for a fare of 1,200 yen.
Toyama Station is also served by the JR Takayama Main Line and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line. There are two smaller stations beside Toyama Station. Transfer to Dentetsu Toyama Station for the Toyama Chiho Railway Main Line. Transfer to Toyamaeki-Kita Station for the light rail Toyamako Line. Toyama City Tram Line can be accessed at the Toyama Ekimae stop in front of Toyama Station.
Train fare (unreserved): 12,000 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 37 minutes
Shin-Takaoka Station serves the city of Takaoka which is the second biggest city in Toyama Prefecture. The top attractions here are the 16m high Great Buddha Statue (“Takaoka Daibutsu”), Zuiryuji Temple a designated National Treasure that dates from 1645, and the preserved wooden residences of the Kanayamachi district. To the north of the city the scenic coastline of Amaharashi is famous for its sandy beaches and for the view over Toyama Bay with the Tateyama Mountain Range behind it. To get there take the JR Johana Line to Takaoka Station, then change to the JR Himi Line for Amaharashi Station. The full journey should take 40 minutes.
Shin-Takaoka Station is also served by the JR Johana Line.
Train fare (unreserved): 12,850 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 46 minutes
Kanazawa is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture and a major regional center of modern and traditional arts and crafts. Its main tourist locations include, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the partially reconstructed Kanazawa Castle, Miyoryuji Temple (also called the Ninja Temple) which has many secret passages and trap doors, the traditional teahouses of the Higashi Chaya geisha district, and Kenrokuen garden, which is said to be one of the three great gardens of Japan.
Train fare (unreserved): 13,390 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 1 minute
Tickets & Discounts
The Japan Rail Pass can be used for either ordinary seating or Green Car seating. However, at the time you buy the pass, you must choose an Ordinary Pass or a Green Pass. As an alternative to the Japan Rail Pass, JR East and JR West also offer a discount pass for travelers to the Hokuriku region. The Hokuriku Arch Pass is a special 7 day pass for overseas visitors that provides unlimited use of designated services connecting Osaka to Kanazawa, and Kanazawa to Tokyo. This pass is great if you want to explore the Kansai, Hokuriku, and Kanto regions. For prices and more details check the official Hokuriku Arch Pass webpage. To save you time, tickets for the Hokuriku Shinkansen can also be reserved online.
Map & Timetables
View our complete map of Japan’s shinkansen high-speed train network.
JR East has complete timetables for Hokuriku Shinkansen trains heading from Tokyo and to Tokyo. To look up train times, fares, and connections quickly on this route use online English route finders like Hyperdia or the Japan Transit Planner.
Article by Michael Lambe. Photos by Michael Lambe, odakyu/pixta(1), fuchsia/pixta(6), hilite/pixta(7), okagesan/pixta(8), matya1234/pixta(9), Richie Chan/pixta(10). All rights reserved.