Date: 7 April 2016
Amanohashidate (天橋立) sandbar is one of the Three Views of Japan (日本三景, Nihon Sankei), along with Matsushima Bay and Itsukushima. It is located in Miyazu Bay in the northern Kyoto prefecture, requiring at least a travel time of 1 hr 45 mins (by car) or more than 2 hours (by public transport) from Kyoto. The access options are outlined at the end of this post.
The roughly 3km sandbar is covered with over 8000 pine trees, and can be viewed from hills on both sides of the bay. Behind Amanohashidate station, you can take a chairlift or monorail (850 yen roundtrip) to Amanohashidate View Land, a small theme park which offers one of the best views of the sandbar.
As mentioned above, Amanohashidate is roughly 2 hours away from tourist-crowded Kyoto and is not close to any other major cities. While I certainly love Kyoto, it was nice to get away from the crowd. It was drizzling when I arrived in Amanohashidate, so the chairlift is out of question.
A popular way of viewing Amanohashidate is by bending over and looking at the sandbar between your legs (called matanozoki), which is said to resemble a “bridge to heaven”, which is what Ama-no-hashidate roughly translates to.
According to Japanese mythology, Izanagi, one of the two deities (along with his wife Izanami) who gave birth to the many islands of Japan (kuniumi), built a bridge to travel between heaven and earth to see Izanami, however the bridge fell on earth, thus forming what is today’s Amanohashidate.
Before heading to the other side of the bay, I had Omurice for lunch at one of the restaurants near Amanohashidate station.
One of the sightseeing spots at this side of the bay is the Chionji temple (智恩寺), a temple of the Rinzai sect. of Japanese Zen Buddhism.
This temple enshrines one of the three important statues of Monju Bosatsu, the Buddhist God of Wisdom. Access to the temple is free.
It takes about 45 minutes to walk along the sandbar from one end to another. Alternatively, several rental bicycle shops are available, thus crossing the sandbar can take less than 20 minutes. It is also possible to take a sightseeing boat to the other side of the bay.
I chose to walk (though it was drizzling time to time), something I strongly recommend as the view of the pine trees and the sea from the sandbar was great and new.
The clouds grew darker when I reached the northern side of the bay. I soon reached Motoise Kono Jinja (元伊勢籠神社), a shrine which was said to have previously enshrined Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess), who is later enshrined in the famous Ise Shrine, thus the name Moto (former) ise.
On this side of the bay, the sandbar can be viewed from Kasamatsu Park, which is accessible by chairlift or cablecar (660 yen, roundtrip). The matanozoki view explained above actually originated in Kasamatsu park.
There was no really descent picture of the view from Kasamatsu Park, though it is supposed to be great. I will do you justice in the future. Luckily, the view of the blooming sakura along with the sandbar and cablecar was good as a consolation.
I had planned on walking back to the southern side of the bay, but it started raining heavily, so I decided to take the sightseeing boat which costs 530 yen (one way). It was definitely not a “sightseeing” boat day, considering the storm.
So what do you do when you get off the boat and it is still raining? You run. Yes, I ran … to the nearest shop and had chocolate cake. That is the third dessert for the day, after having Japanese dessert near Motoise Kono Jinja and soft-serve black sesame ice cream near the sightseeing boat pier (on the northern side).
I traveled to nearby Miyazu to stay at Seikiro Ryokan Historical Museum Hotel for a night. It was my first time staying at a ryokan, and I had the room to myself. While the room was fine and there was even a public bath, being a scaredy-cat, the rain and strong wind made it difficult for me to sleep in this ryokan.
A lot of tourists leave Amanohashidate out of their lists due to its location, but it’s a worthy trip especially if you want to get away from the crowd. I recommend combining this trip with Ine, known for its boat houses, or going towards Hyogo – to Kinosaki Onsen or Himeji.
From Kyoto to Amanohashidate Station:
- Car (roughly 1 hour 45 mins)
- Bus (roughly 2 hours), 2900 yen (updated October 2022) – Timetable and website of bus provider here
- Limited Express Train to Amanohashidate via JR Hashidate (2 hours 7 mins, 4,790 yen)