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Driving from Kanazawa to Matsumoto

Level Contributor
60 posts
22 reviews
Driving from Kanazawa to Matsumoto

Hi Folks,

Planning our September holiday and I was trying to squeeze Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go and Matsumoto in a three day trip using public transport but am now thinking renting a car might be the more sensible option.

Couple of questions though:

- What is the scenic mountain route to take through the area as I've read a new toll-highway has recently been completed and opened (which I want to avoid)

- Is it straightforward enough to drive around the area, not speaking or reading a single word of Japanese?

- Is Kanazawa (overnight stay) - Shirakawa-go (overnight stay) - Matsumoto (overnight stay) too ambitious a plan to get a taste of this part of the world?

Thanks in advance for any info

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
634 posts
13 reviews
1. Re: Driving from Kanazawa to Matsumoto

Personally I don't think driving in that area is difficult at all, unless you were talking about the dead of winter, which you aren't. You've allowed yourself plenty of time, as well.

I have made that drive once, from Kanazawa over to Tokyo. I took the Hokuriku Expressway out of Kanazawa, though, and then down the Tokai-Hokuriku Expressway as far as Gokayama. I then took 156 from there, south to 158, and then on to Takayama and Matsumoto on 158. It is very scenic. There is an alternative from Kanazawa that I haven't done, which is south on 157 360 then to the Hakusan Super rindo scenic route (and a toll road, I believe).

Does any of this make any sense? Probably not. The brief answer is, get yourself a good map or GPS, and you'll have no problem. The roads in that area can be wind-y and you'll encounter some kind of drop-off charge but go for it.

Kanazawa, Japan
Level Contributor
825 posts
22 reviews
2. Re: Driving from Kanazawa to Matsumoto

Okay, here's the scenic route:

From Kanazawa, take Prefectural Rd (PR) 27 out past Kanazawa Univeristy and to Fukumitsu.

Then take National Route (NR) 304 up over the pass, where it says "Nanto City" in Google Maps. This is a great road, but watch your speed: cops like to hunt for speeders.

That takes you down into Taira, the first of the thatched house villages.

Then carry on down NR 156 to Shirakawa.

To get to Takayama the expressway and toll road are a LOT quicker, as in cutting 3 hours down to 30 minutes, but that is through some seriously massive tunnels. The scenic route carries on down south then turn off left onto NR 158. Hopefully the expressway will take all the long-distance trucking that used to make this such a slow route.

After Takayama keep going along 158 up to Abo Pass (Abo Toge), avoiding the toll road bypass. That will feed you directly into Matsumoto.

3. Re: Driving from Kanazawa to Matsumoto

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