With one of Japan’s most renowned gardens, a castle, a samurai housing district and history around every corner, Kanazawa has become a major draw for international visitors. Depending on how long you have to spend in Kanazawa, and the pace and style in which you like to get around, there are a few different transport options.
Apart from low hills around Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa Castle and to the west of the Sai River, the terrain of Kanazawa is predominantly flat and gently undulating, which makes it ideal for getting around on foot. If you have a couple of days or more in Kanazawa, walking is a great way to get around.
Even from Kanazawa Station (which is far from the middle of Kanazawa) it only takes 30 to 35 minutes to walk to Kanazawa Castle or Kenrokuen.
If you/your companions are a) not used to walking, b) have mobility issues, c) are under time constraints or d) the weather sucks, then you may want to consider other means of transport. Otherwise, strap into your sneakers—you’re looking at around 10 km on foot to hit all of Kanazawa’s main attractions.
Kanazawa is great for cycling. It’s mostly flat and doesn’t have crazy traffic with huge trucks—as seen in Tokyo and Osaka.
Machinori is a convenient service for travelers which allows you to register with a credit card and then unlock bikes with a code or a travel card. (If you have a Pasmo or a Suica, you can register it and use it as a key!
Stations are almost everywhere, but the ones located next to major attractions such as Kenrokuen can sometimes be overloaded. It’s possible to leave your bike without docking it, but the procedure is a little more complicated than jamming the front wheel into a dock stand.
Every time you check out a bike, there is a fee of ¥200 for the first 30 minutes. Subsequent 30 minute intervals are also charged at a rate of ¥200. If you don’t want to worry about how much time you have the bike or finding strangely located docking stations you can get a one-day pass for ¥900 for a conventional bicycle or ¥1,400 for an electric-assist bike.
Kanazawa is very well set up for getting around by bus. There are two main buses that will get you everywhere you need to go.
The first is the Kenrokuen Shuttle. The Kenrokuen Shuttle goes back and forth from the East Exit of Kanazawa Station to Kenrokuen Gardens via the Kohrinbo area about three times per hour. The first bus starts running at 9:30 a.m. and the last bus leaves Kenrokuen at 5:50 p.m.
The second sightseeing service is the Kanazawa Loop Bus—which has both left loop (counter clockwise) and right loop (clockwise) services. The Loop Bus also stops at the East Exit of Kanazawa Station as well as taking you to all the far-flung attractions such as the Teramachi area (home to the Ninja Temple), the Higashi Chaya District and Omicho Market.
The single journey for all buses on weekdays is ¥200 for adults and ¥100 for children (elementary schol age or below). On weekends and public holidays, the Loop Bus prices stay the same, but the Kenrokuen Shuttle prices are reduced to ¥100 for adults and ¥50 for kids.
The Hokutetsu Bus Company (which runs the services) also offers an unlimited one day hop-on hop-off pass that covers both the tourist buses and any other buses within Kanazawa for ¥500 for adults and ¥250 for children. The pass can be purchased at the Hokutetsu Bus office next to stand 1 of the Kanazawa Station East Exit Bus Terminal, at the Katamichi Service Center (near stop 4 on the Left Loop/stop 12 on the right loop), or at some hotels.
Taxis in Kanazawa have more or less the same cost structure as other taxis throughout Japan (i.e. not very cheap). However, Kanazawa is not a huge town and traffic is rarely bad. Typically a trip across the city shouldn’t cost much more than ¥1,000.
If you are traveling in a group of 3 or 4, then taking a taxi is not much more expensive than taking the bus or hiring bicycles. Taxis here are a little more rare than in Japan’s big cities, so it might take a little longer to find a taxi than you expect (you can always ask your hotel desk to call one for you if the task proves too difficult).