The Hokuriku Main Line is a railway line operated by JR West that connects Kanazawa Station in Ishikawa Prefecture with Maibara Station in Shiga Prefecture. It is an important transportation route along the Hokuriku coastline with stops at several hot spring resort towns and also key cities like Fukui and Tsuruga on its route. In addition, limited express through services like the Thunderbird and the Shirasagi connect this line with major cities in central and western Japan like Nagoya, Kyoto, and Osaka.
At Kanazawa Station, Hokuriku Main Line services depart from platforms 1, 2, 3 and 5. This line is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
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Key Destinations & Transfers
Here, listed from Kanazawa to Maibara, are the key destinations with transfer points included. The example fares and journey times given below are all local services from Kanazawa Station.
Kanazawa Station is the northern terminus of the Hokuriku Main Line. Transfer here to the Hokuriku Shinkansen, the Ishikawa Railway Line, the Hokutetsu Asanogawa Line, and the Limited Express Noto Kagaribi for Wakura Onsen. Through services for the Nanao Line and the Ainokaze Toyama Railway Line also depart from Kanazawa Station. The Hanayome Noren excursion train for Wakura Onsen departs from Platform 4.
Transfer at nearby Shin-Nishikanazawa Station to the Hokutetsu Ishikawa Line. This private rail line connects Kanazawa to Tsurugi Station in the city of Hakusan. The Bettodeai trailhead for Hakusan National Park can be accessed by bus from Tsurugi Station.
Train fare: 190 yen
Train time: 3 minutes
Komatsu City has many locations of interest which include Ishikawa Aviation Plaza, the Motorcar Museum of Japan, the traditional crafts village of Yunokuni no Mori, the hot spring resort Awazu Onsen, and Hoshi Ryokan, a traditional inn which was founded almost 1300 years ago.
Train fare: 500 yen
Train time: 31 minutes
Kaga Onsen Station
Kaga is a large city that includes within its boundaries many smaller towns, among them the famous hot spring resorts of Yamanaka, Yamashiro, and Katayamazu. The Kaga & Hakusan website has recommendations for hot spring facilities. Natadera Temple can be reached via a short bus ride from Kaga Onsen Station. This temple has beautiful gardens and commands splendid views of Mount Hakusan.
Train fare: 760 yen
Train time: 56 minutes
Daishoji Station serves the Daishoji district of Kaga City, which has many preserved wooden Edo era houses. The station is close to Kutaniyaki Art Museum, and the Zen temples of Zenshoji and Jisshoin. Boat cruises are popular in the spring when the cherry trees along the Daishoji River come into bloom.
Train fare: 849 yen
Train time: 1 hour
Awara Onsen Station
The city of Awara is famous for its hot spring spa resorts. The official Awara City website has a list of recommended hot spring facilities. The dramatic, rocky coastline of Tojinbo can also be reached via a 40 minute bus ride from Awara Onsen Station.
Train fare: 970 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 12 minutes
Exit here for Maruoka Castle which dates from 1576. Maruoka Castle is one of just 12 original castles in Japan that survived the last war (the others are reconstructions) and its inner keep (or donjon) is said to be the oldest in Japan. There is a park with cherry trees around the castle and a small history museum nearby. The castle is a 15 minute bus ride from the station.
Train fare: 1,140 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Fukui is the capital city of Fukui Prefecture. Its famous sites are the Zen temple complex of Eiheiji Temple, Fukui Fine Arts Museum, and the Ichijodani ruins (a partially reconstructed 15th century castle town). Transfer here to the following local lines: the JR Etsumi-Hoku Line, Echizen Railway’s Katsuyama Eiheiji Line and Mikuni Awara Line, and Fukui Railway’s Fukubu Line.
Train fare: 1,320 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Sabae City’s best known industry is the production of eyeglasses, and 90% of the spectacle frames sold in Japan are made here. The city also has a special museum to celebrate this fact. The Megane Museum (megane means “glasses”) has a section devoted to the history of eyeglasses production, several frames worn by celebrities, a hands-on workshop area, a café, and a shop where you can get your eyes tested and buy your own pair. The museum is a 10 minute walk from Sabae Station.
Train fare: 1,660 yen
Train time: 1 hour and 55 minutes with one transfer at Fukui Station
Takefu Station serves the city of Echizen in Fukui Prefecture. Though Echizen has many historic buildings, shrines and temples, it is most famous for its crafts and its cuisine. You can get hands on experience with Echizen ceramics at the Echizen Togei Mura pottery village. At Echizen Washi no Sato you can learn about traditional papermaking. And the Echizen Soba Village is just one of many locations serving up the city’s famous noodles. Transfer to Fukui Railway’s Fukubu Line at nearby Echizen-Takefu Station.
Train fare: 1,660 yen
Train time: 2 hours with one transfer at Fukui Station
Tsuruga is a large port city in Fukui Prefecture. Its major sites are the massive gate of Kehi Shrine, the garden of Saifukuji Temple, the Meiji era red brick warehouses near Tsuruga Museum, and the white sand beach and pine trees of Kehi no Matsubara. Transfer here to the JR Kosei Line, and the JR Obama Line.
Train fare: 2,270 yen
Train time: 2 hours and 33 minutes with one transfer at Fukui Station
Nagahama is a historical town in Shiga Prefecture with many preserved traditional and early modern buildings in the Kurokabe Square district. Many of these buildings have been converted into glassware craft shops, galleries, and restaurants. Other attractions include the reconstructed Nagahama Castle which was first built in 1575, and the Old Nagahama Station Museum in Japan’s oldest preserved railway station dating from 1882.
Train fare: 3,020 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 24 minutes with one transfer at Fukui Station
This is the southern terminus of the Hokuriku Main Line. Those wishing to climb or going skiing on nearby Mt Ibuki should transfer to the Tokaido Main Line and get off at Omi-Nagaoka Station. The Tokaido Main Line continues on to destinations in Gifu and Aichi prefectures. Passengers for Shin-Osaka, Nagoya or Tokyo should transfer to the Tokaido Shinkansen.
The Ohmi Railway Main Line can also be accessed at Maibara Station. This is a private local railway line that runs between Maibara Station and Kibukawa Station. You can see a full map of the Ohmi Railway’s three lines here.
Train fare: 3,020 yen
Train time: 3 hours and 36 minutes with transfers at Fukui and Tsuruga stations
Limited Express Services for Fukui, Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya
As well as local train services which stop at every station on route, several limited express services also run along the Hokuriku Main Line. Though these cost a little more they can be used to reach many of the key destinations above much faster and more comfortably. For details of times and fares click on the following links. Three limited express services run between Kanazawa and Fukui. These are the Dinostar, the Ohayo Express, and the Oyasumi Express.
The Limited Express Thunderbird is a through service that runs along the Hokuriku Main Line, Kosei Line, and Tokaido Main Line, and connects Kanazawa with Kyoto, Shin-Osaka, and Osaka stations.
The Limited Express Shirasagi is a through service that runs along the Hokuriku Main Line and the Tokaido Main Line and connects Kanazawa with Maibara Station in Shiga Prefecture and Nagoya Station in Aichi Prefecture.
If you don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, you might consider buying a Hokuriku Area Pass, to fully explore the Hokuriku area.
To find departure times and fares along this route use the JR West Timetable and Fare Finder.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.