The sites in Kanazawa are not a long distance away but they are far enough to make it worth considering at least taking a bus to your first destination and then walking from there.
The buses here run quite frequently, at least in the tourist areas and downtown, so you should never have to wait long. At the station, the buses come and go even more quickly so you can save a lot of time by taking a bus to Kenrokuen and the cost is only 300 yen (fares do go up gradually as the bus goes).
There are buses that go to the more distant Yuwaku area, as well that take about 45 minutes to reach from Kanazawa Station.
If you look at a map, Kanazawa is quite far from Kyoto so it doesn't seem possible to do as a daytrip but actually, thanks to Japan's excellent railway system, Kanazawa is just 2 hours away so it's definitely possible to have a daytrip here from Kyoto.
There are no Shinkansen lines north from Kyoto however, the Thunderbird is a special high-speed train that can take you to Kanazawa. The cheapest ticket is the Unreserved Seat for 6200 yen. Reserved Seats are 6710 yen.
There are cheaper ways to get to Kanazawa by train (as low as 3890 yen) by taking local trains instead of the high-speed Thunderbird but it will take much longer and requires many transfers. Those looking for cheaper options would probably be better off looking at highway buses.
Getting around Kanazawa can be a little difficult at times. There is a loop bus for 200 yen that will take you around to the major places, but it’s a bit limited. There is a host of other buses that go around the city and beyond, but you should inquire about which bus goes where. The buses are numbered, but its still confusing.
You can rent a bike for a few hours or for the day. Check with the tourist information office in Kanazawa train station.
Walking isn’t a bad option, but things are a little spaced out.
Getting to Kanazawa is extremely easy. JR runs trains from most major cities directly to Kanazawa. Sometimes you will need to change over though.
A train from Tokyo will take somewhere between 5 and 6 hours, depending on the type of train. They are currently building a Shinkonsen, but that’s due to be completed until 2011. A bus from Tokyo will take 8 to 9 hours.
From Nagoya, the train is 3 hours and bus is about 4 hours.
From Osaka, the train is 3 and half hours and bus is 4 and half hours.
From Kyoto, the train is 3 and the bus is 4 hours.
Of course, it’s also possible to fly to Komatsu, Kanazawa’s neighboring city to the south, from almost any airport in Japan.
We found that it was quite possible and of course simpler to walk around Kanazawa. To walk to the Shima Geisha House took around 20 minutes and from there to the Terashima Samurai House would be about 10 minutes (if you don't get lost).
If it does rain the buses are reportedly very good. There is a good sized information centre just to the left of the main exit as you are leaving the station so be sure to ask for a map.
Also one thing you shouldn't miss if you arrive by train is the clock just outside the station. Walk straight out of the main exit towards the road and it is just there by the road. On closer inspection the pixels on the clock are actually tiny little fountains and the display changes from the time, to welcome and Kanazawa! Rather unexpected and quite cool.
when u see this bus, know it only costs 100 en and it goes around major areas of kanazawa. i took it from keneruken gareden to my hotel.